A Destroyed Nation

A few weeks ago I was reading in the Book of Mormon how the Nephite nation was destroyed. I had remembered that the Chief Judge (highest office in the nation) had been murdered, but here’s the thing–that had happened before and the nation hadn’t fallen apart because of it.

There are 3 accounts of a Chief Judge being murdered recorded in the Book of Mormon, and all of them are attributed to a “band of robbers” who become known as the Gadiantons. The first murder is the beginning of this group.

For about 50 years this band grows and becomes an increasing threat to the Nephites, both externally as a force that must be fought though force of arms, but also internally, as a network of people that infiltrate the government at all levels. Notably, in the second murder of the Chief Judge, both the murderer and the victim are identified as belonging to the Gadiantons.

Despite the fact that the second Chief Judge to be murdered is actually a member of this evil band of robbers and usurpers, this does not destroy the Nephite nation. To me that is pretty astounding, and a testament to the stability of their government.

3 Nephi 7:1-2 explains briefly how the nation was destroyed. The Chief Judge is murdered. But again, that has happened before and the nation was able to continue. What was different this time is found in the second verse:

“And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes”

3 Nephi 7:2 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/3-ne/7.2?lang=eng#2?lang=eng

We are approaching a contentious U.S. election, and both sides claim that the other won’t concede defeat. I find very little evidence of that, but I am concerned that over time we are continually getting to a point where each side truly believes that the other is evil–the “other side” is essentially this group of Gadiantons, seeking to destroy others for their own profit, and possibly for their own twisted pleasure in seeing others suffer.

The trouble is that there are good reasons why someone would choose to vote for Biden. There are also good reasons to vote for Trump. There are reasons to vote against both. I’m concerned that people are increasingly convinced that an entire half of the nation (of course it’s the “other” half) is a combination of exceptionally evil and exceptionally ignorant people.

The United States are very fortunate to have a surprisingly stable government. One that was designed with multiple layers of checks and balances such that an evil individual or even a group of individuals can only do so much (yes, that is being worn away, but it’s not nearly gone yet). However, when the people of our nation become so divided that everyone is convinced that the “other” is simply evil; that is when we are in danger of losing our nation.

Again, I don’t think we’re actually at that point yet. I am concerned that we are getting a little closer with each election. I myself and others take a little extra time to appreciate that everyone has different opinions, everyone has the right to express those opinions, and everyone gets to vote, and who they vote for does not make them an evil person.

Let’s be a little less “divided one against another”

The Rending of the Veil

Matthew 27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

This is my favorite image in all of scripture.

The veil of the temple separated the Holy Place–containing the shewbread, incense and candlestick–from the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant. The Holy of Holies represented the presence of God (The Bible Dictionary has good descriptions of the Tabernacle and Temple of Solomon).

The veil of the temple was not torn by men, armies or machinery, but rather an earthquake (such things are still referred to in legal documents as “acts of God”). It also wasn’t just a small tear or hole–it was ripped from top to bottom.

What does this mean? Consider what has just been accomplished: the Atonement. Christ’s body was rent, giving mankind the ability to repent of their sins through Him. Through His blood we can be made clean and return to His presence. The veil separating man from God has been removed.

As the stone being rolled away from the tomb represents the triumph over physical death, the rending of the temple veil represents the triumph over spiritual death.

Helaman 14:15-19:

15 For behold, he surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth him and becometh expedient that he dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of the Lord.

16 Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death—that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.

17 But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.

18 Yea, and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance, that whosoever repenteth the same is not hewn down and cast into the fire; but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death, for they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness.

19 Therefore repent ye, repent ye, lest by knowing these things and not doing them ye shall suffer yourselves to come under condemnation, and ye are brought down unto this second death. (Helaman 14:15-19:15-19)

Solomon and Samuel

I’ve been reading the Old Testament, and have just started into 1 Kings; where Solomon sees God in a dream and asks for wisdom.

I never realized that what Solomon was asking for was help in fulfilling his calling as a judge over God’s people. I had never thought of Solomon as being someone who felt completely inadequate in the position in which he was placed before, but that’s the impression that I got reading it this time.

I don’t know why that surprised me, since both Saul and David have similar feelings of inadequacy. The stories of the first threee kings of Israel are really tragic, as each one has such promise; each one is supported by God and given help and understanding to make them equal to the task; and yet each one ends up rejecting God.

…anyway that was random, but hey, that’s what this blog is, right?

While I’m on the subject, one of my favorite people from the Bible is Samuel. I’m not really sure why he’s my favorite, but part of it is 1 Sam 3:19 – “And Samuel grew and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.”

What I like so much about this is that it is different from what I often consider prophets from doing. Prophets teach people the things that God instructs them to teach (for example, Mosiah 3:23). But this shows it from a very different perspective: Samuel doing his best to teach the people and God supporting him. That doesn’t mean that Samuel doesn’t teach the will of the Lord, or that he can make up his own rules or anything like that. It does mean that God doesn’t spell out every word that Samuel is supposed to teach. It means that it is often up to Samuel to decide what topic to teach, and when and how it is to be presented. But as long as he does his best, God will support him.

It’s not “OK, Samuel, I’ve written your next talk; here’s what you’re going to say.” Instead it’s “Samuel, I’ve taught you My gospel, now you need to teach it to others. Do your best and I’ll help you and support you in your calling.”