The second book of Nephi begins with Lehi teaching and expressing the desires of his heart to his family. The eloquent and prophetic teachings of this great patriarch, who was soon to die, are evidence of his wisdom and the Spirit of the Lord that was with him.
“The destruction of Jerusalem referred to in 2 Nephi 1:4 is recorded in the Bible in 2 Kings 25. Lehi and his group had been warned by the Lord to flee from the land of Jerusalem so that they would escape this destruction. Most biblical scholars date the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians somewhere between 586 B.C. and 590 B.C. Thus in his chronological footnotes in this section of the Book of Mormon, Brother [James E.] Talmage suggests that the events following Lehi’s vision of the destruction of Jerusalem took place sometime after about 588 B.C. ” (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 124).
“The Lord in his scripture tells us that no one can come to this land [North and South America] unless he be brought or directed by the Spirit of the Lord, and so he has brought this people here. He brought the faith of the devoted Puritans of New England; he brought the patriotism of the Dutch at New York; he brought the gallantry of the cavaliers of Virginia; the light-hearted energy of the French of New Orleans. Just the kind of composite body of men to establish a government that could not be dominated by any particular race or tongue, but made composite, that all men might be welcomed to it, live under and enjoy its privileges” (Anthony W. Ivins, in Conference Report, Oct. 1932, p. 108).
“Anti-Mormon critics claim that Joseph Smith received from Shakespeare the idea of referring to death as ‘the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return.’ (2 Nephi 1:14.) Shakespeare’s quotation, which critics say is too similar to the statement by Lehi, reads as follows: ‘But that the dread of something after death, The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns.’ (Hamlet, Act 3, scene 1.) Such critics overlook other possibilities for the explanation of the similarity between this statement by Joseph Smith and the one by Shakespeare. In the first place, the idea of referring to death in such a manner is not unique to either of these men. In the book of Job in the Old Testament, we find such statements as: ‘Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death’ (Job 10:21), and ‘When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return’ (Job 16:22). Also, the Roman poet Catulus (who lived in the first century B.C. ) included a similar thought in his ‘Elegy on a Sparrow’: ‘Now having passed the gloomy bourne/From whence he never can return.’” (Ludlow, Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 124–25).
A look at the cross-references for 2 Nephi 1:20 reveals many other Book of Mormon references wherein the promise is repeated that those who keep the Lord’s commandments will prosper in the land. This appears to have been one of those prophetic utterances that was preserved in the hearts and the writings of the people from generation to generation. It is a promise that is still in force for the promised land (present-day North and South America). Those who are obedient will prosper both spiritually and temporally in the land.
Lehi made frequent reference to the power of the devil in his final blessing to Laman and Lemuel (see 2 Nephi 1:13, 17–18, 21, 23). Laman and Lemuel’s behavior indicates that Satan had a great hold over them. To say that they were bound with chains is an apt description of their awful plight. Nephi warned the Saints of the latter days in similar terms (see 2 Nephi 28:19–23).
President Spencer W. Kimball said: “We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we knew also that after a period of life we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward even though it might be for only a day or a year. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disease, of accident, or of senility. We were willing to take life as it came and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur, complaint, or unreasonable demands” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 106).
Elder Marion G. Romney taught the following about difficulties and afflictions:
“If we can bear our afflictions with the understanding, faith, and courage, . . . we shall be strengthened and comforted in many ways. We shall be spared the torment which accompanies the mistaken idea that all suffering comes as chastisement for transgression. . . .
“. . . I have seen the remorse and despair in the lives of men who, in the hour of trial, have cursed God and died spiritually. And I have seen people rise to great heights from what seemed to be unbearable burdens” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1969, pp. 59–60).
President Howard W. Hunter also testified:
“At various times in our lives, probably at repeated times in our lives, we do have to acknowledge that God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord’ (Isaiah 55:8).
“If you have troubles at home with children who stray, if you suffer financial reverses and emotional strain that threaten your homes and your happiness, if you must face the loss of life or health, may peace be unto your soul. We will not be tempted beyond our ability to withstand. Our detours and disappointments are the straight and narrow path to Him, as we sing in one of our favorite hymns:
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
(‘How Firm a Foundation,’ Hymns , no. 85)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, p. 71; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, p. 60).
Lehi’s message in 2 Nephi 2:3–7 pertains to redemption, the means whereby the Savior brought salvation unto man. Lehi said that “salvation is free” (v. 4). In what sense is this true?
“We believe that through the sufferings, death, and atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind, without one exception, are to be completely and fully redeemed, both body and spirit, from the endless banishment and curse to which they were consigned by Adam’s transgression; and that this universal salvation and redemption of the whole human family from the endless penalty of the original sin, is effected without any conditions whatever on their part; that is, they are not required to believe or repent, or be baptized, or do anything else, in order to be redeemed from that penalty; for whether they believe or disbelieve, whether they repent or remain impenitent, whether they are baptized or unbaptized, whether they keep the commandments or break them, whether they are righteous or unrighteous, it will make no difference in relation to their redemption, both soul and body, from the penalty of Adam’s transgression. The most righteous man that ever lived on the earth, and the most wicked wretch of the whole human family, were both placed under the same curse without any transgression or agency of their own, and they both alike will be redeemed from that curse, without any agency or conditions on their part” (Orson Pratt, in James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, pp. 477–78).
Lehi told Jacob that he was redeemed “because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer” (2 Nephi 2:3), not for any act of Jacob’s but because of Jesus Christ. Lehi said, “the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (v. 4).
There is another way in which redemption comes to man. “Men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil” (v. 5), yet all men sin. Hence it is that “by the law no flesh is justified” (v. 5). To be justified means to stand uncondemned before the Lord. No man has ever done that by his own merits, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). No man keeps the law of God in perfection. Thus it is that Christ “offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law” (2 Nephi 2:7). Jesus stood in our place and received the punishment due for all the broken laws of God in all the ages. But this aspect of salvation is not free in the strictest sense of the word, for there are things men must do to claim the benefits of salvation. Lehi says that salvation has value only for those “who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (v. 7). Men who would claim the benefits of Christ’s atoning act must exhibit faith in him sufficient to repent of all their sins. There is no other way to receive the full benefits of this redemptive act.
Elder James E. Talmage said: “The individual effect of the atonement makes it possible for any and every soul to obtain absolution from the effect of personal sins, through the mediation of Christ; but such saving intercession is to be invoked by individual effort as manifested through faith, repentance, and continued works of righteousness. The laws under which individual salvation is obtainable have been prescribed by Christ, whose right it is to say how the blessings made possible by His own sacrifice shall be administered. All men are in need of the Savior’s mediation, for all are transgressors. . . . That the blessing of redemption from individual sins, while open for all to attain, is nevertheless conditioned on individual effort, is as plainly declared as is the truth of unconditional redemption from death as an effect of the fall. There is a judgment ordained for all, and all will be judged ‘according to their works.’ The free agency of man enables him to choose or reject, to follow the path of life or the road that leads to destruction; therefore it is but just that he be held to answer for the exercise of his power of choice and that he meet the results of his acts” (Articles of Faith, pp. 89–90).
The purpose served by “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11) is that man might be tested to see if he will choose the good or the evil. He who desires good will do good, while he who desires evil will do evil.
“Evil is with us, it is that influence which tempts to sin, and which has been permitted to come into the world for the express purpose of giving us an opportunity of proving ourselves before God, before Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, before the holy angels, and before all good men, that we are determined to overcome the evil, and cleave to the good, for the Lord has given us the ability to do so” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 70).
“Man is on earth under a plan provided by God, the Father of the spirits of men. This plan is for the good and welfare of man. The ultimate purpose of the plan is to enable every person to develop his every power, and thus to progress eternally.
Imbedded in every part of the plan is the right of every man to act for himself, to choose one or the other of the opposites which present themselves before him. If he chooses to do that which is for his welfare, which enables him to progress, he chooses the good. If he chooses that which retards his progress, he chooses the evil. Whatever conforms to the plan of God for His earth children is good; whatever is in opposition to the plan is evil. That is a simple, plain definition of evil” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 205–6).
“In the Book of Genesis [Genesis 2:7] we are told that Adam obtained his body from the dust of the earth, and that he was not subject to death is inferred in the commandment the Lord gave him, that if he transgressed the divine commandment and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he should surely die [Genesis 2:17]. In the Book of Mormon [2 Nephi 2:22] we are positively informed that Adam would have lived forever in the garden if he had not partaken of the forbidden fruit. So Adam was in no sense mortal until after his transgression. That his immortal spirit came from another world is verily true, just as it is true of each one of us, for we all lived in the spirit existence before we came into this world and obtained bodies which inherited mortality through the fall of Adam” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:6).
If Adam and Eve had remained in innocence in the Garden of Eden, “they would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:23). Also, they would not have experienced opposition as we know it, for there was no such condition in the idyllic state of the Garden of Eden (see vv. 22–23).
“It was the divine plan from the very beginning that man should be placed on the earth and be subject to mortal conditions and pass through a probationary state as explained in the Book of Mormon where he and his posterity would be subject to all mortal conditions. It was part of the divine plan that man should have this period of mortality where he would be shut out of the presence of God and be subject to all the vicissitudes of mortality, the temptations and trials of the flesh, thus gaining experience and being placed in a position of trial, temptation, and be purified by passing through the trials and tribulations of the flesh, or mortality, as Paul has described it. This life is a very brief part of our existence, but is the most critical, for it is in mortality where we are tried and figuratively placed in the fire and tested, proved to see what kind of material we are made of, whether we will be worthy of an exaltation in the kingdom of God or be assigned to some other kingdom” (Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:81–82).
