Moroni did not know when he would die, attacked by Lamanites or some other deadly surprise, in his 36-year wandering. He tells his latter-day readers goodbye more than once on the plates. Yet even living with that insecurity, not knowing his own mortal future, Moroni trudges on with absolute faith.
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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.
Moroni did not know when he would die, attacked by Lamanites or some other deadly surprise, in his 36-year wandering. He tells his latter-day readers goodbye more than once on the plates. Yet even living with that insecurity, not knowing his own mortal future, Moroni trudges on with absolute faith.
Hello, we are Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s “Come Follow Me” podcast where today we will study Moroni 1-6, “To Keep Them in the Right Way”.
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Moroni writes such lonely words:
“Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed anot to have written more, but I have not as yet perished; and I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me.
Every day of life for him beyond that last great battle and the ultimate death of his father demanded such great courage.
A life dedicated to God will always demand courage. In no age of time has following God’s word been popular. Devoted disciples of Christ have been murdered in the Roman coliseum, burned at the stake like Abinadi, burned en masse like the people of Ammonihah, cast into the lion’s den like Daniel. They have had to stand up against great opposition for their beliefs against those who hate them for those very beliefs.
In our own immediate history, we have seen converts driven out of Kirtland, Independence, Far West and Nauvoo. We have seen a 3,000 strong Missouri militia attack defenseless Saints at Far West, shootings and murder on what had been a peaceful afternoon at Haun’s Mill.
In these more recent days, the costs of discipleship may be no less.
Elder Holland said, “A sister missionary recently wrote to me: ‘My companion and I saw a man sitting on a bench in the town square eating his lunch. As we drew near, he looked up and saw our missionary name tags. With a terrible look in his eye, he jumped up and raised his hand to hit me. I ducked just in time, only to have him spit his food all over me and start swearing the most horrible things at us. We walked away saying nothing. I tried to wipe the food off of my face, only to feel a clump of mashed potato hit me in the back of the head. Sometimes it is hard being a missionary because right then I wanted to go back, grab that little man, and say, ‘EXCUSE ME!’ But I didn’t.”
Elder Holland said, “To this devoted missionary I say, dear child, you have in your own humble way stepped into a circle of very distinguished women and men who have, as the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob said, ‘view[ed Christ’s] death, and suffer[ed] his cross and [borne] the shame of the world.’
“Indeed, of Jesus Himself, Jacob’s brother Nephi wrote: ‘And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.’
“In keeping with the Savior’s own experience, there has been a long history of rejection and a painfully high price paid by prophets and apostles, missionaries and members in every generation—all those who have tried to honor God’s call to lift the human family to “a more excellent way.”
“’And what shall I more say [of them]?’ the writer of the book of Hebrews asks.
“’[They] who … stopped the mouths of lions,
“’Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, … waxed valiant in fight, turned [armies] to flight …
“’[Saw] their dead raised to life [while] others were tortured, …
“’And … had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, … of bonds and imprisonment:
“’They were stoned, … were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: … wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, [and] tormented’”
“’([They] of whom the world was not worthy:) … wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.’
Elder Holland continued, “Surely the angels of heaven wept as they recorded this cost of discipleship in a world that is often hostile to the commandments of God. The Savior Himself shed His own tears over those who for hundreds of years had been rejected and slain in His service. And now He was being rejected and about to be slain.
“’O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,’ Jesus cried, ‘thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland “The Cost—and Blessings of Discipleship” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2014/04/the-cost-and-blessings-of-discipleship?lang=eng
It might be tempting to think that this treatment of prophets and believers was then, and this is now, but we have every indication that it will take as much unswerving courage to live the gospel today as it ever was. Times are radically changing and not always in happy ways for religious freedom. In 1993, in the United States, when there seemed some incursion on religious freedom, the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act was passed to “ensure that interests in religious freedom are protected.” It passed the House unanimously and with 97 affirmative votes in the Senate.
Yet in 2015 when Indiana passed a similar law that applied to the state, thousands protested, the state was boycotted, and Indiana finally had to repeal the law.
