How to Minister – Nephi and Lehi

Helaman 5:12, 35-47 – prison

As always in the Church, we are encouraged to serve. It is a service Church. Every person is called to the work in some capacity or another. Without the efforts of diligent saints who try to serve others then the work of the Lord would not got very far to have an effect in the lives of God’s children. We know this. However, it is very often something that is not done well. One only needs to look at the number of home teaching visits done by brethren of the Church as just an example. We are always asking this question: how can we encourage more to minister? However, I think there is another question we should be asking as well: how can we get more to minister more effectively?

To consider this I want to look briefly at an experience related in Helaman, focusing on Nephi and Lehi. First, we need to ensure we are firm on a foundation built on Christ as they were. The well-known verse reads “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12) As we continue through our mortal lives, we do not know the challenges we will face but if we build our lives on Christ He will guide us through. If we can do this, then we will be in a much better position to support others and minister to them.

We can then learn about the importance of ministering when we look at an experience found after this important verse. Moving on, after this wise counsel, Nephi and Lehi found themselves imprisoned for their beliefs and sentenced to death. However, the Lamanite who were going to carry out the sentence came across a life-changing scene. The Nephite prisoners were indeed there but encircled, seemingly, by fire and unharmed. Whilst they were trying to take in this inexplicable scene, the Lamanites then experienced more bewilderment as they were covered by an impenetrable mist which they could not see beyond.

As the situation grew ever more bleak, one member of their group, an ex-Nephite called Aminadab remembered what he had been taught:

“35 Now there was one among them who was a Nephite by birth, who had once belonged to the church of God but had dissented from them.

36 And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld.” (Helaman 5:35-36)

This previous member of the Church saw examples shining through the darkness of ministers who had their focus heavenward. As we consider how to reach out to those around us, we should never underestimate the Spirit which emanates from those who live the Gospel and try to be the best they can be – aiming towards their Heavenly Father. What will happen, if we do this well to those who are ready to change their lives, is that they will remember feelings and promises (covenants) they have made in the past which would enable them to feel the security and comfort they see from those who are living those covenants. Aminadab felt this as the experience continues:

“37 And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look; and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi.” (Helaman 5:37)

He, the lost soul, then reached out to others around him and encouraged others to look toward the ministers. They then used their agency to turn and look. We must remember as we minister to encourage all to ‘turn and look’. We can’t hope to inspire others to change if we do not invite them to do so. The experience continues:

“38 And they said unto the man: Behold, what do all these things mean, and who is it with whom these men do converse?

39 Now the man’s name was Aminadab. And Aminadab said unto them: They do converse with the angels of God.” (Helaman 5:38-39)

Naturally, questions came – as we support, teach and minister we must equip those we teach to be ready to answer questions about their faith. We can teach them and help them to feel the Spirit all we want but they must be taught how the Gospel is relevant to their lives and that people will also want to find out more. In this experience, Aminadab knew the answer but we must prepare those we teach to know that sometimes they may not know the answer – and that’s ok.

“40 And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?

41 And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.

42 And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.

43 And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.

44 And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.

45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.” (Helaman 5:40-45)

As the Lamanites followed the advice of the convert-turned lost sheep-turned minister, they also felt the converting power of the Lord’s embrace.

Roots and Covenants 

As we chose to come to this Earth to progress, our Heavenly Father did not want to leave us without any guidance. Part of why we had to come here was so that we could choose to follow our Saviour Jesus Christ. We make promises to follow Him and try to live a life of His disciple. In return we are promised blessings which will help us to become more like our Heavenly Father and receive eternal life – the ultimate blessing of coming to Earth as part of this plan.

These promises (or covenants) make up a significant part of our life following Jesus Christ. They enable us to receive the strength to complete any challenges or overcome any trials that may come in our way. In 1 Nephi 17:3 we read “And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” Often we can look at Lehi and his family’s journeyings through the wilderness as a parallel to our sojourn in mortality and in the same way we can receive strength from keeping our covenants.

Covenants as Foundations

In the same way, we can compare our covenants to foundations for our life. A well-known verse from Helaman 5:12 helps us to begin to make this link. It says “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” As was mentioned before, our covenants (if they are kept) provide us with a strong foundation which can help us continue through this life.

Roots as Foundations

However, it is important to recognise that we have other examples of covenants in the scriptures. In Jacob 5 we read of an extended parable of olive trees. These trees all had roots which we read relate to the covenants found in the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. An examples is found in verse 36 where it reads ” Nevertheless, I know that the roots are good, and for mine own purpose I have preserved them; and because of their much strength they have hitherto brought forth, from the wild branches, good fruit.” The roots of the Gospel, the covenants which channel the sustaining life of our Saviour, bring sustenance.

Lesson

However, something is important in considering these parables of covenants. Both of them highlight the life-giving elements of our covenants. On the other hand, they also teach us another valuable principle to those to minister to others in the Gospel – the strength of our covenants (of how much we are keeping them) are not visible to others. We can very easily go about our daily lives not strengthening our covenants and those around us may not notice. That it is why it is so important to look to support and strengthen as many as we can – not just those that ask for support or help. So reach out and ask for guidance for who to send that message to or ask how their day is, because you never know when that reaching out may make their day, whoever they are.

