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Opposition in all things-religion term paper textual analysis

For it must needs be, that there is an


Opposition in All Things



In 2 Nephi chapter 2, Lehi links a variety of gospel topics to the central theme voiced in verse 11: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” The topics that he links to this central theme covers a rather broad range of gospel principles, including the purpose of trials and afflictions, the concept of sin and righteousness, how we may be happy, the law of God, freedom and agency, and even the Genesis story. Lehi shows that all these things are directly related to the divine concept of opposition in all things.

Afflictions



Lehi opens by addressing his son, Jacob, as his “first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness.” (verse 1) From this passage, the reader definitely gets the feeling that Lehi’s life was hard. Lehi emphasizes that life apparently was even harder for Jacob when he states “And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow.” (verse 1) This makes the reader think that if Lehi’s life was hard, and he specifically states that Jacob “suffered afflictions and much sorrow,” then Jacob’s childhood must have been extraordinarily difficult. When Lehi first states the theme of the chapter, he states: “…there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass…” (verse 11) Here, because Lehi again refers to his son being born in the wilderness, the reader is reminded of the earlier mentioning of Jacob’s birth in the wilderness. Because Lehi uses this phrase again, the reader infers that the “afflictions and much sorrow” were for Jacob’s own good.

A more extreme way of reading verse 11 could even say that the reason that Jacob was righteous was because of the oppositions he faced in his youth. After all, Lehi clearly states that without opposition, “righteousness could not be brought to pass.” Continuing with this line of logic, Lehi may be saying in a roundabout way that one of the reasons that Laman and Lemuel turned out the way they did was because they had an easy childhood. Perhaps the key difference between Nephi and Jacob, who became very righteous, and Laman and Lemuel, who were wicked, is the difference in the level of opposition faced. Of course, Laman and Lemuel did encounter the same oppositions in the wilderness that the rest of the family did, but they were already older. Nephi was still in his formative years when Lehi left Jerusalem and Jacob experienced such hardships his entire life.

Sin and Righteousness



In verse 13, Lehi states: “If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness.” In a casual interpretation, this could be taken to mean that the sinners contrast with the righteous people, making the righteous look better. Following this line of logic, any person can only be as good as some other person is bad. I propose, however, that this is not sin and righteousness in different people, but rather within the same person. Lehi seems to be saying that a person’s degree of righteousness is related to the amount of sin he or she is able to overcome. If a person is raised knowing the truth and is never confronted with anything else, they will almost certainly live according to the commandments. However, such a person will live on the correct path simply for lack of another way, and so it is not counted as great righteousness for them. On the other hand, if a person struggles to stay on the correct path, and the overcome a myriad of temptations, this is counted as righteousness. In this way, Lehi shows the importance of all men overcoming opposition, so that they may be considered righteous. According to this concept, all men should be thankful for the temptations that they encounter, for the only path to righteousness requires overcoming such temptations.

This concept of only being able to be righteous in the opposition of sin is reemphasized in verse 23 when Lehi says that without the fall, Adam and Eve would have remained in the garden “doing no good, for they knew no sin.” Here, the word “know” implies that it is a personal thing; it implies that the mere existence of sin does not mean that a person overcame the sin. However, Lehi’s teachings must not be taken to say that one must sin to become righteous. In verse 13, righteousness is placed as an opposition to sin. Active participation in sin does not make one righteous. It is possible to overcome past sins and become righteous in the end, but that is the hard road. It is much easier to overcome sin from the beginning. Just because a person knows temptation does not mean that he or she must give into this temptation. One cannot be righteous and sinning at the same time, because sin and righteousness are opposites.

Joy



Lehi’s message on joy is very frequently misunderstood. In 2 Nephi, 2:25, Lehi states: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” This is often misinterpreted as saying that we must always be happy. Part of the cause for error is this passage is generally taken out of the context of Lehi’s writings. In verse 23, Lehi says that before the fall, Adam and Eve experienced “no joy, for they knew no misery.” When Lehi says that “men are, that they might have joy,” he is also saying that men must have misery. This may seem like a morbid and depressed interpretation, but it is most likely that Lehi meant it more that the good times come with the bad. When looked at from this point of view, the traditional interpretation of this passage actually causes more pain. When a person reads only that “men are, that they might have joy,” he or she may seem confused, because life is not always joyful. The reader may feel as though they are not on the right track, or that his or her life has no purpose. The more careful interpretation shows that a person can fulfill a purpose without always being happy. It should be pointed out and emphasized that joy is set in opposition of misery. Lehi’s words should not be confused to say that we will always be happy or always sad. Instead, his words should be read to say that hard times pass, and that joy does come eventually. Thus, a more complete understanding “men are that they might have joy” can give the depressed hope than the casual interpretation. This increase in hope gives this specific scripture so much more real value than what most readers receive.

Another point that Lehi makes about happiness is “if there be no righteousness, there be no happiness.” (verse 13) In context, Lehi is using this as part of a proof that God exists, but it also stands on its own. In fact, Lehi obviously felt that this fact must be taken for granted, because he uses it as part of the proof without justifying it. The reader understands from this that Lehi truly believes that the only way to find happiness is through righteousness. This seems a little extreme, because one can see apparently happy people who are not in the least degree righteous. Because of this, the reader will naturally assume that Lehi is talking about long-term happiness. This is in accord with everyday observations, because it is often found that over time, wicked ways catch up to those who do not turn to righteousness.