We are not in a time when some people, at least in our country, hold freedom of religion and freedom of conscience with the same regard as before. For your deepest beliefs, held with the authority of conscience, you may lose your job, you may be canceled, you may lose the opportunity for accreditation in your profession. If you are a child, you may be bullied at school, you may be bullied by a teacher. You may be called names. You may be called hateful. You may be called bigoted. You may be unfriended on social media. The stakes are high how you respond to this.
Religious freedom may be in the Bill of Rights, but it can be hollowed out if it is not practiced in real life and the religious are disdained and disrespected.
This reminds me of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. Remember many are pressing forward, holding on to the rod, but they get lost in the mists of darkness. This is particularly because those in the great and spacious building are pointing fingers at them and mocking them. It is so extremely hard to be called foolish. Disdain really burns, especially when there is this basic human need to be liked and regarded.
What’s more and almost unbelievable, some of those who actually made it to the tree and tasted of the fruit that was sweeter than any other, became “ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:28).
So, moving forward, courage will be essential to discipleship. In order to be steady, we will have to teach ourselves to be courageous. We will have to consciously teach our children to be courageous. We will have to give them lessons in it. If popularity becomes their highest value, they will not be able to stand in days ahead. We will have to teach our children to be centered in Christ rather than be knocked over in the first storm.
This courage that is called for may not just be in the public square, but also in our own families as children, grandchildren or siblings turn away from the church and mock you and your life for staying. How hard it is to have someone you love turn from you because you love the Lord. This is not the time for compromise of your beliefs, but a doubling down in devotion, so your prayers can be effective in their behalf and you can have faith to sustain yourself in the barrage.
President Monson said, “We live in a world where moral values have, in great measure, been tossed aside, where sin is flagrantly on display, and where temptations to stray from the strait and narrow path surround us. We are faced with persistent pressures and insidious influences tearing down what is decent and attempting to substitute the shallow philosophies and practices of a secular society.
“Because of these and other challenges, decisions are constantly before us which can determine our destiny. In order for us to make the correct decisions, courage is needed—the courage to say no when we should, the courage to say yes when that is appropriate, the courage to do the right thing because it is right.
Inasmuch as the trend in society today is rapidly moving away from the values and principles the Lord has given us, we will almost certainly be called upon to defend that which we believe. Will we have the courage to do so?
“Said President J. Reuben Clark Jr., who for many years was a member of the First Presidency: ‘Not unknown are cases where [those] of presumed faith … have felt that, since by affirming their full faith they might call down upon themselves the ridicule of their unbelieving colleagues, they must either modify or explain away their faith, or destructively dilute it, or even pretend to cast it away. Such are hypocrites.’ None of us would wish to wear such a label, and yet are we reluctant to declare our faith in some circumstances?
President Monson continued, “The call for courage comes constantly to each of us. Every day of our lives courage is needed—not just for the momentous events but more often as we make decisions or respond to circumstances around us. Said Scottish poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson: ‘Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name.’
He said, “Courage comes in many forms. Wrote the Christian author Charles Swindoll: ‘Courage is not limited to the battlefield … or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are inner tests, like remaining faithful when no one’s looking, … like standing alone when you’re misunderstood.’ I would add that this inner courage also includes doing the right thing even though we may be afraid, defending our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed, and maintaining those beliefs even when threatened with a loss of friends or of social status. He who stands steadfastly for that which is right must risk becoming at times disapproved and unpopular.
“While serving in the United States Navy in World War II, I learned of brave deeds, instances of valor, and examples of courage. One which I shall never forget was the quiet courage of an 18-year-old seaman—not of our faith—who was not too proud to pray. Of 250 men in the company, he was the only one who each night knelt down by the side of his bunk, at times amidst the jeers of bullies and the jests of unbelievers. With bowed head, he prayed to God. He never wavered. He never faltered. He had courage.”
President Monson said, “It is impossible to stand upright when one plants his roots in the shifting sands of popular opinion and approval. Needed is the courage of a Daniel, an Abinadi, a Moroni, or a Joseph Smith in order for us to hold strong and fast to that which we know is right. They had the courage to do not that which was easy but that which was right.
