The Power of the Word
by Shirley R. Heater
While I was working on textual research for First Nephi Study Book of Mormon, one particular instance initiated a personal quest for understanding that is still continuing. The wording on both the Original and Printer's manuscripts for First Nephi 3:179 reads:
Neither will the Lord God suffer that
the Gentiles shall for ever remain
in that state of awful woundedness,
Which thou beholdest that they are in
because of the plain and most
precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb
Which hath been kept back by that
formation thou hast seen.
The phrase "state of awful of woundedness" was changed to "awful state of blindness" in all editions since the 1837 when the original wording was marked out on the Printer's manuscript and the change written boldly above it.
My method for analyzing such changes is to compare the original wording with the altered wording, pondering over if and how the meaning may have altered. About that time I was listening to audio tapes of the book of Jacob in my daily scripture time. When I heard the words of Jacob 2:8, I immediately connected them with the original wording of First Nephi 3:179:
And it supposeth me that they have
come up hither to hear the
pleasing word of God,
Yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul [emphasis added].
This scripture describes the solution for the condition of the Gentiles in the passage of First Nephi. Their state of awful woundedness was brought about "because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which hath been" taken away (v. 168). Verses 184-186 contain the prophecy that these truths will come forth in the Book of Mormon. I saw in Jacob 2:8 that healing of "the wounded soul" was accomplished by receiving the word of God.
These thoughts reminded me of two verses in Alma 16.
The first one is verse 82. Leading up to this point, Alma's heart was sickened because of the spiritual condition of the Zoramites who had separated themselves from the Nephites. They were not only perverting the ways of the Lord, but there was also concern that they would join with the Lamanites. Alma determined that the greatest power to produce change was to preach the word of God among the Zoramites rather than to use the sword:
And now, as the preaching of the
word had had a greater tendency
to lead the people to do that
which was just;
Yea, it had had more powerful effect
upon the minds of the people than
the sword or anything else which
had happened unto them,
Therefore, Alma thought it was
expedient that they should try the
virtue of the word of God.
Three phrases in this verse"greater tendency to lead," "more powerful effect" and "the virtue of the word"-seemed to convey the same idea, i.e., it was the power of the word itself which would bring about the change. (Saying something three times is a Hebraism which expresses the highest degree of importance.) This became even clearer to me when I checked the definition of "virtue": "authority, goodness, efficacy, or power to produce effect" (World Book Dictionary), as well as "miraculous power, ability, strength" etc. according to Strong's concordance. Dunamis, the Greek word for virtue, is the origin of our word "dynamite," and carries the same meaning as the Hebrew word chayil. This is the same virtue or power which went out of Jesus when people were healed (Mark 5:21-23; Luke 6:19; 8:44-47).
With this understanding in mind, I was reminded of a second verse in which Alma makes a profound statement in the course of preaching to the Zoramites:
And now, behold, I say unto you,
And I would that ye should remember
that God is merciful unto all
who believe on his name;
Therefore, he desireth in the first
place that ye should believe, yea,
even on his word. Alma 16:144
God's first-place desire is given in this verse! I had read it many times before, but this time I saw these words as the key to understanding the parable of the seed which Alma was about to relate. The parable is the blueprint for planting the seed or the word of God. The underlying principle-the reason why God places such extreme emphasis on his word-is that resident within the word itself is the power to produce change.
Other scriptures ran through my mind, one after another. Each rang with the power of God's word, his "first-place" desire for us and the results he promises when we put believing his word above everything else. A sampling follows:
-tells us all things we should do, 2 N 11:59; 14:4
-brings great knowledge and understanding, 2 N 14:9
-heals, Jac 2:8; Prov 16:24; Ps 107:20; Matt 8:7 181; Luke 7:7
-created man, worlds, heaven, earth, Jac 3:12; Mn 4:78; Heb 11:3
-establishes peace, WM 1:26-27
-brings answered prayer, John 15:7
-produces faith, Alma 16:151-157; Rom 10:16
-cleanses and sanctifies, John 153; 17:17; Eph 5:25-27
-pulls down pride, craftiness, contentions, Alma 2:26-27
-converts, Alma 12:173; 14:11; 24:63
-delivers, Alma 3:6; 13:20; 3 N 13:32; 4 N 1:33
-brings mighty change, humility, Alma 3:25
-brings many before altar to confess sins, Alma 12:6-7
-brings repentance, Alma 13:45-53; 21:142
-brings redemption, Alma 14:93
-enlightens our understanding, Alma 16:161, Eph 1:17-19
-renews our mind, Alma 16:161; Rom 12:2
-brings happiness, Alma 20:70
-divides, Hel 2:26; Heb 4:12
-keeps us from sinning, Ps 119:9-16
-prisons tumbled to the earth, Mn 4:30
-protects, Mn 4:31
-stands as a testimony to the world, Eth 2:3
After considering these marvelous promises, I was brought full circle, back to the original wording of First Nephi 3:179. It seemed clear to me that we are all in a "state of awful woundedness" in any area of our lives in which we are not living in the fullness of the power of God's word. I have determined to put the word of God first-place in my life.