Mighty Even Unto the Power of Deliverance
It’s that time of year again: Back to school – which means back to Institute. I love teaching Institute. I love reading, studying and really digging into the scriptures. And I believe that’s what we need to do – DIG – if we are to gain a true appreciation and understanding of the truths taught therein.
On Thursdays I get to teach Book of Mormon so this post will be taken from the beginning of the Book of Mormon.
One of my favorite scholars, Hugh Nibley, said: “The Book of Mormon in an inexhaustible encyclopedia of knowledge.”
And Joseph Smith, of course, said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
If those aren’t good enough reasons to study the Book of Mormon one might ask “Well, what are the main purposes of the Book of Mormon?” Why does it even exist? (Hint: it does NOT exist because Joseph Smith wrote it! A young, uneducated farm boy in the early 1800’s simply did not write this over 500 page book that spans 1000 years, 4 different civilizations lavish with cultural and technical details--manners and customs, arts and industries, political and religious institutions, and rites & traditions, a book that manages to correctly reference the Old World(Ancient Near East), the New World (MesoAmerica) and the Modern World we live in today! But that is an entirely different post)
The entire purpose of the Book of Mormon is simple yet powerful. It exists to show the House of Israel the great things the Lord has done for them(and their fathers)so that they might know of the covenants of the Lord. And to convince the Jew and the Gentile (that basically means everyone!) that Jesus is the Christ. That is WHY it exists. Hence the subtitle: “Another Testament of Christ”
Nephi introduces to us, at the very beginning, one of the main themes that beautifully and powerfully flows through the pages and stories of this sacred book. 1 Nephi 1:20 “ Behold, I Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”
This is one of my absolute favorite scriptures!
What are the “tender mercies” of the Lord? They are blessings, strength, protection, and guidance that we so desperately need as we journey through this life. I NEED those tender mercies. So how does one receive those blessings? According to the verse the blessings are “over all those whom he hath chosen”. That doesn’t sound very fair. Keep reading closely…
Who is chosen? Or WHY are they chosen? “because of their faith”.
I want to be one of the Chosen! Remember being in grade school and getting “chosen” or “picked” for teams? Were you ever one who was last to be chosen? Or near the last? Isn’t that a horrible feeling of anxiety? Your heart is pounding, your mind racing “Please, please choose me!!” Right? I hate that feeling. I do NOT want that feeling in heaven! I don’t want my heart pounding as we are lined up and the Lord goes along to “choose” who gets to enter with Him. “I pick you… and you… and, hmmm let’s see, no not you…. But you and then you…” I don’t want my heart to be pounding “Oh, Lord, please… please… pick me!” Wouldn’t that be horrible!?
Elder David A. Bednar put it this way: “I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit “the chosen” to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determines whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.”(Conference 4/2005)
Isn’t that wonderful!? I want to be one of the Chosen! And it’s totally up to us whether or not we are chosen. It’s not a roll of the dice. It’s not random. It’s up to us!
Here is the second wonderful and amazing part of this Book of Mormon Theme. When we are righteous and obedient, and therefore “chosen”, the promised blessing is that we will be made “mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”
Nephi and his brothers were sent back to Jerusalem to retrieve the Brass Plates(scriptures). It was a long & dangerous mission! They were gone much longer than expected and their mother Sariah feared they were dead. Finally, after much sadness, worry and grief they returned. After their safe return Sariah rejoiced “I know the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them… and given them power whereby they could accomplish the things which the Lord hath commanded them.”
The promise in 1:20 is beautifully fulfilled in this story. Nephi and his brothers were indeed made “mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”
The Lord gives us the POWER we need to accomplish our missions as well. Whatever that mission is for us. He gives us the power we need to face challenges and overcome trials. How often do we pray “please Lord take this trial away”? Or “Change this situation for me.”
If we follow the principle taught beautifully here in the Book of Mormon perhaps our prayers should sound more like “Please, Lord, give me the strength to overcome" OR "the strength to resist this temptation.” Or “Please give me the power to bear this burden.” Whatever it is we need: IF we are righteous and faithful THEN the Lord will give us the POWER to accomplish that thing. It doesn’t mean life will be easy! Just ask Nephi, who is one of the greatest recipients of being made “mighty even unto the power of deliverance” because his life was NEVER easy. And yet he remained faithful and therefore received those tender mercies of the Lord.
Our story can be like Nephi’s. We too can receive those tender mercies. We too can be chosen. We CAN be made “mighty even unto the power of deliverance”!! I love that promise. I love the Book of Mormon for teaching us that promise.