“Men may choose the right or they may choose the wrong; they may walk in darkness or they may walk in the light. The Lord has given them, in the various dispensations of the world, the light of the gospel, wherein they could walk and not stumble, wherein they could find that peace and happiness which he desires, as a Loving Father, his children should enjoy, but the Lord does not take from them their free agency” (David O. McKay, “There Are Two Roads,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1964, p. 84).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 181).
“It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he, Joseph Smith, should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eyes upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was fore-ordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation” (Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 108).
This phrase denotes an ongoing process pertaining to the coming forth of the stick of Judah and the stick of Ephraim (see Ezekiel 37:15–20).
Concerning the coming forth of the new Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures, Elder Boyd K. Packer stated:
“The stick or record of Judah—The Old Testament and the New Testament—and the stick or record of Ephraim—The Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ—are now woven together in such a way that as you pore over one you are drawn to the other; as you learn from one you are enlightened by the other. They are indeed one in our hands. Ezekiel’s prophecy now stands fulfilled” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, p. 75; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 53).
■ What must be the attitude and condition of all who desire the benefits of the redemptive power of the Messiah? (see 2 Nephi 2:7). What else must we do to be saved from the power of the adversary and to obtain eternal life? (see vv. 26–29).
■ What is the most important reason for mortality? (see v. 25). How is this obtained? (see 2 Nephi 9:18).
■ What was Lehi trying to do in 2 Nephi 1–3? What does this tell you about the role of a father and one of the important things a father can do to fulfill this role?
Despite Lehi’s efforts to give final blessings and admonitions to his family, hatred and jealousy divided them. The followers of Laman were a wicked and idle people cursed by the Lord. Nephi’s followers were industrious and happy because of their righteousness.
“Nephi mentions the prophecies of Joseph that were written on the brass plates of Laban, and, he concludes, ‘there are not many greater.’ (2 Nephi 4:2.) But where are these great prophecies of Joseph? Why do they not appear in the Old Testament? We do not know the answers to these questions, but the following observations might give some clues as to possible answers.
“In the first place, Joseph’s prophecies would logically be written most completely on the ‘stick’ or record of Joseph; thus, they were probably included in detail on the brass plates of Laban. However, Joseph’s prophecies are not found presently in the ‘stick’ or record of Judah—the Bible. Again, this would indicate that the records on the brass plates of Laban were more comprehensive and complete than the records from which we get our Old Testament.
“In the second place, evidently some of the writings of Joseph are still in existence but have not been published to the world. Joseph Smith said that he received some papyri scrolls that contained the record of Abraham and Joseph at the same time he obtained the Egyptian mummies from Michael Chandler. Concerning this record, Joseph Smith has written: ‘The record of Abraham and Joseph, found with the mummies, is beautifully written on papyrus, with black, and a small part red, ink or paint, in perfect preservation.’ (History of the Church, 2:348.) The Prophet next describes how the mummies and the record came into his possession and then concludes: ‘Thus I have given a brief history of the manner in which the writings of the fathers, Abraham and Joseph, have been preserved, and how I came in possession of the same—a correct translation of which I shall give in its proper place.’ (Ibid., 2:350–51.)
“The record of Abraham translated by the Prophet was subsequently printed, and it is now known as the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. However, the translation of the book of Joseph has not yet been published. Evidently the record of Joseph was translated by the Prophet, but perhaps the reason it was not published was because the great prophecies therein were ‘too great’ for the people of this day” (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 130–31).
It should be remembered that some of Joseph’s prophecies were restored to the Bible when Joseph Smith translated or revised it (see JST, Genesis 50:24–36).
Like Jacob of old (see Genesis 49), Lehi felt impelled to warn and bless his children before he passed through the veil of death. Approaching death often causes the “solemnities of eternity” (D&C 43:34) to rest upon the mind.
The verses found in 2 Nephi 4:15–35 are frequently referred to as the psalm of Nephi. The psalms of ancient Israel were hymns. They were collected and used very early in Israel’s history, and some of them were recited quite often. Most of these were familiar to the Israelites.
These psalms served to express the religious feeling of ancient Israel at its greatest depth and highest intensity. Nephi would be familiar with the psalm form as well as with many of the psalms in the Old Testament. It would be natural for him to “write the things of [his soul]” (v. 15) and the expressions of his joy and his sorrow in this highly beautiful, poetic form. An individual can experience more of what Nephi possibly intended by reading this passage aloud, trying to feel as Nephi must have felt as he wrote it, rather than trying to see whether or not the passage has the elements of good English poetry.
Sidney B. Sperry noted: “This is a true psalm in both form and idea. Its rhythm is comparable to the noble cadence of David’s poems. It not only praises God, but lays bare to us the very depths of Nephi’s soul. A study of this psalm reveals how the scriptures delighted Nephi. The influence upon him of the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and the Psalms is very apparent” (Our Book of Mormon, p. 111).
But more important than the form of this passage is the content. Throughout this section of the Book of Mormon we have noted again and again Nephi’s great righteousness, his faithfulness in tribulation, and his overpowering dedication to God. Yet, like all of us, Nephi keenly sensed his imperfections and weaknesses, and he was moved to exclaim:
“O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
“I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me” (2 Nephi 4:17–18).
Was Nephi really that beset with sins? The answer would seem to lie in the following statement by Joseph Smith:
“The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 51).
“This is the only specific reference in the Book of Mormon that Nephi had sisters as well as brothers. How many sisters there were, whether they were older or younger than Nephi, or what their names may have been are questions not answered in our present Book of Mormon. However, the following statement by Erastus Snow may provide information on some of the sisters of Nephi:
“‘The Prophet Joseph informed us that the record of Lehi, was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the first Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi’s family, and Lehi’s sons married Ishmael’s daughters. . . .’ (Journal of Discourses, 23:184.)
“The words that Ishmael’s sons ‘married into Lehi’s family’ would seem to indicate that the two sons of Ishmael (see 1 Nephi 7:6) were married to Lehi’s daughters (and thus to two of the sisters of Nephi). However, the sisters referred to in 2 Nephi 5:6 are evidently still other sisters, because the sisters mentioned here follow Nephi when the schism with Laman occurs, whereas the sisters of Nephi who were married to the sons of Ishmael evidently stayed with their husbands and joined with Laman. (See Alma 3:7 and 47:35.)” (Ludlow, Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 131–32).
“Solomon’s temple was only a small building measuring about 90 feet in length and 30 feet in width and height. Hence, it was not larger than many of our meetinghouses. But the children of Israel were proud of their temple because of the very costly ornaments with which it was embellished. . . .
“Many of you brethren who are comfortably fixed financially, could, single handed, build a temple like Solomon’s temple with your own means. You might be obliged to follow the example of Nephi in not furnishing the building with so much silver and gold or so many precious things as did Solomon, but I venture to say that it was quite possible for a small number of Nephites to erect a temple as large as that erected by Solomon, omitting the costly ornamentations” (Andrew Jenson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1923, pp. 126, 128).
How did Nephi view his position as king? What words did he use instead of king? (see 2 Nephi 5:19; see also 1 Nephi 2:22, 1 Corinthians 12:28).
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
“The Nephites were descendants of Joseph. Lehi discovered this when reading the brass plates. He was a descendant of Manasseh, and Ishmael, who accompanied him with his family, was of the tribe of Ephraim. Therefore there were no Levites who accompanied Lehi to the Western Hemisphere. Under these conditions the Nephites officiated by virtue of the Melchizedek Priesthood from the days of Lehi to the days of the appearance of our Savior among them. It is true that Nephi ‘consecrated Jacob and Joseph’ that they should be priests and teachers over the land of the Nephites, but the fact that plural terms priests and teachers were used indicates that this was not a reference to the definite office in the priesthood in either case, but it was a general assignment to teach, direct, and admonish the people. Otherwise the terms priest and teacher would have been given, in the singular. . . .
“From these and numerous other passages we learn that it was by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood that the Nephites administered from the time they left Jerusalem until the time of the coming of Jesus Christ” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:124–26).
What reasons did Jacob give to his people for quoting Isaiah? Why would Nephi want Jacob to speak about Isaiah’s writings? (see 2 Nephi 11:2–3). “Likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 6:5) means that Isaiah speaks not only to his own people, but also to the Saints of our day, for we also are of Israel.
“This Church is the standard which Isaiah said the Lord would set up for the people in the latter days. This Church was given to be a light to the world and to be a standard for God’s people and for the Gentiles to seek to. This Church is the ensign on the mountain spoken of by the Old Testament prophets. It is the way, the truth, and the life” (Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1961, p. 119).
Jacob makes three important points in 2 Nephi 6:12–13. He explains what conditions must be met in order for the Gentiles to be saved by the Lord. Jacob explains the cause for which Isaiah wrote, and then points out the end result coming to those who oppose and fight against “the covenant people of the Lord” (v. 13). Obviously the phrase “lick up the dust of their feet” (v. 13) is a figurative expression.
