Monday, September 30, 2013

Unlocking Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

I purchased a copy of Unlocking Isaiah in the Book of Mormon by Victor L. Ludlow while I was taking a class by Brother Ludlow at BYU. I finally read it during this past month as I studied Isaiah (yet again) during my personal scripture study.

The book begins by talking about Isaiah's writing style and the literary devices he uses. An understanding of his style helps the reader better appreciate what Isaiah is trying to say. It also helps to show exactly what Isaiah is trying to emphasize the most.

Then, when Ludlow begins to actually go in depth into the Isaiah sections of the Book of Mormon, he doesn't just give an understanding of Isaiah's message, but he also discusses possibilities as to why Nephi, Jacob, Abinadi, and the Savior would have selected these passages.

I was particularly impressed with the quotation of Isaiah 53 by Abinadi. I have always loved Abinadi's sermon, but Ludlow helped me understand that his sermon was essentially just a quotation and commentary on Isaiah. These passages from Isaiah had such an impact on Alma the priest, that he repented. Should not Isaiah have the same impact on me and all who read it?

It was also neat to read about the chapters quoted by the Savior when He visited the Nephites. One of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is to remind Israel of the covenants of the Lord and that He has not forgotten them. The chapters quoted by the Savior highlight this message of the Book of Mormon and the Savior further comments on these passages to clarify the sign of the fulfillment of these promises.

This book was a great and enlightening read. It is now only available as an ebook, but I still highly recommend it to anyone interested in studying Isaiah, especially the use of his teachings in the Book of Mormon.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Third Thousand Years

The Third Thousand Years is the next installment in the series by W. Cleon Skousen. I personally enjoyed this book a lot more than the first, mostly because there are more historical records that the author was able to draw from as he compiled this book. Even if I do not agree with the author's interpretation of the scriptures in all cases, I do appreciate that because of this book I am now reading the scriptures closer and studying them more.

For example, when talking about the story of Joseph in Egypt, the author states that it was not Joseph's brothers, but rather a group of Midianites who sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites, who sold him into Egypt. When I read this I thought, "That's not right! His brothers sold him!" So I opened up my scriptures, and sure enough, it says that it was some Midianites who took him out of the pit. Now, maybe the Midianites and the brothers were in it together, but either way, this was something I had never noticed before.

The part that I enjoyed reading the most was all about Moses. Skousen frequently cites Josephus to give additional details to Moses' life. Now, since Josephus is not a scriptural record, perhaps we can't take everything he says for granted, but a lot of what he says matches with certain references in the Bible.

For example, Josephus says that Moses was actually the crowned prince of Egypt. Not just a prince, but the prince who would actually become ruler over all the land someday. Is this true? Perhaps... In Hebrews 11, we learn that Moses rejected the comforts of Egypt's palace of sin in favor of being with God's people.

During Moses' time as crowned prince, Josephus says he fought a battle against Ethiopia and at the end of the battle Moses married an Ethiopian princess. Well, in Numbers we read about Miriam and Aaron ridiculing Moses because of the Ethiopian he married. The scripture does not clarify whether this marriage occurred while they were all in the wilderness or if it occurred many years earlier. The fact that Doctrine and Covenants 132 teaches that Moses had plural wives indicates that this marriage to an Ethiopian probably occurred earlier and that Moses was married to her and to Zipporah at the same time.

I also loved learning more about the Law of Moses. While I am grateful we do not need to live the full extent of this law today, it was fascinating to me to learn how it worked, or rather, how it was supposed to work. As I read more about it and learned more about it, I saw how it really was a schoolmaster to bring the children of Israel to Christ. Although very strict and rigid, the principles it was founded on are the same principles that serve as the foundation of the Gospel and righteous living.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

History of the Church vol. 5

The contents of this volume in the History of the Church include many famous teachings from the prophet Joseph Smith, but also some intriguing stories. I will highlight just a few of the many things I enjoyed from this volume.

This volume begins right away with a crazy story. John C. Bennett was a prominent leader in Nauvoo, but he used his influence to commit some serious sins. When he was discovered, he quickly turned against the Church and became one of Joseph Smith's bitterest enemies. Bennett only found support among the base people of society, and especially from the mobs in Missouri. It is because of him that Joseph frequently had to go into hiding.

Page 107 contains the prophet's classic statement, "undaunted, firm, and unwavering--unchangeable, affectionate Emma!" He declares this as he is making a list of his close friends. The next page contains a statement about Newel K. Whitney, where he talks about the strong bond between them.

The famous quote, "Happiness is the object and design of our existence" comes from page 134.

I was interested in a conversation between Joseph Smith and Willard Richards, when Willard Richards asked him if he wanted a wicked man to pray for him. Joseph replied yes and said, "The prayer of a wicked man may do a righteous man good, when it does the who prays no good."

This quote sounds like something President Gordon B. Hinckley would say: "We don't ask any people to throw away any good they have got; we only ask them to come and get more" (Page 259).

Page 261 gives the prophet's key to understanding parables--and that is to look for the question that drew out the parable. This protects us from making crazy interpretations.

A few times Joseph Smith says that believing false doctrine does not make you a bad person. There are many good people, even in the Church, that believe things that aren't correct. We should not judge a person's character on their beliefs alone.

I also thoroughly enjoyed getting a glimpse of the prophet's humor. In a discourse given on pages 339-346, Joseph Smith made me laugh out loud a couple times. One of my favorite quotes is, "This learned interpretation is all as flat as a pancake! 'What do you use such vulgar expressions for, being a prophet?' Because the old women understand it--they make pancakes." I don't know why, but I found this very funny.

Another funny story is when Joseph was arrested and delivered to the custody of a sheriff from Missouri. the sheriff kept threatening to shoot him, and Joseph bared his chest and said, "Shoot away!"

Last of all, on page 401, the prophet said something really thought-provoking. He said if he was better than anyone else, he would ascend to the highest heaven, but he would be alone. He talks about being a rough stone rolling down from a high mountain, being polished as it rolls.

I am looking forward to reading the next volume, although I am sad as well because I know the next volume contains the prophet's martyrdom. I have enjoyed getting to know the prophet better through reading his history.