When Jacob speaks at the temple in the book named after him, it is with both anxiety and boldness, setting an example for all us who have to teach the people we love in this difficult world. It is not a time to shy away from the truth.

You can also find it on any of these platforms by searching for Meridian Magazine-Come Follow Me.

Maurine and Scot Proctor have taught Book of Mormon for many years in Institute and have spent extensive time in the Arabian peninsula, following Lehi’s trail. They are the creators of a foundation that has sponsored a multi-year archaeological study of the best candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful in Oman. They have written a book on the Book of Mormon, as well as immersed themselves in the culture, history, and geography. of the scripture.

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Maurine

When Jacob speaks at the temple in the book named after him, it is with both anxiety and boldness, setting an example for all us who have to teach the people we love in this difficult world. It is not a time to shy away from the truth.

Scot

Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast on the Book of Mormon. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and today we look at Jacob chapters 1-4 called “Be Reconciled unto God through the Atonement of Christ.” A new podcast comes out every Friday and transcripts can be found at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast

Maurine

There is also still time to enter to win the very best sweepstakes we’ve ever done. With our partners Morris Murdock, we are giving away two Ultimate Church History trips this fall that Scot and I lead. We start in Boston with a couple of days of American Revolution and then move on to follow Joseph Smith’s life chronologically, ending in the Carthage Jail. That is a $7100 value and includes two $350 vouchers for flights. Don’t miss the chance to win. Go to latterdaysaintmag.com/enter and give your name and email. Simple. That’s latterdaysaintmag.com/enter.

Scot

Since this book starts at the temple, we want to talk for a minute about the temple themes in the small plates of Nephi. First, an explanation why we have these small plates. We certainly know that one of the reasons that the small plates of Nephi were included is that the Lord foresaw what would happen to the 116 pages of translation from the Book of Lehi, that covers this same period. As we well know, Martin Harris would take those 116 pages from Harmony, Pennsylvania back to Palmyra and lose them. Joseph was instructed not to retranslate them  because those who had taken these pages would introduce errors into these pages. The Lord said, “For, behold, if you should bring forth the same words they will say that you have lied and that you have pretended to translate, but that you have contradicted yourself” (D&C 10:31)

Maurine

Yet, this is not the only reason we have these small plates of Nephi, which include the books from 1 Nephi to Omni. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “After reading Nephi, Jacob and Isaiah, we know two things in bold powerful strokes—(1) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, [and this is given to us in the mouth of three witnesses] and (2) that God will keep his covenant promises with the remnants of the house of Israel. These two themes constitute the very purpose of the Book of Mormon.”

Scot

These, of course, are also temple themes. In a new book, called The Covenant Path, author Valiant K. Jones suggests something profound. “If Christ and covenants are the primary themes of the Small Plates, is it possible that this portion of scripture might also contain direction on the specific covenants that God would have us enter into as we seek to come unto Christ?”

What are those specific covenants?

In the April 2019 general conference, Elder David A. Bednar reminded us, quoting President Ezra Taft Benson, “We should not disclose or describe the special symbols associated with the covenants we receive in sacred temple ceremonies. Neither should we discuss the holy information that we specifically promise in the temple not to reveal.” 

Maurine

At the same time, Elder Bednar said, “We may discuss the basic purposes of and the doctrine and principles associated with temple ordinances and covenants…Across the generations…the doctrinal purposes of temple ordinances and covenants have been taught extensively by Church leaders…Information…is available about following the Savior by receiving and honoring covenants to keep the law of obedience, the law of sacrifice, the law of the gospel, the law of chastity, and the law of consecration.” (Elder David A. Bednar, “Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2019/04/54bednar?lang=eng )

Scot

So Valiant K Jones suggests, “As I have studied the Small Plates of Nephi, I have come to recognize that, underlying the two main themes of Christ and covenants, there is, indeed, a sacred pattern of subthemes that I believe outline the instructions and covenants that the Lord would have us commit to follow as we become like the Nephites of old, a covenant people. I call these the covenant path themes of the Small Plates of Nephi.” He said, “These covenant topics present themselves as subthemes within the Small Plates, one for each book.”

So, for instance, he says the sub-theme of 1 Nephi is obedience and sacrifice. “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” Nephi says, and that rings in our ears. He says it and then he does it.