“We will all face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us—all of us—have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully but also as the determination to live decently. As we move forward, striving to live as we should, we will surely receive help from the Lord and can find comfort in His words. I love His promise recorded in the book of Joshua:
“I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. …
“’… Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (President Thomas S. Monson, “Be Strong and of a Good Courage” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2014/04/be-strong-and-of-a-good-courage?lang=eng)
It makes me want to act with courage knowing the Lord is watching.
Now, turning back to Moroni, he has courage because he has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that will not be shaken. In the record he had assembled, in Ether 3:11, 12, the Lord asks the brother of Jared a powerful question.
Jehovah said, “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
“And the Brother of Jared answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and acanst not lie.”
That is the kind of faith that Moroni and all those who have suffered courageously for the cause of Christ have had. They have come to know God so well that they really understand, cell deep, that He can’st not lie, and everything he asks is for our good. It is to bring us back into His presence. They know that it is not in His nature to condemn us or neglect us or make us promises that He won’t fulfill. It is not in his nature to change or play games with us. He weeps for us. He hopes for us. He works for us.
If the Lord asks us to believe the words that He has spoken, we can absolutely say yes. But if the Lord asks if we believe the words he shall speak, our answer can be just as assured. Yes, I believe everything that thou shalt speak because I know thee.
When we grow to that place where we begin to know Him, we can stop taking our spiritual temperature every day to see if we believe. We can stop looking for our prayers to be answered immediately. We can work when we don’t see the immediate reward. When the Lord says, “Believest the words that I shall speak”, He is also saying, “Can you trust the experiences I will allow you to have in your life, including those that make you weep? Can you hold on to your faith when it appears your promises have not been fulfilled?
Those who answer yes are the sure and steady ones. This is Moroni all alone and wondering when he will perish or Daniel walking into a lion’s den or Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego walking into a blazing furnace, so hot it consumed the guards. I trust all that you shall speak and all that you shall do or not do in my behalf.
It may seem that the Book of Mormon has an unhappy ending, with one lone survivor who eventually dies without family around him. That’s hard because we like happy endings. It all works out. Yet, in fact, it does all work out for Moroni, because he comes back as a glorious angel to Joseph Smith. He has important work to do in the dispensation of the fulness of times. For those who love the Lord, it will always all work out.
Now, with Moroni’s time left, he gives us special jewels of wisdom—teaching how to give the gift of the Holy Ghost, how to administer the sacrament, how to do priesthood ordinations, how to run meetings. How would we know how to do these ordinances without this specific instruction and, of course, authority? You could search the whole world over and never find this precious gift of how to repent and access God, if the prophets didn’t teach us. What strikes us immediately is that the sacrament prayers look like ours, revealed in the Doctrine and Covenants.
The scholars at Book of Mormon Central make an interesting point. They say, “One may wonder why Moroni would [write 10 more chapters] when his life was so bleak and uncertain. After all, his people had been killed, and he already completed his father’s work of abridging the Nephite and Jaredite records. Among many other reasons, he may have written these chapters to explain more fully something his father had only hinted at.
“In his account of Christ’s visit to the Americas, Mormon mentioned that Jesus laid His hands on His disciples and “gave them power to give the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 18:36–37). Mormon promised to later demonstrate how this was fulfilled and how the disciples were able to give the gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 37). While Mormon alluded to the giving of the Holy Ghost several times, he did not provide some of the details about this event that the reader might like to have.
They continue, “Thankfully for all readers of the Book of Mormon, Moroni seems to have noticed this gap, and decided to deliver on his father’s promise. To do this, he reported Christ’s exact words to His disciples, showing “that the record is true” (3 Nephi 18:37).4 This may be the reason for Moroni 2. Moroni finally told his readers about “the words of Christ, which he spake unto his disciples … saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name … and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 2:1–2).
“Although it is impossible to be sure of this, it is likely that Moroni assisted Mormon in his work. If this is the case, he may have recalled that his father never fulfilled this particular promise to his readers. After living long enough to abridge the book of Ether, another loose end his father had left behind, Moroni may have decided to tie up this loose end as well. This would explain why this note on the gift of the Holy Ghost was one of the first things he wrote. He may have wanted to make sure that, no matter what else happened, his father’s promise was fulfilled.”
