“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

Writing is where we truly learn. Join the Journey.

I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

1 Nephi Chapter 1 The Goodness and the Mysteries

I think of all the chapters in the Book of Mormon this is probably the most read. Not because it is popular, but because of where it sits, at the beginning of the book. So many of us begin reading with good intentions, and then, for one reason or another, a few days of not reading turns into a few weeks, a month.... longer ... and, we lose our place. Out of humility, forgetfulness, embarrassment or just good intentions for "doing it right" we begin again.

When we begin again, we find that God, (understanding our flaws) wants us to remember (because we keep rereading it) "our goodly parents." He wants us to know that not only is Nephi "highly favored", but we too can be "favored" if we will head the prophets and add the Lord's strength and wisdom to our own. If we will learn that there is such a thing as a "great knowledge" of the "goodness and the mysteries of God." If we will ask, "how does God favor me?"

What are the goodness and the mysteries of God? How do we obtain a great knowledge of them? Nephi introduces us to what he intends to share with us. He reaches into the many memories and recalls not the dark "afflictions" that so many are wanton to dwell on, but rather the "learning of my father", and "the great knowledge," the goodness, and the mysteries" that he has seen and known during "the course of his days."

Phrases and Words
(these are my comments on phrases of words that jump out at me)

I was taught (vs1) I hope that I can be taught. Having a teen-ager in the home, I realize that it is not only the young who believe they know everything. We are all blinded by what we think we know. I wonder if I will "be taught" all that God would teach me?
language of my fathers (vs2)- a language is a manner of communication. It consists of words, phrases, mannerisms, rituals, traditions, patterns of speech. There are many languages that each of use to communicate with everyday. I.E. Music, body language, computer, business. Each of these have many different layers within them. Music for instance has jazz, classical, country, rap, etc. For Nephi it was in "the learning of the Jews" and the language of the Egyptians. We know that Nephi's family was from Jerusalem. What is the language of your fathers? How does the language of your fathers bring you closer to God?

true- (vs3) Nephi speaks truth, and seeks truth. He knows only the truth that is in him, and he tells us that it is written, "in mine own hand" and "according to my knowledge." When I read this I am reminded that History is seen in the eyes of the beholder. If this book had been written by either of any of his brothers, Lamen, Lemuel, Sam, or Joseph, there is no doubt it would be different. Would it be wrong? No. We all have our own perspectives. What makes Nephi's view special? He made an effort to see, hear, witness, and then write his account as it relates to "the great goodness and the mysteries of God."

So why should we believe him? Belief is a choice but it's been my experience in life that we all have an ability to know good when we see it. As you experience something, you know if it is good. How it makes you feel. What effects it brings into your life. Goodness comes from God. Nephi says he will tell us about the "the great goodness" of God. What goodness of God could you share as it relates to your days?

In all his days (vs4) This really struck me. I have never lived in one place longer than a few years. So for Lehi to have "dwelt in Jerusalem in all his days" means he has never moved, went without, or lived alone. He would have always been connected to something, someone, and a definite way of life. Still he was not secure. Jerusalem was in the midst of upheaval. There was great wickedness and the prophets came to warn them.

with all his heart (vs 5) Lehi, after hearing the words of the prophets that came forth in the year of Zedekiah, went and prayed. How did he pray? With all his heart? For whom did he pray? His family, his neighbors, his people. I had to stop here and remember that he had lived here "all his days." He would have been praying for uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, neighbors, fellow business associates, teachers, his rabbi. He would have been praying for his way of life. He did not want things to change. But he did believe. He did have faith that God knew more than he did and that God would replace their afflictions with goodness. Whom do you pray for with all your heart?

I found it interesting that Nephi spoke of praying with all his heart at the very beginning of the Book Of Mormon and that Moron (Moroni 10:4)
again reminds us of the need to pray “with real intent” at the end. Those who pray with real intent or with sincerity intend to act upon their desires.
Prayer begins with good desires. Lehi wanted to help those that he loved. He wanted them to hear the words of the prophets as he had heard them.