Maurine

Then the covenant theme of 2 Nephi is the law of the gospel. The covenant theme of Jacob is chastity. The covenant theme of Enos is prayer. Jarom is about family history and Omni, and, of course, King Benjamin, are about consecration. What a surprise! These small plates are about temple covenants, and in order. That is profound. The scriptures teach us about our temple covenants and the temple illuminates the scriptures.  We are taught deeply and well, lest we are prone to error. 

Scot

So now, as we approach Jacob and his main theme of chastity, we can see it in a bigger light. Chastity is more serious and important than we sometimes understand. It is a principle that could have easily been just bunched in under the law of obedience, but it is of such gravity that it merits its own special covenant promise. Why? We’ll explore this in a few minutes.

Maurine

As Jacob chapter one opens, Nephi has passed on. Another man has become king, but Jacob is the prophet. Nephi has left him special instructions, “that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious” (Jacob 1:2). This is hard work.

Jacob says, “We labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy and not with sorrow, neither with contempt, concerning their first parents (Jacob 4:3).

Scot

It is worth whatever it takes to engrave these plates, and Jacob has an eye to the rising generation and those that will follow. We suppose that the rising generation will just understand what we understand. We sometimes think they will adopt our values as if by osmosis. What we know is so clear to us that we suppose it will be clear to them as well. It is not true. They live in a different context and a different world, and for us to give them the truth we know, will be the work of a lifetime. 

Where is the generation and their values that fought in World War II, for example? Could we today have the gumption to stave off an evil aggressor? Probably not. Something in the spirit of the time and a sense of the greatness of the American principles has been trampled and the rising generation does not have it in them.

Maurine

So it is the case with spiritual understanding. We cannot assume that our children have automatically caught it in this world where they live that seeks to pound any spiritual idea out of their systems. Teaching them will be our stewardship and our work.

I love what Jacob says, “For, this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us (Jacob 4:4). What a profound piece of information that has been largely lost.  They knew of Christ before his coming and so did all the holy prophets. 

Scot

Yes. Most people believe that Christ’s doctrine originated with him in his lifetime, during the meridian of time. When they see remnants of his gospel earlier, they do not understand it. Sometimes they diminish Christ, thinking that in his doctrine, he just copied someone else. 

Jacob tells us better, “Behold, they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name. And for this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him; and for this cause it is sanctified unto us for righteousness, even as it was accounted unto Abraham in the wilderness to be obedient unto the commands of God in offering up his son Isaac, which is a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son” (Jacob 4:5).

There it is in black and white. Abraham’s offering of Isaac was meant to be a similitude of God the Father offering His Son, Jesus.

Maurine

Then, Scot, we have this favorite scripture of ours. “Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea” (Jacob 4:6).

Talk about knowledge you want to glean from these prophets as they work so hard to engrave on those plates. What? The “very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea”? What priesthood power and faith have they learned to harness that we have not?

Scot

There seems to be an order here. They (1) search the prophets, and then (2) have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy (3) then with all these witnesses they have (4) hope and (5) unshaken faith. This combination, seriously and consistently followed, leads you to a different realm of spiritual power. If you want the power of the ancients, you have to make the sacrifice of the ancients. 

Maurine

So let’s return to Jacob teaching on those temple steps. Because he knows what will happen to his people if they do not obey, he speaks to them “with great anxiety” and with boldness. He said, “We labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest” (Jacob 1:7).

You can feel the prophet as a human being here, his passion, his concern, his worry, his devotion to the truth. Nonetheless, despite all of the prophet’s efforts, the people had “begun to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices” (Jacob 1:15).

Remember, he’s talking to them at the temple. These are church members he’s addressing.

Scot

“It grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker, that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts. And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you,” Jacob says. (Jacob 2:6,7).

Yet, though it grieves him, Jacob is under a responsibility to God as he says “to magnify mine office with soberness, that I might rid my garments of your sins…I this day am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of your souls than I have hitherto been.”

We get a glimpse into a prophet’s mantle here. He is obligated to tell people the truth about their growing sexual immorality, however much it is inconvenient or unpopular or uncomfortable. It is his obligation before God, an obligation which he has to take as his most important.

Maurine

The Lord refers to sexual immorality as “grosser crimes”. Jacob tells the people that they justify themselves as they “wax in inquity” because they don’t understand the scriptures, looking to David and Solomon and their many wives and concubines as an excuse for their own iniquities. Self-justification is one of Satan’s powerful tools. It is the means that humans use to suggest that what they want to do or are tempted to do, is really all right with God or that He just doesn’t care that much. 

Scot

But the Lord is clear, “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.” No words are minced here. Abominable couldn’t be stronger.

