Fair Issues 99: Emotion is part of testimony and decision making

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Ash (newer) PictureIn this article brother Ash discusses how emotions play an integral part in our decision making process.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon

Faith and Reason 69: Plain and Precious Parts

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From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith

by: Michael R. Ash

Most Christians today and in Joseph Smith’s day believe that the Bible is complete –that it contains everything that God intended, and that no new scriptures should be added. From Joseph’s translation of the Book of Mormon, however, we learn that the Bible is not complete and that many important parts are missing. Today’s scholarship sides with Joseph Smith. The scriptures we have today are the result of actions taken in the second century AD by those who had a different Bible than those at the end of that same century.

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Television Host, News Anchor, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

“Bring Forth Fruit with Patience”: Lessons on Faith and Patience from the Book of Mormon Archaeology

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“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:3).

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

We don’t typically think of patience as a gospel principle, even though it is mentioned 66 times in the Standard Works. Patience is a virtue, yes, but you are more likely to hear that old adage than a scripture reference when being told you’ll just have to wait for something you want right now. Yet, despite this, the fact is patience is a necessary component to faith.

The relationship of patience and faith can be illustrated well with the Book of Mormon and archaeology. Critics love to claim that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, and produce lists of plants, animals, and material culture items which are thought to be absent from ancient America to make their point. The pitfalls of negative evidence, however, are quickly apparent if we are we willing to step back and look at some examples.

Let’s start with barley. Barley is mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon, and was long considered an anachronism in the text. In 1983, however, domesticated barely was found in Arizona dating back to AD 900. When apologists first pointed this out, critics were slow to cede ground and nit-picked that this still was not old enough for Book of Mormon times.

Subsequent evidence has demonstrated that in native American “little barley” was cultivated as early as 800 BC, and in widespread use from 200 BC through AD 1000. Geographically, it is known in predominantly in the eastern United States, but archaeological findings also show it was cultivated in the southwest and Mexico. As Book of Mormon Central recently pointed out:

Over time, more and more evidence for domestication of little barley in the Americas has emerged over an increasingly wider span of both time and geography. Little barley may have diffused to other regions of the Americas which were known to trade with the southwest and eastern United States, including the exchange of crops. In any case, evidence demonstrates that in at least some parts of the Americas, a type of barley was a highly important crop during Book of Mormon times.

Some will still nit-pick and claim that the Book of Mormon requires old world barley, but unless one insists on a narrow interpretation of the text, that simply is not true. Barley no longer poses serious problems for the Book of Mormon, and that’s the weakness of negative evidence: a single discovery can change the picture. Book of Mormon Central gets it exactly right when they say “discoveries like little barley illustrate the wisdom in keeping an open mind and avoiding hasty judgments while considering and exploring what the Book of Mormon says about Nephite life.”

barley-meme1 1

1983 was 153 years after the Book of Mormon was published, and all that time critics took advantage of the absence of barley; and right up until 1982, the absence of barely might have seemed pretty damning for the Book of Mormon. The value of patience here is clear.

The lesson learned from barely can be extended to other examples of common and long thought anachronisms. Consider wine, for instance. It is important to note that even in today’s vernacular, wine can refer to more than just fermented grape juice. Just google “apple wine,” “banana wine,” “pineapple wine,” and even “dandelion wine” to see my point. These kinds of “wines” were certainly known in pre-Columbian America. Book of Mormon Central explained: “Alcoholic beverages were made from a variety of fruits in the Americas before Columbus. These include bananas, pineapple, and agave, among others.” There were also native grapes, with some indication that it was used for wine-making.

wine_meme 1

Yet for the purposes of this post in illustrating the value of patience, I would like to highlight something else Book of Mormon Central mentioned: “There is also some evidence that the Old World grape was known and used for winemaking at one site in Chiapas, Mexico dating to between the first centuries BC and AD.” The evidence cited comes from a master’s thesis on an archaeological site in Chiapas (the region some geographers consider the land of Zarahemla) from 1978. It is less abundant, less widespread, and less well known than that of barley, but it is interesting nonetheless, and it follows the Book of Mormon by 148 years. Score one more for patience.