“pillar of fire” (vs6) This intrigued me? I have always interpreted this as a wall of fire. It shows you how impressionable movies are as I got my first ‘vision’ of Moses’ burning bush as a pillar of fire in the Charlton Heston version of the Ten Commandments". Now I’m not so sure? I think rather it was like a beam of light? A pillar is defined as a tall vertical structure or something that is shaped like unto it. We know that what Lehi saw was tall and vertical, but did it burn like fire, or did it have the characteristics of fire, namely brilliantly white, hot, constantly moving with energy? Is this one of “the mysteries of God?

“he saw and heard much”+ “he did quake and tremble” (vs6) What I gleaned from this is that if you are going to see and hear knowledge from God, your body is going to quake and tremble afterwords. So powerful was the energy that came from that “pillar of fire”, so intense were the “things” that his body was overcome.

overcome (vs7) When we speak of being overcome (in our language) we usually are referring to being (emotionally) overwhelmed or overpowered. I have been overwhelmed at the realization of my parental responsibilities, or at the great amount of trust and love that my new-born had for me. Or in viewing a vast landscape of a valley as I stand atop a tall mountain. Lehi was overwhelmed by all that God shared with him. I wonder what he saw?
I am so grateful that God gave us prophets. I am so glad that there are those who can bear all that God would say to us and that we can hear God’s words through the mouth of a holy prophet. I may be selfish here, but I am glad that it was Lehi that was overwhelmed. I think I would have had to be consumed because of my unworthiness. What bit of God's knowledge does it take to overwhelm me? What words of God's truth causes me to be overcome?

carried away in a vision (vs8) I remember reading this as a young child and being totally perplexed? How could Lehi see God? I have pondered this as I have grown and wondered if it didn't mean a spiritual vision, like unto a dream? Still the scriptures are full of different accounts of men who have seen God. (see Manifestations of God) and it does say "he thought he saw God". I think he was asleep, but I may never know.

in the attitude(vs9) As I contemplated this I realize that there is no greater virtue than to have a proper attitude toward our God. As we go through our day to day rituals and routines, as we interact one with another, there are many different things that pull and tug at our attitudes. We can be selfish, childish, demanding, disrespectful with the greatest of ease. But it takes a great deal of effort to be selfless, mature, responsive, respectful and mindful of all that is good within us. One way I can take this verse and liken it unto me, is to contemplate deeply how my attitude sings and praises my God?

luster (vs 9) The word luster refers to gentle sheen or a soft glow. But this personage that descended from heaven had a luster (a glow) that was above that of the sun at noon. I guess this would depend on what part of the earth you live to determine how bright the sun is for you at noon day? (or does it) But for me the metaphor is complete. It is to say that there was no other known shine as great as that that came from this personage from heaven.

brightness did exceed the stars (vs 10) Here again we are led to understand that one of the mysteries of God is that his energy, his light, his glow, is that above all that exists on this earth. The twelve that follow him carry an aura about them that is greater than the stars. I have pondered this. What I have learned about this is that when we are good, we glow. When we are happy we shine with goodness. When we go from one level of goodness to another we shine brighter. People who do good are easily seen by the light in their eyes. The converse is the same. People who know darkness have darkness that emanates from their souls.
I wonder how my brightness is? When others see me, does my brightness help them see the light of goodness in me?
This has taken much longer than I anticipated. But it is rewarding beyond measure. I hope that those who take time to read will glean some goodness from it.
My next blog will focus on the last ten verses of 1 Nephi. I realize that this blog will be long in its journey, but it promises as all goodness does, to be memorable.

To study the scriptures is not just to obtain a knowledge of history, of family, of life, but rather to see and feel and know of the presence of a "great" knowledge of God's goodness, a "great" knowledge of God's mysteries.

A related link: Principles of the Gospel.

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