The prompt is, “The Book of Mormon
brings me closer to Christ because...”


I was asked to speak in sacrament meeting this week. As the previous speaker was going, I realized I had included no personal experiences. This is a major failing, in a sacrament-meeting talk. But, overall, I think it was a success. Anytime you sing, as part of a talk, people will pay attention. And that is some measure of success. (Son #3, seeing my notes just now, expressed shock my talk was seven pages long. It didn't feel that long!)


Æsop tells a story—you’ve probably heard it—about a fox who, one day, spied a beautiful bunch of ripe grapes hanging from a vine trained along the branches of a tree. The grapes seemed ready to burst with juice, and the Fox’s mouth watered as he gazed longingly at them.
The grapes hung from a high branch, and the Fox had to jump for it. The first time he jumped he missed it by a long way. So he walked off a short distance and took a running leap at it, only to fall short once more. Again and again he tried, but in vain.
Now he sat down and looked at the grapes in disgust.
“What a fool I am,” he said. “Here I am wearing myself out to get a bunch of sour grapes that are not even worth looking.”
And off he walked scornfully.
There are many who despise and belittle that which is beyond their reach.
Pretty nice story. Comes packaged with a ready-made moral. A contemporary of Æsop’s said Æsop never worried about the way things actually are, because his stories were deliberately that: stories. “Let me,” he would say, “tell you a story.” A story simplified to one deliberate result.
Here is something similar:
From the wicked Laban inside the city gates.
Laman and Lemuel were both afraid to try.
Nephi was courageous. This was his reply:

“I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.
I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.”

[ it goes on ]

Nephi’s life story, condensed into something deliberate,
                                                                        something simple,
                                                                                    something with a tidy moral.
Nephi wrote the version of his story that we have in the Book of Mormon at the end of his life, and he often seems to be up to a similar simplification game himself. But, alas, he has lived his life. And it’s not “just a story”; it’s the life he lived and it can’t be easily reduced to one simple moral, however much that might make reading easier for us. Here’s a poem Nephi wrote, looking back:
Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
Do not—anger—again because of mine enemies.
Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.
Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say:
O Lord, I will praise thee forever;
yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul?
Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies?
Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?
May the gates of hell be shut continually before me,
because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!
O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me,
that I may walk in the path of the low valley,
that I may be strict in the plain road!
O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!
I’ve heard many people, reading these lines, joke,
 ha!ha! Nephi! he’s so righteous! And if he thinks he’s wicked boy-oh-boy must I be in trouble, ha!ha!
I’m sorry. How many people have you killed? That little detail was let out of the Primary song, wasn’t it? Murder gets in the way of its simple morality tale. How often have you ridden into bloody battle against your brothers and your nephews? Which of us, here, have had to wash our hands of that blood before returning to the task of building a temple to our Lord? Nephi meant his desperation and hope and pain when he cried out,
O Lord, I will praise thee forever;
yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation. ||
|| O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul?
*    *    *    *    *
In our Latter-day Saint version of Christianity, we have this idea that while in the Garden of Gethsemane, the suffering of Jesus consisted of experiencing the infinite complexities of our pains and our sorrows. Each and every discomfort and unhappiness—reflected and exposed and salted and pierced and felt—as only a god could, his sweat—as if great drops of blood were falling to the ground.
Obviously, it depends on how you count, but we love to repeat the fun fact that our Redeemer is mentioned more times per word in the Book of Mormon than in the New Testament:
we talk ofChrist, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
That Bible is a book of genocide and exile and sorrow and loss and—hope for return.
While the Book of Mormon is a book of genocide and exile and sorrow and loss and—and, at the end—the people whose book it is—are no more
*    *    *    *    *
When I was in junior high, I remember my father hanging out after church, one Sunday talking to somebody about Alma and Amulek—specifically the moment where Alma says they cannot stretch forth their hands to save the good people being thrown into the fire because their deaths are necessary for God’s wrath to fall upon the wicked.
That is a hard idea. But also … a bit too simple. As Alma must have known.
That city was Amulek’s city. Those people thrown into the fire were Amulek’s own family. Or, if not, then they were killed not long after when the city was destroyed in a brutal, sudden invasion.
After these disasters, Alma does not repeat the moral of the story. He knows that’s not enough. He takes Amulek unto his own home, andministers unto him.
*    *    *    *    *
Sometimes we speak of the role of scriptures as comfort. I’m not sure that’s true. It’s certainly not the whole truth. Scripture is too honest for simple comfort. Even that great symbol of God’s love, the Tree of Life, is surrounded by confusing mists and deadly rivers and mocking strangers. We need the Tree of Life, the Author of All seems to be saying, because the world is void of simple solutions, easy answers, obvious morals. If the solutions and answers and morals were simple and easy and obvious, then—
But they’re not. They are not.
It’s not so hard to say
I will go I will do
   the things the Lord commands
but when you are at the end of a life filled with pain and exile and blood and loss, the complicated beauty of Isaiah may be what rings true.
*    *    *    *    *
Jesus comes to the children of Lehi after years of chaos and rage, after massive upheavals of society and the seas. Jesus comes to a people who are in pain and darkness. Jesus comes to a people who do not, at first, understand his Father’s voice. Jesus comes to a people who past has been demolished and whose future must feel lost. That is who Jesus comes to. And that is the promise the Book of Mormon makes. When you are lost, disconnected, in pain, uncertain, confused, darkened—the god who has felt infinite loss, disconnection, pain, uncertainty, confusion, darkness—that god will come.
And his name is Jesus.
And he is the messiah—your messiah—your savior, redeemer, christ.
And he will come.
*    *    *    *    *
That is not a simple moral. It is a perplexing and strange and wonderful thing. And if the Book of Mormon will get you closer to that Jesus than any other book? then we must seek him there.
And we’ll find him.
When we are young and believe the world is simple, he is there.
When we are in the midst of tragedy and desperate, he is there.
When we are looking back at our life, seeking its pattern, he is there.
This is what the Book of Mormon teaches us.
The Book of Mormon looks clearly at a world that will not hesitate to cause you pain. And then, the Book of Mormon says that there is someone greater than that pain. Someone who understands that pain. Someone who has comforted many, many people before. And will comfort you now.
That is the Book of Mormon.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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  1. Pretty good talk.

  2. .

    You think THAT one's good, you should follow the links backwards.