Step by Step

I have been thinking a little bit recently about how the Lord guides our lives and paths step by step. He has a plan for us and He can guide us to fulfil this plan. An example of this was the Star of Bethlehem. It is unlikely that the Lord made a star appear out of nowhere. Our Heavenly Father has a perfect plan. As such, He was able to orchestrate the movements of the stars and planets in such a way that they aligned or manifested themselves in such a way that signalled the birth of our Saviour.

In our personal lives, we are given the opportunity to receive Patriarchal Blessings. These blessings provide an opportunity for us to be guided step by step. We are told on lds.org that “Those who follow the counsel in their patriarchal blessing will be less likely to go astray or be misled. Only by following the counsel in a patriarchal blessing can one receive the blessings contained therein.” We will only be able to be led step-by-step if we follow the guidance and instructions in those blessings.

I have also been studying Our Heritage, which catalogues the History of the Church. It explains what happened in the early life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. After it details the event of his operation, it makes one small mention of a significantly important detail. It says in Our Heritage “After Joseph’s operation, the Smith family moved to Norwich, Vermont, where they suffered three successive years of crop failure, and then moved to Palmyra, New York.” This is again another example of the Lord guiding His work. The Smith family moved to Norwich, Vermont – however this was not where the Lord needed them to be for Joseph to carry out his work to which he was going to be called. As such, a destination adjustment was needed and then the Smith’s moved. People may say it is simply a coincidence, however all the coincidences in the world can’t explain how Heavenly Father’s plan has worked to perfection thus far. He guides up step-by-step.

Sabbath Blessing

I had an experience recently about the need to keep the Sabbath Day Holy and the blessings associated with keeping that covenant.

Last Sunday I was anticipated a big week at work (leading a Staff Meeting, lesson observation, largest book scrutiny, twilight meeting) and had worked when I could to prepare on the days before. However, due to the demands of a young family and various other commitments I hadn’t managed to complete everything. As we settled for sacrament meeting it was on my mind, particularly preparing for my lesson, and I reasoned that for one week only it would be ok to do a little bit of work to catch up in the evening – perhaps when everyone in my family had gone to bed so it wouldn’t have impact on time with them.

However, when the meeting began I received a clear prompting – can’t remember whether it was through a talk, a hymn or a simple prompting – but it was clear, to keep the Sabbath holy even though it might be difficult. Then in Priesthood we had a lesson on Obedience based on the lesson found in the President Gordon B Hinckley manual. In this lesson we learnt about not putting anything before God and keeping the Sabbath Holy. I got the message by then.

As such, I did not complete the work required on the Lord’s holy day. However, as I had faith, I did manage to get it done early in the week much quicker than I expected. As well as this, the challenges and outcomes of the week occurred brilliantly and I was so pleased with the results. I have no doubt that the Lord blessed the results of the week and when we keep the Sabbath Day holy he magnifies our efforts.

Temple/Prodigal Son Analogy

Recently I’ve been able to consider my feelings about the Temple and how important it has been in my life. It really is a place where the Spirit of the Lord can feel so close and where peace can be found.

One thing that has been highlighted to me once more is the importance of symbolism. The Temple is a wonderful place to learn but a lot of the lessons taught are symbolic and require guidance from the Spirit to support our understanding. I explored a little into Parables – these are great examples of the way that the Lord teaches through examples, symbols and analogies.

We know the parable of the prodigal son begins with children who are due an inheritance from a wealthy father. The prodigal son asks for his inheritance early and then goes and spends it all on material, temporary possessions. I want to focus in on this part of the parable as an example of the Temple and how it can play a comforting and integral role in our lives. In Luke 15:17-19 we read:

“17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”

We often may feel like this. I was asked to prepare a talk about being worthy to enter the Temple. Of course it was important to cover the necessary conditions that are required to enter the Temple. The Lord’s House is set apart, sanctified, to enable it to be such a spiritual place for a reason. However, I was also keenly aware of the need to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that we cannot be good enough. I think this is sometimes more of an issue. I have met so many people who feel that they are not good enough to enter the Temple but often it is because they are comparing themselves to the Lord’s perfect standard. We are not required to be perfect yet. We need to be living our covenants and striving to keep the Lord’s standard but, if we can answer the questions the Lord has set as the yardstick to enter the Temple, then we are good enough.

We must make the decision to enter as soon as we can. The words of the parable continue (Luke 15:20-21):

“20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”

Once we have the faith to act, we go before the Lord’s appointed servants and the Lord Himself and aim to go to our Father’s House. We return back home. We see the Father’s (and I imagine our Father’s) reaction in the following verses (Luke 15:22-24):

“22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

I can imagine this. Our Heavenly Father seeing His children gathering at His home and welcoming them all. We feel of this ‘best robe’ when we enter the welcoming, warm entrance to the Temple. It is almost as if He wraps us in His arms of comfort when we enter for those blissful hours we worship in that Holy place. The prodigal child returns – as we enter back into His presence to make the decisions and covenants we make in the Temple.

