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Friday, May 29, 2009

Stuff You Wanted to Know About the Book of Mormon

RoseE wrote to her bestest friend, Emily, who is reading the Book of Mormon 1) because she's never read it before, and 2) because RoseE asked her to, and gave her a copy with her (RoseE's) notes in all the margins (which must be a very interesting read indeed!), and 3) to help support RoseE on her mission:

"Dearest Em,

In the interests of Being An Obedient Missionary, I am writing Book of Mormon stuff on separate paper during study time, and I will write chatty gossipy stuff on a card on P-Day when I am supposed to write letters. Time is limited, and typing is not to be had.

Isaiah’s always kind of made my head spin – you’ll note my comments are a bit thin on the ground there. I freely acknowledge that you know a ton more about Isaiah and the Bible in general than I do. And Jacob 5 requires a scorecard to keep track of what’s going on. I’m pretty sure they’re talking about olives. Why they grow in a vineyard, I don’t know. But to the best of my understanding, the olive tree that starts the whole mess represents the House of Israel. And one of the branches that is broken off is Lehi’s family, that is planted in a good spot of ground, and first produced some good fruit and some bad, and then [the bad] overruns the good entirely. And when all the scattered branches get grafted back in is now – the last days, the gathering of Israel, and the other servants in v. 70-72 are the missionaries (at least, that how I read it at this point in my life, because I am one and I like to feel important). I used to know all this stuff, but I’ve forgotten a lot of it. I’m such a punk. At the end of the day, what I learn from Jacob 5 is the following:

1. God is always working, doing everything he can, to help us. He weeps when we make dumb decisions that take us away from him, and just keeps working, helping us to come back.

2. There’s a lot of work to be done out there.

3. We have a limited amount of time in which to do it.

Oh, yaay, you also asked some questions I can give competent answers to. *Whew.* Thank goodness. “Missionary work” is preaching the gospel – telling anyone who is ready to listen about the restoration of the priesthood and the organization of Christ’s Church and having prophets again and the Book of Mormon and all that good stuff. We do service, too, but the gospel is the most valuable thing we have to give and it’s what people need most. Korea is incredibly well-developed and is not in need of wells or hospitals, but they do need (and frantically want to learn) English, so we teach English classes for free four times a week, and the rest of our time we spend sharing the gospel. I remember Sister Copeland had the hardest time explaining to her boss (and her insurance company) about how she was not going on the kind of mission they were thinking of, and that she did actually need to quit because she wasn’t coming back in two week and couldn’t just keep working by phone long-distance. We really devote all of our time and energy to serving the Lord. Really all of it.

And it’s really the hardest, scariest thing I’ve ever had to do. If this weren’t Christ’s true gospel, I would not have had the strength to do it. That I know for certain.

Tracting is the scariest part of this whole mess. We generally just call it “jeundo,” but that’s the Korean word and nobody at home would have a clue what I was talking about. It’s walking up to a stranger of the street and announcing, “Hi. You don’t know me and I can’t speak Korean, but I’m here to tell you that Christ has restored his true Church and given us a way to be with our families forever, and you need to know about it because it will make you happy and God wants you to be happy because he loves you.” Except I don’t generally get past “Hi.” Most people just stick a hand in your face and snap, “You’re done,” and walk away. It really hurts. And it really hurts over and over and over again. I odn’t think you ever get desensitized to someone rejecting your testimony. But then I go talk to the Yoon family, who just got baptized before I got here. The elders met them while jeundoing, and they listened. The father quit drinking. The mother found peace about the fact that she could only have one child. They all got baptized and come to church every week. There is such wonderful sweetness in their home. They’re always smiling. A picture of them with the missionaries who taught them, taken the day they got baptized, sits on proud display in their restaurant they run. It’s all worth it. It really, truly is.

That was a long answer to a short question, if I ever saw one.

The First Lesson is just what we try to teach people first – that God loves them and their families, that he sends us prophets to teach us how to be happy, and that if people reject the prophets’ teachings, God always just waits a while and sends another prophet. And that’s what happened after the death of Christ’s apostles – Christ’s teachings got confused and distorted, and without a prophet with the authority to act in God’s name there was no way to untangle it all. So God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and called him to be a new prophet and restore everything that had been lost. (That’s the First Vision.) And if you don’t believe this crazy story, well, here’s the Book of Mormon. Read it, pray about it. If it’s just another book, we all might as well go home, because we’re wasting our time. But if it’s true, inspired scripture, then Joesph Smith really was a prophet and it’s all the biggest, most exciting new to hit the world in a very, very long time.

And yeah, I did all that in Korean. It was a good night.

As far as Book of Mormon logistics go: They built a boat and sailed to America in 1st Nephi 17 and 18 (we’re teaching a lesson on it today) – Lehi and his whole family. (You’re right; Nephi has a very stiff writing style. He’s not my favorite Book of Mormon writer, Alma and Moroni are more comfortable.) Anyway, once they all get there and settle in, Laman and Lemuel start fighting with Sam and Nephi (big surprise there) so Nephi and his family and anyone else they can get to go with them run away into the wilderness and set up their own settlement.
The descendants of this group are, for simplicity’s sake, called Nephites, and everyone else are called Lamanites. So they’re all the same family, and they came across the ocrean in the same boat, but they grow into two different nations with some serious unresolved sibling issues just festering between them. This is all in 2 Nephi 5, I think, if you need further clarification.

Don’t worry about the Jaredites for right now. You’ll get to them."

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