It is interesting how clearly Jacob as a prophet discerns the failings of David and Solomon who were both heroes in Israel. These were not two to hero worship or use their actions to excuse your own.

Maurine

As I’ve been thinking about these verses and the sobriety with which Jacob addressed the growing sexual immorality of his people, I come back to our day. His society was becoming sexually corrupt, but I sense it was only the merest shadow of our sexually saturated world. If Jacob is anxious and sorrowing for his people, what would he say in our world?

In my lifetime I have watched the world radically change. When I was young, chastity and abstinence before marriage was a societal norm. One couldn’t have imagined another point of view. Our stance, learned from the gospel on sexual purity, seemed to be what everyone believed. 

Then, with the so-called sexual revolution, the world changed, and co-habitation and multiple partners became the terrible norm. The world sold the rising generation a false bill of goods, telling them this was natural and normal and would make them happy.  

Scot

Now, if you believe in chastity and natural marriage between a man and a woman, active hostility can be generated against you. Your job may be at risk. Your friends may turn against you. What once was a point of view held by the vast majority of society—sexual purity—has now become a touchstone for hatred and even violence.

Consider the Proclamation on the Family. When it was issued in September 1995, the principles affirmed there seemed like a given. We looked at it and said, “Of course, these are true.” But society has shifted so much, really a seismic shift, that the principles in the Proclamation in the Family that we once almost took for granted are controversial. Hopefully, never among us as disciples of Christ, but certainly in the world. 

Oh, the world has changed and not for the better. Sexual immorality has become the norm as it is celebrated.

Maurine

And it comes right at you through every media access. In movies, in the programs that you can stream right into your living room, in the easy access to pornography. I can hardly find a new movie on our streaming services that doesn’t glamourize and portray sexual immorality in the slickest, most compelling way. It is almost like it is a requirement to put it into a movie.

I tried to watch a documentary the other day on Netflix, and got two minutes into it and had to turn it right off. Even the documentary was lewd and lascivious. We are drowning in this, and have to fight to not be corrupted in any way by it.

Scot

Sexual immorality is on every platform and stage. If you object, you are the prude, you are oppressive, you are extreme. C.S. Lewis once talked about how people ogle over sexual lewdity and said,  “Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?”

Does this sexual immorality in our country signalize that we are empty, unable to make connections, forgetting how to love truly and eternally?

Maurine

I think of the gravity and anxiety and equal determination with which Jacob addressed his people, and I think as parents, grand parents, young men and young women’s advisors, all the ways that we work with the rising generation, that we need to follow his lead and be bold in speaking of the absolute importance and power of sexual purity. We cannot shrink from this task because of embarrassment or assume that they already know or learned it at church. There has never been a more important time to warn and forewarn our youth and ourselves about the dangers on every side and that sexual purity is a gift and a power that we have to actively choose.

Scot

This is especially important because our children are exposed at school in many states to comprehensive sexual education, where they are often taught that since they probably won’t be abstinent, the most important thing they need to learn is about protection. What a miserable assumption.

Children as young as kindergarten age are learning in some schools that even their biological sex is just a mental construct and that there are many genders.

So on every front, Satan is waging a war against sexual purity and seeking to promote confusion and the misery that follows. He’s doing it on the big screen and little screen in glamorous images. He is doing it in schools and universities and all of our media. The assumption of our entire society about sexuality is sponsored by the adversary.

Maurine

That’s why no matter how difficult, we have to follow Jacob’s lead and be truthful about the importance of sexual purity and the broken hearts that follow breaking that law. 

I remember how timid I felt talking about these matters with our first child, Scot. I said with some reticence that I wanted to talk to her, and she turned with some disdain and said, “I already know all that mother. You don’t need to tell me about it.”

But, in fact, I did need to tell her about it, no matter how difficult it was. I needed to teach it and make it clear that God has only one standard—sexual purity—and that everything would conspire together to break that idea down in her mind and spirit.

Scot

As our society got worse, so did our determination. I remember when our youngest child, a daughter, was in school in Virginia, they had an opt-out option for the days certain things were taught in sex-ed classes that assumed all of the students would be sexually active. We had sought to learn in advance what would be taught and when, and we chose to opt her out of several classes. There were surprises for us in that. First, nobody else opted out. We were the only parents who did that. Second, it was made more difficult for her as she had to spend those class periods in the library and was given far bigger assignments than the rest of her class. 

Maurine

But she knew we had made that decision with love, and she had no question where we stood on the importance of sexual purity. 