These kinds of examples are important to be aware of and keep in mind when dealing with some puzzles which are not so easily solved, like the horse. As Book of Mormon Central points out, there are certainly different possibilities, like loan-shifting and translator anachronisms that we ought to be open-minded about, but they are also keen to point out patience here as well. They note that there is some promising, yet inconclusive, evidence for horses in the Americas during Book of Mormon times. They then note, “it is best to be patient with the archaeological record. There is still much work to be done, and lots to be learned about life in pre-Columbian America.” Continuing on, they stress:

The vast majority of Mesoamerican ruins remain untouched underneath thick jungle growth, and other areas in the Americas have received even less attention. Also, the preservation of animal bones is very poor in the humid jungles of Mesoamerica. … Still, several items mentioned in the Book of Mormon once considered anachronistic have since been verified. This is why John E. Clark, a Latter-day Saint and prominent Mesoamerican archaeologist, declared: “the Book of Mormon looks better with age.” Such findings should urge caution against making final judgments based on absence of evidence.

Barley, and perhaps even wine, (to say nothing of Old World examples like Egyptian writing in Palestine, once thought to be an anachronism) illustrate this very point.

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Other lines of evidence further encourage patience among believers. Little, if anything, was known about the ancient Mesoamerican practice of carving the history and achievements of kings on “large stones” in 1830, but now the scholarly understandings of such things converge nicely with the description in Omni 1:20–22. Or the way social stratification and polygamy functioned together in the middle pre-Classic (ca. 800–400 BC), providing a fitting context for Jacob’s sermon in Jacob 2–3. Or the lineage histories of various Mesoamerican cultures, which fit the Book of Mormon in both form and function. Or tumbaga and how the “golden” plates are consistent with this alloy. Or the way the conceptual purposes of Mesoamerican bloodletting are tied into the “atoning blood of Christ” and blended well with ancient Israelite understandings of blood sacrifice.

All of this does not even touch the Old World connections, generally seen as more abundant and persuasive. Things like the detailed understanding of ancient olive cultivation found in Jacob 5; the ancient legal practice of duplicating or abridging documents and then sealing a portion, just as the Book of Mormon plates were abridged and sealed; ancient Israelite festival and coronation tie-ins to Benjamin’s speech; the extensive use of poetic parallelisms common to Hebrew writing; the practice of subscriptio, which appears twice in the Book of Mormon; Sherem’s and Abinadi’s trials in light of ancient Israelite law; and on and on I could go. I’ve yet to mention the Nahom altars, which some critics act like is the only thing Mormon apologists ever talk about.

While there are certainly still lists of puzzling features that invite further thought and research, many things now known about both the ancient Near East and pre-Columbian Mesoamerica shed light and insight on the Book of Mormon. Why not focus on what evidence we do have rather than pine for the evidence that is missing? Few who jump on the Internet today are aware that the list of anachronisms is getting shorter. As John Clark said, the Book of Mormon truly does look better with age. This trend certainly endorses patience while grappling with persistent puzzles. Such patience has yielded abundant fruit over the last 186 years, and will likely to continue to yield even more.

Neal Rappleye is a Research Project Manager for Book of Mormon Central. He blogs on Latter-day Saint topics at http://www.studioetquoquefide.com/

The Ancient Art of Misleading by Selective Citation

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A recent article was posted in which a woman struggling with her faith reported a “punch in the gut feeling” because Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Seventy told BYU grads:

A few of you may have run into some who cease to hold fast to the iron rod wandered off the straight and narrow path, and have become lost. …. We should disconnect immediately and completely from …those who have lost their faith” [Citation as provided, no text omitted] [1]

All is not well

Our first clue that all is not right is the presence of the ellipsis: the three dots that represent omitted material: … Continue reading

Fair Issues 98: What critics don’t understand about testimony

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Ash (newer) PictureIn this weeks issue brother Ash talks about how testimonies are balanced with reason and spiritual confirmation.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon

4th Watch 23: The challenge of discipleship

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4thWatch SmallBack in the day, late 60’s and the early 70’s just across the border in Rosarito Beach, Baja California the big “X” XERB was one of the flamethrower am radio stations of its day. The big “X” was the brainchild of Robert Weston Smith.  Bob Smith?  So who is Bob Smith?  If you don’t recognize the name you just might remember the voice.

It’s the “Wolfman.”  He was one of the most successful disk jockeys of his day.  You might remember him in the movie “American Graffiti” done by George Lucas in 1973.  The Wolfman made a considerable amount of money on the big “X” and most of it came from the late night programs that came to be known as the prayer shawl preachers or PSP’s as I call them.

