My mind continues to recall President Benson's warning mentioned last week.
Just four years prior to the death of Christ and his subsequent visit to the people of Nephi, Satan had great power over the people (3 Ne. 6:15). He stirred them up "to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world."
"And there began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth" among the people to testify of their sins and iniquities. These men declared redemption in Christ through repentance (3 Ne. 6:20-21). This was a message the people were not getting from the chief judges and high priests. Many people were "exceedingly angry" with these prophets because of their message (ibid.). However, it was those in authority over the people who were most angry, because they felt their authority challenged. Some of the prophets were slain because of their testimony (v. 23).
Nephi was one of those prophets. He was "visited by angels" and "the voice of the Lord" and was an "eye-witness" (3 Ne. 7:15). He had "power given unto him" that he might know concerning Christ's ministry. Grieved by the hardness of the people's hearts, and "the blindness of their minds," Nephi went forth preaching "repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 16). He, and others he ordained, did baptize many (v. 25-26). He "did minister with power and with great authority" (v. 17).
The leaders were angry with him because they saw that he had greater power than they did. They were unable to disbelieve his words because his faith was so great that angels ministered to him daily (v. 18). Nephi was an Elias to the people of the land, preparing the way of the Lord. He created quite a stir.
What would it be like to be taught by such a man today? Would the message borne by such a faithful messenger be different than Nephi's? Would it be easy to recognize that he was sent forth from God? Would we be angry at his message, or receive it with joy? Would we look inward and analyze our lives to see if there was any truth in his message of repentance, or shun him as an apostate? Would he be accepted by the leaders? Would he be one of the leaders? Should he be? What does the Book of Mormon teach us about all of this?
President Benson taught that the 3 Nephi account "reveals many parallels to our own day." He pointed out that the Nephites had been "prosperous and industrious." He said they "built temples and palaces." He pointed out that "the people rejected the Lord." He pointed out that "dishonesty and immorality were widespread." The people were "distinguished by ranks." He said these things were "even as today."
If what President Benson said was true, then we should carefully consider the parallels between those in 3 Nephi and us. Do these things exist among us today? Sometimes we need help to see.
It can be difficult understanding how or of what we are to repent. Because we compare ourselves to others we are blind, and cannot see our deficiency. The standard against which we must measure ourselves is the Lord's standard. That standard is found in the scriptures, in the mouths of prophets who speak for God, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A man will never be capable of full repentance if the standard against which he is comparing himself is sin-ridden Babylon. Babylon has no instruction for you that will lead you to further light and knowledge. It will only present you with deception and false security. Do not trust any image or confidence borne in Babylon. You can only trust the Lord. His invitation has always been to repent and come unto Him.
Like the Nephites who were destroyed before the Lord's coming in the meridian of time, our own "wickedness and evil come from 'lyings and deceivings.' We prefer the lie that tells us we need no repentance to the truth that we must repent or perish. We deceive ourselves into believing we are Zion. The truth is we are far from it, and getting farther away every day. Our whoredoms are twofold. We both worship a false image rather than the living God, and we are also sexually impure. Our secret abominations are the conspiracies that run among us to manipulate, get gain, use religion to promote a cause, obtain commercial advantage, and wield political influence. We idolize men, rather than Christ. We claim to hold keys that would allow men filled with sin to forgive sins on earth and in heaven, to grant eternal life, or to bar from the kingdom of God. Using that false and useless claim, we slay the souls of men, thereby committing murder. We are riddled with priestcrafts. Men seek the praise of others rather than to bring again Zion. We envy those who fill leadership positions because we want the power granted through priestly office and position. Because we lack the Spirit as a guide, and rather than learning by gaining light through obedience, we engage in strife with one another to settle points of doctrine. Any voice crying repentance is labeled a dissenter, and their words are condemned and attacked. They are thought to be 'of the devil.' By stirring up strife we succeed in making people fear truth. We close our minds, become deaf and blind. Christ's words should take precedent over the smooth things we hear from the philosophies of men, but they do not" (Snuffer).
I expect the Lord reaches out to His children in every age of the world in the same manner. I expect he has and will do so in our day as He has in times past. Given the awful situation we find ourselves in, and considering the parallels found in 3 Nephi to our own day, I expect to see an Elias who is come to prepare the way of the Lord. I expect to see "men inspired from heaven and sent forth" among the people to testify of their sins and iniquities. I expect the people will be angry with them. These things are all to be expected.