Plain and Precious Truths (1 Nephi 13)

As I’ve been studying lately, a simple phrase in the Book of Mormon has had me pondering at every spare moment for a few days.

I’ve been thinking of the state of Jerusalem at the time of a few prophets who were called to immerse themselves in a chaotic people and preach a warning. Lehi was one such prophet. The temple was in peril, many artefacts and sacred things already dragged out of it and mocked. Lehi saw that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and he and his family left the land of their forefathers and friends and took themselves into the wilderness on a journey to a new world.

Nephi, Lehi’s son and a prophet-in-training, sought sense of his father’s convictions and of what was actually going on around him. In a vision, an angel conversed with him, explaining the importance of his family’s faithful move, and of the record they would keep. The angel teaches that the fate of the religious texts we know as the compiled bible would be a gruelling process of corruption and compromise; in the coming centuries that holy book would pass through “the abominable church”, and “plain and precious truths” would be lost. Bruce R. McConkie explained that this term”abominable church” was, “used to identify all … organizations of whatever name or nature—whether political, philosophical, educational, economic, social, fraternal, civic, or religious—which are designed to take men on a course that leads away from God and his laws and thus from salvation in the kingdom of God” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 137–38).

I thought of the Bible and its incredible story; a compilation of the records of prophets and kings, its passing from hand to hand to be pieced together and translated, rewritten and edited, some good hands; but some evil.  While the events of The Book of Mormon in a far off land played out, the tumultuousness of the old world continued; Christ’s mortality amidst it. Then, after: centuries of darkness and quiet. Stephen E. Robinson, a scriptorian, said, “This period might be called the blind spot in Christian history, for it is here that the fewest primary historical sources have been preserved. We have good sources for New Testament Christianity; then the lights go out, so to speak, and we hear the muffled sounds of a great struggle. When the lights come on again a hundred or so years later, we find that someone has rearranged all the furniture and Christianity has become something very different from what it was in the beginning.” (Stephen E. Robinson, “Warring against the Saints of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 38–39)

In my hands today, I know the record of the bible to be true and good, as far as it is translated correctly; but it’s compromised a little, there are holes where once there was something more, and whole portions are lost forever.

So in pondering that phrase, “plain and simple” things, I have two trains of thought.

First, how grateful I am for The Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith called it the “most correct of any book on earth.” This is true because of its controlled stewardship. I consider, in contrast to that of the bible, the careful and guarded passage of this record: through the hands of trusted prophets, right to its escape from war by Moroni, who carefully buried it from the world, and I dare say protected it even in spirit until its instructed extraction by a new prophet in our day. It’s been supervised by God at all stages of its development, and what sits on my bedside table today is a record exactly as it was written; including a record of Christ’s visit as he really was, unedited by outside sources. This book is a primary source in the truest of forms. That’s the value of this book. It’s a history that has been in the world, but not of that corrupt world that Lehi left behind.

My second train of thought sits on the concept of plain and precious things themselves. The angel talks of these things lost to a people who maybe were not diligent or accurate or obedient enough to retain them. That’s the danger of the wicked, chaotic “abominable church” that we’re immersed in. The gospel is plain and it’s precious; but how much of it do I seek after and store as precious? Does my journey through the world erode those truths? Am I in danger of turning to the abominable church more than I cling to plain and precious things?

With this in mind, I’ve decided to write here, at least once a day, to store up plain and precious treasures. I hope that what becomes “precious” about them is actually what I feel about them, and what I can say about them to myself (and anyone else who’s listening).

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