“Not many of the Jews, I take it from my reading of the scriptures, will believe in Christ before he comes. The Book of Mormon tells us that they shall begin to believe in him [see 2 Nephi 30:7]. They are now beginning to believe in him. The Jews today look upon Christ as a great Rabbi. They have accepted him as one of their great teachers; they have said that, ‘He is Jew of Jew, the greatest Rabbi of them all,’ as one has stated it. When the gospel was restored in 1830, if a Jew had mentioned the name of Christ in one of the synagogues, he would have been rebuked. Had a rabbi referred to him, the congregation would have arisen and left the building. And so, we see the sentiment has changed. Now I state this on Jewish authority that they are beginning to believe in Christ, and some of them are accepting the gospel.
“But in the main they will gather to Jerusalem in their unbelief; the gospel will be preached to them; some of them will believe. Not all of the Gentiles have believed when the gospel has been proclaimed to them, but the great body of the Jews who are there assembled will not receive Christ as their Redeemer until he comes himself and makes himself manifest unto them” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:9).
“Zechariah is another prophet who has plainly spoken of these great events. According to his predictions the nations will gather and lay siege to Jerusalem. Part of the city will fall, with dire consequences to its inhabitants, when a great earthquake will come, the Mount of Olives will cleave in twain, and the persecuted people will flee into this valley for safety. At that particular time will the Savior come as their Deliverer and show them his hands and his feet. They will look upon him and ask him where he received his wounds, and he will tell them they were received in the house of his friends—he is Jesus Christ, their Redeemer. Then will they fall to the ground and mourn, every family apart, because their ancestors persecuted their King and the children have followed in the footsteps of the fathers.
“At that time shall come the redemption of the Jews. Jerusalem shall then be rebuilt and the promises that it shall become a holy city will be fulfilled. The punishment which shall come upon those who lay siege to this land will be their destruction. The prophets have portrayed this in much detail with all its horrors” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:47).
■ Why do you think Nephi delighted in the scriptures? What is it that brings a person to the point that they love and cherish the scriptures? Consider the following statement as you ponder these questions:
“‘I think that people who study the scriptures get a dimension to their life that nobody else gets and that can’t be gained in any way except by studying the scriptures.
“There’s an increase in faith and a desire to do what’s right and a feeling of inspiration and understanding that comes to people who study the gospel—meaning particularly the Standard Works—and who ponder the principles, that can’t come in any other way” (Bruce R. McConkie, in David Croft, “Spare Time’s Rare to Apostle,” Church News, 24 Jan. 1976, p. 4).
What important things do 2 Nephi 4:15–16 and 2 Nephi 31:20 teach that you can do to help gain eternal life?
■ President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that we can triumph over evil influences in life by disciplining ourselves to avoid them (see Conference Report, Apr. 1983, p. 66; or Ensign, May 1983, pp. 46–47). What is the relationship between that idea and the ones expressed by Nephi in 2 Nephi 4:28 and the Lord in Matthew 4:10?
■ Under what conditions will the Lord bless us with what we ask for in our prayers? (see 2 Nephi 4:35, 3 Nephi 18:20, D&C 46:30).
■ Review the following scriptures concerning the writings of Isaiah: 2 Nephi 6:4–5, 25:1–8, 3 Nephi 23:1–3. Why was Isaiah quoted so much in the Book of Mormon? Who did he speak to? Why is it important for us to know and understand the words of Isaiah?
Jacob, a son of Lehi and a brother of Nephi, was a great spiritual leader of the Nephites. 2 Nephi 8–10 gives a continuation of Jacob’s teachings to the Nephites. He quoted and explained prophecies of Isaiah about the latter-day gathering and redemption of Israel. He taught of the greatness of the Redeemer and the power of his atonement, and entreated the Nephites to repent so they might partake of the Lord’s saving grace.
In 2 Nephi 8:4–8 emphasis is placed upon the pronouns my and mine. The Lord is referring to himself. It is his righteousness, his law, and his salvation that shall prevail. Men who understand and accept this fact need not fear the “reproach of men” nor “be . . . afraid of their revilings” (v. 7). God is stronger than all of this.
The verses found in 2 Nephi 8:9–11 appear to be a plea from the people of God for the Lord to “awake as in the ancient days” (v. 9) and act in their behalf as he did against ancient Rahab (Egypt) and the dragon (devil). It was the Lord who parted the Red Sea for the children of Israel and made a way for them to pass over (see v. 10). In that same way he will gather his children in the latter days from throughout the earth and will bring them to Zion where there shall be gladness and everlasting joy.
The appeal in 2 Nephi 8:12–16 is to trust the Lord rather than man. The Lord is our creator, a being of great power. Why should we not fear man? (see vv. 12–13). The captive exiles of Israel will be freed by God’s power, for they are truly his people, and he has them “covered . . . in the shadow” (v. 16) of his hand (see also vv. 14–15).
Following the crucifixion of Jesus, the Romans removed the Jews from Jerusalem and scattered them abroad throughout the empire. For almost two thousand years Jerusalem was not under the political control of the Jews. She had, in fact, drunk the dregs of a bitter cup of medicine. There was not a single prophet-son to guide her during all those years. Now it is time for Jerusalem, representing the ancient Jewish nation, to awake and rise again and return to their God, the Holy One of Israel.
The allusion in 2 Nephi 8:19–20 seems to be to the two prophets who will be raised up unto the Jewish nation in the latter days. These prophets will enjoy enormous powers during a critical period when Jerusalem is under siege (see Revelation 11:1–17). They will also “prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers” (D&C 77:15). The other “sons” have been vanquished, but these two are like “a wild bull in a net, . . . full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God” (2 Nephi 8:20).
Through the power of the Lord, Jerusalem shall prevail. God has removed the “cup of trembling” (2 Nephi 8:22) as he promised he would do. The period of Jerusalem’s rejection is over. She will never have to suffer banishment and destruction again. It is now the enemy’s turn to suffer. The cup of suffering will now be given to those who have caused the Jews so much suffering (see D&C 113:9–10).
“Death is just as important in the welfare of man as is birth. There is no greater blessing that can come than the blessing of birth. One third of the hosts of heaven, because of rebellion, were denied that privilege, and hence they have no bodies of flesh and bones, that great gift of God.
“But who would like to live forever in this mundane world, filled with pain, decay, sorrow, and tribulation, and grow old and infirm and yet have to remain with all the vicissitudes of mortality? I think all of us would come to the conclusion, if that proposition were placed before us, that we would not like to have it. We would reject it. We would not want life of that nature. Life here in this world is short of necessity, and yet all that is required may be accomplished, but death is just as important in the plan of salvation as birth is. We have to die—it is essential—and death comes into the world ‘to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator.’” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:116).
Jacob very clearly explains in 2 Nephi 9:7–12 what would have happened to us if there had been no atoning sacrifice to bring about redemption from sin and resurrection from death. Because all men sin in this life (see Romans 3:23) and because no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God (see Moses 6:57), when a person dies his spirit would be in a state of uncleanness forever. This would put man under the power and dominion of Satan. As Jacob says, “Our spirits must have become like unto him” (2 Nephi 9:9).
“The fall brought death. That is not a desirable condition. We do not want to be banished from the presence of God. We do not want to be subject forever to mortal conditions. We do not want to die and have our bodies turn to dust, and the spirits that possess these bodies by right, turned over to the realm of Satan and become subject to him.
“But that was the condition; and if Christ had not come as the atoning sacrifice, in demand of the law of justice, to repair or to atone or to redeem us from the condition that Adam found himself in, and that we find ourselves in; then mortal death would have come; the body would have gone back to the dust from where it came; the spirit would have gone into the realms of Satan’s domain, and have been subject to him forever” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:122).
When Adam transgressed the commandment in the Garden of Eden and brought about the fall of man, two kinds of death were introduced into the world: physical death, which is the separation of the body and the spirit, and spiritual death, which is separation or alienation from God. Because both conditions come automatically upon all men through no act of their own, it is only just that they be taken care of without condition or price.
Physical death is automatically overcome for all men by Christ through the Resurrection, wherein the body and the spirit are reunited, never to be separated again. Something that is not so well understood, however, is that the Resurrection also automatically brings all men back into the presence of God, or overcomes the state of spiritual death caused by the fall of Adam. Thus all the effects of the fall of Adam are overcome automatically without condition.
In the case of spiritual death, however, we must remember that our state of being separated from God in mortality is only partially due to Adam’s transgression. We are born mortal, away from the presence of God, because of the Fall. But once we become accountable and yield to temptation we are responsible for our own state of uncleanness. In other words, we are then to blame for maintaining our state of alienation or spiritual death. If we will turn to God and accept the sacrifice of his Son before the Judgment, then we can be “clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness” (2 Nephi 9:14) through the redemptive power of the Savior. In other words, the spiritual death caused by our own fall will also be overcome in Christ, and we can dwell with God forever. But everyone will be brought back into God’s presence (see vv. 13–15). Everyone will have their state of spiritual death caused by Adam’s fall temporarily overcome. For those who refuse to come unto Christ, their state of spiritual death or separation from God will be overcome only long enough to bring them into his presence for judgment. Then they will be banished from his glory and presence because of their refusal to repent.
The idea that at the time of judgment we will have a perfect remembrance of our righteousness or our unrighteousness is also taught by Alma. Alma describes the awful shame that will grip all those who have not repented of their sins (see Alma 12:13–15).
In 2 Nephi 9 Jacob approaches each of his subjects in an interesting way, always in terms of God’s goodness and greatness. For instance, verse 8 begins, “O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace!” Verse 10 begins, “O how great the goodness of our God.” Look also at verses 13, 17, 19, and 20. Each item Jacob mentions is an attribute of God—God is full of wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy, and holiness.
