And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people . . .2 Nephi 11:2
Liken the scriptures to yourself. Find situations in the scriptures which are similar to your own and see how others used their faith to help them navigate life.
Likening the scriptures is one of the most fundamental principles taught by the Book of Mormon. It turns the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from a purely intellectual or belief based exercise to a practical one, influencing decisions every moment of every day if we allow it. We can use the idea of Nephi persevering to get the plates; or praising the Lord continually on the boat while he was tied up; or later the inspiring faith of the people of Alma who were strengthened by the Lord to be able to carry their burdens with ease; or any of thousands of other stories and passages to encourage us to keep going, to make faith based choices and not merely logical ones or based on our own personal whims.
This Abiding Precepts project has been an exercise in likening the scriptures to ourselves – and for me it has shown me dozens of ways I need to change and as many more things of which I need to repent. It humbles me every time I let it and inspires me to try to be better every day – and some days that seems absolutely impossible to do. Some days I simply want to disappear because it seems there is no hope for me. But the Lord is always there to help me stand back up, to find some shred of hope to keep going on, and to try again.
I suppose from this whole exercise I am beginning to learn how gracious, kind, and loving the Lord Jesus Christ truly is, how much a part of His nature it is to simply be loving, accepting, and forgiving. I know He wants me to get up, try again, and most importantly return to our Father in Heaven. And He is working so hard to help me get there. Even if I would have given up on myself a long time ago, I know He does not and He engineers our experiences to lead us to be humble so that we can liken all His doctrine unto ourselves and come unto Him in faith, hope, and charity.
Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.2 Nephi 12:8
Don’t value the things we have invented or will invent to the point that you worship them instead of God.
This is a truly difficult one – to live and to accept. Technology is all around us. It is so easy to “worship the work of [our] own hands.” My life as I currently live it – work, church, home (well . . . maybe not home or family) – would be completely impossible without it and on a daily basis I remind myself just how close I am to worshiping the devices in my life. Too often it seems I am tempted to put those things before my worship and remembrance of the true and living God.
Mankind has accomplished some pretty amazing things, for sure – but none of them hold a candle to the creation of a universe (see Genesis 1-2, Moses 1-3, Alma 18:28-32), the creation of a universal free communication system back to home wherever and whenever you may be (Alma 34:17-27), the ability to appear and disappear at will (Luke 2:8-14; Luke 4:28-30 (16-30); Luke 24:36; Acts 1:9; 3 Nephi 11:8-10; 3 Nephi 19:14-15; 3 Nephi 27:1-2; Joseph Smith – History 1:30), the ability to pass through solid objects to get where you want to go (Luke 24:36; Joseph Smith – History 1:43), walking on water (Matthew 14:23-25), controlling the elements with your words (Mark 4:33-35), healing all sorts of illness with only a touch (Matthew 9:27-31; Mark 7:31-37; Mark 8:22-26; Luke 13:11-13). The list of God’s and Jesus’ accomplishments is endless and we do not even come close to a speck of what God has, can, and does do. Yet it is so easy to ignore, even to forget, when we are completely occupied with our technology and other distractions.
Which is why it is super important to me to read my scriptures (without the use of technology if possible) and pray first thing every morning. It grounds me and helps me fight off the temptation to worship the works of our hands and put other things before God. It is one of the few ways in which I attempt to “seek first the kingdom of God,” – literally – ona daily basis. I am by no means perfect at it, but some days it’s the only thing keeping me hanging on to my worship of and faith in the true and living God: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – my Savior Jesus Christ.
And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor; the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable.2 Nephi 13:5
Don’t oppress other people and be humble in all your interactions with them.
The world today is expert at oppressing people. Sometimes it seems that the only thing we learn from our news sources and social media is how to harden our hearts against one another, dismiss one another, reject each other. Harmony, unity – not only do they rarely exist in our world, they are not prized qualities to seek after. Instead we are taught to harden our hearts against each other and bully or fight, or even completely reject and ignore, one another into submission and agreement to our own way of thinking.
