Friday, January 16, 2015

The House of Ephraim and the Book of Mormon

The Bible is the story of the House of Judah. It is important because that the family that Jesus was born into. His mother Mary and her husband Joseph were both of the House of David and carried royal blood. It was important that the Bible be published for all of the world, but they aren't the only tribe. In prophecies the House of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) are listed along with Judah. Ephraim and Manasseh were the major tribes and had the most members. Great leaders like Joshua belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. The Northern Kingdom was called Ephraim as the Southern Kingdom was called Judah. Ephraim is supposed to fight against and then unite with Judah. So where are their records? We have some remnants of their records in the Book of Chronicles.

Before they were taken away to what is now Central Asia (Afghanistan, UZBEKISTAN, and Turkmenistan) by the Assyrians, they were given a chance by King Hezekiah of the Southern Kingdom to come to Jerusalem to worship in the temple there. Most of them ignored his invitation and continued to worship false gods. However, in 2 Chronicles 30:11 it says "Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem." 

In 1 Chronicles 9:3 it says "And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh." 

So the Bible establishes that Ephraim and Manasseh had members in the city of Jerusalem. Lehi either came from the first or second waved of settlers into Jerusalem. Since he did not know he was from Manasseh, he probably was from the first group who came, possibly to escape King Ahab's evil or to escape one of the horrible famines. These settlers remained great leaders even in the Kingdom of Judah. 

One of the major spiritual leaders who lived when Lehi was a child was Huldah who was in charge of a school for women in Jerusalem. She was of the House of Ephraim and a relative of Jeremiah, whose mother was from the tribe of Ephraim. 

Facebook Feed Fun

1. A friend posts a video of someone doing push ups while water skiing.

2. Cute dog pic

3. Meme joke

4. Quote from grandchild

5. One of those quiz things

6. Inspirational quote on a picture of a meadow

7. Dog video

8. Comedian video

9. Another amazing video!

10. Cute kid pic taken by phone

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Good Nephi Movie?

I admit, I have never seen a good Nephi movie done. The closest is the Book of Mormon cartoons I used to watch as a kid. The episode of Nephi and his brothers going to Jerusalem to get the plates was the best one. There was a clear plot- to get the plates and a clear antagonist. Outside of that a great Nephi movie hasn't been done.

I thought about that and I think the problem is that the Book of Nephi is told from Nephi's point of view. As soon as he prays in the wilderness to know if God spoke to his father and then received his own testimony, Nephi pretty much stayed the same. He stayed firm and obey the Lord. The only time Nephi questioned the Lord was when he was told to kill Laban. Other than that, Nephi is static. Any questions he had, and 1 Nephi 2 mentions that he did have some doubt, were resolved at the beginning of the book. After all, 1 Nephi wasn't written for our entertainment, but rather for our instruction. Nephi wants to teach us how the Lord guides us and blesses us as we obey him. Even in the most difficult circumstances, the Lord will find a way to accomplish His work. Nephi teaches that the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Like he blessed Moses, he blessed Nephi.

That is divine instruction, but not the best entertainment. A better movie would be Nephi struggling to be understood by his brothers, servants, and even parents. He is the rock through each obstacle, sort of a superman without the super powers. Each disaster that unfolds would end with Nephi pushing forward in the name of the Lord, like the story of Moses. In the end, either the supporting characters will grow, like Sam, Lehi, and Nephi's wife, or fall away like Laman, Lemuel, and Ishmael's sons. If only they had faith, they would be as strong as Nephi for Nephi is not powerful and he knows it. It all comes from God. Showing Nephi's fear at times and frustration at his family would help us connect to him. Nephi's "superpower" is his faith in God.

