This weekend, we have the great opportunity to hear from the Prophet and Apostles that live in our day, as they teach, warn and instruct us from the pulpit in Utah. In days long past, it would have been just like listening to Moses and Aaron preach to the Israelites upon their exodus from Egypt. Or maybe like sitting in on Noah’s sermon before the rains came. If the House of Israel would have listened better to Isaiah, they might have been able to avoid dispersion and captivity and losing the land of their inheritance time and again. Prophets and Apostles are indeed the watchmen on the tower, keeping their eyes on the enemy and helping us remain safely distanced from trouble…in the days of Moses, Noah, Isaiah and others, as well as in our very day. Their watchful, cautionary words are there for us to accept and follow, or to reject and mock.
Earlier in our Book of Mormon studies, we were following the journey of Lehi’s family out of Jerusalem and to the promised land. It was an action adventure, interspersed with sound doctrinal teachings by their Prophets and teachers. In our studies this past week, their journey has seemed to grind to a halt. We have followed them to the promised land, and seen that after Lehi’s death, the two sides – Nephites and Lamanites – have divided themselves and headed off in opposite directions.
Once settling away from the Lamanites that were set to hunt them down and eliminate them, the Nephites all seemed to have gathered together to listen to their Prophet and teachers. Nephi addresses them, and then Jacob’s words are also shared with us in the first few chapters of 2 Nephi. Then to further emphasise their points, they spend about fifteen chapters reviewing the words of Isaiah from the brass plates they brought over with them. We may find it difficult to understand the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi and its prelude, but it might throw a different light on it if we could read these chapters as if they were from their conference edition of the Ensign!? Their spiritual leaders are simply teaching the Nephites about the importance of being humble and acknowledging God in their fortunes, and reminding them of the covenants and commandments between them and God. These chapters could indeed be an overview of the first Nephite General Conference. We have Nephi’s and Jacob’s teachings that were inscribed upon the plates, but I wonder if their brothers, Joseph or Sam, also addressed the congregation? What would their talks have been like? And then the big question…why were they so intent on sharing Isaiah’s teachings with their people? Besides the fact that Isaiah prophesied much about the coming Messiah, here’s something to chew on…
In our days, how often do we hear the Prophet and Apostles quote from Joseph Smith or Brigham Young? Their teachings are about 150-170 years ago, but we still hold their words dear to our hearts. Well, guess who preceded Nephi by about 150-170 years? It was none other than Isaiah. Nephi and Jacob both often quote scriptures going back to Moses and their exodus from captivity, but they really focus upon Isaiah’s teachings as they were easier to understand and apply to their own lives – much the same way we do with the teachings of Joseph Smith. We may not have been taught after the manner of the Jews, which would make it easier to understand the words of Isaiah. But, we certainly have been taught after the manner of Joseph and Brigham, and therefore we should be able to understand their teachings and apply them in our lives, much like Nephi encouraged his people to do with the words of Isaiah.
Unfortunately, the scriptures describe the captivity and destruction of God’s people who would not hearken to the Prophets – the watchmen on the towers. We shake our heads in unbelief when we read about their refusal to follow God’s lead – how ignorant could they possibly be!? But then, how are we doing with hearkening unto the words of the Prophets in our days? These General Conferences are our opportunity to listen to the religious leaders we have chosen to follow, and we just might need to pay a little more attention to their words. Otherwise, a couple of generations from now, our children’s children might be shaking their heads at us and saying, “How could they have possibly not known? The Prophets were warning them every conference for five years!”
Just like the Nephites of old, this weekend provides a reprieve from our journey, and an opportunity to be spiritually fed. And, hopefully, this nourishment will be enough to carry us, spiritually, emotionally and physically, for the coming six months until we can again pause from our journey, and again “Come listen to a prophet’s voice…”