At that same school, the special dances were also a problem. They were held nearly in the dark, and the kids in the middle of the floor were involved in very lewd behavior, sexually impure behavior. The chaperones stayed on the outside of the gym and never interrupted these kids.

Because we didn’t know this, our daughter went to her first school dance and came home and told us she would never go to another. Of course, we supported her in that, but we also went to see the principal with our concerns.

Scot

He said, he knew that what we described as happening at the dances was true, and he agreed that it was terrible. He said, “My wife won’t come to these dances with me either. She said it made her feel like a ‘peeping Tom.”

Then he also confessed that he could do nothing about it. Try as he may, he just couldn’t stop it.  He said, “I have to pick my battles and this is just not one I’m going to fight.”

We were fairly amazed at the idea that the principal couldn’t stop this, but perhaps he was giving up before a culture that drowned his students in sexual immorality.

Maurine

We were so grateful our daughter chose not to even attend a dance where such things were happening, but it reminded us that parents have to aggressively safeguard their children in this toxic world that actively promotes sexual expression of every kind for any reason. 

Since the world is carefully teaching our children to be immoral, we have to even more carefully and prayerfully teach them purity. We have to take the worry out of talking to them about it. We need to warn them by giving them reasons and understanding for God’s important laws. We need to tell them what to expect in what they will hear and see everywhere, and why it is wrong and why they cannot fall for it.

We have to be their steady and loving guides that point them to a firm foundation. We have to be their safe place where they can come and talk to us about their concerns.

Scot

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland talks about why sexual purity matters so much. He said, 

“Will and Ariel Durrant have written: ‘No man [or woman], however brilliant or well-informed, can … safely … dismiss … the wisdom of [lessons learned] in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; [but] if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he … understand[s] that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.’

“A more important scriptural observation is offered by the writer of Proverbs: ‘Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? … Whoso committeth adultery … destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.’ (See Proverbs 6: 27-33)

Maurine

Elder Holland continues, “Why is this matter of sexual relationships so severe that fire is almost always the metaphor, with passion pictured vividly in flames? What is there in the potentially hurtful heat of this that leaves one’s soul—or the whole world, for that matter—destroyed if that flame is left unchecked and those passions unrestrained? What is there in all of this that prompts Alma to warn his son Corianton that sexual transgression is “an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?”

“By assigning such seriousness to a physical appetite so universally bestowed, what is God trying to tell us about its place in His plan for all men and women? I submit to you He is doing precisely that—commenting about the very plan of life itself. Clearly among His greatest concerns regarding mortality are how one gets into this world and how one gets out of it. He has set very strict limits in these matters.

Scot

Elder Holland said, “Fortunately, in the case of how life is terminated, most seem to be quite responsible. But in the significance of giving life, we sometimes find near-criminal irresponsibility. May I offer three reasons why this is an issue of such magnitude and consequence in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“First is the revealed, restored doctrine of the human soul.

“One of the ‘plain and precious’ truths restored in this dispensation is that ‘the spirit and the body are the soul of man’ and that when the spirit and body are separated, men and women ‘cannot receive a fulness of joy.’ That is the reason why obtaining a body is so fundamentally important in the first place, why sin of any kind is such a serious matter (namely because it is sin that ultimately brings both physical and spiritual death), and why the resurrection of the body is so central to the great triumph of Christ’s Atonement.

“The body is an essential part of the soul.

Maurine 

Elder Holland said, “Please, never say: ‘Who does it hurt? Why not a little freedom? I can transgress now and repent later.’ Please don’t be so foolish and so cruel. You cannot with impunity ‘crucify Christ afresh.’ ‘Flee fornication,Paul cries, and flee ‘anything like unto it,

“Secondly, may I stress” Elder Holland says, “that human intimacy is reserved for a married couple because it is the ultimate symbol of total union.

“Thirdly, may I say that physical intimacy is not only a symbolic union between a husband and a wife—the very uniting of their souls—but it is also symbolic of a shared relationship between them and their Father in Heaven” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Personal Purity” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1998/10/personal-purity?lang=eng ).

Scot

So serious and so important. Certainly one of the plagues upon us is pornography. Pornography used to be something you had to seek out. Travel to a sleazy part of town to an even sleazier store to find it. Now it is at our fingertips, aggressively entering our lives. We cannot pretend that only other people suffer from this, because it is also rampant among many Latter-day Saints. We see it in our families and in our wards, amongst people whom you would never think could be caught in it. 