At one point Wolfman Jack was said to be making over $50,000.00 a month from the revenue generated by these programs.  A considerable amount of cash back then which did NOT go unnoticed by the Mexican authorities. Kind of like when Han Solo said to Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movie, “ancient weapons and hokey religions are no match for a good blaster at your side kid.” The blaster of the PSP’s made the bucks.  I’m not sure how the radio station changed hands but the Wolfman got pushed out and things changed.

Running at 250,000 watts XERB could be heard from border to border.  American stations could only broadcast at 50,000 watts of power due to FCC regulations so the big “X” was quite an adventure for am radio.

If we go back further in time the most powerful commercial radio station in the ever in the USA was WLW in the (700KHz AM) in Cincinnati Ohio, which during certain times in the 1930’s broadcast 500,000 watts of radiated power.  At night, it covered half the globe.  Neighbors within the vicinity of the transmitter heard the audio in their pots, pans and mattresses, literally.  I’m providing a link in the show notes for those who may be interested in the history of WLW.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/wlw

Today we have the new and improved border blasters and you’re listening to one of them now.  The internet podcast.  Just about anyone with a computer and microphone can produce and air podcasts.  For that matter you can effectively have your own TV station.  It’s called YouTube.  All without the need for mass quantities of money.

Bob Dylan sang the lyrics of our day thinking he was just talking about the days in which he lived.  That was in 1964.  Over fifty years ago. Truly the times are a changing and I would suspect that in another fifty years our todays might seem as foolish to those who look upon us from their enlightened era with mild if not outright amusement.

Some things don’t change and for good reason.  Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is one of those things that doesn’t change.  The way we show our discipleship does and should change to adapt to the environment and culture in which we live.  What may be welcomed in Mormon Central aka Salt Lake City Utah may not be well received in another part of the world but our intent should always be the same. To represent our Lord and Savior and his loving and kindness by using our hands as His hands and the tone of our voice as He would talk to those in need of His care.

In October of 2006 brother James A. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered this view of discipleship.

Our responsibility is clear for those who have received the testimony of Jesus Christ.  To become His disciples.

In doing so I try hard not to denigrate another’s testimony or their faith tradition.  In the opening of this podcast I referred to the “prayer shawl preachers” in a manner that some may see or in this case hear as unacceptable . Truth is often in the ear of the beholder because our intent is interpreted by the distance from our heads to our hearts and that takes time.  Oh, I know what you think I meant but I’m not sure what you heard is what was in my heart. Yes yes, I know. Ain’t it the truth?  Does this happen to you?  Happens to me.

When such events take place I try really hard to apologize and not defend what I said or did.  It is not about being right but building a bridge of understanding.  Brother Ned, you need to build a bridge to get over yourself!  Sorry if my style offends you.  I meant no disrespect.  I’m sorry.  Well, you’re still a jerk!  I sorry you feel that way.  It’s just my amateur attempt at humor.  Amateur?  You got that right! Now Brother Ned,…

So you got a spiritual wound did you?  Here, let me have a look under that bandaged dressing. Oh, you’ll be fine just take some Life-N-All and call me in the morning.  By the way, Life-N-All is available online at Brother Ned’s Discount Warehouse of Worship right here in Boise Idaho, say hallelujah! Life-N-All is the only supplement that contains the three essential elements to get you up to speed and keep your there.  Vitamins R, P and M.

What’s next?

Do what you can do not what someone else can do.  They may need just what you have.  Your hands may what they see and feel.  It may be your voice that offers what they need to hear.  Perhaps your smile is the one they can understand better than anyone else’s.  Make sense?

I would like to offer two extreme views of how we can experience the gospel as a disciple of Jesus.  The first one I call the “Mormon-Gnostics” or as   Cassandra Hedelius would say Mormon Gnosticism.   She gave a presentation at the August 7, 2015 annual conference of the FairMormon group about this subject which you can read with the link I’m providing in the show notes…

http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2015-fairmormon-conference/a-house-of-order-a-house-of-god

They go too far.  There is little if any need of a Church structure.  The only relationship that counts is the one with the Lord.

Going to the other extreme are those whom I call the Corporate Mormons.  They have turned the gospel into a company.  By what they say and do they wind up worshipping the structure instead of He who created them.  They go too far.  If you find yourself going too far in one of these directions start asking yourself questions.  Both directions can lead to dangerous forms of discipleship.

