The Promised Land Talk, ht MA

Promised lands are lands that the Lord promises as an inheritance to his faithful followers, and often also to their descendants. There are many promised lands. Often in the Book of Mormon, the promised land spoken of is the Americas.

Elder Holland, in the June, 1976 Ensign, suggests that in some respects, the original promised land might have been the entire earth.  Adam and Even in the garden represent this.  The earth was created for a group of God’s children to live the gospel, keep the commandments, and dwell in peace.  Then Adam fell, Cain killed able, and wickedness begins to spread among Adams decendents.  It is this wickedness which eventually will force a separation between the righteous and the wicked.  During the time of Enoch, there was such wickedness, that the very heavens wept as rain upon the mountains.  And Enoch built a city, which was something of a promised land, where the righteous could live the gospel, keep the commandments, and dwell in peace.  From Moses 7 we read:

16And from that time forth there were wars and bloodshed among them; but the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness.

17The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish.

18And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

19And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion.

20And it came to pass that Enoch talked with the Lord; and he said unto the Lord: Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever. But the Lord said unto Enoch: Zion have I blessed, but the residue of the people have I cursed.

 

Thus, even during a time of great wickedness, a righteous group of people were able to flourish as a Zion people in their own promised land.

This pattern of growing wickedness, bringing a separation of a righteous group out of the wickedness can be seen in other examples:  Noah, the Jaredites, the children of Israel, Lehi, and even the modern restoration of the gospel can be seen as a similar pattern.  God providing a place for his followers to live the gospel, keep the commandments and dwell in peace.  Yet, in spite of the advantages of a land of promise, wickedness seems to always work its way in.  In an article from BYU Studies, Douglas Brinley outlines the pattern in this way:

1. The Lord leads the righteous to the Land of Promise (America).

2. He establishes a covenant with the inhabitants of the land.

3. He establishes laws (a constitution) for self-government.

4. When the majority break the laws and begin to choose evil over good, they breach the covenant; the judgments of God begin.

5. The Lord sends out prophets and missionaries to warn the inhabitants to repent or be destroyed.

6. The inhabitants may choose to (1) accept the invitation to repent; (2) reject outright the message of the prophets and seek to destroy them; or (3) ignore the prophetic warnings.

7. If the people reject the message, then initial judgments—natural calamities, wars, plagues, famine, drought—begin to destroy the people.

8. The Spirit of the Lord withdraws from the people.

9. The inhabitants increase in wickedness until they are “fully ripe in iniquity” and have cast out the righteous.

10. The forces of nature, civil war, or conquering hosts destroy the wicked completely; the righteous members of that society having been led elsewhere.

 

When the Book of Mormon specifically speaks of promised lands, it is usually referring to the Americas.  The Americas were a promised land to the Jaredites, and later the decedents of Lehi.  From Ether 2 we have:

6And it came to pass that they did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.

7And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.

8And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.

9And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.

10For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.

11And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.

12Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.

 

Any promised land comes with responsibilities.  God does not make promises to land, he makes promises to people.  These promises take the form of covenants.  In order to gain and maintain the promises associated with a promised land, the people who dwell there must serve God and repent.

We here have gained great blessings from dwelling in this promised land.  We enjoy the highest standards of living that have ever been known.  We have many freedoms and liberties here that others do not have.  We are able to live our religion according to the dictates of our own conscience.  We have been protected from many of the tragedies that other people have faced.  And if we hope to continue to enjoy these blessings we must serve God and keep His commandments.

I know that this is a patriotic time, and this is often a patriotic topic.  I too am patriotic, and I am very proud to be an American.  I wonder however, if we should consider thinking about promised lands in an expanded way, as we continue to grow into a truly world-wide church.  It is difficult to deny the promises made to the Jaredites and the decendants of Lehi refer to the Americas, and the promises made were made in a way that suggest that they would continue forever.  Yet, if we are to embrace an entire world, with membership representing countries all over the world, we should look beyond simple patriotism when considering promised lands.

As the church continues to grow, the borders of Zion grow with it.  Members of the church gather to their own stakes, wherever they may be.  As people throughout the world live the gospel, and keep Gods commandments, I believe that they can flourish like those in what we usually consider to be promised lands do.

For members around the world, their homes, chapels and temples can be promised lands.  These places are sacred places, where the people who dwell in them can live the gospel, keep the commandments and dwell in peace.  They can be separated from wickedness, and access all of the blessings that the gospel has to offer.

May we live up to the responsibilities of a people who possess a promised land, and be grateful for the blessings that come from dwelling in it.  And may we come to realize that the entire world can be a promised land for those who desire to serve God and keep His commandments.

 

 

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