Speaking of these and other attributes of God, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “By a little reflection it will be seen that the idea of the existence of these attributes in the Deity is necessary to enable any rational being to exercise faith in him; for without the idea of the existence of these attributes in the Deity men could not exercise faith in him for life and salvation; seeing that without the knowledge of all things, God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him” (Lectures on Faith 4:11).
“According to the technical definition of sin it consists in the violation of law, and in this strict sense sin may be committed inadvertently or in ignorance. It is plain, however, from the scriptural doctrine of human responsibility and the unerring justice of God, that in his transgressions as in his righteous deeds man will be judged according to his ability to comprehend and obey law. To him who has never been made acquainted with a higher law the requirements of that law do not apply in their fulness. For sins committed without knowledge—that is, for laws violated in ignorance—a propitiation has been provided in the atonement wrought through the sacrifice of the Savior; and sinners of this class do not stand condemned, but shall be given opportunity yet to learn and to accept or reject the principles of the Gospel” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 58).
“Man sleeps the sleep of death, but the spirit lives where the record of his deeds is kept—that does not die—man cannot kill it; there is no decay associated with it, and it still retains in all its vividness the remembrance of that which transpired before the separation by death of the body and the ever-living spirit. Man sleeps for a time in the grave, and by-and-by he rises again from the dead and goes to judgment; and then the secret thoughts of all men are revealed before Him with whom we have to do; we cannot hide them; it would be in vain for a man to say then, I did not do so-and-so; the command would be, Unravel and read the record which he has made of himself, and let it testify in relation to these things, and all could gaze upon it. If a man has acted fraudulently against his neighbor—has committed murder, or adultery, or anything else, and wants to cover it up, that record will stare him in the face, he tells the story himself, and bears witness against himself. . . . It is not because somebody has seen things, or heard anything by which a man will be judged and condemned, but it is because that record that is written by the man himself in the tablets of his own mind—that record that cannot lie—will in that day be unfolded before God and angels, and those who shall sit as judges” (John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 11:78–79).
“This generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here to-day, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 328).
Morris Jastrow, Jr., a Jew, said:
“From the historic point of view Jesus is to be regarded as a direct successor of the Hebrew prophets. His teachings are synonymous with the highest spiritual aspirations of the human race. Like the prophets, He lays the chief stress upon pure conduct and moral ideas, but He goes beyond the prophets in His absolute indifference to theological speculations and religious rites. It has been commonly said that the Jews rejected Jesus. They did so in the sense in which they rejected the teachings of the earlier prophets” (in Joseph Fielding Smith, The Signs of the Times, p. 62).
■ Through the atonement of Christ we can be redeemed from both physical and spiritual death. What does each of these terms mean? What must we do to be redeemed from spiritual death? (see 2 Nephi 9:10–12, 21, 45–46; 10:23–24).
■ Why will the Judgment be perfectly just? Where is the evidence gathered from by which we will be judged? (see 2 Nephi 9:13–16, Alma 41).
■ What do the scriptures teach about the omniscience (infinite or complete knowledge) of God? (see 2 Nephi 9:20, Alma 26:35, D&C 38:1–2).
■ Under what conditions is learning good or bad? (see 2 Nephi 9:28–29, 42).
■ Jacob taught that the Jews would eventually return to the “lands of their inheritance” (2 Nephi 10:7). What will happen among them to bring about that restoration? (see vv. 3–8).
■ What promise did the Lord make to the latter-day Gentiles on the land of America? (see vv. 10–18).
Nephi loved and quoted extensively from the writings of Isaiah, who preceded him by over a century. Isaiah’s message is vital to all, but especially to those who live in the latter days, for they will live through the fulfillment of his words. It is significant to remember that Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah is salvation” and that central to Isaiah’s entire message is the life, mission, and glorious atonement of Jesus Christ.
The verses found in 2 Nephi 11:2–8 are an introduction to more of the writings of Isaiah. Nephi makes several important points in these verses.
Together with Isaiah and Jacob, Nephi bore witness to the reality of the Redeemer (see vv. 2–3). The importance of these three witnesses is explained by Daniel H. Ludlow:
“God has said through his prophets, ‘In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.’ (2 Corinthians 13:1.) Nephi was apparently aware of this system of witnesses when he introduced three great pre-Christian witnesses of the coming of Jesus Christ: Isaiah, Nephi himself, and Nephi’s brother Jacob. Nephi then continues: ‘Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word.’ (2 Nephi 11:3.)” (A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 140).
Nephi quoted Isaiah because he delighted in “proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ” (2 Nephi 11:4). This provides an important insight into the particular passages Nephi chose to quote. Scholars call such passages “messianic” because they center on the Messiah. Watching for such messianic meanings helps an individual better understand Isaiah.
Nephi taught that the law of Moses and many other things were given by God to typify Christ. The word type has a peculiar scriptural meaning. It means that an object or event carries symbolic significance as well as a literal meaning. Thus, Alma says that the Liahona was a type (shadow or symbol) of how one comes to the true promised land (see Alma 37:38–47). To find out how profoundly symbolic the law of Moses was, see Mosiah 3:14–15, 13:29–31, Alma 25:15–16, 34:14, and Galatians 3:21–24.
Nephi quoted Isaiah for at least three major reasons: Nephi delighted in the words of Isaiah (see 2 Nephi 11:2), the words of Isaiah prove the truthfulness of the coming of Christ (see vv. 4, 6), and Nephi felt that readers “may lift up their hearts and rejoice” (v. 8) because of Isaiah’s words.
The word mountain is used in the scriptures in different allegorical or figurative senses. In 2 Nephi 12:1–4 the word mountain refers to a high place of God, a place of revelation, even the temple of the Lord.
“This temple [Salt Lake Temple] on this temple block is that house of the God of Jacob that our pioneer fathers started to build when they were a thousand miles from transportation, and it took them forty years to build it” (LeGrand Richards, in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, p. 77; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 51).
The verses found in 2 Nephi 12:5–22 reprove the people of the Lord for their trust in idols, “the work of their own hands” (v. 8). As a result of this idol worship, God will humble the “lofty looks of man” (v. 11) and the “haughtiness of men . . . [for] the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (v. 17).
Isaiah foresaw that Judah and Jerusalem would be punished by the Lord as a result of their wickedness. In 587 B.C. the city of Jerusalem was destroyed, and Judah was taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. In A.D. 70, 657 years later, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews to various portions of the world. Surely they had, as Isaiah said, “rewarded evil unto themselves” (2 Nephi 13:9).
Elder Ezra Taft Benson saw the prophecy in 2 Nephi 13:12 as having a fulfillment in our own day:
“And so today, the undermining of the home and family is on the increase, with the devil anxiously working to displace the father as the head of the home and create rebellion among the children. The Book of Mormon describes this condition when it states, ‘And my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.’ And then these words follow—and consider these words seriously when you think of those political leaders who are promoting birth control and abortion: ‘O my people, they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths.’ (2 Ne. 13:12.)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, p. 21).
“In fixing the time of the great gathering, Isaiah seemed to indicate that it would take place in the day of the railroad train and the airplane: [Isaiah 5:26–29.]
“Since there were neither trains nor airplanes in that day, Isaiah could hardly have mentioned them by name. However, he seems to have described them in unmistakable words. How better could ‘their horses’ hoofs be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind’ than in the modern train? How better could ‘their roaring . . . be like a lion’ than in the roar of the airplane? Trains and airplanes do not stop for night. Therefore, was not Isaiah justified in saying: ‘none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken’? With this manner of transportation the Lord can really ‘hiss unto them from the end of the earth,’ that ‘they shall come with speed swiftly.’ Indicating that Isaiah must have foreseen the airplane, he stated: ‘Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?’ (Isaiah 60:8.)” (LeGrand Richards, Israel! Do You Know?, p. 182).
“Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God, giving continual glory, honor, and adoration to him. . . .
“The fact that these holy beings were shown to him [Isaiah] as having wings was simply to symbolize their ‘power, to move, to act, etc.’ as was the case also in visions others had received. (D. & C. 77:4.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 702–3).
■ Notice footnote a for 2 Nephi 11:8. There are many helps to understanding Isaiah that are given in the Bible that are not repeated in the notes for the chapters of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon. Study the notes in the Bible as you read the quotations of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Write in the margins of your Book of Mormon notes that are especially helpful to you.
■ To help you understand the teachings of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 12–16, study the summary at the beginning of each chapter. Write in your Book of Mormon or on a separate piece of paper the verses you think are covered by each heading.
■ Compare 2 Nephi 16:9–10 with Matthew 13:10–16 and Acts 28:25–27. How do people hear and yet not hear, and see, yet not see? How must we understand if we are to be converted and healed? (see 2 Nephi 16:10).
Nephi used the prophecies of Isaiah to teach his people of the need to rely upon the Lord and look to him who would preserve them. Isaiah’s prophecies of the coming of the Messiah in the lineage of Judah were an assurance that their nation would not be totally destroyed, though they would suffer because of their sins. As the Lord would punish the nations of Assyria and Babylon for opposing his people, he would also overthrow all the wicked in the end and would establish Zion.