The Genesis Story



The term “Genesis story” as I use it here simply refers to the story of our beginnings. In this case, I will specifically be referring to Lehi’s recounting of the story of Adam and Eve. As with the rest of this chapter, Lehi emphasizes the opposition that is apparent throughout the story. The most important opposition in this story is “the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.” (verse 15) Lehi does not state clearly which fruit is “sweet” and which fruit is “bitter,” but close analysis of this brings a surprising conclusion. People generally think that the forbidden fruit was bitter, because Adam was removed from God’s presence because he took it. However, if one looks at the parallels in this passage, the forbidden fruit is placed with the term “sweet” and the tree of life is paralleled with the term “bitter.” At first, this seems rather puzzling, since this goes against what would seem logical to most people. Perhaps, however, Lehi is referring to the sweetness and bitterness as seen from an eternal perspective. As pointed out in verse 22, when Lehi says “All things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created,” none of the Plan of Salvation could have come to pass if it were not for Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. Thus, Lehi’s implication that the forbidden fruit was “sweet” is probably more accurate than assuming that this is the bitter fruit.

The Law and Atonement



At this point, some digression from the main theme is necessary to cover the secondary theme- namely the law, justification, and the role of the atonement. In due time, it will be shown that the secondary theme and the primary theme intertwine through agency.

In 2 Nephi 2:5, Lehi states “and the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified, or by the law men are cut off.” This seems to be touching on the common Book of Mormon theme of justice and mercy. Assuming this is the case, “by the law men are cut off” simply because no man can ever be perfect. Since no man can ever perfectly follow the law, all men should be cut off, if there was not some kind of intercession. Another way of looking at this is from the reference point that the law in Lehi’s time is the Law of Moses. Looking at it from this angle, Lehi is saying that salvation does not come through the law itself. Instead, salvation is made possible because of Christ’s atonement. This concept is specifically stated in verse 6.

In verse 5, Lehi says that men cannot be saved by the law. In verse 6, he explains how men can be saved, and why it is possible. According to Lehi, “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah.” Thus, men are not saved by the law, they are saved by Jesus Christ. One may ask why any being would sacrifice so much. Lehi’s simple response to this question is that Christ “is full of grace and truth.” From this, the reader gets the sense that Christ’s very being is grace and truth, as if this was the defining characteristic of Christ. Lehi seems to think that this is reason enough to justify why Christ would suffer for us.

Although it is important to understand why Christ atoned for us, it is probably more important to understand how he did it and how one can apply this atonement to his or her own life. In verse 7, Lehi says “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin.” The key to this excerpt is that Christ offered himself. Lehi did not say that the Father sent the Son. This seems to say that the only way that Christ’s offering could be valid is if it was voluntary. While he was certainly fulfilling the father’s plan, in the end it was entirely his own decision. Christ offered “himself a sacrifice for sin.” By making this offering, Christ can “answer the ends of the law.” This is the solution to the dilemma presented in verse 5, that “by the law men are cut off.” Lehi is saying that because Christ was above the law and sacrificed himself, he is able to make up for the fact that all men will fall short of the requirements of the law.

Finally, Lehi states that Christ’s offering is “unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Too often, this phrase is thrown out without any thought as to what it means. Here, Lehi is saying that only those who truly humble themselves will be granted the saving power of the atonement. The words “broken heart” seems to say that there is no other hope left. This is not to say that we are hopeless, but rather that Christ is our only hope. This would be consistent with various scriptures that say that the name of Christ is the only name by which we can find salvation. “Contrite” or, in other words, penitent, implies that only those who are truly full of sorrow for the wrong deeds will be saved. It is not enough for a man to simply say that he regrets his actions. The only way to take advantage of the atonement is if we are fully penitent in our entire spirit.

Just in case it is not completely apparent to the reader how important the atonement truly is, Lehi adds extra emphasis to its importance in verse 8 when he states “how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth.” Here, it is interesting to note that we are not only responsible for knowing this truth ourselves, but that we also tell everyone about it. This gives the reader an added sense of how important the subject is. If it were only somewhat important, Lehi probably would have simply said that this topic was important to understand. However, Lehi stresses that it is so important that the reader should do more than know about it. Indeed, Lehi says that the reader should do more than act on it. Lehi goes so far as to say that all men need to know about it, and it is the reader’s responsibility to share it with other people.

The reader can only share a message if it is clear exactly what the message is, so Lehi sums up the message in the second half of verse 8. This also serves to add emphasis to the importance of the message. “There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.” It is interesting at this point to note the three aspects of Christ that make the atonement possible. Firstly, the “merits” of Christ. Christ was perfect, without any blemish. If it were not for his perfection, then he would not qualify as our Redeemer. Secondly, Christ’s “mercy.” If Christ is not merciful, then there is no reason for us to hope in him. Finally, the “grace” of Christ. This word gives the reader the sense of divinity- Christ is only able to atone for us because of who he is. Even if it were possible for another man to be perfect and to have as much mercy as Christ, no other man has the “grace” of Christ.

Agency



In verses 26 and 27, Lehi clearly brings his primary and secondary themes together. Lehi states in verse 27 “And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death.” In this one short passage, we see three distinct divine concepts: freedom to choose, or in other words, agency; the Mediator, representing the atonement; and opposition of liberty and captivity.

The importance of agency is implied in verse 26 when Lehi says “And because that they are redeemed from the fall the have become free forever.” Lehi had already by this point shown the importance of being redeemed, and here the reader gets the sense that Lehi is implying that one of the main results of the redemption is this agency. In fact, we could take it as far as to say that one of the main purposes of the fall and redemption was to give men agency to choose for themselves. It is important to note the connection of the fall in this process. Many people think of the fall of Adam as being a bad thing, but here, Lehi points out the importance of the fall in the progression of God’s plan. Men are only able to choose because they are redeemed from the fall. If it were not for the fall, there would have been no reason to be redeemed. Without this redemption, we would not have freedom.

