Scripture Study

The Power of God — Not to Be Denied (Ether 5)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 20 May 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 150

The Power of God — Not to Be Denied (Ether 5)

In Ether 5, Moroni shares some instructions for the man (Joseph Smith) who would receive the plates with the engravings of the Book of Mormon narrative and would be used to bring it forth to the world. The instructions include:

  • Don't try to access the sealed portion of the plates, which contains the revelations of the brother of Jared (as described in the previous chapter, these will not be accessible until sometime in the future).
  • Feel free to show the plates to the people who will assist in the work of bringing forth the information (the testimony of eight of these people is included in the first few pages of the Book of Mormon).

There is a third point, but it is not really an instruction but rather more of a prophecy:

"And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God, wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true." (Ether 5:3)

The Syrophoenician Woman: Tenacious Faith

Written by Sister Alena X. Ricci on Thursday, 14 May 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 288

The Syrophoenician Woman: Tenacious Faith

Today's article is another installment in Sister Alena's series on "Women of the Bible."

Like all of the women I’ve written about so far, this story has a ton to unpack — a pattern, I think, no? This Gentile woman’s daughter is demon possessed, and this mother is exhausted. She’s tired of everything that comes along with such an affliction, and she decides to approach Jesus as He passes through her area.

You can read the verses in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30, but her daughter is healed because of her quick answers and great faith.

A lot of people would call her desperate. She was so tired and so in need of a change in her and her daughter’s life.

But after reading through this a few times, I saw this as a tenacious faith. Tenacity is the quality of being able to grip something firmly, meaning that this woman grabbed hold of what Jesus could do for her and held fast.

In this moment, her faith was steady; it was sure; it was strong.

Taste the Grass on the Summit (Ether 4)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 13 May 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 216

Taste the Grass on the Summit (Ether 4)

In the previous chapter, the Lord recognized the great faith of the brother of Jared by allowing him to view the body that He would inhabit as Christ on the earth. The Lord also showed him things that would happen through the end of the world. Ether 3 ends with the Lord commanding the brother of Jared to write down what he saw, such that this record could be shared with future generations.

In Ether 4, the Lord instructs Moroni in how to handle the record of the brother of Jared. He is told to "seal up" the writings such that "they shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord" (verse 6).

On the one hand, the call to repentance is typically directed at those who have not yet given their lives to the Lord, even as it is at the end of this chapter — "repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name" (verse 18).

On the other hand, even servants of God can be prone to sinful actions or attitudes that require repentance. Lest we're quick to say, "Not me — I'm not doing anything wrong," remember that pride, envy, lack of forgiveness, and lack of love toward others all qualify as behaviors that should not exist in a servant of God.

The Light of the World (Ether 3)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 06 May 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 236

The Light of the World (Ether 3)

In Ether 3, the brother of Jared continues to prepare the barges that the Jaredite people will use to cross the ocean. The barges are completely solid on all sides such that no light will be able to enter. The brother of Jared is concerned about the people being in darkness for the entire voyage. He comes up with a plan — he prepares sixteen stones (two for each barge) and asks the Lord to touch them:

"Touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea." (Ether 3:4)

To his amazement, the brother of Jared sees an actual finger appear, which touches each of the stones, and they light up! The Lord then explains to the brother of Jared that he was able to see the finger due to his great faith, stating that "never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast" (verse 9). In fact, the Lord then proceeds to show His entire body (as it would appear over 2,000 years later when He would come as Jesus Christ) to the brother of Jared at this time.

Seeking, Receiving, and Following God's Direction (Ether 2)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 29 April 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 254

Seeking, Receiving, and Following God's Direction (Ether 2)

In the previous chapter, the Lord had told the brother of Jared that He would lead his group of Jaredite people away from the Tower of Babel to "a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth…And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me" (Ether 1:42-43). So, because the brother of Jared was diligent in calling upon the Lord for direction, God said He would provide that direction for the Jaredites.

In Ether 2, the journey begins. The brother of Jared prays for direction and the Lord speaks to him from a cloud, "command[ing] them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had men been" (verse 5). They cross some bodies of water on barges, "being directed continually by the hand of the Lord" (verse 6). Finally, they arrive at the ocean.

At this point, things get off track somewhat. The people set up tents on the ocean shore — and they remain there for the next four years! What happened to the journey? Perhaps the people are enjoying the beachfront property so much that they can't bring themselves to move on. Perhaps they're uncomfortable moving out of their comfort zone into an unknown area.