This is what the Savior said in Moroni chapter 2, about how to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. “Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer.” What is mighty prayer? That is a lifetime exploration because what could matter more than knowing how to connect to heaven? Of course, the biggest clue here is that you call on the Father in Christ’s name. It is His name and His atoning sacrifice that delivers those prayers, so of course, prayer is an act of great reverence and love for the Savior.
One woman, Kersten Campbell, wrote about her trying to learn about mighty prayer and to find that real two-way communication with God.
She said, “I started by making a list of the things I thought would work. My main problem was falling asleep during my prayers.”
She said, “I thought I might try longer prayers, like Enos. Surely that would let Heavenly Father know that I really wanted to communicate with Him. Nothing changed. And although I was sure Heavenly Father was blessing me and listening to my prayers, I wanted to feel closer to Him than I was feeling.
“Over a period of time I tried many other techniques, such as concentrating harder, writing down everything I needed to pray for so I wouldn’t forget anything, and praying out loud. Nothing seemed to make my prayers feel mighty.”
Then it changed for her. She said, “I was participating in a pioneer trek, and it was the last day. We hadn’t eaten much for breakfast, and the day before we had hiked for many miles. That morning we had pulled our handcarts to the banks of a very large pond, and we were going to ferry them across in order to experience in a small way what it must have been like to cross a river with handcarts. It had rained that morning, and we all stood in the sun, trying to dry ourselves as we waited for our turn to cross. While we waited, our stake president told us the story of the Sweetwater rescue—how several young men had put their own lives in peril in order to carry the desperate Saints of the Martin Handcart Company across an icy river in the middle of winter. As I stood listening to the story, I felt the love and sacrifice of those boys, and the Spirit swelled in my heart. I felt a desire to be like those great young men and help rescue all those needing spiritual help in our day, including my own family.
“In my mind, I uttered one of the shortest prayers I’ve ever said, but it was one of the most powerful: ‘Heavenly Father, help me to be a rescuer.’
“At that moment,” she said, “I again felt that soft, warm, peaceful feeling of heaven close around me, and I knew through the Spirit that my will and my Heavenly Father’s will were one.
“It was then that I understood the difference between…“mighty” prayers and all the others. It was the Spirit. In those… prayers, the Holy Ghost was present and taught my heart and mind what to say so that my will was in line with the will of my Heavenly Father. The Spirit had helped to make my prayers mighty.” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/2011/12/what-is-mighty-prayer?lang=eng)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie talked about mighty prayer, “It is pleasing to that God whose we are when we fast and pray and seek his blessings; when we plead with all the energy of our souls for those things we so much desire; when, as Paul says, we “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16.)
Prayer is the way and means, given us by our Creator, whereby we can counsel and communicate with him. It is one of the chief cornerstones of pure and perfect worship…
“We do not give memorized, ritualistic, or repetitious prayers. We seek the guidance of the Spirit and suit every prayer to the needs of the moment, with no thought of using the same words on successive occasions. But it would be appropriate for us to use words that convey such thoughts as these in our prayers:
“Father, we ask thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to hear the words of our mouth, to discern with thy all-seeing eye the thoughts and intents of our heart, and to grant us our righteous desires.
“We feel it is a great privilege to come into thy presence, to bow before thy throne, to address thee as Father; and we know thou wilt hear our cries. May we speak by the power of thy Holy Ghost.
Then, in thanking the Lord for the blessings of mortal life, and the hope of immortality and eternal life, we might properly say such things as:
“Father, we thank thee for life itself, for this mortal probation in which we as pilgrims, far from our heavenly home, are gaining experiences that could be gained in no other way.
“We thank thee that thou didst ordain and establish the great and eternal plan of salvation whereby we, as thy spirit children, are given power, if faithful and true in all things, to advance and progress and become like thee.
“We thank thee for sending thy Holy Son Jesus to be the Savior and Redeemer; to put into full operation all of the terms and conditions of thy great and eternal plan of salvation; to save us from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.”
He continues, “Of our reconciliation with the Father, through the atonement of his Son, it would be proper to say such things as:
“Father, thou hast given us the word of reconciliation and hast poured out revelations and visions upon us. We are thy people, and we desire to be worthy of the calling and election that is ours.