A common fallacy in the world is that because we are free to choose, we are immune from any punishment. This is where the concept of opposition comes in. Lehi states in verse 27: “And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death.” Because there must be opposition in everything, there must be opposition in choices and opposition in consequences. In the end, it is the individual’s choice whether he or she would prefer “liberty and eternal life” or “captivity and death.” The opposition of consequences could not possibly be pointed out more clearly than Lehi does. In our common language, we always think of “captivity” as an antonym for “liberty”. It is generally not possible for one to be free and captive at the same time. The opposition between “eternal life” and “death” is even more stunning. Lehi’s point would have been understood if he had simply used the word “life” in contrast to “death,” but he used the only thing that could be more opposed to death, namely everlasting life, or “life eternal.” Thus, Lehi accentuates the opposition involved with consequences.

Lehi states even more clearly the importance of the presence of opposition to have agency in verse 16. Here, he states “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” The first half of this is reiterating the importance of agency as a God-given gift. The second half refers to the importance of opposition for agency. “Man could not act for himself” if there was not opposition. This is very similar to the argument that a man can not be righteous without opposition. In both cases, opposition is necessary for us to grow and reach our full potential. Every man values the gift of agency, but without opposition, men could not have any agency. Following this line of logic, men should be grateful for opposition, since it is a gift from God.


Conclusion



As seen throughout 2 Nephi 2, opposition is a part of many gospel principles. It would seem that Lehi feels that opposition is a key ingredient to growth. For example, when he talks about the fall of Adam, he points out that everything would have stayed in its original state if Adam had not fallen. While this might seem like a good thing at first, because Adam was in a sort of paradise, we should be very glad that he did fall. Without the change and growth that occurred because of opposition, none of us would be alive. On a personal level, we all should be grateful for the oppositions that we are able to face and overcome, because without these oppositions, we would not be able to progress and inherit the Kingdom of God.


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Alternate forms of prayer-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
12/5/2002
Rel A 121H, Sec 200
Textual Analysis #12

Alternate Forms of Prayer



The Lord has commanded all men to pray ever since Adam was removed from the Garden of Eden. Sometimes, we may feel like we don’t have time to pray, or we are too embarrassed to pray. In Mosiah 24:10-13, we learn how we may avoid this trap, and continue in a habit of constant prayer.

First, some background knowledge is helpful to understand this specific situation. Alma and his people had fled from King Noah, and had set up there own community in the land of Helam. One would imagine that this community was a very spiritual one, for two reasons. Firstly, these people had run away for the sole purpose of enjoying religious freedom, so it is doubtful that they would take their religion for granted. Second, one of Amulon’s tortures is to forbid prayer: “And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death” (Mosiah, 24:11). Prayer was obviously a very important aspect of these lives, because this was the best torture that Amulon could think of after “[putting] tasks upon them, and … task-masters over them” (Mosiah 24:9). Amulon had been a high priest at the same time as Alma, and so he had a grudge against him. Naturally, when Amulon is given power over the people of Alma, he is going to be as mean as possible, which is why he forbids prayer.

One thing that should be remembered is that the people of Alma did start out by praying out loud: “and it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God” (Mosiah 24, 10). This gives the reader the sense that Alma’s people found solace in gathering together and praying with each other during their trials. They obviously did not keep it a secret that they were praying often, because Amulon thought to take this privilege away. Too often in our day, we are simply ashamed to let others know that we pray often. It is apparent that if Amulon had not threatened them with their lives, they would have continued in open, fervent prayer to God. Too often, we would like to let silent prayer be a permanent substitute for vocal prayer, because of shame. Nobody should ever discourage this silent prayer, but it must also be remembered that the Lord likes to see us give our all, even if our all is simply praying openly in the presence of others.

When Amulon first made the decree that prayer was to be outlawed, one can imagine that the people of Alma were initially in a quandary. Prayer was such an important aspect of their lives, that to be told not to pray was an impossibility. The reader can sense that this decree was unnatural for the people of Alma to follow, because Amulon had to “put guards over them to watch them” (Mosiah 12:11) and make sure that they were not praying. Naturally, there would have been guards over the people already, but this phrase gives the reader the sense that additional manpower was necessary to keep Alma’s people from praying.

Finally, one learns in verse 12 how Alma’s people were able to continue praying: “And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him and he did know the thoughts of their hearts” (Mosiah 24:12). The phrase “pour out their hearts” implies a much deeper, more sincere prayer than what most people engage in. This seems to say to the reader that any prayer is important, but it is the heartfelt prayer that the Lord would prefer us to offer.


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...The waters of Mormon-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
11/21/2002
Rel A 121H- 200
Textual Analysis #11

“Behold, here are the waters of Mormon”



In Mosiah 18, we find what is possibly the most detailed analysis of baptism found in the ancient scriptures. To fully appreciate everything that is taught about baptism, the reader must start before any mention is given of baptism. The analysis continues through until it runs into a description of how the church was structured. Even this is important to baptism, though, because it demonstrates that the final step is enduring to the end.

In Mosiah 18:6, we read “And he did teach them, and did preach unto them repentance and redemption, and faith on the Lord.” Here, we discover the three basic principles we must understand before we can be baptized. In this scripture, we are presented “repentance” first. One of the purposes of baptism is for the remission of sins, so it seems appropriate that the first step before baptism is repentance. The second thing that Alma saw as important is “redemption.” This reminds us that we cannot be redeemed without baptism. Finally, we must have “faith on the Lord.” It is always important to remember that it is not enough to simply have faith. We must have faith in something, namely our Lord Jesus Christ.

After teaching the initial steps before one can be baptized, Alma teaches what baptism means. The first significance of baptism is that is shows that we “are desirous to come into the fold of God.” Baptism is not just a sacred ordinance we must fulfill in order to progress in the Lord’s kingdom, it is also a sign that we have joined with the Lord’s Church. When we are baptized, it shows that we are ready to join with the Lord’s people. This point is reemphasized several times throughout the next few verses. First, baptism shows that we will “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” Because we are all working together to achieve salvation, it makes it easier for the individual. As one of our brothers hit hard times, we must be there to lift them up. Likewise, when we are facing challenges, we can count on someone being there for us. This point is obviously important because it is paralleled with “willing to mourn with those that mourn.” Again, when we enter into the covenant of baptism, we are signifying that we will enter the tight-knit “fold of God.”

