Editor’s Note: Tammy Uzelac Hall is the host of LDS Living’s Sunday on Monday, a new weekly podcast focused on Come, Follow Me that dives into the hidden treasures of the gospel. Here are questions readers might have in their studies of the Book of Mormon this week, accompanied by Hall's insights that add new meaning to the beloved verses.
Question: What is the “flaxen cord” spoken of in 2 Nephi 26:22 that Satan will use to lead us by the neck and bind us forever?
Answer: This is flax:
Flax is a soft strand with a light blue flower that is very appealing to the eye. It is interesting that Nephi uses it to describe what Satan will use to trap and bind us. I have a good friend that has a degree in residential landscape and design/ornamental horticulture. I asked her about flax and why she thinks Nephi used this metaphor. She said, “It’s a softer cord rather than a rougher one. It won’t chafe at first, and so we won’t have an awareness of it until it is too late.”
This flowering plant eventually becomes linen. Linen is the strongest of the plant fibers and when it is wet, its strength increases. Like the strength of the river of water that Lehi saw and was a representation of Hell, that was prepared for the wicked (1 Nephi 15:26-29) or the strength of water that is used as a metaphor for the sins Timothy described that would ultimately “drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9). In 2 Nephi 28:15–30, Nephi goes on to warn us about Satan, describing in detail some of the tactics he will use on us in the last days. It’s worth the read.
Question: How exactly will Satan “have power over the hearts of the children of men no more” (2 Nephi 30:18)? What will cause him to lose his power?
Answer: In 1 Nephi 22:26 we are taught that “because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth.” Revelation 12:11 offers us specific detail as to what this means: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” It is our testimony that gives us power over Satan.
Elder Richard G. Scott said this about a testimony:
“A strong testimony has sustained prophets throughout the ages and fortified them to act with courage and determination in times of difficulty. A powerful testimony can do the same for you. As you fortify your own personal testimony, you will have power to make correct choices so that you can stand unwaveringly against the pressures of an increasingly vicious world. Your personal security and happiness depend upon the strength of your testimony, for it will guide your actions in times of trial or uncertainty.
Honestly evaluate your personal life. How strong is your own testimony? . . . As your testimony is fortified, Satan will try harder to tempt you. Resist his efforts. You will become stronger and his influence on you weaker. Satan’s increasing influence in the world is allowed to provide an atmosphere in which to prove ourselves. While he causes havoc today, Satan’s final destiny was fixed by Jesus Christ through His Atonement and Resurrection. The devil will not triumph.”1
As we are living in what President Russell M. Nelson calls “the winding-up scene” and as we prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, it is our obligation to strengthen our testimony and defeat Satan.2
Question: “Follow the prophet. He knows the way.”3 Does a prophet know the way? How important is it for us to follow the prophet?
Answer: In Hebrew, the word for prophet means “prophet and a spokesman, speaker” (emphasis added).
In Deuteronomy 18, the Lord taught the children of Israel the importance of a prophet and his role as a spokesman in their lives:
“I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
“But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:18–20).
I wonder if both Moses and Enoch felt unworthy of the call because they knew what the duty entailed. They both told the Lord they couldn’t do it because they weren’t great speakers:
“And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou has spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10, note that some scholars say Moses stuttered or had a speech impediment. According to Jewish tradition, he was unable to pronounce labials, b,f,m,p,v).
“And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” (Moses 6:31).
And read these words from Isaiah as he prophesied about the prophet that would be the means for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith: “Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned” (2 Nephi 27:19).
In fact, Emma said of her husband Joseph:
“Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictat[e] a book like the Book of Mormon. . . .
“My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, [he] would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.”4
In view of all these apparent flaws in prophets, David O. McKay once shared a John Locke quote in a conference address, “When God makes a prophet, he doesn’t unmake the man.”5 Moses, Enoch, and Joseph Smith are proof of that statement. They were called and qualified despite their deficiencies. What is so fascinating is that it isn’t so much the words spoken by a prophet as it is whose words, he is speaking. A careful study of Deuteronomy 18:18–20 will show you that ultimately the “prophet” spoken of in these verses is Christ. It is His words a prophet speaks. His words we are to follow, His words that will not lead us astray. And when we follow His words we will not only be blessed but also, we “shall not perish” (2 Nephi 26:8). No matter how simple or trite the words and commands may seem, we will be blessed for our obedience, including removing my second and third pair of earrings, based loosely on a humbling true story explained in detail in this week’s podcast.
The "Sunday on Monday" study group is a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original presented by LDS Living. You can access the full study group discussion through the Bookshelf app. Listen to a segment of this week's episode below or listen to the full Sunday on Monday episode here.
1. Elder Richard G Scott, “The Power of a Strong Testimony,” Oct. 2001 general conference
2. President Russell M. Nelson, “A Plea to My Sisters,” Oct. 2015 general conference
3. “Follow the Prophet,” Children’s Songbook
4. “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” The Saints’ Herald, vol. 26, no. 19 [Oct. 1, 1879], 290