In a Zoom conversation with Scott Gordon a few of us on the FairMormon volunteer blog list had a conversation about the direction our podcasts and written blog articles should be going.  A decision was made to focus our efforts toward your standard and average member who sit in the pews week after week.  So my podcasts are designed to fit that mold.  Mold?  Did I say mold?  Who’s mold?  Standard and average?  So the enlightened or the ultra-ignorant need not read or listen? Ultra-ignorant their talking about you Brother Ned. I’m going to take care of this right now.  Where’s the forget me stick? An effective piece of equipment to be sure.  You decide what’s best for you.  In my view there are no “molds” we are relegated to fit into.  Make up your own mind and choose for yourself.  You are a child of the ever living God. Don’t let me or anyone else tell you what or who you are.

Continuing on…

It is rather easy to see those who are becoming more Gnostic in their form of worship.  They start distancing themselves for Church activity because “they” have received the true light of the gospel.  It might be more difficult for those who are going toward the corporate world view to see that they are becoming administrators of the bureaucracy instead of a minister of the gospel.  Numbers, percentages and ratios may have value for a general overview of how a Ward or congregation is moving but if that becomes our defining attention perhaps our discipleship is moving in the wrong direction.

Next segmento…

You may have seen the movie Mars Attacks or not.  It was done is 1996 and is probably the best spoof of the fifty’s and sixty’s science fiction “B” movies ever made.  If you done seen it you know what I mean if you haven’t you might want to give it try. Extra campy and lots of great performances by well-known actors.

Peirce Brosnan who was great in the 007 movies plays a scientist in this flick who portrays great wisdom and superior knowledge to whom all most bow with awe and reverence.

In one part of the movie some engineer type comes up with a translation device of the Martian language.  All the Martians say in the movie is, ak, ak ak, ak, so we never know what they are really saying until we can hear the translation.  In the clip I’m going to let you hear tell me if it makes sense to you.

Peirce Brosnan is sitting at a table with a pipe in his hand and looking upward as if he has just heard some great new cosmic wisdom.  Also in the room is an Army general.  Both hear the same thing and the general has a different reaction to the translation than that of the great super genius professor.  Being as I’m your basic simple person and not a super genius my reaction to the translation is pretty close to the generals response.

If you are part of a group, congregation, study club or other religious / spiritual path and what you are hearing doesn’t line up with the “four points on the eternal line of wisdom” you might want consider moving away from such an affiliation.

Some of the Mormon-Gnostics may fall into this classification.  For dark is the suede that mows like a harvest is just a bunch of baloney sauce.  Don’t go in that direction.

Next…

The four points of truth? This is part of the brother Ned value system and not to be considered official doctrine but probably should be.  First point.  Our heads.  Second point.  Our hearts.  Third point. Our gut.  Point number four.  The Holy Scriptures.

You ever get that “gut” feeling you know something is just wrong or right?  What does our out gut have to do with feelings?  The Savior told us that His bowels were full of compassion.

Mosiah 15:9, “Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.”

What does mercy have to do with our bowels?  A figurative representation I would think even though back in the day they thought feelings generated in our bowels.  The Savior knew better of course but He was relating in terms they could understand without going into the science of how feelings are created.  Ever heard the saying, “go with your gut?” So, if you’re gut, heart and head line up with God’s revealed word I would say your discipleship is moving in the right direction.

Last segment…

In listening to all these colorful illustrations you may recall something the Lord has pressed upon your “four lines of truth.”   You may remember something you did or said back in your day.  Could have been in ’69 or ’89 or even in ’09 that you considered the best days of your life. A mission perhaps?  You just laid in down and forgot to pick it up again. So, how about we pick it back up and keep moving forward in our discipleship to the glory of Him who is our Lord and Savior.

President Faust offers us a good guideline…

How about if we go about doing good?  We may not need the loud voice that the border blasters used but then again we may need it to get someone’s attencion then the quit voice of love could move in to replace the giant noise of the world’s value system.

In closing what I’m about to offer as a question that just might be the most important part of this podcast.

If you’re listening say Amen…

What if the disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority?