Nephi's companions would be Sam and Zoram. Nephi is batman to Sam's Robin and Zoram's Alfred. Lehi is the wise sage along with his supportive mother. Ishmael's daughter would be his love interest but they shouldn't fall in love instantly. They have to grow together and his wife learns from him. Maybe at first she doesn't understand him? Laman and Lemuel are the antagonists but they shouldn't be so cookie cutter. In fact, I think they should be the characters we relate to the most as their reactions mimics a worldly one. If our father, who was already in trouble with the law, told us to run away to the promised land and then go back to the city to steal priceless plates from a military leader wouldn't we also call him a "visionary man" and doubt him? I also don't think their descent into apostasy should be so extreme. There should be hints of it. Laman should not be shown as straight up evil. He was a good person. He obeyed his father and Nephi after they complained which is more than most would do. He believed that Jerusalem was a great city, blessed by God. He should be shown making bad decisions. Maybe he lies and gets away with it? Maybe he got into trouble with a woman not his wife? Maybe he followed popular customs by dancing to Ishtar. Was that the dance Nephi refused to join on the boat? He was more educated than Nephi and maybe he shows this off. Laman should be shown that anyone could fall if they don't have faith in the Lord. He should be shown as handsome, strong, and worldly guy, not the Jafar looking character we usually see.

What do you think would make a good Nephi movie?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Who Was Nephi's Audience?

Who wrote? Nephi wrote 1 and 2 Nephi as an older adult after already reaching the Promised Land.

Why? He was writing his testimony and how the Lord has blessed him in his life. His story was not about Lehi, Jerusalem history, or even his brothers. It was his life and what he had been inspired to teach. He was instructing his audience using examples from his own life to teach the gospel and the "tender mercies of the Lord". At least that is in 1 Nephi. It is the Book of Mormon's exodus story. In fact, writers from BYU have compared Lehi to Moses (and Jacob) Nephi even uses Moses as an example. 1 Nephi is the Exodus of the Book of Mormon.

What happened? Lehi was called to preach repentence to the Jews. He did so. Why did Nephi include this? This was the beginning. This is when things changed. Lehi's life and possibly his family was threatened. We know Jeremiah was thrown in prison and tortured at this time. Lehi kept preaching.

Lehi was called to leave Jerusalem. That was not unusual at that time. We know that others left Jerusalem. Then Lehi was called to do something different. After the long journey to the Red Sea and beyond Lehi told his sons to go back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban. That would be like me telling my sons to go to the National Archives to ask for a copy of the Magna Carta (if it was protected by a corrupt military leader like Laban) That was an exceedingly difficult thing for Lehi to ask his sons but they were willing to do it. Nephi did so after receiving his own testimony. Nephi asked God directly if what his father taught was correct. He received an answer and taught Sam who also believed. Laman and Lemuel did not believe and as far as we know never asked. They were products of their time. They went to synogogue, worshipped and prayed, but it was just a culture thing for them. Nephi got the plates by following God, Laman and Lemuel whined and were violent. Nephi not only got the plates, but he came out with a servant, Zoram. Nephi was very much like the followers of Moses and their successes when they followed the Lord.

Who was the audience? Laman and Lemuel and their followers played the role of the Israelites complaining in the desert. Nephi was like Joshua (who was also of the House of Joseph through Ephraim) or like Joseph of Egypt, who led his older brothers. Ephraim is the Head! says the scriptures. Joseph separated from Israel and later saved his brothers. There is a lot of emphasis on Joseph and Judah in Genesis. Ephraim led the Northern Kingdom and split from Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Judah and Joseph always separate, rejoin, separate, rejoin. So this remnant of Joseph, through Lehi's sons, also separated into a New Promised Land. The gospel was brought my Jesus who was of Judah of the Old Promised Land and restored through Joseph (Ephraim) in the New Promised with a separation of almost 2000 years.

We, of the New Jerusalem, are the audience. Anyone who follows Christ is part of Israel by adoption. The Book of Mormon is for you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Young Nephi

Nephi begins his story with the call of his father, Lehi. That is when things changed for his family.

A friend on Facebook asked the question, "How old was Nephi when the Book of Nephi begins?" I am very glad she asked that because it made me think. Of course, there is no exact answer. We just know Nephi was young and large for his age. Someone later posted comparisons to Joseph Smith and hypothesized that Nephi was around 14-15 years old. The mid-teen years are the years that many heroes in the scriptures are called. In studying other great Biblical leaders, the mid-teen range makes the most sense.