Perhaps the most significant promise made at baptism is that we will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” This is rather all-encompassing, because if we are standing as a witness, then we will not only obey the commandments of God, but also spread the gospel to others. In fact, this seems to be saying that the primary call of anyone who has been baptized is a call to missionary work. Once we have entered into the covenant, we must tell everyone else we come in contact with.

The final topic that I will address is the “desire.” Alma says, referring to all the promises made, “if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord.” It is not enough to know intellectually that baptism is the proper way to reach eternal life. We must first and foremost have a desire to help the Lord and to help our fellow man. Baptism only does us any good if we personally desire to live the life that it signifies. The people of Alma obviously had this desire, because it says in verse 11 that “they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.” It may seem a bit odd to us to start an applause because of an invitation to be baptized, but that is probably just because we are so used to baptism. We tend to take such things for granted. For Alma’s people, on the other hand, baptism was an exciting event. It may be too late for us to get excited for our own baptism, but we must keep in mind the covenants we made at baptism and always be excited to fulfill them.


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Becometh as a child-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
11/14/2002
Rel A 121H- 200
Textual analysis #10

“Becometh as a Child”



When most people remember Mosiah 3:19, they will only recall that “the natural man is an enemy to God.” The purpose of this scripture, however is not to simply tell the reader how horrible he is. King Benjamin is also telling the reader how to overcome such a state. To more fully understand this scripture, we must focus on the word “child.”

Before we get ahead of ourselves talking about the solution, we must mention the problem. King Benjamin does this naturally by putting the solution after the problem, much like any speaker would. “The natural man is an enemy to God, …and will be, for ever and ever.” In other words, we are naturally an enemy to our own creator. Of course, no man with understanding would want to be an enemy of the almighty God. Therefore, Benjamin makes it clear how we go about changing sides, so we are no longer God’s enemy.

First of all, we must “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.” Although we do not naturally obey the commandments of the Lord, it is possible for us to have a constant companion whose natural tendency is to follow the Lord. The word yielding implies the potential of stopping completely. Sometimes, our natural tendencies do not simply stray off the path of righteousness, but go against the Lord’s commandments. We must be willing to listen to the Holy Spirit and completely yield to his enticings, even if it means we stop completely.

Second, we must “putteth of the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement.” Usually, even if we yield to the Holy Spirit momentarily, our natural tendencies will be to fall back into bad habits and evil ways. This is why we must completely put off the natural man. It is a fortunate thing that Benjamin does not simply say that we must become a saint. It would appear hopeless from our fallen state, if Benjamin had not said that we must do it through the atonement. Benjamin not only tells us what ship we must be on, he also throws out a lifesaver, namely, the atonement. Without the atonement of Jesus Christ, all man would be lost, and it would be impossible to sanctify ourselves.

Finally, and most importantly, we must “becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things.” We spend most of our lives trying to grow up, and overcome the childish qualities that make us socially unacceptable. Benjamin reminds us that children also have qualities that can save us. Apparently submissiveness is a key trait, because Benjamin mentions it twice. This relates to the earlier mention of needing to yield to the Holy Spirit. If we do not submit to the will of the Lord, we will wander down wrong paths and the natural man will overcome us. Humility is a key, because if we think too highly of ourselves, we will not be willing to be submissive. A proud person will not be led through strengthening trials that require any loss of dignity. Patience is an interesting thing to mention, since usually when we think of children, we do not think of them as being overly patient. Often, they will complain about some temporary inconvenience, such as having to sit through three hours of church. On the other hand, on a bigger scale, children are much more patient then adults. Adults usually spend most of their time trying to make themselves into something different. Children, on the other hand, are generally content to be formed into whatever their parents or teachers make them. We must imitate this quality by patiently allowing the Lord to shape our lives.

In all things, for us to follow the Lord, we must imitate the good qualities we find in children. Ultimately we will be called his child and he will truly be our father.


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If ye should transgress...-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
11/12/2002
Rel A 121H, sec 200
Textual Analysis 9

“If ye should transgress and go contrary”



One of the important aspects of King Benjamin’s speech is that he is so straightforward as to what one can do wrong. He tells various ways that the reader can fulfill righteousness, but the most important lessons are those that tell the reader how to avoid wickedness. One such lesson is found in Mosiah chapter 2, verses 36-39. Here, King Benjamin’s warning voice sounds out clearly across the millennia, saying, essentially, that the more knowledge one has, the more damned he or she may become.

He begins this warning by stating the sin in verse 36: “after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken… ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord.” The first requirement for this to apply is that one must have already been taught the truth. Even more importantly, one must have “known” the truth. After this, if a man goes against the truth that he knows, he withdraws himself from the Spirit. It is interesting to note here that the man withdraws himself from the Spirit of the Lord before the Spirit withdraws from him. This implies to the reader that any man has the opportunity to receive guidance from the spirit, as long as he does not actively chase it away. That’s not to say that if you’ve chased away the spirit, it will immediately come back. After one “withdraws” from the Spirit, Benjamin states that “it may have no place in you.” Here again, though, the active portion is with the individual, who must find a place for the spirit, instead of waiting for it to come into his or her life.

Later, the Lord becomes the active participant in the process, when Benjamin states in verse 37 that “the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.” Here, the reader gets the sense that the Lord chooses carefully who he spends his time with. The term “dwelleth” seems to imply that the Lord is active in this sense. This, however, is already after the individual has made himself unworthy of the spirit. One may try to claim that he has turned away from the Lord, but that he’s not all that evil. However, Benjamin makes it clear that there is no middle ground. He states at the beginning of verse 37 that “the same cometh out in open rebellion against God, therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness.” King Benjamin uses harsh language to emphasize that one is either on the Lord’s side or he is not, and if he is not on the Lord’s side, then he is against the Lord. Furthermore, the reader is told that if one is the enemy to any righteousness, he “becometh an enemy to all righteousness.”