Recent events in the world of US politics have illustrated through difficult events the results of being divisive and hard with each other. For generations now many unnecessary divorces have plagued our society all because our society and our entertainment teach us that the right way is to oppress, dismiss, and harden our hearts against one another. If we could only work to soften our hearts toward each other, work to encourage growth and progression in one another, and seek for harmony and peace perhaps these and other social plagues could be completely eradicated from our world.
I too suffer from this. In recent years I have come to recognize that anger towards someone else – in particular those I love the most – is often the catalyst for developing a hardened heart against that individual, and using the word hate turns cold feelings colder and harder than they otherwise would be. These are people with whom I am meant to have the best and closest relationships, and all the media out there has suggested that even against them I need to be hard.
I don’t like it, the anger and the hardness. It doesn’t feel good. And it certainly doesn’t lead to happiness. In my best moments I am able to recognize the hardening as it starts and I can choose the opposite way by softening my thoughts and feelings toward those against whom I am starting to feel hard. In my worst moments . . . I have much repenting to do. Oh that I had a perfect ability to soften my heart toward all of God’s children and to work to uplift and encourage those I am closest with more frequently than I currently do instead of being hard with them and seeking to oppress them.
When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.2 Nephi 14:4
Let the Lord cleanse you. It may hurt, but it is worth it!
The New Testament calls it sanctification (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7). The Book of Mormon refers to it as a cleansing with fire and with the Holy Ghost (see Alma 5:54; Alma 13:12; 3 Nephi 27:19-20). The Old Testament talks about being refined as silver (Malachi 3:3). In either case it is a cleansing through a difficult and painful process often involving heat, opposition, and pressure.
God never said life would be easy. In fact more often than not He warned us it would be difficult – even painful unto death in some instances. All of these things are intended for our good – to purify us as silver so that our value and worth can be one of pure metal instead of sullied by the elements around us.
From personal experience, this cleansing is painful. He asks – always – for the most difficult things for us to give up, the things which seem most natural and pleasing to our mortal lives and minds. Always. And they always hurt to give up. But if we let Him cleanse them from our souls we will be found pure and spotless before Him and His Father at the last day of judgement.
The things He may ask us to give up can be as benign as letting go of a game we like playing on our phone (as it was for me) or as serious a transgression of His laws as we can commit. For me, the game in and of itself was not an awful thing to participate in, but the amount of time it was consuming from my life when I could have been involved in other more valuable and soul defining experiences was significant – and I just needed to stop. The process of doing so and the catalyst to finally remove it were very hard to go through, but it is now gone and oh the freedom I feel! There is a huge burden lifted from my shoulders – from my soul – and I feel free and happy as I haven’t felt in some months!
Thank you Lord for working with me to cleanse me of my addictions.
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.2 Nephi 16:3
When you pray honor God by declaring His holiness and greatness.
When Jesus offered His prayer to help teach people how to pray (see Matthew 6:9-13, 3 Nephi 13:9-13), the first thing He did after calling upon the Father was to “hallow” his name. If we wish to learn from Christ and follow His example – if we wish to truly learn how to pray – we too must learn how to honor God our Heavenly Father above all other things in our worship of Him.
A few years ago I entered a very difficult period of my life and I found it all too easy to feel distant from God and that maybe He wasn’t hearing me or giving answers to my prayers. After recognizing the pattern and not wanting to fall too far away I considered a new path to feeling more connected to my Heavenly Father – a change to my prayers.
I decided that each morning as I began my day I would kneel in prayer and give Him glory for who He is by acknowledging that He is God, He knows everything, and I can hide nothing from Him. I also acknowledged that He has power to do all things – including creating the universe – and I acknowledged that His Son is Jesus Christ and possesses those same qualities. I found a humble heart and a peace entering into my life as I genuinely worked at acknowledging His greatness every single day of my life. I also found a greater acceptance of my own imperfections and the fact that I have sinned and transgressed in my life. The peace at acknowledging God’s greatness and holiness and the faith it began to develop in my soul was beautiful and enriching.
Now any time I find myself struggling and feeling distant from God I pause and in my next prayer acknowledge again that He alone is God and that He is my Father. And that makes all the difference.