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Reading the Book of Mormon can be frustrating and demoralizing at times.
How is that a people who have been blessed with so much could so quickly and easily reject all that is good, lovely, and of good report?
My heart aches as I watch the Nephites lurch from one bout of dissension and disbelief to another.
The stories found in 3 Nephi 1-7 contain some of the most discouraging stories in the Book of Mormon.
And yet there is so much to celebrate and so much to learn from the Book of Mormon, especially in 3 Nephi 1-7. We watch as the true and humble follows of Jesus put their total faith and trust in Him. We see those who are truly converted unto the Lord, not for a moment, but enduringly.
How do we become converted and stay converted?
Here are four lessons from the Book of Mormon we can apply to our own lives.
First, seek lasting evidence for God in your life—and that evidence is His Holy Spirit.
Too often the Nephites were looking for some grand sign of God’s presence. But such experiences are fleeting. They do not have staying power. They are like a much anticipated Thanksgiving meal where the effects eventually wear off without ongoing nourishment. A case in point is the sign of Jesus’s birth.
Review 3 Nephi 1:15-22.
Because of the powerful sign of light and darkness that accompanied the birth of Jesus Christ, everyone had witnessed prophecy being fulfilled. And everyone converted. But did people truly forsake their sins?
Only a few verses later dissension crept back into their souls and within a few years the Gadianton robbers had overtaken the land.
The point here is that a visual or auditory sign of God’s love and reality may be desirable, but only the ongoing nurture and nurturing of the Holy Ghost will sustain our conversion. We must build our testimonies and our spiritual lives one drop at a time. We cannot have one spiritual feeding frenzy and expect to be satiated for eternity.
Second, continuously pursue humility.
One of the problems that plagued the Nephite nation was that many Nephites believed that once they had been “saved”, the work and effort of salvation was complete. Now was the time, they believed, to eat, drink and be merry. They let down their guard. They stopped carry for the poor and needy. They lifted themselves up to great boasting, thinking that their riches of education, material means, lands, property, other forms of God’s blessings meant that they were better than others.
They used the means of temporal salvation that God had given them (riches, knowledge, opportunity) to persecute others.
They fought over meaningless and trivial things.
They contended for power.
They practice secret combinations to take from others instead of being true to sacred covenants to serve and give to others.
Third, avoid contention.
One of the key teachings from Jesus to the Nephites when he arrived was for them to put aside contention.
Are we willing to follow that counsel?
What are we willing to sacrifice to live in a peaceful, non-contention family, community, society, and world?
A regular, daily inventory of questions would be valuable to ask ourselves:
- Am I practicing contention?
- Am I delighting in contention?
- Am I encouraging contention?
- Am I glorying in contention?
- Am I supporting contention?
The next time you feel the desire for contention, ask yourself, “Will my thoughts, feelings, and desired actions help me stay converted to God and his unified purposes?”
Fourth, practice unity.
Unity is Zion. At-one-ment is the purpose of Jesus’s sacrifice. Dissension is destruction. Dissension is driven by fear and ignorance and a lust for power.
The key questions to ask ourselves are:
- Am I trying to be one with God?
- Am I trying to be one with my neighbor?
When we watch the Nephites succumb to the worst of human nature, we can pause and express gratitude to God for revealing the patterns of death and salvation to us. We can learn to choose differently than those in the past. We can choose to check our anger, silence our fears, and erase our ignorance.
When we pursue the humble path that Jesus taught, we will be fed on a regular basis the sustaining spiritual nutrients we need to endure to the end by staying converted.