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9.29.2016

Shall we be cast off?

18 And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.
19 And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.

In Alma chapter 24 we find this powerful testimony given of the Anti-Nephi Lehies, that they would rather die than to risk sinning again is one of the most beautiful scriptures in the Book of Mormon. This group of Lehi's descendants was perhaps the most acquainted with the Atonement and the power of repentance and forgiveness. They had repented of the worst of sins, the shedding of blood. They had been "convinced of [their] sins, and... many murders". Through the teaching of Mosiah's sons they had come to understand the covenants of God and his goodness and mercy. Lamoni further proclaims in Alma 24:

10 And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.
11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain--
12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.

This story powerfully teaches us the power of Christ's redemption through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This knowledge has been lost and perverted by the religions of the world. They do not understand the Atonement nor the power of faith that comes from knowing and obeying the commandments of God. They do not understand the process of repentance and because of this the true depth of God's mercy. Nephi saw the reason for this loss of knowledge. He saw that "the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God--because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them." (1 Nephi 13:29)
Today's world stumbles around in thick darkness because they have lost the covenant and doctrines that lead them to the tree of life and the precious fruit of mercy, redemption, and peace that come from the Atonement. God knew this situation would come to pass. How was he to honor the agency of his children and yet rescue them from the mistakes being made? We learn from Moroni that the Book of Mormon was prepared for this purpose. According to Moroni's Title Page, its purpose is "that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever."
Repeatedly the prophets writing in the record say that they don't expect this record to benefit their own people so much as a their descendants. The Words of Mormon records "But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren. And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will." Nephi describes the lengths he went to to avoid the future conspiracy to confound the translation when Martin Harris will lose the manuscript. "Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not."  (1 Nephi 9:5) One of these purposes was to thwart this conspiracy. Repeatedly the engravers say they are doing what they have been commanded and do not know why. Always they ascribe it to the wisdom of God.
Yet the wisdom of God goes much further than just thwarting a conspiracy of lost pages. The book itself testifies of many things related to the book itself and how it will be brought out of darkness. It is repeatedly described as a testimony and compared to a voice coming forth from the dust of the earth. I find this imagery intriguing. Once I realized that these men were literally now the dust of this continent I could understand this image. They literally do cry from the dust.
The prophet who abridged much of the record and also witnessed almost the entire destruction of the Nephite people understood the need for these writings in the future. He explains his motivations for the future inhabitants of the world, "And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people." (Mormon 1:8) Mormon had a unique perspective, as he had compiled the history from all of the Nephite records and was extremely familiar with the details of the Nephite and Lamanites interactions for the last thousand years. He lead and fought during the decades of the battles leading to the utter destruction of the Nephite tribes, witnessing their wicked descent. But he also had visions of future conditions in order to create the most useful abridgment for future generations. He worked for the future redemption of his brethren. Perhaps the story of the brave converts who submitted to death rather than submitting to sin gave him hope for future generations, who might have the same redemptive experience and not be "cast off forever."
This record is a testament to the love of God for all of his children everywhere and in every time. He prepared the Book of Mormon to counter Satan in the latter days of this earth's life. We live in a most remarkable time on this earth. One that many prophets foresaw and contributed too through their prophecies and writings. The divinity of the Book of Mormon can not be successfully disputed. And those who seek to know for themselves if this is true with a desire to let that knowledge determine their actions in faith and devotion to God and his purposes, can know in remarkable ways the truth not only of this book but the work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is a window to the world to clear the dark fog of deception that we live in today. I know that this book is as Joseph said "the most correct book" for I have become "closer to God" every time I study it. I love to dive into its depths because it clears my mind and vision and brings me peace. It shows me the traps Satan has set for us so that I can avoid them and avoid the sorrow that comes from them.
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