19 And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And it came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.
20 And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit, according to the words of the prophets.
21 And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word.
22 And it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen; but notwithstanding these lyings and deceivings the more part of the people did believe, and were converted unto the Lord.
Just like today, there is so much time and effort spent on the preparation for Christmas. Then it seems to be over so quickly. Even though the event is in the past, I want to remember, study, think and pray about its meaning, so that it wasn’t all in vain and Christ will continue to affect my life. Don’t let the disappointment of the end of the event overshadow what just happened!
“And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.
And there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to the earth and became as if they were dead, for they knew that the great plan of destruction which they had laid for those who believed in the words of the prophets had been frustrated; for the sign which had been given was already at hand.”
The first Christmas Eve. I’m trying to imagine that. “Astonished” might be an understatement when the sign was given. They could see the sun go down but the sky remained light!
God does fulfill His promises. He tells His prophets what to reveal. He answers our sincere prayers.
What a fitting sign (no darkness) to give for the coming of Jesus Christ! He is, literally, the Light of the world!
“Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfill all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.”
Finally, after “crying mightily” all day long for the lives of his people, what sweet words of comfort! The Lord didn’t have to answer that prayer. The time was imminent. He answered that prayer as a tender mercy to Nephi who had been so dedicated. It looks like He also answered Nephi’s prayer to give some instruction. Nephi and the other believers, at this point, were probably as humble as you can get. Humility is not a weakness. If we have humility it just means that we accept that we don’t know everything there is to know and that God does. If we are humble, we are teachable.
In verse 14 He tells us why He is coming and why He is called the “Father” and the “Son”. I think it’s pretty revealing. We pray to God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ. They are two separate beings. It doesn’t matter which one answers our prayers because They are one in purpose. It is God’s plan and Jesus Christ is carrying it out. Both, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, are essential to the plan. We can learn several things about Their nature if we study, think about (ponder) and pray about these scriptures. I hesitate to venture any further because when I can’t explain things well it usually means I need to understand it better myself. And I don’t want to present the half-baked ideas as my testimony. I do know that I would be SO relieved and comforted by this answer to my prayer if I had been there. Now my anticipation for the coming of the Christ would not be laced with fear of what my neighbors might do to me.
“Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.”
Wow! So, the unbelievers were SO annoyed by the believers by now that they want to KILL them? Why not just laugh in their faces if the sign doesn’t come? The thing is, Satan is getting desperate. He only has a few more hours before the sign is given. Once the sign is given, everyone will know that Christ has come and even the unbelievers will repent. Satan will lose his grasp on a lot of people. If we repent of our sins, we belong to Christ’s family. This is no small community. If there were thousands of believers then there had to have been at least that many unbelievers to be convinced that they could over-power the others. It is interesting, too, that the unbelievers call the prophecy a “tradition”. I think that’s another way that we can convince ourselves that something is not from God. If Satan can convince us to become apathetic or cavalier about the Word of God, he doesn’t have to work as hard for our time. Then he can spend his time and effort on the believers. But, if he can stir up the unbelievers to the point where they kill a believer, they’ve shortened his work. Satan cannot claim the soul of the believer who has lost his life. But he certainly has a firmer grasp on the soul of the person who took the life of another human being. The more severe the sin, the harder it is to repent of it. Maybe, if I start thinking of the Bible (Old or New Testament) as a book full of “stories” or “traditions”, that is an early warning sign that I’m heading down the wrong path. The nice thing about electronic media is that I don’t have to sound like a broken record. (I wonder if people under 30 know what that sounds like?) Anyway, click here for my opinion on recognizing truth: Day 13.
“But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.”
They did “watch steadfastly”. I would also be wondering how He is going to make the night as bright as day. I’d be excited to see that. But I wonder if, as it got closer, I’d start to doubt. How steadfast am I? “Watch” is an action word. They weren’t just waiting. They were watching. Their faith was strong. The prophet said it and they had prayed to get their own witness of the truth. Sometimes it seems unbearable to “endure to the end”. I think back to when I was married to a drinking, and then recovering, alcoholic. Recovery seemed as trying as the drinking because he wasn’t getting the hang of it. I attended my Al-Anon meetings so that I could also recover from the effects of the disease. He had to do his own work and I needed to stay out of it. Many times repeating the Serenity Prayer got me to fall asleep: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. God did deliver me from that relationship but not until I learned what I needed to learn. I got into that mess and He led me out. That experience gave me new perspective for subsequent challenges in my life.
“And it came to pass that they did make a great uproar throughout the land; and the people who believed began to be very sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass.”
The word ‘sorrowful’ jumps out at me in this verse. In the previous verse the unbelievers were mocking the believers for their faith. Now their mocking is escalating. I know there have been times in my life when someone has mocked me for my faith to the point of making an ‘uproar’. I felt sorrowful too. But it didn’t shake my faith. It made me dig deeper into what my faith is based on and why I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. As Alma, another Book of Mormon prophet, said, “And now as I said concerning faith – faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (Alma 32:21) These people are still hopeful. They know the sign will come. The believers aren’t the ones imposing a timeline on God. The non-believers are not hopeful for the sign to be given. They are hopeful that the sign is NOT given. Then they will be justified. The believers are probably ‘sorrowful’ for a few things: 1) that the non-believers are not prepared to accept Christ into their life, 2) what the non-believers will do to the believers when the sign is not given on their timeline, 3) that little bit of doubt that sometimes creeps in when you’re at the end of your rope. God has said He won’t give me anything that I cannot handle. But sometimes I forget to tell Him that I can’t handle anymore. 🙂
Oh, that reminds me of one of my favorite analogies from the book “Believing Christ” by Stephen L. Richards. (best explanation of the Atonement I’ve ever read)
He talks about how our faith in Christ strengthens when we go through severe trials. He compares it to a weight-lifter building muscle. Muscle is strengthened by stretching it just beyond its limit so it is actually damaged. As it heals, it scars. The scar tissue is actually stronger than the surrounding tissue. The spotter stands near the weight-lifter telling him/her to ‘give me one more’ each time it looks like the lifter is going to give up. The spotter is there to catch the weight when the lifter finally cannot lift one more time and yells for the help. I love the imagery. I am sure that parents who lose children to death feel they are stretched beyond their limit. They struggle to understand. I pray for them; that they will feel the Savior’s arms around them as He encourages them to give one more day. To them I say: Don’t give up. You have other loved ones who need you here. Your children are safe in Jesus’ arms. They are pefect. You have a little more work to do. If you don’t know what that “work” is, look for it.
“And they began to rejoice over their brethren, saying: Behold the time is past, and the words of Samuel are not fulfilled; therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.”
These people had had 5 years to really focus on preparing for the birth of the Savior. They actually had longer if they’d been listening to previous prophets. Some had made no progress at all; in fact it looks like they’ve only grown more evil. I was thinking about why the Lord had Samuel give the prophecy 5 years before He was to be born. These people were a continent away from Jerusalem. The preparation that was needed was not for Jesus’ benefit. It was for the people’s benefit. But why would it take 5 years to prepare? The reason Christ came was to save us from our sins. For Him to do that, though, we need to recognize our sins and then repent of them. Repentance is a process. I also think that repenting is a good habit to develop. We will never be perfect so there is probably something we could repent of each day. If we make repentance a habit we will be humble and teachable. We’ll be able to know when we are being led by the Spirit. When people question our faith, it won’t shake our faith.