What happened at the beginning of The Book of Nephi?  Nephi witnessed his father coming home exhausted after his father saw God. His father began to preach repentance to the people of Jerusalem, warning them of the upcoming destruction. His father was receiving death threats and was rejected by the people. Nephi also witnessed his older brothers reject their father. Nephi said his father prophesied and taught many things. We don't know how much time passed from the time when Lehi first received his revelation and when Lehi and his family left. So, Nephi could have been even younger when Lehi first received his revelation. Lehi was probably in his early 30's, the age when a man was able to preach. So at the beginning of the book, Nephi could have been as young as 8. Laman and Lemuel are not mentioned at this point for they were not old enough to "murmur".

Time had to pass long enough that Laman and Lemuel began to doubt. "It's been years father! You keep saying Jerusalem will be destroyed but it hasn't yet!" They  had to be in Jerusalem long enough to read some of the words of Jeremiah, whose words were published throughout Jerusalem.

Nephi was with his family in the Arabian desert. They fled all of their possessions, their friends, their extended family. Nephi was alone with his family, uncomfortable and miserable. Seeds of doubt began in his heart. His father taught him to ask God to receive answers. Nephi prayed and received a testimony that what his Father prophesied was true. Nephi was probably around 14 when this happens. Joseph of Egypt was also around that age when he was thrown out by his older brothers. David was around that age when he was picked by Samuel the prophet to be a future king. (Samuel was also very young when he began prophesying) Joseph Smith was 14 when he received his calling.

Some have made the comparison of Nephi and Joseph Smith and I agree that is correct. I also think Nephi was more of a type of Joseph of Egypt to emphasize the fulfillment of Joseph's prophesy concerning his own descendants. Nephi was the youngest brother (or next to oldest) called to prophesy against his older brothers just like Joseph, the father of Manasseh and Ephraim prophesied against his older brothers. Joseph's family fled to Egypt to escape starvation in Israel, Nephi's family fled Jerusalem to escape destruction. Joseph was separated from his brothers and saved them, Lehi, a member of the house of Joseph was also separated from the other tribes on the other side of an ocean and given a new promised land. This promise land later defended and protected Israel in the latter days.

Nephi was given an important choice at that young age. He could have argued with his father like his brothers who used reason and doubt to rebel against their father. Jerusalem was an old city by this time, the city of the great temple and of King David and Solomon. The Northern Kingdom fell, yet Jerusalem stood. Even "prophets" and the great priests of the nation proclaimed the greatness of their city and that it will stand. Perhaps Laman and Lemuel followed these more nationalistic preachers. Nephi decided to go directly to God and for his faith learned of His mysteries. He was humble and desired to learn of God's mysteries. He was of the age to be in charge of his own spiritual growth. The Jews didn't have Bar Mitzvah back in those days but the moment Nephi received his first revelation was sort of his Bar Mitzvah, the night when he became an adult thus making him more mature than his older brothers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

False Prophets

Jeremiah lamenting the fall of his people
Lehi prophesied at the same time as Jeremiah. We don't know if they knew each other or who eaxctly Lehi preached to and in what area. Jeremiah was a Levite from Anathoth and preached to Kings. Lehi was of Ephraim, a wealthy man from Jerusalem.  The lands of Ephraim were very close to Jerusalem so at one time Lehi's family settled in that city. It was forgotten because Lehi didn't know until his family was in the wilderness that he was a descendant of Ephraim. Because he belonged to the Kingdom of Judah, he considered himself a Jew. Lehi was wealthy and well educated knowing reformed Egyptian.

Jeremiah was the most famous prophet at the time but there were others, some real some false. Judah was filled with so called prophets who preached that all was well in Judah. They were nationalistic and led people astray. They tolerated idolatry and "secret places" in Judah. They preached about Baal and told the people they had dreams about Baal. Sure they were priests of God, but Baal is cool too. If you read Jeremiah 23, the Lord lists the lies these so called prophets were sharing. In Jeremiah 28, a false prophet is mentioned by the name of Hananiah. Hananiah began to preach a little after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. He taught that within two years Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon would break the yoke of wood around Judah's neck. Jeremiah was told to tell Hananiah that "I have put an yoke of iron upon the neck of all of these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; and they shall serve him: and I have given him the beasts of the field also." (Jeremiah 28:14)

That was the atmosphere that Lehi lived in. One where false prophets preached nationalism and secularism against the Lord's warnings. Lehi's elder sons, Laman and Lemuel were certainly influenced for in 1 Nephi 2:13 it says, "Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets." Lehi and Jeremiah preached what was unpopular even if it was the truth. Jerusalem fell not long after they prophesied.