The prophecy in 2 Nephi 17:16–24 seems to be a prophecy against the kingdom of Israel (Ephraim) declaring that the confederacy between Ephraim and Syria would be broken: “The land that thou abhorrest [the northern kingdom of Israel] shall be forsaken of both her kings [Ephraim’s and Syria’s]” (v. 16); “with arrows and with bows shall men come thither” (v. 24). This prophecy was fulfilled when Assyria overran the land in 721 B.C.
Isaiah was the father of two sons, Maher-shalal-hash-baz (see 2 Nephi 18:3) and Shear-jashub (see 2 Nephi 17:3). Both names are symbolic of the Lord’s intentions for the northern kingdom of Israel. Maher-shalal-hash-baz is a Hebrew term meaning “to speed to the spoil, he hasteneth the prey” (Isaiah 8:1d; see also 2 Nephi 18:1b). This name describes the events spoken of in 2 Nephi 18:4. The ten tribes were overrun and despoiled by the Assyrians when Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, was besieged. Shear-jashub is a Hebrew term meaning “the remnant shall return” (Isaiah 7:3a). This is a reference to the day when Israel will be gathered from her scattered condition. Thus Isaiah could report: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts” (2 Nephi 18:18).
The prophecy in 2 Nephi 18:13–22 is messianic in nature (see also Jacob 4:14–17). Because of their rejection of the Messiah, Isaiah prophesied that the Jewish nation would inherit “trouble, and darkness, [and] dimness of anguish” (2 Nephi 18:22).
Isaiah’s messianic prophecy continues in 2 Nephi 19:1–7. Israel, who sat in darkness, would see “a great light” (v. 2) when Jesus came to earth and broke the yoke of Israel’s spiritual burden (see v. 4).
The titles given to the Messiah in verse 6 signify his service to mankind. He is the wonder of the ages and a counselor in the ways of eternal life (see Jacob 4:10). He who was born in a lowly manger is Jehovah, the “Mighty God” (2 Nephi 19:6) of Israel come to earth. Those who have faith in Christ and covenant with the Lord in the waters of baptism become his children and he becomes their “Everlasting Father” (v. 6, see also Mosiah 5:7). When the Messiah was born, the angels sang “peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14) because the “Prince of Peace” (2 Nephi 19:6), even “the founder of peace” (Mosiah 15:18), had come to earth. His government and peace will last forever.
Isaiah prophesied that Israel would refuse to heed the Lord. Yet, in spite of Israel’s rejection of the Lord, “his hand is stretched out still” (2 Nephi 19:12, 17, 21).
The Lord said that Israel’s wickedness would cause him to send Assyria, “the rod of [his] anger” (2 Nephi 20:5), against his people “to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (v. 6). This prophecy was literally fulfilled when Assyria captured the northern kingdom of Israel and took the people captive to Assyria.
This prophecy further revealed that when Assyria became lifted up in pride the Lord would “punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks” (v. 12). The Lord made it clear that even though Assyria accomplished his purposes against Israel, they had no reason to be proud. As the ax cannot boast of itself against the one who uses it, so the Assyrians could not think of themselves as being higher than the Lord (see v. 15). Assyria was but an instrument in the hand of the Lord in fulfilling his purposes.
Isaiah’s prophecy continues in 2 Nephi 20:20–34. When “the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob” (v. 20) have learned to trust the Lord rather than man, they “shall return” and “overflow with righteousness” (v. 22). The Lord urged his people to “be not afraid of the Assyrian” (v. 24) for their captivity would not last forever; “for yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease” (v. 25). At that time the Lord would remove the Assyrian burden from the shoulders of Israel (see v. 27), and “the high ones of stature shall be hewn down; and the haughty shall be humbled” (v. 33).
We live in the days of the fulfillment of this prophecy. Faithful Latter-day Saints are part of that remnant of Jacob who are trusting in the Lord and starting to overflow with righteousness. We should have cause to ponder when we realize that we are part of the fulfillment of a prophecy uttered seven hundred years before Christ—over twenty-six hundred years ago!
When Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith on 21 September 1823, “he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, saying that it was about to be fulfilled” (Joseph Smith—History 1:40). Nephi quoted the same chapter of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 21. Who is the stem of Jesse and who is the rod to come forth out of that stem? The Lord answered these questions in Doctrine and Covenants 113:1–4. Still, careful reading and pondering are needed to decide who is meant by each symbolic term.
Isaiah prophesied of the great millennial day when peace and love would cover the earth (see 2 Nephi 21:6–9). When that day comes, “the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease” (D&C 101:26).
Doctrine and Covenants 113:5–6 identifies the “root of Jesse” (v. 5; see also 2 Nephi 21:10). This “root . . . shall stand for an ensign of the people” (v. 10).
“Seven hundred years before the birth of the Savior, the Prophet Isaiah, looking down the vista of time, saw the Latter-day gathering of the scattered House of Israel, and said concerning them: ‘They shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the West.’ We recognize the fulfilment of that prophecy in the founding of this Church by Joseph Smith, a lineal descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who thus lifted the Ensign for the gathering of their descendants from their long dispersion among the nations. But a part of the fulfilment rests with the Gentiles. Their steamships, their railroads, their means of rapid transit and communication—these are ‘the shoulders of the Philistines,’ upon which the children of Ephraim have been and are being brought to the West, to the land of Zion, where the New Jerusalem is to rise, where the pure in heart will assemble, and the necessary preparation be made for the coming of the Lord in his glory. God works outside as well as inside his Church, and uses big things and little things for the accomplishment of his purposes” (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1919, p. 69).
At the Second Coming the Lord’s anger will not be “upon them that rejoice in [his] highness” (2 Nephi 23:3). Instead, he will call those sanctified and mighty ones “from the end of heaven” (v. 5), and their gathering will be “like as of a great people, a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together” (v. 4).
The verses in 2 Nephi 23:6–13 give an idea of what it will be like at the Savior’s second coming. It is to “come as a destruction from the Almighty” (v. 6). It is a day when “he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of [the land]” (v. 9). Compare verse 10 with Doctrine and Covenants 88:87, and 2 Nephi 23:13 with Doctrine and Covenants 88:89–91. These verses describe changes that will occur just before the Savior’s second coming.
The Lord said, “I will be merciful unto my people [the righteous], but the wicked shall perish” (2 Nephi 23:22). Those who oppose the Lord will witness great devastation prior to and at the Second Coming. Those “joined to the wicked shall fall by the sword” (v. 15), and “their houses shall be spoiled” (v. 16). Their children and wives will also suffer greatly (see vv. 15–16). This is Isaiah’s depiction of the great judgments that John the Revelator later saw (see Revelation 9, 11, 16–18).
Remember that the name Babylon has both literal and spiritual meaning (see 2 Nephi 23:19–22). As is the case with many of Isaiah’s prophecies, there is a dual fulfillment for this prophecy. Babylon became one of the most glorious cities of the world during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, around 600 B.C. It fell to the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C. and began a long decline. By the time of Christ, Babylon was inhabited only by a few Jews exiled by Roman decree. A hundred years later it was totally desolate and has remained uninhabited to this day.
Babylon is also the name for Satan’s kingdom, or the world (see D&C 1:16). In the great judgments that will immediately precede the Second Coming, spiritual Babylon, also known as the church of the devil or the great whore of the earth (see 1 Nephi 14:10, Revelation 17:1–5), will be destroyed and remain in utter desolation during the Millennium.
The day will come when “the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel” (2 Nephi 24:1). The Lord will gather his people “from far unto the ends of the earth; and they shall return to their lands of promise” (v. 2). Then “they shall rule over their [former] oppressors” (v. 2) and shall be given “rest, from [their] sorrow, and from [their] fear, and from the hard bondage” of their scattered years (v. 3). Verses 4 through 12 can be interpreted as taunting words against both Lucifer and Israel’s former oppressors, whose pomp “is brought down to the grave” (v. 11).
The only places in the Bible and the Book of Mormon where the title Lucifer is used are Isaiah 14:12 and 2 Nephi 24:12. In Doctrine and Covenants 76:25–28 we learn that Lucifer (which means “lightbearer”) was the premortal name of Satan. Because of his rebellion against God he fell from his position of “authority in the presence of God” (v. 25) and “was called Perdition” (v. 26), which means “destruction.”
Though Babylon was once a mighty nation, God rose against it and “cut off from Babylon the name” (2 Nephi 24:22). The same was true of the Assyrians who despoiled the kingdom of Israel anciently (see v. 25). In the latter days, just as Lucifer fell from heaven to the earth, the wicked nations who have afflicted the Lord’s people will be brought down and “never be renowned” (v. 20). The Lord will establish Zion, “and the poor of his people shall trust in it” (v. 32). We will see a dual fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy; Babylon fell in the days of its kings, and spiritual Babylon, with Satan as its king, will yet fall.
■ What is taught about the Millennium in 2 Nephi 21:5–9 and 30:11–18?
■ What did Isaiah say would bring about the gathering of Israel and the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises to Israel? What part do Latter-day Saints play in these prophecies? (see 1 Nephi 22:3–12, 2 Nephi 21:11–12, 25:17).
■ Study and cross-reference Isaiah 14:12–14, Luke 10:18, Revelation 12:7–9, 2 Nephi 24:12–14, Doctrine and Covenants 29:36–39, 76:25–29, and Moses 4:1–4. List what these scriptures teach about Lucifer, his actions in the War in Heaven, and the results of those actions.