In verse 38, we learn somewhat how the judgment day will work. Still referring to the person who has turned from the truth, Benjamin states “the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, which doth cause him to shrink from the presence of the Lord.” From this, the reader gets the sense that the Lord does not condemn anybody, rather, that men condemn themselves. Benjamin does not say that the Lord casts such a man out for eternity. Instead, the guilty party “shrink[s] from the presence of the Lord.” Following this line of logic, there will be no surprises when we stand to be judged in the last day. We will either be saved or damned depending on our own knowledge and feelings of guilt or redemption. The only man who will not be allowed in the presence of the Lord for eternity is the one who “shrinks” from his presence.


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Lord, how is it done?-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
10/24/2002
Rel A 121H-200
Textual analysis

“Lord, how is it done?”



Every LDS child knows the story of Enos: Enos went hunting one day, he prayed all day and all night, and he received forgiveness. It was not until I read Enos more carefully that I noticed the importance of the Lord’s answer to my title question. In Enos verses 5-6, The Lord says that he forgives Enos. Enos must have been very close to the Lord by this time, because in verse 7, he dared ask, “Lord, how is it done?”

The key word in the Lord’s response is “faith.” Not only does the Lord tell Enos that he is forgiven “because of [his] faith in Christ,” the Lord also says “thy faith hath made thee whole.” If Enos did not have faith in Christ, his cause would be lost. In this specific spot, the Lord tells Enos the importance of faith to be forgiven. Later, he extends the principle of faith to all things in our lives: “whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.” The Lord does not say that only important, life shattering elements of life can be changed by faith. He says “whatsoever thing” Enos asks for can be his. It should be noted that the Lord does not address Enos directly in this last quote. This is because the Lord’s audience is any person with enough faith to read the Book of Mormon.

I mentioned that the key to these verses is faith. The Lord states that “thy faith hath made thee whole.” Continuing with the analogy that faith is the key, the Lord clearly states where the door is. Faith in ourselves does not give us anything more than self-confidence. It is “faith in Christ” that saves. Again in verse 15, the Lord’s stipulation for receiving “whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith” is that we believe we shall “receive in the name of Christ.”

The other important aspect of the book of Enos is the value of keeping records. Enos asks for two main things while he prays all day and all night: he asks for forgiveness, and he asks that the Lord protect the records. It is easy to understand why Enos would beg for forgiveness of his sins. We all naturally desire to be forgiven of our wrong-doings. By reading verses 14 and 16, it is easily seen that Enos values the records of his people even more than his own life. In verse 14, Enos states that the Lamanites “would destroy our records and us.” Enos does not pray to the Lord to be rescued from the hands of the Lamanites, nor does he ask that the be struck down before the Nephites or any such thing. Instead, the only thing that Enos asks for is that God “would preserve the records.” Now that has been shown that Enos values the records more than his own life, the reader must ask why.

It is seen in verse 18 that Enos was not the only one who asked for the Lord to protect the records: the Lord says “Thy fathers have also required of me this thing.” The answer to why these records are so important is found earlier, in verse 13. Enos hopes that if the Nephites are destroyed and the Lamanites spared, “the Lord God would preserve a record of … the Nephites… that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the Lamanites, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto salvation.” Enos obviously firmly believes that these records have the power to convert, even unto salvation. If this truly is the case, and Enos and many other prophets value the records more than their own lives, then the book of Enos becomes a lesson in the importance of not taking the scriptures for granted. After salvation through faith in Christ, Enos apparently believes that the scriptures is the most important thing to seek out.


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Jacob 1-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
10/17/2002
Rel A 121H- 200
Textual analysis

“And he gave me, Jacob, a commandment”



Most readers know the story about how the golden plates that Joseph Smith found is actually a compilation of several different plates, abridged by Mormon and his son Moroni. Usually, however, readers don’t think about the significance of there being many different authors for the same book. At the beginning of his book, Jacob points out very clearly what his objective is for writing in the Book of Mormon. More careful attention should be focused on this section, so that the reader knows why various stories are included.

First of all, Jacob’s ideas as to what should be written on the plates did not come from himself. He says “Nephi gave me, Jacob, a commandment concerning the small plates, upon which these things are engraven.” The purpose of putting this sentence in is most likely for Jacob to show the reader the authority by which he writes. Obviously, if Nephi, the original author, should trust him, then the reader should as well. Through much of the next few verses, Jacob refers to what Nephi told him to write. It doesn’t seem that Jacob does this because he is weak-minded and cannot think of a good story by himself. As he explains in Jacob 1:10, “the people… loved Nephi exceedingly.” By pointing out to the reader that he was officially endorsed by Nephi, Jacob is showing why he should be allowed to write on the plates.

While Jacob’s authorization is important, it is even more important to know what he intends to write. The key is found in verses 4 and 5 of chapter 1. “And if there were preaching which was sacred” [emphasis added] is probably the key to the purpose of the whole book. Often, readers of the Book of Mormon tend to focus more on the fun stories rather than the sacredness of the words enclosed. I think that by his use of the word “sacred,” Jacob is trying to emphasize the importance of actually reading the Book of Mormon for what it really is. It is not some storybook; it is a sacred piece of literature. In this verse, Jacob might not be telling the reader how they should read his writings, but he is pointing out the significance if not only his writing, but Nephi’s and all other authors of the Book of Mormon.