The Bible warns of false prophets. False prophets aren't going to preach something strange at first. There are weird cult leaders who attract the weak and naive but the best false prophets are going to make you feel good and proud, even while you sin. They preach that because you are so special, you can't possibly fail.

Ways to know if a prophet is false- Deuteronomy 18:22 If he prophesies something and it doesn't come to pass. One such false prophet that comes to mind is Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin who prophesied a great class war. Even though groups are trying hard to make the prediction true, it never does. Global warming is another such prophesy. Florida was supposed to be underwater and the ice caps were supposed to melt. Well, it has become colder rather than hotter. False prophets don't have to represent a church!

(D&C 42:11-12) If someone was not given the authority they cannot be a prophet. They might receive revelation for themselves or their family, but they do not prophesy for a people unless they are given that authority from God. When you hear of Mormons getting excommunicated for leading movements in the LDS church, it was for this reason.  They made themselves a prophet, or leader without authority from God. Also, a true prophet will preach the Gospel and witness for Jesus Christ and not preach anything contrary to the scriptures. Nationalism doesn't fall in that category. (what the priests of Zedekiah were guilty of)

We are warned that many false prophets will come in the Last Days. (Matthew 24: 3-8) What will they preach? 2 Timothy 4: 3-4 explains- "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn their ears away from the truth." We live in a similar time to Lehi and his family.

M. Russell Ballard says it better "Beware of False Prophets" 1999

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lehi the Prophet

Nephi had just a regular life in Jerusalem, 600 BC. He was a young man who was still learning and was taught Egyptian and Hebrew. Egypt was a major power at the time and Nephi needed to learn the knowledge he needed to be successful. The Jews hoped the Egyptians would support them against the growing power of Babylon. It is similar to how many Americans want their children to learn Chinese for they feel like China is the future for America's success. Just like the Jews of old, Americans are probably wrong in that assessment. Anyways, Nephi learning Egyptian ended up being useful for he was able to write more on the plates in a smaller amount of space. Now, that Nephi was older, it was all about Babylon! Jerusalem was under their thumb but believed that by paying tribute they would be saved. They now had a new young king, Zedekiah, a puppet of the Babylonian king.

Nephi, had a normal life in Jerusalem, perhaps his family was mocked for being what they would call "fundies" today. People who actually follow their religion! Lehi's family followed the Law of Moses beyond just tradition and culture. They believed in it. Laman and Lemuel, Lehi's older sons, loved their father, but thought he was out of touch. There is a new world out there! Behold the great Egypt and Babylon! That is the future!

Then everything changed. Lehi went out and prayed and received a revelation. I can imagine how this memory remained fresh in Nephi's mind years later when he wrote the account in The Book of Nephi. Imagine, your day is going on like normal and you see your father stumbling home exhausted and rushing to bed. Was he sick? What was going on? After his father told him about what the Lord revealed to him Nephi knew that was the moment everything changed in their life. That is when his father received his calling to warn Jerusalem of its destruction. Remember  "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."  (Amos 3:7)

Lehi saw not only the destruction of Jerusalem, but he saw God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (he saw ONE descending, usually ONE is Jesus Christ) I can't imagine what I would think if I saw my father after such an experience. This memory made a lasting impression on Nephi who included into his own record.

The time when Lehi began his ministry was also a time of trials for the family of Nephi. They were rejected and mocked, Lehi even had his life threatened. Even through all of this Nephi saw "the tender mercies of the Lord".  The rest of the 1st Book of Nephi relates this point. It is the exodus of Lehi's family and all they endured in order to start a new nation under God.