Sunday, August 14, 2005

Reading Assignment

Have we thought about our freedom recently? Things such as being able to attend the religious services we choose ourselves, or being able to walk or drive pretty much anywhere we want. How about being able to choose those who would lead us and direct our government? We definitely have certain freedoms that we don’t even think about, that other countries in our world still do not.

It’s pretty true that most of us are o.k. financially. There are among us those who will need assistance from time to time, but because we have the means to assist, most Americans do not need to go hungry, walk the street to find shelter, or lack clothing and basic needs. Most of us will never empathize with having to sleep in an ally or beg for a meal.

I know there have been times, even recently, when I have been selfish with my donations, contributions,and talents; and wanted to keep what the Lord and others have given me. I think if we are all honest with ourselves we can find a time when we all have held back what we really could have shared. Sometimes we vote to benefit our situation knowing it may cause someone else hardships. Perhaps we encourage a decision in the community that would improve our neighborhood while neglecting another. Maybe we are selfish with our time or talents and feel we deserve to withhold our service because we have worked harder for the weekend than most. I know I rationalize many times to lean things towards my own good.

Have we ever over heard the following conversations? “Where would you like to go tonight for dinner?" "I don’t care, just not McDonald’s, I don’t like their chicken.” “What would you like to see at the movies this weekend?" "I want to see The Three Bears Invade Mars, but I also want to see A Chicken Roosts In Texas, but really I don’t care. You can decide.” “Who are you going to vote for in the new board elections?" "I don’t think I am even going to vote this time, it doesn’t really matter anyway, they’re all bad.”

Have you read lately about how many prisons are overcrowded? How the drug scene is overtaking our youth and prescription drugs claiming our elders? Perhaps the problems of pornography that are binding the minds of so many members of the church has been a subject for discussion. How about the stories that talk about losing our freedoms due to this new war?

Do we ever wonder about these things and why they are happening and what, if anything we can do about them?

In the August ’05 issue of the Ensign we have been challenged by our Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley to read or reread the Book of Mormon from beginning to end by December. He also asks that we follow our reading by exercising Moroni’s promise found in Moroni 10:27-29
“And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you, Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking from the dust? … And God will show unto you, that that which I have written is true.”

The article that lay just after this challenge reminds us that indeed, this challenge from our Prophets has been announced more than once since the discovery of this great book.
Presidents David O. McKay, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson, Howard W. Hunter and Joseph Fielding Smith are mentioned and quoted.

Spencer W. Kimball, “This inspiring book was never tampered with by unauthorized translators or biased theologians but comes to the world pure and directly from the historians and abridger-s. The book is not on trial – its’ readers are.”

Joseph Fielding Smith, “No member of this church can stand approved in the presence of God who has not seriously and carefully read the Book of Mormon.”

Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon is studied in our seminary classes every fourth year. This four year pattern, however, must not be followed by Church members in their personal and family study. We need to read daily from the pages of the book that will get a man ‘nearer to God by abiding to its precepts, than by any other book.’”

Nephi tells us that its contents “shall go from generation to generation as long as the earth shall stand; …and the nations who shall possess them [the teachings of the Book of Mormon] shall be judged of them according to the words which are written.” 2 Nephi 25:22

Marion G. Romney stated in 1980 General Conference concerning the afore mentioned scripture from Nephi, “there could be no more impelling reason for reading the Book of Mormon than this statement that we who have been given the Book of Mormon shall be judged by what is written in it. Moroni says that the very reason the book has been given to us that we may know the “decrees of God” Ether 2:11 set forth therein and by obedience to them escape the calamities which are to follow disobedience.

To the early saints the Lord spoke rather sharply about remembering the Book of Mormon’s teachings. “Your minds in times past”, He said to them, “have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received – “Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. “And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon.” D&C 84:54-57
Prior to this He, [the Lord], had told them that the “Book of Mormon and the Holy scriptures are given of me for your instruction.” D&C 33:16 On another occasion He, [the Lord], said, “The elders, priests, and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of My Gospel, which are in… the Book of Mormon.” D&C 42:12

It is, of course, obvious that unless we read, study, and learn the principles which are in the Book of Mormon, we cannot comply with this direction to teach them.”

Speaking in regard to the Book of Mormon the Lord gave these words in D&C 1:37- 38,

“Search these commandments for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, [the Prophets], it is the same.”

Nephi was asked to accomplish many things while upon the earth, some of which were extremely difficult, seemingly impossible. He was blessed each time he obeyed and his motivation is explained in 1 Nephi 3: 7 –

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

I was discussing this assignment from the Prophet with my daughter. She felt that it should be an easy challenge for us to fulfill. She mentioned a popular children’s book that has been released recently. A book in a series of exciting stories, but one that was challenged at first due to its language and length being too difficult for children to read. These books have been top sellers and there have been nothing but accolades for them since the first installment a few years back. I personally know several folks who have read these 600 and 700 page books in a matter of days.

