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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Why Does the Lord Send Signs?

             I studied 3 Nephi 1-7 in my Come, Follow Me lesson for this week. In our lesson last week, we studied about the visit of Samuel, a Lamanite prophet who prophesied of the birth and death of Jesus Christ. In Helaman 14, Samuel prophesied that there would be great lights in the heavens and no darkness for a day, a night, and a day. He said that the sun would set and rise, but darkness would not come. The night without darkness would be a sign that the Savior would be born the next day. Samuel also prophesied that a new star would arise and that all these things would happen in five years.

            In 3 Nephi 1:4, I read that “the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.” The believers “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” (verse 8; emphasis added).

Even though there were great signs being shown, some of the people said the time had passed for the signs that were prophesied by Samuel. They set a specific day when they would kill the believers. The prophet Nephi saw the great wickedness of the people, and he felt great sorrow for them. He knelt in prayer “and cried mightily to his God on behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers” (verse 11). Nephi prayed all day long, and at the end of the day, he heard the voice of the Lord.

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 (3 Nephi 1:13).

            That night the words of the Lord were fulfilled. When the sun went down, there was no darkness, and the people were astonished. Many of the unbelievers “fell to the earth as if they were dead, for they knew that the great plan of destruction … had been frustrated; for the sign which had been given was already at hand” (3 Nephi 1:16; emphasis added).

            Most of the people believed, repented of their sins, and were baptized. There was peace in the land except for the Gadianton Robbers who lived in the mountains but terrorized the people. Despite seeing great miracles testifying of the birth of Jesus Christ, many people, especially the rising generation, joined with the Gadianton Robbers.

            I read in 3 Nephi 2:1 that “the people began to forget those signs and wonders” and “began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen.”

            Many of the people allowed the cares of the world and the temptations of Satan to distract them from what they had seen and experienced. They did not remember the lessons that they had learned, and their faith became weaker. The wickedness did not happen overnight, but it happened as the people forgot what they had heard and seen.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught that the same thing could happen to us. We can become vulnerable to the attacks of Satan on our beliefs.

How quickly [Satan] moves in even where people have had special spiritual experiences, seeking to get people who have seen signs “to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen.” (3 Nephi 2:1-2.) The adversary has a better chance to persuade us that what we believe is foolish if we worry about looking foolish in front of our fellowmen (Things as They Really Are [1978], 41).

            The Lord explained in latter-day scripture that there are lessons for believers concerning signs and salvation. (See Doctrine and Covenants 63:8-12.) The first lesson is that signs flow from faith and are a product of it. The second lesson is that signs strengthen the faithful and produce faith in the spiritually receptive. The third lesson is that the chief purpose of signs is to reward faith, not produce it. (See Doctrine and Covenants 68:9-11.)

We should remember that signs do not force anyone to believe. We read of people in the scriptures, and we know of people today who see marvelous signs and evidence of God’s power and ignore them or rationalize them away. Signs increase faith in the faithful but do little for the unfaithful.

Why do wicked people sometimes see signs? In studying the scriptures, we can find several reasons why the Lord occasionally shows signs to the wicked. The Book of Mormon Student Manual for Religion 121-122 [2009] lists four reasons for the Lord showing signs to those people who do not have faith.

·         To vindicate prophets. The sign that Nephi, son of Helaman, gave to the people concerning the death of the chief judge showed that Nephi was right (see Mosiah 20:21).

·         Leave the wicked without excuse. The wicked are completely responsible for their actions thereafter. The Lord has stated, “He that seeketh signs shall see signs, but not unto salvation” (Doctrine and Covenants 63:7).

·         Show correctness of prophets’ words. Since the wicked seek to prove the prophet wrong, the Lord will occasionally show indisputable signs (see Helaman 9:2-4).

·         Condemn the wicked. When the wicked see signs, it is through the Lord’s anger and to their condemnation (see Doctrine and Covenants 63:11). The Savior stated, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Matthew 12:39).

Reading further in 3 Nephi, chapters 3-5, I learned that the Gadianton Robbers became so

 powerful that the righteous Nephites were forced to take drastic actions. They took all their animals, grains, and everything of any worth, and they gathered in a central location. They had enough provisions to live for seven years in their fortified area.

The Gadianton Robbers came out of their mountain hideout and found nothing to steal. There was no food of any kind, and they could not survive anywhere except in the mountains. They decided to lay a siege around the Nephites, but they had no success in overcoming them. In fact, the Nephites gathered strength while the Gadianton Robbers weakened.

In the end, the leaders and many members of the Gadianton Robbers were killed, and the rest were put in prison. There they were taught the word of God. “As many as would repent of their sins and enter into a covenant that they would murder no more were set at liberty” (3 Nephi 5:4). Those who would not make the covenant were put to death. Thus, the terrorism caused by the wicked, secret, and abominable Gadianton Robbers came to an end.

The Nephites took the uneaten provisions and returned to their homes with their flocks, herds, and all their belongings. They had peace in the land and began to prosper again. “There was nothing in all the land to hinder the people from prospering continually, except they should fall into transgression” (3 Nephi 6:5). They prospered for a few years and then began to forget their miraculous rescue. They became prideful and entered the pride cycle once again. Thus, we see that people easily forget miracles, blessings, and even signs that come into their lives. Remember may be the most important word in any language.

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