Temple/Sabbath Connection

The Sabbath Day is a wonderful thing. However, it is one of those aspects of living the Gospel of Christ that can be either be missed out on or bring great blessings. The concept of a holy day in religion is almost universal and clearly has importance to a number of groups of faith and again, is observed differently by various cultures.

The Sabbath Day

The law of the Sabbath has been in force since the time of Moses and probably even further before. We read in Exodus 20:8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The Sabbath Day has been recognised since the creation of the Earth. This will be why many religions observe a ‘holy day’, whichever day that is for them.

Typically, the Sabbath is a day of devotion to spiritual matters. Often referred to as a day of rest (“Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest…” Exodus 23:12), we are encouraged to avoid our work in our career on the Sabbath – as much as possible, of course some jobs require working on the Sabbath. However, every possible effort should be made to avoid it. Also, the Sabbath is an opportunity to focus on the things of the Lord. The Lord told us that people would be blessed “that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it…” (Isaiah 56:2). Considering the imagery used of ‘keeping unspotted from the world’, this applies to focusing activities on the Saviour or with the family.

Recently I was shown this connection between the Sabbath and the Temple also. In D&C 109:13, we read this plea to the Lord in the Kirtland Dedicatory Prayer ” And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.” From this extract of this important revelation, we learn that the House of the Lord is sanctified. To ‘sanctify’ something means to set apart as or declare as holy. The Temple is a sacred, holy place where the Spirit of the Lord can be truly unrestrained. Worshipping in this sanctified place enables us to come a little bit closer to our Father in Heaven.

We can then link this right back to a verse from the Old Testament, right back to when the Sabbath was first ‘set apart’. In Genesis 2:1-3 we read “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The seventh day – the day of the Sabbath – was sanctified and set apart to represent and give thanks for the Lord and His mercy to create the Earth in which we live.

There is a link here between the Temple and the Sabbath. Both have been sanctified for our benefit. Both are set apart for worship and sacred ordinances (this is vital). Both are for us to align our lives and wills in line with the Lord’s life and will. As we strive to live the Sabbath Day more fully, with just as much focus as we do to be ready to enter the Temple, then we can find great strength and guidance from the Lord.

Zion

Recently we were taught in a Stake Conference about the importance of ‘Zion’ and how we can see it realised in our lives around us. Leading on from my recent post on ‘Separation and Unification’ this led on very well and it inspired me to consider how to build Zion a little more around each of us.

Where did Zion come from?

“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.” (Psalms 50:2) We know that Zion is a unified body, who are perfected in Christ. The original Zion, who were led by the prophet Enoch and were taken up to be perfected and live with God, are found in the book of Moses. In there we read “And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, Zion is Fled.” (Moses 7:69) These ancient inhabitants had achieved such a level of unity, peace and righteousness that the Lord removed them from the Earth, which itself was falling deeper and deeper into wickedness. What is interesting about this account is the origin of the city of Zion. We read in Moses 7:19 “And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion.” Enoch worked to build this city. The level of perfection achieved in Zion was not accidental, coincidental or happened overnight. It took work. As unifying things does, it took effort.

The concept of Zion has come from ancient times, however it is an ideal that we are commanded to strive to build Zion where we live, in our Stake and Ward where we are.

Importance of the Temple in Zion

In D&C 97:10-18 we learn about the importance of having the Temple as the focus in Zion.
10 Verily I say unto you, that it is my will that a house should be built unto me in the land of Zion, like unto the pattern which I have given you.

11 Yea, let it be built speedily, by the tithing of my people.

12 Behold, this is the tithing and the sacrifice which I, the Lord, require at their hands, that there may be a house built unto me for the salvation of Zion—

13 For a place of thanksgiving for all saints, and for a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry in all their several callings and offices;

14 That they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry, in theory, in principle, and in doctrine, in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth, the keys of which kingdom have been conferred upon you.

15 And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it;

16 Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.

17 But if it be defiled I will not come into it, and my glory shall not be there; for I will not come into unholy temples.

18 And, now, behold, if Zion do these things she shall prosper, and spread herself and become very glorious, very great, and very terrible.”

What inhibits the cause of Zion?

Anything could really. Pride, envy, jealousy or not being anxious in a good cause could all be things which inhibit the cause of Zion. Whenever we do not allow unification between ourselves, our families and those in our congregations, the cause of Zion is frustrated.

What are the Blessings of Zion?

Ultimately, we should desire to build Zion around where we live now. We read in 1 Nephi 13:37 “And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.” Individually we will be given the greatest blessings that the Lord can bestow upon us. However, the blessings also come collectively. There are another group of people, apart from the original city of Zion, who were recorded in the scriptures as having reached this state of pure happiness. We find them in 4 Nephi 1:16-17 after having been visited by the Saviour Himself. This is part of their experience “And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” Now, I’m not sure whether we can be sure, but it seems to suggest in this verse that these people in the Americas after Christ’s visit were the happiest people that God had created – does that mean happier than the people of Zion that Enoch led? Possibly, but both were clearly in a Zion state. Something to aim for.