Nephi was a mighty seer and prophesied about future events involving the Nephites and Lamanites, the Jews, and the Gentiles. Nephi saw our day and the great work that would be accomplished in the dispensation of the fulness of times. He quoted the words of the prophet Isaiah to testify of many of these things.
Why were the words of Isaiah hard for many of Nephi’s people to understand? (see 2 Nephi 25:1). What people are able to plainly understand Isaiah’s prophecies? (see v. 4). When will men in general understand Isaiah’s words? (see v. 7).
What did Nephi prophesy about the following events?
“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation. . . . One passage in the Book of Mormon, written perhaps . . . to stress and induce appreciation for the gracious gift of salvation offered on condition of obedience . . . is particularly enlightening: ‘For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ (2 Nephi 25:23; italics added.) . . .
“. . . However good a person’s works, he could not be saved had Jesus not died for his and everyone else’s sins. And however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel.
“Of course we need to understand terms. If by the word salvation is meant the mere salvation or redemption from the grave, the ‘grace of God’ is sufficient. But if the term salvation means returning to the presence of God with eternal progression, eternal increase, and eventual godhood, for this one certainly must have the ‘grace of God,’ as it is generally defined, plus personal purity, overcoming of evil, and the good ‘works’ made so important in the exhortations of the Savior and his prophets and apostles” (Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 70–71).
Nephi foresaw the day when the Nephite nation, having cast out the prophets and the Saints, would suffer for its wickedness. What form would this suffering take? (see 2 Nephi 26:5–6). Notice how Nephi spoke to future generations of Nephites as though they were present (see v. 1).
Nephi lamented the future destruction he foresaw of his people, but he was compelled to acknowledge to the Lord, “Thy ways are just” (2 Nephi 26:7). Nephi also foresaw that “the righteous that hearken unto the words of the prophets . . . are they which shall not perish” (v. 8; see also 1 Nephi 22:17–19). These people would be visited by Christ and begin several generations of peace (see 2 Nephi 26:9). Eventually, however, the Nephite nation would fall into a “speedy destruction” because the Spirit of the Lord would cease to strive with the people (see vv. 10–11).
In verse 12 Nephi seems to have used the term Jew in the broader sense of the word, that is, as a term for Israel. He divided those who were to be convinced as Jews (Israel) from those convinced as Gentiles (non-Israel). Nephi prophesied that this great conversion would take place in the last days (see v. 14).
“Nephi is evidently quoting from a statement found in Isaiah 29:4 when he refers to a destroyed people whose record shall come ‘out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit.’ (2 Nephi 26:16.) . . .
“. . . A careful reading of this scripture, particularly when read together with Nephi’s explanation, would indicate that the term it ‘hath a familiar spirit’ means that this record (the Book of Mormon) would speak with a ‘familiar voice’ to those who already have the Bible. In other words, Nephi is evidently saying here that the doctrinal teachings of the Book of Mormon would seem familiar to people who had already read and accepted the Bible” (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 146).
Nephi said that an account of the events that would take place among his people would “be written and sealed up in a book” (2 Nephi 26:17). He then prophesied of how the Gentiles in the latter days would stumble “because of the greatness of their stumbling block” (v. 20). He said they would build up false churches and “put down the power and miracles of God” (v. 20). Strife, malice, and secret combinations would increase as a result.
Has Nephi adequately described the Christian world of today? According to Nephi, what is the real source of apostasy, stumbling, and darkness? (see v. 22). How did the Lord propose to remove that stumbling in the latter days?
In verse 12 Nephi promised that both the Jews and the Gentiles would be convinced that Jesus is the Christ (see also the title page of the Book of Mormon). An important factor in bringing about that great conversion is the Book of Mormon.
Nephi said that God “doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world” (2 Nephi 26:24) and for the sake of man’s salvation. To whom is Christ’s salvation offered? Is anyone excluded? (see v. 27).
The assurance that salvation is given freely to all men is not a suggestion that no effort is required on our part. The Lord said, “If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation” (D&C 6:13).
Compare 2 Nephi 27:3–6 with Isaiah 29:7–10. These references describe a people in apostasy. These people are asleep spiritually and so they stumble, not because they are intoxicated, but because they have no prophet to guide their steps.
“Isaiah speaks of a time when deep sleep should be poured out upon the nations of the earth, and they should be drunken, but not with wine; they should stagger, but not with strong drink; and the Prophets and the Seers, &c., should be covered; in other words, they would not have any Prophets or Seers. [Isaiah 29:7–10.] Every one will bear me witness that that was the case at the time these plates were brought forth. Where was there a people who received revelation? Where were their Prophets and Seers? Gone, covered” (Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 15:185–86).
A portion of the plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon was sealed, and he was commanded not to translate that part. Nephi wrote of what was contained in the sealed portion (see 2 Nephi 27:7, 10), when it would become available to us (see v. 10; see also Ether 4:4–7), and how it would be made available (see 2 Nephi 27:11). The verses in 1 Nephi 14:26 and 3 Nephi 26:9–11 also refer to the sealing up of sacred writings.
Early in the process of translating the Book of Mormon, Martin Harris desired proof that the translation Joseph Smith was making was genuine. Martin Harris obtained permission to carry a copy of a few of the characters from the plates, not the book itself, together with their translation to some learned men in New York. For an account of what happened read Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65.
The “marvelous work and a wonder” spoken of by the Lord in 2 Nephi 27:26 includes the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood and the Church, and the presence of latter-day prophets on the earth. But it is even more than these things. It is the restoration of all things, including the establishment of Zion on the earth again.
Elder Mark E. Petersen commented on Isaiah 29:17:
“As he opens the subject in his twenty-ninth chapter, Isaiah describes a [Nephite] nation which would be destroyed suddenly, but which would speak in modern times, literally from the grave, by means of a book [the Book of Mormon]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, p. 16; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 12).
Elder Petersen pointed out how Isaiah said the event would take place “before Palestine regains its fertility. Palestine is now the fruitful field [Isaiah] envisioned, and the book has been published” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1977, p. 16; or Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 12).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that: “Spiritual deafness describes the state of those who are lacking in spirituality, whose spirit ears are not attuned to the whisperings of the still small voice of the Spirit. Similarly, spiritual blindness is the identifying mark which singles out those who are unable to see the hand of God manifest in the affairs of men. Such have ‘unbelief and blindness of heart’ (D. & C. 58:15); they are ‘hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds.’ (3 Ne. 2:1.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 184).
Compare 2 Nephi 27:30–34 with Isaiah 29:19–23.
“Another event is spoken of in connection with the bringing forth of this book [the Book of Mormon]—‘For the terrible one is brought to naught, the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off.’ Has that ever been fulfilled? No, but it will be in its time and in its season; but not until they have heard the words of the book, and have been thoroughly warned by the coming forth of truth out of the earth. When that has been sounded in their ears, if they hardened their hearts against it the decree of the Almighty is that all that watch for iniquity shall be cut off. All who persecute the Saints of the living God, all who would make a man an offender for a word, that will lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, that will turn aside the just for a thing of naught, are to be consumed” (Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 15:188).
“‘They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.’ (Isa. 29:1–24.) Such is the purpose of the Book of Mormon. Members of false churches who err in spirit, who think they have the truth, are brought by the Book of Mormon to the fulness of the gospel. Those who have based their beliefs on isolated verses and obscure passages, and who have wondered and murmured at seeming biblical conflicts, come to learn sound doctrine. No longer do they worry about the atonement, salvation by grace alone, infant baptism, the priesthood, the gifts of the Spirit, the passages about an apostasy, a gospel restoration, and the gathering of Israel. All things fall into place because of this new witness for Christ and his gospel, this witness which bears the name of the prophet Mormon” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, pp. 174–75).
■ Make a list of Nephi’s prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, the Nephites and Lamanites, the Jews, and the Gentiles (see 2 Nephi 25–27).
■ What impressed you about Nephi’s prophecies concerning the last days?
Nephi saw the deceptions Satan would perpetrate in the last days. By giving us knowledge of Satan’s intentions and tactics, Nephi’s warnings help us avoid being entrapped by Satan.
It is interesting that Nephi felt constrained by the Spirit to speak to his brethren as he did. Constrained means to be compelled or to do something out of necessity. For other examples of being constrained by the Spirit see 1 Nephi 4:10, Alma 14:11, 4 Nephi 1:48, and Doctrine and Covenants 63:64.
The book mentioned in 2 Nephi 28:2 is the Book of Mormon, described by Nephi in 2 Nephi 27. Nephi said the book would be of great worth because of conditions in the last days. The “for” in 2 Nephi 28:3 means “because.” In other words, the Book of Mormon will be of great worth in our day because of the following conditions:
1. Churches will be built up that—
a. Claim to be the Lord’s but really are full of contention (see vv. 3–4; compare with Joseph Smith—History 1:5).
b. Teach with their own learning and deny the Holy Spirit (see 2 Nephi 28:4).
c. Deny the power of God by denying priesthood authority, and by denying God still operates in the lives of men in the same way (see vv. 5–6).
d. Teach that sin and wickedness are excusable (see vv. 7–8).
2. There will be many who teach false doctrines, are puffed up in their pride, work in darkness, and become corrupted (see vv. 9–12).
3. Pride, false teachers, and false doctrines will lead to many evils (see v. 12):
a. Exploitation of the poor (see v. 13).
b. Persecution of the humble (see v. 13).
c. Widespread apostasy (see v. 14).
d. Deception of the humble followers of Christ (see v. 14).