The Book of Mormon is 531 pages with language that may be difficult to some and definitely exciting to most. The difference is that the events are real. The characters were real people. A prophet of the Lord has challenged us. “Whether by mine own voice or that of my servant…” Also we need to understand that the Lord has, and always will, provide a way for us to accomplish this.

Years ago a friend of mine gave me a challenge to find the time to read my scriptures every day. Just a minute or two if I had to, but she challenged me to find even more time. Think of the time we spend gathering information from television and other sources. Is that information, even the news, more important than what the Lord has commanded us to glean from the scriptures? Can I turn off a program that perhaps I have seen already? Can I trade books for a week? Can I get to bed early enough tonight that I can get up a half hour earlier tomorrow to read few verses? I can find time to do those things I really want to do. I took her challenge and have found when I have been obedient to that commandment, my life has been blessed.

President Marion G. Romney stated that we can know God’s decrees, the prophecies for our times, and in study, find those things which can be signs and directors for us just as the Liahona was for the people who traveled with Father Lehi.

According to President Hinckley’s address in the Ensign he says, “The Book of Mormon narrative chronicles nations long since gone. But in it’s descriptions of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired, and inspiring concerning the solutions of those problems. I know of no other writing which sets forth with such clarity the tragic consequences to societies that follow courses contrary to the commandments of God. Its pages trace the stories of two distinct civilizations that flourished on the Western Hemisphere. Each began as a small nation, it’s people walking in the fear of the Lord. But with prosperity came growing evils. The people succumbed to the wiles of ambitious and scheming leaders who oppressed them with burdensome taxes, who lulled them with hollow promises, who countenanced them and even encouraged loose and lascivious living. These evil schemers led the people into terrible wars that resulted in the death of millions and the final and total destruction of two great civilizations in two different eras. No other written testament so clearly illustrates the fact that when men and nations walk in the fear of God and obedience to His commandments, they prosper and grow, but when they disregard Him and His word, there comes a decay that, unless arrested by righteousness, leads to impotence and death. The Book of Mormon is an affirmation of the Old Testament proverb: Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

In seminary the youth are taught the history of these two nations and the tragic cycles that inflict them. One cycle is named for decline. Read the stages and see if you can identify where we as a nation are.

The Lord Leads
The Lord gives covenants to His people.
Laws are established.
The majority of people reject these laws and choose to follow evil.
Prophets and missionaries are sent to the people to teach and direct them.
Some accept. Those who accept begin the cycle again to this point, meaning they follow where the Lord leads, accept covenants, follow laws and the Prophets.
Some reject the prophets and missionaries, but tolerate the Gospel.
The Lord’s judgment begin.
The Lord withdraws His Spirit from among the people.
The people ripen to iniquity and begin to cast out the righteous from among them.
Civil wars and destruction of the wicked begin, wars, violent physical destruction happens among the people.

The second cycle has to do with pride and freedom. Again, look for the cycle points and see if you can find where we are as a nation and also on a personal level.


In the beginning of this entry I related certain situations and conversations. Those points were primarily based upon the cycle of pride and freedom.

Our nations history is one based on this cycle. We were once in bondage from other countries, kings, and rulers. Our forefathers had faith in the Lord. They had courage to gain their freedom.

We live in this freedom and we, especially when compared with other nations, have abundance. We have become selfish. We have become apathetic. We have so many choices and opportunities we just don’t care. If I don’t see a movie this week I can always see it next week, or wait for it to come out on DVD. We don’t care to vote anymore, we don’t have real wants or needs that are lacking, so we really don’t care about too much. If we look around our community we can see many people – even within the Gospel – who are already in bondage of some form.

The solution to all these latter day plagues can be found in within the pages of the Book of Mormon.

President Hinckley is asking us to put down the NYTimes Best seller and pick up the Book of Mormon. To turn off the t.v. this week and read as a family what is really important. To study this book and find out what it is we really need. He suggests one and a half chapters a day until the close of December and we could indeed complete our assignment. He also promises us that if we willing to follow this admonition that we will be blessed with “an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God."

Who among us doesn't need those blessings? The promises that President Hinckley made concerning his challenge to read the Book of Mormon this year, will be a blessing for all who follow the his direction.

We have been instructed for many years by the brethren to do daily scripture study. It is significant that the Prophet of The Lord would instruct us in such a pointed way to read the Book of Mormon and to do it before the end of the year.

The Prophet of the Lord does not make busy work for the members of the church. So we must assume he fully believes the membership needs the information and the spiritual blessing that come from reading the Book of Mormon and from obedience to the Prophet of the Lord.

I have a testimony of the Gospel and of the Divinity of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony of the Atonement, and the great blessing it is to me personally. I know President Hinckley is a Prophet of God and he is receiving revelation. I know if we will obey the commandments we will increase in faith and we will find happiness and joy in this life as well as the one yet to come.

Do you have any plans or schedules to help you accomplish this great assignment? Any ideas or thoughts? Do you have a special system or motivation to share with family or individuals? Do you have a story to share about how this reading assignment has or will bless you or your family? Please share with all who will read! Thanks!

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