As always the views expressed in this podcast are those of the presenter and may not represent, reflect or even remotely resemble those of anyone who is lives in the real world about anything at any time but they should and are soon be canonized by the Church.  Or not… J

 

 

 

 

Fair Issues 97: Proof is in the eye of the Beholder

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Ash (newer) PictureIn this instalment brother Ash sets for forth evidences, proofs and faith concerning the Book of Mormon archaeology.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon

 

Faith and Reason 68: The Apostasy

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From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith

by Michael R. Ash

The apostasy was already under way while some of the apostles still lived and they warned that worse times would come after they were gone. As long as they were around, they could correct erroneous doctrines and confound false teachers, but they knew and prophesied of times to come when the church would go astray. Through the prophet Joseph Smith, our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ restored the fulness of the gospel. The true Church of Jesus Christ is on the earth again today. Because of the Restoration, the teachings and ordinances necessary for salvation are available to all people.

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of MormonFortress.com and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Television Host, News Anchor, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

Additional Witnesses of the Coming Forth and Content of the Book of Mormon

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[Cross posted from Truth Will Prevail.]

By Dennis B. Horne

As Joseph Smith was dictating the translation of the Book of Mormon to Oliver Cowdery, they learned that the gold plates were to “be hid from the eyes of the world” in general. platesNevertheless “three witnesses” would be enabled to view the book or plates “by the power of God” in addition to Joseph—“him to whom the book shall be delivered.” These three witnesses would then “testify to the truth of the book and the things therein” (2 Nephi 27:12; see also Ether 5:2-4 and D&C 5:11, 15).

It is well known that Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were granted the privilege of becoming these three designated special witnesses (see D&C 17, including section intoduction). Their signed statement of solemn testimony has been printed with each edition of the Book of Mormon.

Further, the prophecies of the Book of Mormon indicated that “none other[s]” would be able to view it, “save it be a few according to the will of God,” and that the purpose of these others would be “to bear testimony of his word unto the children of men”—the world. This would allow the prophets and saints of the Book of Mormon to “speak as if it were from the dead” (2 Nephi 27:23).

These “few” others are generally thought of as the “eight witnesses,” and include members of the Whitmer and Smith families that helped Joseph by providing board and room and financial assistance.[1] The testimony of these eight, who saw, hefted, and closely examined the gold plates, is also printed in the Book of Mormon: “[Joseph Smith] has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work.” And, “we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken.”
Continue reading

“I Glory in my Jesus”: How Nephi Helps Us Grow Closer to the Savior

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Christ's hands 

Today, Christians around the world celebrate the single greatest event in world history. The Son of God, the Great Creator of Heaven and Earth, condescended below all things, suffered for our sins, died on our behalf, and then three days later, He rose from the grave, giving life and hope to us all: He lives, and because of Him, we all shall live. Nothing can be said to inspire greater hope than those immortal words: “He is not here: for he is risen” (Matthew 28:6).

Like many others, I fear my own words are woefully inadequate to articulate my deepest feelings toward my Savior and Redeemer. Nephi, too, felt that his words were inadequate (2 Nephi 33:1), and yet few testimonies stir my soul greater than his powerful declaration toward the close of his record: “I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell” (2 Nephi 33:6).

Book of Mormon Central recently highlighted Nephi’s farewell testimony of Christ.

“Nephi’s account is brimming with the significance of Jesus Christ and his mission, affirmed through prophetic testimony, parental teaching, scriptural witnesses, and profound spiritual experiences.” Accordingly, Nephi “gives sincere followers of Christ everywhere a model of spiritual behavior to follow in seeking to gain, build, or strengthen their own relationships with Jesus Christ.”

Nephi’s knowledge of the Savior came in at least four different ways:

(1) Prophetic testimony;

(2) Parental teaching;

(3) Scriptural witnesses; and

(4) Personal spiritual experiences.

Let’s explore each of these in Nephi’s record and consider what we learn about the Savior in each instance.

Prophetic Testimony

The life and mission of Christ was understood by many prophets, many hundreds of years before His coming. While some scholarship is just starting to recognize an awareness of a divine Son-Redeemer figure in ancient Israelite theology, the Book of Mormon has long affirmed that pre-Christian prophets bore witness of the Savior.

Nephi records both Lehi and Jacob bearing prophetic witness of the Messiah. To the people of Jerusalem, Lehi had prophesied “plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world” (1 Nephi 1:19). As a prophet, Lehi had witnessed in vivid detail several events in the Savior’s life (see 1 Nephi 10:4–12). To the people of Nephi, Jacob taught the plan of salvation and the central role of the Atonement in that plan. He revealed the name of Christ to the people, and taught by revelation about the Savior’s mission.

