Scripture Study

Don't Shoot the Messenger (Ether 11)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 01 July 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 334

Don't Shoot the Messenger (Ether 11)

If you've ever delivered a message on behalf of someone else, then you're probably familiar with what can happen if the message is upsetting to the person who receives it. It's entirely possible that the person may direct their anger about the message toward you, even though it didn't really come from you. It's at times like this that the appropriate thing for you to say is, "Don't shoot the messenger."

In Ether 11, God sends a message to the Jaredite people who have fallen further and further into iniquity. His message is that "they should repent, and turn unto the Lord, and forsake their murders and wickedness" (verse 1). The people He uses to deliver the message are referred to as prophets (by definition, a prophet is a messenger of God).

Not surprisingly, the people who hear this message don't receive it well. Not only do they reject the message, but they literally kill the messengers. One wicked king "caused that all the prophets who prophesied of the destruction of the people should be put to death" (verse 5).

We're Done Living in Captivity (Ether 10)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 24 June 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 384

We're Done Living in Captivity (Ether 10)

In Ether 10, the leadership of the Jaredite kingdom changes hands many times, sometimes peacefully and sometimes by force. Toward the end of the chapter, one of the kings is deposed and forced to live in captivity for the rest of his life. It doesn't sound like he was actually living in a dungeon, though; most likely, he was under some type of stay-at-home order or some type of arrangement that limited what he could do or where he could go.

The same captivity for this family lasts for the next four generations. Finally, a man named Com decides he is done living in captivity, and he goes out and reclaims the kingdom, living out the remainder of his days as king of the land.

Many of us have experienced living in some type of captivity during our lifetime.

Most recently, we have all experienced the stay-at-home orders associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. What has kept people in captivity during this time? Some combination of being willing to follow the rules and guidelines issued by lawmakers and health experts, as well as some level of fear associated with the virus. As we see the rules and guidelines being relaxed somewhat, the only thing left that will keep us in captivity is fear. As followers of Christ, let's allow our faith to overcome our fear. Let's reclaim the kingdom — returning to church and whatever else the Lord has for us to do, trusting that He will be with us.

The Lyin' King (Ether 9)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 17 June 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 249

The Lyin' King (Ether 9)

In the classic movie, "The Lion King," the evil lion named Scar wants so badly to be king that he is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that. He kills the current king — his own brother. He enlists willing followers by making wild promises like, "Stick with me and you'll never go hungry again!" But, as time passes, the food supply is gone and the country is in ruins. It becomes clear that it was all lies from a power-hungry tyrant who will just wind up dragging everyone down with him. Happily, the true king then appears and everyone is saved.

In Ether 9, we read an account that has many similarities to the movie referenced above. This chapter describes multiple cases of men so determined to be king that they kill their own family members to gain the throne. All of the wickedness "corrupted the hearts of all the people" (verse 6) who obviously believe the lies of the power-hungry tyrants since they have no objection to even murder being committed in order for their king to be in power. After some time passes, the true king is restored to the throne, and there is peace in the land.

God Sees Us, Whatever We Do (Ether 8)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 10 June 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 212

God Sees Us, Whatever We Do (Ether 8)

If you're familiar with Windows computers, you're likely aware of the little button near the top right corner of each window that allows you to minimize the window. When you click on that button, the window is then no longer visible on the computer screen — the computer can still see it, but people cannot see it. It's actually quite an effective method to hide what you're doing from someone who is trying to look at your computer screen.

What might you be thinking if, every time you walked past someone using a computer, that person hit the Minimize button?

  • If it's one of your children, you might wonder, "What are my kids getting into?"
  • If it's your husband, you might wonder, "Who is my husband chatting with?"
  • If it's your employee, you might wonder whether the employee is actually working.

In general, when someone goes to great lengths to hide their actions, it often means they're doing something they shouldn't. Otherwise, they would have nothing to hide. The sad part of this is that people who are good at hiding what they are doing may never come to a realization that what they are doing is wrong because they are able to get away with it.

There Are 2 Kingdoms — Pick One (Ether 7)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 03 June 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 258

There Are 2 Kingdoms — Pick One (Ether 7)

In Ether 7, Orihah (one of the sons of Jared) concludes his reign as the first king of the Jaredite people in the new land, passing the mantle to his son Kib. Sadly, things go downhill quickly after that, as two families then begin to compete for the throne, resulting in a series of kidnappings and murders and many temporary changes in who is king. Finally, they settle into two kingdoms:

"And the country was divided; and there were two kingdoms, the kingdom of Shule, and the kingdom of Cohor, the son of Noah." (Ether 7:20)

There were probably lots of people who thought this arrangement was wrong. Why should there be two kingdoms? We only need one. Perhaps there were even some who disliked both Shule and Cohor and would have wanted more choices. None of that mattered; there were two kingdoms, and each person had to pick the one they wanted to be part of.

Happy Windsday! (Ether 6)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 27 May 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 244

Happy Windsday! (Ether 6)

If you (or your children) grew up watching "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," then you might remember the part when Winnie the Pooh goes to visit Piglet on a particularly windy day and greets him with a hearty, "Happy Windsday Piglet!" Piglet then gets picked up by the strong wind and nearly flies away.

Sometimes, when someone says that they can't see God, an explanation is offered that compares God to the wind — you can't see it, but you can see what it does. Jesus made a similar statement in John 3, comparing the Spirit of God to the wind — you can't see where it's coming from or where it's going, and you can't control it; it goes where it's going to go.

In a spectacular scene described in Acts 2, there were 120 disciples of Jesus sitting in an upper room on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus had been crucified and had resurrected. Perhaps these disciples were unsure of what to do at this point. "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2) and the Holy Ghost swept into the room, filling all the people there. Now, they were ready to go out and turn the world upside down for the cause of Christ. It was a happy "windsday" indeed!

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 258

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 405

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 290

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 320

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 329

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 312

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 356

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 497

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 354

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.

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