The next part of the purpose of Jacob’s writings is also contained in Jacob 1:4. at the end of the verse, he clearly states who his intended audience is. He says that the writings are “for the sake of our people.” Jacob did not write these things to make money, and it is extremely unlikely that he did make any money from this book. He is writing the book in order to save souls. It seems that perhaps this should be interpreted that he is writing it not only for his people, but for all people. In any case, his motives for writing are definitely not greed.

Just in case the official endorsement by Nephi was not enough for the reader to put trust in Jacob’s words, he brings in a much higher reference. Jacob 1:17 says “Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them, these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord.” Here again, the reader is supposed to get the sense that these are not simply the ramblings of Jacob. These words are ordained of God.

It is my opinion that after reading this first chapter of the book of Jacob, any reader should offer more reverence to his or her reading of the entire Book of Mormon. As demonstrated by Jacob a number of times, this book contains very important words. It is not just a good story about people who sailed to a new land and tried to make their way. The entire book is ordained of God, and as such, the words should be analyzed with greater care.


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O the wise-
Jo-Pete Nelson
10/10/2002
Rel A 121H-200
Textual analysis 6

O the Wise



In 2 Nephi 28, we find a strict warning against those “that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts,” (2 Nephi 28:15). This phrase is easily confused to be attached only to the “rich,” because it comes right after the rich in the list of people Nephi warns. A more careful reading of this, however, shows that the wise and the learned are also in direct peril of falling for the evils of pride.

The use of both “wise” and “learned” implies that there must be a difference between the two. It is anybody’s guess as to what Nephi himself meant when he distinguished the two words from each other, but the reader can make a few conjectures. The simplest explanation is that wisdom implies pure, raw genius, whereas learning is that learning which is found in schooling. But why distinguish between the two? In the end, both are warning against those people who hold themselves higher because of their own intelligence. Here, the reader must go out on a limb for an explanation. One possible reason why Nephi distinguishes wisdom from learning is so that nobody can be justified in their pride. A learned man might otherwise say that he is not simply wise, he is a hard worker, and so therefore has plenty of reason to be proud. A wise man may say that his wisdom is a gift from God, and therefore has more reason to be proud. Nephi says that in either case, Pride must be avoided.

The reader may recall the scripture in Mosiah that says “to be learned is good if…” and wonder why the scripture here does not make any such provisions. Perhaps the reason why Nephi does not give an example of when wisdom and learning is ok is that he isn’t actually warning against learning and wisdom. The key is that he warns against the wise, learned, and rich “that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts.” This means that it is okay to be educated, and that money is not inherently evil. The problem comes in that many people, when given a little bit of money or a little education, hold themselves higher than others.

It is interesting to note the seriousness with which Nephi addresses pride. Pride is the first in a list that includes false preachers and prostitutes. All such people “shall be thrust down to hell.” These are very strong words, implying that pride must be one of the worst sins that can be committed.

It is tempting, after such a rebuke, for the learned and the wise to try to thrust such things away from them. The very next verse, however seems to explain that while pride is evil, the good things that men are often proud of are not evil in themselves. It is interesting that the phrase “Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good” appears right after the verse on pride. This seems to say that there must be moderation in all things. It is apparent to almost any person that wisdom is a good thing, in itself. We must not be found guilty of reviling against such things. The money of the rich can also be used in a good way. We must not turn it aside for a thing of naught. In general, things that people are proud of are, in deed, good things. If this were not the case, they would not be proud of them. The problem that Nephi is addressing is not the possession of such things, but rather the haughtiness and pride of men.


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My soul delighteth-
Jo-Pete Nelson
10/3/2002
Rel A 121H-200
Textual analysis 5

“My soul delighteth”



In 2 Nephi 4:16, Nephi says “Behold my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord.” In this one verse, Nephi tells his audience the secret to happiness in this life.
The way that Nephi uses the word “delight,” implies more than simple joy. As he clarifies in the second half of the verse, his “heart pondereth continually” upon the things the Lord has taught him. This gives the reader the sense that the word delight not only means happiness or joy, but commitment to the ways of the Lord. Combined with the use of the word continually, Nephi seems to be saying that such happiness only lasts for as long as thoughts are turned to the Lord. The device for happiness that Nephi describes does not act like a savings account, letting the good deeds build up until they are called for in time of need. Nephi seems to be saying that such joy only comes from the Lord while actively “pondering” on his ways.

It is interesting to note Nephi’s use of the word “soul.” This seems to mean that Nephi’s whole being is invested in his praise of the Lord. This is not simply Nephi’s casual speculation of a wonderful God. Nephi is not being coldly intellectual about the wonders of the Lord. Nor is he being led by his emotional feelings. This dedication to the Lord comes from his entire soul. Furthermore, Nephi is basing his marvels on multiple senses. He does not know the wonders of the Lord simply because he read about them, but because of the “things which [he has] seen and heard.” The effect of this phrase is that the reader senses that Nephi is an authority on the things of the Lord.

Of course, Nephi’s use of the word “delight” also does mean pure joy. In the simplest, most direct interpretation, Nephi is telling his audience what they must do to find happiness. The first key according to Nephi is to make life central to the “things of the Lord.” He states that he finds joy “in” them, not just when he is near those who are righteous. Hence, Nephi states that we must take an active role, as opposed to a passive role. On the other hand, Nephi’s “heart pondereth continually” for more than one reason. He does not have to force himself to enjoy the things of the Lord. He is naturally drawn to them, and these things naturally make him happy. It is not hard for him, because he is almost obsessively dedicated to the Lord.