Just as God had prophets teaching of Christ in the ancient cities of Nephi and Jerusalem, so there are prophets today who bear witness of Jesus Christ. Next week, we will gather together as Latter-day Saints throughout the world to hear them bear their special witness. Let’s follow the example of Nephi and cherish and learn from their testimonies.

Parental Teaching

Lehi, of course, was not only the prophet at the time, but he was Nephi’s father. He was acting in his paternal role when he gather this family together and taught them about how, due to the effects of the Fall, all must come unto the Messiah with a broken heart and contrite spirit. In the wake of his father’s passing, Nephi lamented over his personal shortcomings, but also affirmed his dependence of the Savior: “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever” (2 Nephi 4:34). Lehi and Sariah, faithfully taking their family in the wilderness upon the Lord’s command, are the ones who modeled that trust in the Lord for Nephi to learn.

Just like Lehi and Sariah, parents today have a personal responsibility to teach their children about Jesus Christ and his Gospel. Less often talked about, but equally important, children today have the responsibility to learn from their parents. May we all, in our roles either as parents or children (or, for many, both) teach and learn and better come to know the Savior within the family setting.

Scriptural Witnesses

There can be little question that Nephi was a diligent student of the scriptures. He risked life and limb to recover a copy of scriptural works from Laban in Jerusalem, and his entire record is laced with quotations of scripture. He draws on the writings of several prophets to describe Christ’s atoning death (1 Nephi 19:10–12). Nephi used Psalm 24 to teach about what must be done to come into the presence of Christ and to recognize Him as the Messiah.

Of course, everyone is familiar with Nephi’s extensive use of Isaiah. Nephi explicitly used Isaiah as a witness of Christ. In Isaiah’s writings, Nephi could discern prophetic descriptions of the Savior’s birth, divine titles, and ministry, and rejection by the people. A sweeping vision of the Redeemer’s mortal life and ultimate redeeming work guided Nephi’s selection and interpretation of Isaiah.

Just as Nephi and Isaiah’s words work together to bear witness of the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ, so do the entire Bible and Book of Mormon work together. Latter-day Saints are blessed today with the testimony of two nations that Jesus is the Christ, rather than just one. Like Nephi did with the brass plates, we can draw closer to the Lord and Savior as we read and ponder the teachings of Christ found in the scriptures we have.

Personal Spiritual Experiences

Nephi had his own sacred experiences that taught him about the importance of the Savior. While pondering on Lehi’s vision of a tree, Nephi received his own revelation wherein he learned the meaning of the tree and its connection to the birth of Jesus Christ. The vision also taught Nephi firsthand about the life, baptism, and death of the Son of God (see 1 Nephi 11). Later in life, as Nephi reflected on the Savior’s baptism, he came a greater understanding of why Jesus was baptized, and conversed with the Father and the Son about the doctrine of Christ.

Such personal spiritual experiences, which all of God’s children are entitled to, are more important than the witness of parents and prophets. But as Nephi’s experience teaches us, it is the teachings of prophets, parents, and scripture that serve as the springboard to personal testimony. Diligent study and application of the scriptures, teachings of modern prophets, and parental council often will generate spiritual experiences to cherish and use as building blocks to personal testimony.

The temple also plays an important role in providing a sacred space where these kinds of experiences can be had. The high mountain Nephi is carried to in 1 Nephi 11 is representative of the temple. After arriving in the New World, Nephi has his people build a temple shortly before he begins writing his account.

Coming into the Presence of the Lord

Although we are using Nephi as an example, we should keep in mind that ultimately, this is not about Nephi. It is about Jesus Christ and coming closer to Him. Nephi’s entire account is ultimately about guiding the reader into the presence of Christ. When Nephi talks about “speak[ing] with the tongue of angels,” Book of Mormon Central has proposed that, “Ultimately Nephi [is] invit[ing] all his readers to find the way to enter into the presence of the Lord and to participate in the divine council as one of the ‘angels.’”

Nephi drew on all the variety of sources—his father’s prophetic call, Isaiah’s scriptural writings, and his own personal revelation on a high mountain top—in order to ultimately drive this point home; and the way to get there is through the temple.

This Easter, as you reflect on what the Savior has done for you and consider how you can draw closer to Him, remember the example set by Nephi, and join with him. Just as he does, glory in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, who has saved your soul from death and hell!

Neal Rappleye is a Research Project Manager for Book of Mormon Central. He blogs on Latter-day Saint topics at http://www.studioetquoquefide.com/