Keep Speaking the Same Language (Ether 1)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 22 April 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 249

Keep Speaking the Same Language (Ether 1)

In an earlier chapter (Mosiah 8), Mormon records that the people of Limhi had discovered 24 gold plates upon which was engraved a history of a group of people who traveled to America many years prior to the Nephites. After describing the translation of this history (in Mosiah 28), Mormon adds that "this account shall be written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account" (Mosiah 28:19).

The Book of Ether is the account referred to above. It is named for the man, Ether, who compiled the history on the 24 gold plates. Moroni is following the stated desire of his father in the verse above by adding this history to the otherwise completed Nephite record.

As you read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, don't be confused into thinking that this portion chronologically follows the Nephite history. This story begins more than 2,000 years before Christ and is about a totally different group of people — people who are referred to as the Jaredites.

God Is Still the Same (Mormon 9)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 15 April 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 294

God Is Still the Same (Mormon 9)

With the Nephite story essentially complete, Moroni addresses a few additional topics in Mormon 9 for the benefit of those who will eventually read the book. Among the topics covered is the concept of an unchanging God. His central statement is one that is similar to other parts of the scripture:

"God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing" (Mormon 9:9)

One area where people tend to think that God has changed is regarding miracles. While it's one thing to believe the stories in the scriptures, it's apparently too much of a leap to believe that God still performs miracles today. Has God gone out of the miracle business? Is He retired? Moroni stresses that if you think that God is not still a God of miracles, then "ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary" (verse 10).

I have been blessed in my lifetime to witness and even be used as a participant in several of God's miracles. Whenever it happens, it reinforces my feeling and thankfulness that God is still the same. Here's one example:

Not Good to Be Alone (Mormon 8)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 08 April 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 412

Not Good to Be Alone (Mormon 8)

In chapter 8, Moroni picks up the narrative and reports that his father, Mormon, has been killed along with all of the other Nephite people. As a result, he makes the sad statement that "I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people" (verse 3).

At the beginning of the Bible, after God had created one person, "God said, It is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). So He created a second person. Although we typically use this verse in reference to marriage, it can also be applied generally to observe that people were not created with the intention that they would be totally alone in life.

Moroni gives a little insight as to what it might be like to be totally alone in the world, as He states that His only purpose in life is to complete the writing of the Nephite record (for the benefit of future generations) and "whither I go it mattereth not" (verse 4) and "how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not" (verse 5). How sad to be that alone such that it doesn't matter where you go or how much longer you live.

To-Do List (Mormon 7)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 01 April 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 288

To-Do List (Mormon 7)

Mormon 7 contains the final words of Mormon before he is killed in battle. Perhaps knowing that this will be his last opportunity to share words of wisdom with future descendants of Lehi who will read his book, he gives them a "To-Do List" to consider. He instructs them to know that they are part of the House of Israel and to do the following:

  • Lay down weapons of war
  • Believe in Jesus Christ
  • Repent of sins
  • Be baptized in the name of Jesus
  • Receive the Holy Ghost
  • Stand up for the gospel of Jesus Christ

This same To-Do List applies to all of us today, whether or not we are part of the House of Israel.

As I am writing this, many of us are more or less confined to our homes as part of the effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Clearly, this is extremely inconvenient for most of us. Many people are unable to work or operate their businesses; supplies for our homes are in short supply, etc.

Miriam: A Symbol of Hope

Written by Sister Alena X. Ricci on Tuesday, 31 March 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 263

Miriam: A Symbol of Hope

Today's article is another installment in Sister Alena X. Ricci's series on Women of the Bible.

Miriam is an interesting woman, and we get to see a lot of her life play out. We see her watch her mother’s act of faith as her brother is sent down the river in a basket. We see her follow her siblings out of Egypt. We see her punished, and we see her restored.

I mean, if you ask me, it sounds a lot like each one of our testimonies. We see something that we want, and we follow it; we sin, but we are restored

In my opinion, Miriam’s greatest moment is the fact that — through all of this, of literally being cast out of her nation — she still played an integral role in being part of Israel’s journey and the deliverance of God’s people.

Miriam’s own sins and mistakes don’t change God’s plan; they don’t affect His work.

And that’s something that we each need to understand.