How does the Book of Mormon help counteract these conditions in our time? Sincerely pondering the answer to this question will broaden our perspective about the impact of this book and why it plays such a central role in the restoration of the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ.
Elder George Albert Smith spoke about how even little indiscretions lead us away from the Spirit and put us in Satan’s power. After quoting 2 Nephi 28:8 Elder Smith said: “Isn’t that just exactly what the devil says to the children of men today as plainly as it is written here? Oh, commit a little sin, that won’t do any harm, lie a little, that won’t do any particular damage, the Lord will forgive that and you will only be beaten with a few stripes and at last you shall be saved in the kingdom of God. That is what he says to the man or the woman who has been taught the Word of Wisdom when he says, oh, drink a little tea, that won’t hurt you; use a little tobacco, that won’t make any difference; a little liquor won’t do any harm. These are little things; he always does it a little at a time, not all at once. That is what I would like us to remember, my brethren, this morning. It is these insignificant insidious whisperings that betray mankind and that place us in the power of the devil. I want to say to you, in my judgment, that the use of tobacco, a little thing as it seems to some men, has been the means of destroying their spiritual life, has been the means of driving from them the companionship of the Spirit of our Father, has alienated them from the society of good men and women, and has brought upon them the disregard and reproach of the children that have been born to them, and yet the devil will say to a man, Oh, it’s only a little thing!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1918, pp. 39–40).
In a later conference address, speaking on the same scripture, Elder Smith said:
“‘Yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words.’
“Think of what that means, the whisperings of the adversary to lie a little. Whether it be a lie intended to [affect] a religious organization, a business organization, a political organization, or an individual, the lie will brand the one who tells it, and sooner or later he will have to account for the wrong he has committed.
“‘Yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.’
“That is what the adversary of righteousness is saying to the children of men. That is what Lucifer who goes about defiling the people is breathing into their souls. That is the kind of doctrine that is being disseminated in the world by some of those who ought to be the leaders of morality and also of righteousness. But to you, my brethren and sisters, the obligation has been given that you must refute such things as these when you know of them” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1932, p. 29).
“Yes, within the Church today there are tares among the wheat and wolves within the flock. As President Clark stated, ‘The ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership, and they, more than any others, are clothed in sheep’s clothing because they wear the habiliments of the priesthood. . . . We should be careful of them. . . .’ (. . . Conference Report, April 1949, p. 163.)
“The wolves amongst our flock are more numerous and devious today than when President Clark made this statement. . . .
“Not only are there apostates within our midst, but there are also apostate doctrines that are sometimes taught in our classes and from our pulpits and that appear in our publications. And these apostate precepts of men cause our people to stumble. . . .
“Christ taught that we should be in the world but not of it. Yet there are some in our midst who are not so much concerned about taking the gospel into the world as they are about bringing worldliness into the gospel. They want us to be in the world and of it. They want us to be popular with the worldly even though a prophet has said that this is impossible, for all hell would then want to join us.
“Through their own reasoning and a few misapplied scriptures, they try to sell us the precepts and philosophies of men. They do not feel the Church is progressive enough” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1969, p. 11).
“There are at least three dangers that threaten the Church within, and the authorities need to awaken to the fact that the people should be warned unceasingly against them. As I see these, they are flattery of prominent men in the world, false educational ideas, and sexual impurity” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 312–13; see also 2 Nephi 9:28–29).
In a general conference address, Elder George Albert Smith quoted 2 Nephi 28:21 and said: “Now, I want you to note that: ‘And thus the devil cheateth their souls and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.’ And that is the way he does it, that’s exactly the way he does it. He does not come and grab you bodily and take you into his territory, but he whispers, ‘Do this little evil,’ and when he succeeds in that, another little evil and another, and, to use the expression quoted, ‘He cheateth their souls.’ That’s what he does. He makes you believe that you are gaining something when you are losing. So it is every time we fail to observe a law of God or keep a commandment, we are being cheated, because there is no gain in this world or in the world to come but by obedience to the law of our heavenly Father. Then again, that peculiar suggestion, ‘And he leadeth them carefully away down to hell’ is significant, that is his method. Men and women in the world today are subject to that influence, and they are being drawn here and there, and that whispering is going on and they do not understand what the Lord desires them to do, but they continue in the territory of the evil one, subject to his power where the Spirit of the Lord will not go” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1918, p. 40).
Why would Satan be happy to have people believe he does not exist? Elder Marion G. Romney bore this witness:
“A corollary to the pernicious falsehood that God is dead is the equally pernicious doctrine that there is no devil. Satan himself is the father of both of these lies. To believe them is to surrender to him. Such surrender has always led, is leading now, and will continue to lead men to destruction.
“Latter-day Saints know that there is a God. With like certainty, they know that Satan lives, that he is a powerful personage of spirit, the archenemy of God, of man, and of righteousness.
“The reality of the existence of both God and the devil is conclusively established by the scriptures and by human experience” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, p. 22; or Ensign, June 1971, p. 35).
Satan fought a desperate battle to prevent the Book of Mormon from coming forth (see D&C 10). When he failed in this, his next tactic was to discredit its value in the eyes of the people.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented on those who reject the Book of Mormon: “Strange as it may seem to present day enemies of the truth, their very opposition to the receipt of more of the word of the Lord by way of the Book of Mormon is one of the signs of the times. Their opposition, summarized in the canting chant, ‘A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible,’ brings forth this severe rebuke from the Lord: ‘Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. . . . Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word?’ (2 Ne. 29.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 719).
“Now, we have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat the falsehoods in socialism, organic evolution, rationalism, humanism, etc. Our missionaries are not as effective unless they are ‘hissing forth’ with it. Social, ethical, cultural, or educational converts will not survive under the heat of the day unless their taproots go down to the fulness of the gospel which the Book of Mormon contains. Our church classes are not as spirit-filled unless we hold it up as a standard. And our nation will continue to degenerate unless we read and heed the words of the God of this land, Jesus Christ, and quit building up and upholding the secret combinations which the Book of Mormon tells us proved the downfall of both previous American civilizations” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, p. 96; or Ensign, May 1975, p. 65).
With reference to 2 Nephi 29:7–8, President Joseph Fielding Smith said:
“This was spoken by prophecy to the gentiles of the present day. It should be remembered also, that the law given to Israel was that ‘the testimony of two men is true [John 8:17],’ providing they are honorable witnesses. Here the Lord applies the law to nations. Why should it not be so?
“If the word of the Lord is to be established by two chosen witnesses, then we may well look for two chosen nations to stand as witnesses for Jesus Christ. One such nation was Israel in Palestine, the other was Israel in America, Judah speaking from the Old World and Joseph from the New. Today these two testimonies for God and his truth have run together” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:278).
In the scriptures the word Israel is used in several ways. There is a blood Israel and a spiritual Israel. According to Nephi, what makes a person a true member of the house of Israel? How is this related to Paul’s comment in Romans 9:6 that “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”? (see also Romans 2:28–29).
Jew and Judah are national names as well as tribal names. From about 1800 B.C. to about 750 B.C. the terms Jew and Judah applied specifically to only one of the thirteen tribes (counting Joseph as two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, as in Numbers 2). After that time, the terms increasingly began to be used to name any citizen of the kingdom of Judah, which consisted primarily of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, but included many people from other tribes, especially Levi.
The term Jew first appears in the Old Testament in 2 Kings 16:6, at the time just before the northern kingdom of Israel fell to Assyria. Thereafter, the Jews, or the southern kingdom of Judah, became the only known surviving remnant of Israel. Nephi referred to the Jews as “them from whence I came” (2 Nephi 33:8).
Mulek, and possibly all of the Mulekites, were Jews of the tribe of Judah. They were “exceedingly numerous” (Omni 1:17) when discovered by the people of King Mosiah. In addition to being descendants of the Jews in the national sense, there is also a blood relationship to the tribe of Judah among the modern Lamanites.
“We now have some half million Indian or Lamanite members in the Church. . . .
“. . . We already have 89 stakes that are entirely Lamanite, and 100 stakes with sizeable numbers of Lamanites in them. Then we have approximately 380 stakes with some mixture of Lamanites in them.
“This is a new day. There is a new ground swell. We now have Lamanite stake presidents, mission presidents, bishops, high councilors, branch presidents, presidents of auxiliary organizations, and even a General Authority of the Lamanites” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Lamanite [address delivered at Regional Representatives’ seminar, 1 Apr. 1977], pp. 4, 8, 12).
■ Summarize Nephi’s teachings on the strategies Satan uses to pull members of the Church away from the truth (see 2 Nephi 28:20–32).
■ Read and mark the following scripture chain and then make a list of things you can do to avoid deception: 2 Nephi 28:30, Alma 17:2–3, Moroni 7:15–19, Doctrine and Covenants 46:7, 21:4–6, 42:11.
■ What special blessings did Nephi prophesy would come to the Jews, the Lamanites, and the Gentiles? (see 2 Nephi 30).
Nephi lived an adventurous life, facing numerous challenges. Some of the challenges he faced included fleeing Jerusalem, building a ship, crossing the waters to the promised land, colonizing, withstanding persecution, fulfilling family and leadership responsibilities, and keeping records. Toward the end of his inspiring life, Nephi wrote his concluding testimony and bore witness of the “doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:2), the power of the Holy Ghost, and the truthfulness of the words he had written.