As Nephi says elsewhere, we must liken scriptures to ourselves. It is not enough to simply know what Nephi means and to what extent he means what he says. This scripture is only useful if we can learn to apply it to our own lives. The application of this scripture is rather simple. If we are willing to give our all, and “pondereth continually upon the things which [we] have seen and heard,” then we can find happiness. Of course, this is often easier said than done. It is a training process for our soul to find such joy in the Lord. The question that Nephi doesn’t seem to answer fully is whether we must find joy, and then we will be able to constantly think of the Lord, or perhaps we must constantly think of the Lord to find the joy. Nephi seems to naturally do them both at the same time, and most of us are unfortunately not blessed in this manner. The simplest solution would be to just try it out. Since we cannot directly change the way we feel about something, the experiment must start with the part about constantly pondering on the mighty wonders we have seen and heard. Over time, this becomes habitual, and it becomes much easier to find joy in the Lord. At the end, perhaps we shall be able to say that our “soul delighteth in the things of the Lord.”


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What meaneth these things?-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
10/1/2002
Hon Rel A 121 Sec 200

What meaneth these things?



At the beginning of 1 Nephi 22, we read that the scriptures contain “things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual” (1 Nephi 22:3). As is often the case in the Book of Mormon, both the righteous and the wicked are highlighted to accent this point. Nephi’s brothers are slow to understand the principles of the gospel taught in the scriptures, which helps us to learn them more fully because Nephi is forced to spell out very carefully what he means.

When they first ask the question, Nephi’s brothers make a bad assumption that things must either be spiritual or physical: “What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh?” (I Nephi 22:1) It should be noticed that they assume that all the words of Isaiah are meant to be spiritual warnings. This shows that Nephi’s brothers still did not believe at all that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed or these great prophecies were going to come to pass.

Nephi gives an important explanation of prophets: “for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets” (1 Nephi 22:2). These means to me that prophets of God are capable of communicating more than just spiritual matters. It could, however, have a more subtle meaning that prophets use the same spirit that we do to communicate with our Father in Heaven. If it is this second interpretation, that puts the responsibility on us to more fully appreciate the gift and power of the Holy Ghost.

Where Nephi’s brothers assume that the words of Isaiah were just spiritual, Nephi points out without hesitation that the scriptures are to be understood to be both “temporal and spiritual.” It would seem intentional that Nephi said first that these specific scriptures were meant to be temporal first. His brothers still did not believe in the downfall of their great home city. While we are amazed at the close-mindedness of Nephi’s brothers, this scripture should serve as warning to us as well. Often, we like to assume that the prophet is speaking of abstract concepts using real world examples. Nephi’s point that prophets teach both temporally and spiritually should be read for our use as well.

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that Nephi does not simply say that these scriptures must be taken literally as well as spiritually. He also brings in real world examples of the truth of his observations: “and since they have been led away, these things have been prophesied concerning them, and also concerning all those who shall hereafter be scattered” (1 Nephi 22:5). This adds great strength to Nephi’s arguments, because his brothers know that the northern tribes of Israel had already been prophesied about and those prophecies came to pass. This gives them reason to believe that the prophecies concerning Jerusalem should also come to pass, in a very real, physical sense.


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Grace and Works-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
9/19/2002
Rel 121H-200
Textual Analysis #3

Grace and Works



One subject that has troubled many Christian theologians since James and Paul is the question of grace and works. Lehi addressed this subject very specifically over six hundred years earlier. In 2 Nephi chapter 2, Lehi teaches his son Jacob how the two are inseparably connected.

Lehi begins by pointing out the grace of Christ. “Salvation is free” is the key in this section of the chapter. Men are not capable of buying their own salvation. Lehi teaches the one way in which we can receive redemption: “in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.” Christ suffered and died for mankind so that men could receive salvation. The cost to man is not the price that Christ paid- rather, it is simply a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” He did not suffer in the hopes that He would be repaid; rather, His suffering was freely given for mankind. Even if a man were capable of paying such a price, it would not bring salvation. Lehi points out: “unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.”

To ensure that the reader understands the full importance of the grace of Christ, Lehi states the following:

Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah

Not only is it essential to realize the name by which salvation is found, it is also important to “make these things known” to all people. This ties in with the quote that “salvation is free.” If only a select group were aware of the pathway to salvation, it could not be considered free. Only when all people have the opportunity to learn of Christ can salvation truly be free. Another importance of this passage is it points out three sides to Christ’s sacrifice: “merits, mercy, and grace.” No man can possibly have all three of these, each of which is essential. If Christ did not have the merits- namely perfection- to serve as the sacrificial lamb, then another name would be required. If Christ did not have the mercy to forgive men their debts, then the sacrifice would have been in vain. Finally, if salvation were not offered in full grace, then none would be able to afford the price to purchase salvation. Only when all three are brought together does Christ’s sacrifice reach all men.

A common misconception of theologians from other religions is that because “salvation is free,” no work is required of men to receive the fullest glory. A careful reading of verses 26 and 27 clears up this misconception. Here, it is pointed out that the freedom is the freedom “to act for themselves and not be acted upon… And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life… or to choose captivity and death.” Men are freely given the tools necessary for them to receive “liberty and eternal life,” but in the end, the freedom of choice is predominant.

Finally, there are two things that a man must give to receive this gift of salvation. Christ gives his grace “unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Those that claim that grace is received with no action on the part of the man are sadly mistaken. The only man who will receive such grace as allotted to him is the one who humbles himself and acknowledges Christ’s hand in all things. Such humility cannot be shown by somebody not willing to follow in Christ’s example obey God’s commandments.

After reading 2 Nephi chapter 2, one can see that there is not conflict between grace and works. Christ freely gives his grace, if we are willing to receive it by following his command.


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1 Ne 10:19-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
9/19/2002
Rel 121H-200
Textual Analysis #2

Several of the teachings of Lehi and Nephi relate to how we are supposed to receive new knowledge from the Lord. We read in 1 Nephi 10:19:

"For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round."

At first glance, this verse seems a simple copy of many other scriptural references in which the reader is told that the Lord visits his people in every time-period. However, if read at a deeper level, it also shows how to receive inspiration, and sets apart the latter days as the time in which the most mysteries will be revealed.