The Righteous Need Not Fear (Mormon 6)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 25 March 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 337

The Righteous Need Not Fear (Mormon 6)

In Mormon 6, the Nephites face what they know will be the final destruction of their people at the hands of the Lamanites. Knowing the end is near and that God has commanded that the Nephite records not fall into the hands of the Lamanites, Mormon buries all but a few of the records in the Hill Cumorah. He then describes the attitude of the people as the Lamanite armies approach:

"And it came to pass that my people…did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them." (Mormon 6:7)

How different the above would read if the Nephite people were serving the Lord at this time. First of all, they might not be facing death at all but, even if they were, they would know that they would soon be on their way to paradise, so either way they would have no need to fear.

As I am writing this, there is a disease known as the coronavirus that is making its way through the world, causing considerable fear for many people. After all, nobody likes to be sick, and this particular disease is highly contagious. You can be a carrier for up to 14 days without even showing symptoms, and some number of people are dying from it.

However, even as we take certain prescribed precautions to limit the spread of the disease, we should keep in mind that God is ultimately in control of the situation. So, if you believe in God and you are serving God righteously, you have no need to fear.

We've Been Spared the Gruesome Details (Mormon 5)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 18 March 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 1098

We've Been Spared the Gruesome Details (Mormon 5)

In Mormon 5, Mormon resumes command of the Nephite army, but he makes it clear that he is without hope, knowing that it's not going to end well for the Nephites due to their refusal to repent of their iniquities. And, they are in fact massacred so badly that Mormon decides to spare us the gruesome details:

"I, Mormon, do not desire to harrow up the souls of men in casting before them such an awful scene of blood and carnage as was laid before mine eyes…therefore I write a small abridgement, daring not to give a full account of the things which I have seen…that ye might not have too great sorrow because of the wickedness of this people" (Mormon 5:8-9)

It's enough to know that the Nephites were slain in battle — we don't necessarily need a graphic description of how body parts were damaged or how much blood was spilled. It might add shock value to a contemporary movie, but it wouldn't really add any value to this account.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers (Mormon 4)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 11 March 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 383

Blessed Are the Peacemakers (Mormon 4)

In Mormon 4, Mormon describes the continuing battle between the godless Nephites and the godless Lamanites, commenting that "there never had been so great wickedness among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel…as was among this people" (verse 12).

Mormon observes that, although the judgments of God are being carried out against this people, it is actually "by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed" (verse 5).

It's an interesting observation that wicked people can get others stirred up to do wicked things. Think of riots or brawls where it starts with just a few people and then many others jump in. Slogans like "We don't have to take this anymore!" can easily get people going — even those who have no idea what it is they don't have to take anymore.

The New Testament gospels tell us of people being stirred up to shout, "Release Barabbas!" Maybe the people thought they were joining in on a just cause, showing mercy to a prisoner. Instead, they were being duped into helping to bring about the crucifixion of the Son of God.

We all deal with people who are, well, something other than peacemakers. For example:

Schlemiel or Schlimazel? (Mormon 3)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 04 March 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 374

Schlemiel or Schlimazel? (Mormon 3)

If you're in my age bracket, you may remember a popular television show whose theme song began with the words "Schlemiel, Schlimazel." In case you were ever wondering what these words mean, "Schlemiel" is a Yiddish word that is typically used to describe a clumsy person who often spills soup on someone else. And "Schlimazel"? Well, he's the poor guy who the soup gets spilled on.

The question for today is: Who do you want to be — the schlemiel or the schlimazel? Now, if we were really talking about spilling soup, perhaps many of us would be kind enough to prefer the soup in our own laps rather than spilling it on someone else.

However, suppose we're talking about something else in our "bowl." Let's picture a bowl filled with our beliefs, our values, what we have been taught by the Lord, what we stand for, etc. Now, if the choice is to "spill" these beliefs and values onto others — influence them to be more like us — or have others influence us with their beliefs and values, which would we choose? It may seem like a no-brainer that we would choose the first option (the schlemiel path) but how often do we actually allow others to influence us rather than the other way around?

The Body of Christ (Mormon 2)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 26 February 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 347

The Body of Christ (Mormon 2)

"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (1 Corinthians 12:27)

As part of the discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul brings out the concept that we as individual members of the Lord's church form "the body of Christ." The metaphor is developed by relating the members of the church to the parts of a physical body — any of us could correspond to the head or the hand or the foot or the eyes or the ears, etc.

The main point to be understood is that we shouldn't focus on exactly which part of the body we are but rather appreciate that it takes all of us to make up the full body of Christ. Some of the logical questions asked in that chapter to make this point are:

[12 3 4 5  >>