I remember, Maurine, as a 16-year-old, writing out a very extensive set of goals, guidelines and rules of my life. One thing I determined then is that the only time I would ever touch a pornographic magazine was if it was near a burning barrel and I would throw it in. As a boy raised on a farm, where we had no trash removal, one of my weekly chores was burning all the trash—so, that’s the image that came to my mind and that I wrote down.  I’ve never deviated from that rule.

Maurine

Yes, I remember years ago, long before we were married, I had been tasked to write and direct a documentary against pornography that would have a large showing. One day we were shooting what is called B-roll. Those are the images that you might show over a person talking or while the narrator describes something. 

They brought a couple of pornographic magazines to the set so we could shoot their mastheads for B roll. Scot, you had run camera on most of the documentary, but I remember specifically that you wouldn’t shoot that day because you were so clear that you would not even be near to a pornographic magazine. 

Even, if it cost you money, as it did this time, you were definite that you would not be near anything pornographic.

Scot

I love what then Elder Dallin H. Oaks said about this:

“In the second chapter of the book that bears his name, Jacob condemns men for their “whoredoms” (Jacob 2:23, 28). He told them they had “broken the hearts of [their] tender wives, and lost the confidence of [their] children, because of [their] bad examples before them” (Jacob 2:35).

“What were these grossly wicked “whoredoms”? No doubt some men were already guilty of evil acts. But the main focus of Jacob’s great sermon was not with evil acts completed, but with evil acts contemplated.

Jacob began his sermon by telling the men that “as yet, [they had] been obedient unto the word of the Lord” (Jacob 2:4). However, he then told them he knew their thoughts, that they were “beginning to labor in sin, which sin appeareth very abominable … unto God” (Jacob 2:5).

Maurine

Elder Oaks continued, ““Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth.”

Elder Oaks then mentioned that while pornography greatly impacted our mental health, he said, “I am discussing its effects on spirituality—on our ability to have the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord and our capacity to exercise the power of the priesthood.

Scot

He said, “ Pornography also inflicts mortal wounds on our most precious personal relationships.”

In one conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley quoted the letter from a woman who asked him to warn Church members that pornography “has the effect of damaging hearts and souls to their very depths, strangling the life our of relationships”(Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Pornography” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2005/05/pornography.html?lang=eng#title1)

Maurine

Pornography is a scourge and it can be addictive, and we need to avoid it with all of our hearts, or, as President Hinckley taught, “to avoid it like the plague.” At the same time, it is so important for those who have been caught in this trap to know that there is a way out through the atonement of Jesus Christ. It does not have to be the end of your worthiness of your life.

President Oaks gave this reassurance: “All of us need the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Those struggling with pornography need our compassion and love as they follow needed principles and steps of recovery. Please do not condemn them. They are not evil or without hope. They are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Through proper and complete repentance, they may become clean, pure, and worthy of every covenant and temple blessing promised by God.

“When the time for marriage comes, I encourage young women and young men to be careful to select a partner to be their companion through eternity who is clean and pure before the Lord and worthy to enter the temple. Individuals who fully repent from pornography are worthy of these blessings”(President Dallin H. Oaks “Recovering from the Trap of Pornography” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/2015/10/recovering-from-the-trap-of-pornography.html?lang=eng

Scot

I have often thought for those who have struggled with pornography or other immorality, they may come to know the atonement in powerful ways because they can be cleansed in powerful ways. Remember Alma’s son Corianton was immoral while on a mission and many would not listen to the word because of his actions. Alma gave a deep explanation to his son about his need for repentance, and apparently Corianton heeded that word and repented because we find in Alma 43 “And now it came to pass that the sons of Alma did go forth among the people to declare the word unto them…they preached the word, and the truth, according to the spirit of prophecy and revelation”(Alma 43:1). It does not say the sons of Alma except Corianton did go forth among the people. It is clear that he had repented and was worthy once again to preach the gospel.

Maurine

What great hope we have in the atonement of Jesus Christ and in his mighty love to overcome the blood and sins of this generation. We can be “reconciled to God through the atonement of Jesus Christ.” That is joyous news.

Scot

That’s it for today. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the beautiful music that begins and ends this podcast and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins for editing and producing it. Next week we’ll study Jacob 5-7, “The Lord Labors with Us.”  And remember, this is your last chance to enter our amazing sweepstakes giving away the Ultimate Church History Tour for two—go to latterdaysaintmag.com/enter, that’s latterdaysaintmag.com/enter

Maurine

We love you. See you then.