Nephi’s most obvious purpose is to reassure the reader that the Lord does indeed communicate with his chosen people, much as in generations gone by. For the sons of Lehi, the times of old were those days when the Lord actually appeared to men like Moses. It apparently was hard for Laman and Lemuel to feel as if their prayers were answered, since Nephi stresses, “the course of the Lord is one eternal round”. The message that the reader takes from this is that since the Lord is unchanging, and since at one time, He visited men, then those visitations must continue. Naturally, Nephi does not say that everyone who asks will directly receive a divine visitation. However, he does say, “the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them.”

Not only does this short verse reassure the reader that heavenly communication always has been and always will be possible, the passage also describes how such communication is opened. The key word for how to communicate with the Lord is “diligently.” By using this language, Nephi portrays an active role on the part of the seeker. To be enlightened concerning the mysteries of God, one cannot simply wait for the answers to appear. Even when sought with diligence, the answers do not come all at once. Nephi says, “The mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them.” Unfolding is not an immediate process. While Nephi does promise that the seeker shall find, he makes it clear by his use of the word unfolding that enlightenment is a gradual process. The final key to Nephi’s process of seeking heavenly knowledge is “the power of the Holy Ghost.” As pointed out earlier, Nephi does not say that anyone who seeks will receive direct divine visitations. Another reality pointed out by mentioning the Holy Ghost is the matter of worthiness. Nephi wants the reader to be aware that answers come to those who are worthy, not just anybody who is curious. Perhaps the reason why this worthiness factor is not stressed more is because it is assumed to be part of seeking diligently. By following Nephi’s advice, men can be inspired of God to receive new knowledge.

The most hidden message of the three mentioned in this paper is that the latter days are the time in which the Lord will reveal the most mysteries. This is seen in the second half of the verse, where Nephi says that mysteries will be revealed “as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come.” For Nephi’s audience, the reference point for spirituality and unveiling of knowledge was many generations ago. That is why Nephi declares that such mysteries will be revealed in his time as much as they were in days of old. The reader gets the sense from the wording that Nephi’s time will reveal at least as many mysteries as former times, possibly even more than before. In much the same sense, the next portion seems to say that times to come will have at least as much revelation, possibly even more. Here, the reader must pick the time that is referred to as times to come. It is possible that Nephi referred to his future days as being the times to come. It makes more sense, however, if the “times to come” is referring to the far future, possibly even today. Nephi referred to the previous times as being the times of old, implying many years before. It would make sense for the future tense to also be many years away, showing that the happenings of his own time merely follow the general pattern of the Lord. In this interpretation, these latter days are the days prophesied to receive the most knowledge.

By studying these words of Nephi, we can gain a more full appreciation for the processes by which we can learn the mysteries of God. In this verse, we learn that God is constant, we learn how to learn such mysteries as are available to us, and we also learn that this is the time which the Lord has set apart to unveil more of his mysteries than ever before.


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A Young Boy Who Prayed-religion textual analysis
Jo-Pete Nelson
Rel A 121H, section 200
Textual Analysis, 09-05-02

A Young Boy Who Prayed



While reading the text before the Book of Mormon (i.e., the Introduction, Testimonies, etc), I am always struck by the power that can come from one person’s sincere prayers. A child ponders on the reality of God and His church, and a series of most remarkable events brings about the restoration of the gospel. One of the remarkable events was the visitation of Moroni.

We know from reading the more complete story as recounted in Joseph Smith- History that this was one of the low points of Joseph’s life. He felt guilty, inferior, and not worthy of the great calling given him of God. It would seem that he even felt abandoned, until he once again knelt in prayer. It is hard to believe that he fully expected such a visitation, especially since he comments on the “singularity of the scene” (Testimony of the Prophet J.S., 2) after the first visit. If one visit from an angel in the night is spectacular, one can hardly imagine how Joseph would have felt at the end of the third visit.

One thing in which Joseph was most fortunate was the support of his family. I cannot think how I would respond if my son were to tell me that he were exhausted because an angel had spoken to him three times during the night. Joseph Sr., however, fully believed his son and encouraged him to fulfill the work that the Lord had commanded him to do. I’m sure that Joseph’s help was very important to his father, but somehow Joseph Sr. knew that our Father in Heaven needed his son’s help even more.

Another important lesson we must learn from Joseph’s story is the importance of patience and obeying commandments. Joseph says he “made an attempt to take [the plates] out, but was forbidden by the messenger” (Testimony of the Prophet J.S., 3). Did Joseph complain? Did he question why he was kept up all night if he wasn’t allowed to take the plates? No. In fact, he says simply “I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction…” It wasn’t until later that Joseph fully understood why such emphasis was being placed on the importance of keeping the plates safe. This teaches us that sometimes we just need to put our trust in the commandments of the Lord, and it will end up in our favor.

The biggest impression other than the story of Joseph Smith comes from the emphasis that the Book of Mormon is for everybody. In both the Testimony of Three witnesses and the Testimony of Eight Witnesses, the opening statement is: “Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come.” Also, in the Introduction, we read “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon…” This church is not designed for any select group. Your location does not matter. It does not matter if you live in or out of Utah, nor does it matter how close you live to the temple. If you live according to the principles of truth taught within the Book of Mormon and follow the teachings of our modern day prophets, you have an equal chance of salvation. Too often, we tend to think that we have some advantage based on who we are or where we come from. The Book of Mormon was written for everybody.

As we learn and grow, it is important for us all to remember that our knowledge is only worthwhile if it is accompanied by faith. Our current status may be lowly or may be lofty, but the restoration of the gospel was started by an insignificant teenager humbly asking for help. This does not mean that we will receive heavenly visitations with every sincere prayer, but it does mean that we are all equal in the sight of God. Such is the power that can come from one person’s sincere prayers.


uploaded Tue March 11 2003 at 4:14 PM
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