“Thou hast wrought miracles in our midst; given us the holy scriptures, particularly thy word manifest in our day; conferred upon us the gift of the Holy Ghost by which we are guided into all truth, and by which our souls are sanctified.
“For all these things we are grateful beyond any measure of expression, and because of them we shall praise thy holy name forever.
“We confess our sins before thee and seek remission thereof, lest anything stand between us and thee in receiving a free flow of thy Spirit.”
Elder McConkie said, “As to our own temporal needs, I would feel no hesitancy in saying such things as:
“We cry unto thee over our flocks and our herds, over the fruits of our fields and the increase of our vines and trees. Wilt thou temper the elements and preserve us from disasters, that our basket and store may be full.
“We need food, clothing, and shelter; we need schooling and proper employment; we need wisdom in our business and professional enterprises.
“Grant us according to our needs, giving us neither poverty nor riches, but feeding us with food convenient for us”. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Patterns of Prayer,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1984/04/patterns-of-prayer?lang=eng
In this General Conference address, called “Patterns of Prayer”, Elder McConkie goes on and on in many categories. It is worth reading because he opens our minds up about how to pray.
At the same time, we don’t have to think that the only mighty prayers are eloquent prayers. One of the most effective prayers in our lives was a one-word prayer.
When our daughter, Julie, was in college, she and a girlfriend went to Puerto Vallarda, Mexico for spring break. One day they were out on the beach, and Julie was thirsty, so she went back to the hotel pool area to get some water. No one exactly knows what happened then—whether she was pushed or faint from dehydration, but she fell straight back like a tree onto the cement, hitting her head hard and causing 20 bleeds in her brain. She was rushed to a Mexican hospital in an ambulance, and we got a call from the hospital asking for our credit card number so they could treat her.
We flew down quickly to be in that hospital with our daughter whose brain had been so badly injured. She also had a subdural hematoma and the midline of her brain had moved. This was not a minor brain injury. We envisioned terrible scenarios about what might lie ahead for our sweet, vivacious, bright-eyed, dark-haired daughter. Would she have lifelong mental disadvantages? Would she know us again? Would she be in a coma? Had her life been forever altered by this hideous accident? How would she be when she awoke? We took photos of her brothers and sisters and placed them around her room to help her remember their names.
Julie was not in a coma, but she slept nearly round the clock for days. When she roused just a little, we asked her if she knew who we were. We asked her if she knew who she was. I was beyond distraught, worried that she would suffer the profound effects of brain injury for her life and be just a shell of who she had once been. With only one lone cot in Julie’s hospital room, I slept there, while Scot got hotel room. During those many long nights while she was in the hospital I was more anxious and desperate than I had ever remembered being. I worried that the bleeds were putting pressure in her head. I worried about the quality of care in this little hospital where the doctors only spoke Spanish and we didn’t. I worried about a huge bill that was mounting and would not be covered by American insurance. But mostly I worried that we had lost the girl we knew forever. I just couldn’t have been more miserable.
I wanted to give a mighty prayer. I was desperate to connect with heaven. I wanted to be eloquent and faithful and ask for blessings to cover every nuance of our situation, but the words were chocked in my throat. I could hardly pray at all except this one word, “Help,” cried over and over again and directed to our Father in Heaven in the name of His Son.
That was a mighty prayer and we were given mighty answers. Our daughter emerged from this accident without any longtime impairment except a loss of smell. Very soon she was on a road to recovery. Three different doctors looked at her brain scans and said, “These are injuries of a very grave nature, and the patient I see here does not match these scans.” She was a walking miracle.
Mighty prayers may be, on occasion, one word, but they issue from people who are fully immersed in their quest to find God. If we are casual in our study or our prayer, if other things are the constant focus of our lives, we will be left in the shallows and far away from mighty prayers. I see so many whose lives are wracked with problems and they focus more and more on their misery, instead of refocusing on the Lord and let Him carry the burden. We must immerse ourselves in our discipleship. Jump in wholeheartedly to find God. Open our hearts instead of keeping them shuttered in meaningless distraction.
That’s all for today. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Next week we will study Moroni 7-9 called “May Christ Lift Thee Up.” Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces this show. See you next week.