Simply stated, “the doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:2) is that all who have faith in Jesus Christ, truly repent of their sins, and enter into a baptismal covenant with the Lord will receive the Holy Ghost. This third member of the Godhead will then direct their path and show them all of the things they must do to achieve salvation. We embrace the doctrine of Christ by following Christ’s example.
Notice how often Nephi wrote about following the Son of God and doing the things the Son did (see vv. 5, 9–10, 12–13, 16–17). In Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of one who entered the path leading to eternal life and never departed from it.
The Savior himself indicated how important the doctrine of Christ is when he said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them” (3 Nephi 11:39). For parallel discussions on the doctrine of Christ see 3 Nephi 11:31–41, 27:8–22, and Moses 6:48–68.
Notice in 2 Nephi 31:3 Nephi’s desire to make his words plain and easy for us to understand (see also 2 Nephi 25:4, 33:6).
“Some different reasons exist as to the need for baptism in the case of our Lord, he being without sin and in need of no repentance. His expression to John was, ‘Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.’ (Matt. 3:15.) Nephi explains that Christ did fulfill all righteousness in being baptized in that: 1. He humbled himself before the Father; 2. He covenanted to be obedient and keep the Father’s commandments; 3. He had to be baptized to gain admission to the celestial kingdom; and 4. He set an example for all men to follow. (2 Ne. 31:4–11.)
“Our Lord’s baptism ‘showeth unto the children of men the straightness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.’ (2 Ne. 31:9.) If even the King of the kingdom could not return to his high state of preexistent exaltation without complying with his own eternal law for admission to that kingdom, how can any man expect a celestial inheritance without an authorized and approved baptism?” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 71).
“An intelligent being, in the image of God, possesses every organ, attribute, sense, sympathy, affection that is possessed by God himself.
“But these are possessed by man, in his rudimental state, in a subordinate sense of the word. Or, in other words, these attributes are in embryo and are to be gradually developed. They resemble a bud, a germ, which gradually develops into bloom, and then, by progress, produces the mature fruit after its own kind.
“The gift of the Holy Ghost adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form, and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being” (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, p. 61).
Speaking about the many times Jesus condemned hypocrisy, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., said: “Taking the New Testament alone, you will gain little idea of the kind of life the Romans led in Palestine, the kind of life that the Christ condemned, and yet . . . it has seemed to me that the one sin that the Savior condemned as much as any other was the sin of hypocrisy—the living of the double life, the life we let our friends and sometimes our wives believe, and the life we actually live” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1960, p. 90).
The word hypocrite is translated from a Greek word meaning an actor on the stage. A hypocrite is, therefore, a person who pretends to be something he is not, or one who assumes different roles that do not reflect his real thinking and feeling.
Nephi wrote that we must follow Christ “with full purpose of heart” and “with real intent” (2 Nephi 31:13) to receive the blessings of the Holy Ghost. “Full purpose of heart” suggests a total commitment of the inner man to Christ; “real intent” conveys the idea of sincere or pure motives. Moroni later wrote of this principle when he indicated that a testimony of the Book of Mormon is received through seeking “with a sincere heart, with real intent” (Moroni 10:4). He also wrote that true righteousness is based on the intent of the heart (see Moroni 7:6–9).
“Now I am going to say something that maybe I could not prove, but I believe is true, that we have a great many members of this Church who have never received a manifestation through the Holy Ghost. Why? Because they have not made their lives conform to the truth. And the Holy Ghost will not dwell in unclean tabernacles or disobedient tabernacles. The Holy Ghost will not dwell with that person who is unwilling to obey and keep the commandments of God or who violates those commandments willfully. In such a soul the spirit of the Holy Ghost cannot enter. That great gift comes to us only through humility and faith and obedience. Therefore, a great many members of the Church do not have that guidance. Then some cunning, crafty individual will come along teaching that which is not true, and without guidance which is promised to us through our faithfulness, people are unable to discern and are led astray. It depends on our faithfulness and our obedience to the commandments of the Lord if we have the teachings, the enlightening instruction, that comes from the Holy Ghost.
“When we are disobedient, when our minds are set upon the things of this world rather than on the things of the kingdom of God, we cannot have the manifestations of the Holy Ghost. Did you ever stop to think what a great privilege it is for us to have the companionship of one of the members of the Godhead? Have you thought of it that way? That is our privilege, if we keep the commandments the Lord has given us” (Joseph Fielding Smith, We Are Here to Be Tried, Tested, Proved, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [25 Oct. 1961], pp. 4–5).
Nephi wrote about two baptisms (see 2 Nephi 31:13). One was the baptism of water, which may be administered under the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, and the other was the baptism of fire, or the Holy Ghost, administered under the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Speaking of this baptism of fire, Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
“By the power of the Holy Ghost—who is the Sanctifier (3 Ne. 27:19–21)—dross, iniquity, carnality, sensuality, and every evil thing is burned out of the repentant soul as if by fire; the cleansed person becomes literally a new creature of the Holy Ghost. (Mosiah 27:24–26.) He is born again.
“The baptism of fire is not something in addition to the receipt of the Holy Ghost; rather, it is the actual enjoyment of the gift which is offered by the laying on of hands at the time of baptism. ‘Remission of sins,’ the Lord says, comes ‘by baptism and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.’ (D. & C. 19:31; 2 Ne. 31:17.) Those who receive the baptism of fire are ‘filled as if with fire.’ (Hela. 5:45.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 73).
“Sometimes someone will say: ‘Well, I have been baptized into the Church; I am a member of the Church; I’ll just go along and live an ordinary sort of life; I won’t commit any great crimes; I’ll live a reasonably good Christian life; and eventually I will gain the kingdom of God.’
“I don’t understand it that way. I think that baptism is a gate. It is a gate which puts us on a path; and the name of the path is the straight and narrow path. The straight and narrow path leads upward from the gate of baptism to the celestial kingdom of heaven. After a person has entered the gate of baptism, he has to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, as Nephi expresses it, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men; and if he endures to the end, then he gains the promised reward” (Bruce R. McConkie, in Conference Report, Oct. 1950, p. 16).
“We are saddened to learn, as we travel about the stakes and missions of the Church, that there are still many of the Saints who are not reading and pondering the scriptures regularly, and who have little knowledge of the Lord’s instructions to the children of men. Many have been baptized and received a testimony, and have ‘gotten into this straight and narrow path,’ yet have failed to take the further required step—to ‘press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end.’ (2 Ne. 31:19–20; italics added.)” (Spencer W. Kimball, “How Rare a Possession—the Scriptures!” Ensign, Sept. 1976, p. 2).
The Holy Ghost does not necessarily take a person by the hand and guide him step by step through life. As President Joseph F. Smith said:
“If a man is baptized and ordained to the Holy Priesthood, and is called upon to perform duties which pertain to that Priesthood, it does not follow that he must always have the Holy Ghost in person present with him when he performs his duty, but every righteous act which he may perform legally will be in force and effect, and will be acknowledged of God, and the more of the Spirit of God he possesses in his ministrations, the better for himself, and those will not suffer any loss unto whom he administers.
“Therefore, the presentation or ‘gift’ of the Holy Ghost simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment” (Gospel Doctrine, pp. 60–61; emphasis added).
“Revelation is promised us through our faithfulness; so, also, is knowledge pertaining to the mysteries and government of the Church. The Lord withholds much that he would otherwise reveal if the members of the Church were prepared to receive it. When they will not live in accordance with the revelations he has given, how are they entitled to receive more? The people in the Church are not living in full accord with the commandments the Lord has already required of them.
“We find ourselves, therefore, much like the Nephites when Nephi spoke of revelation: ‘And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.’
“We have little occasion to clamor for more revelation when we refuse to heed what the Lord has revealed for our salvation. However, the authorities are directed by revelation, and this is apparent to all who have the spirit of discernment. The Lord has not forsaken his people, although they have not always put their trust in him” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:283).
“In modern revelation the Lord has established a spiritual test to find truth.
“He says in the ninth section of the Doctrine and Covenants simply: ‘But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.’ (V. 8.)
“The words ‘you shall feel that it is right’ refer to a feeling of peace and warmth, a feeling that touches the soul. . . . It is a feeling that is unique in its peace and joy because it emanates from Jesus Christ. It is that feeling which brings a greater knowledge and a more sure witness than even flesh and bones” (Loren C. Dunn, in Conference Report, Apr. 1977, p. 43; or Ensign, May 1977, p. 31).
As Nephi closed his record he wrote that he had charity for all people (see 2 Nephi 33:7–9). Compare Nephi’s remarks with Moroni’s discussions of charity in Ether 12:33–39 and Moroni 7:43–48.
The idea that readers of the Book of Mormon will meet its original authors face-to-face at the great day of judgment was expressed by both Nephi and Moroni (see 2 Nephi 33:11–15, Ether 12:38–39, Moroni 10:27–29). Who was Nephi writing to when he wrote, “I bid you an everlasting farewell”? (2 Nephi 33:13–14).
■ To better understand “the doctrine of Christ,” read and cross-reference 2 Nephi 31:2–21, 32:1–6, 3 Nephi 11:30–41, 27:8–22. Using your own words, write a brief paragraph describing the doctrine of Christ.
■ Sometimes we take our baptism for granted. The following exercise may help you increase your appreciation for your baptism:
1. Write down any information you remember about your baptism, such as the date, the place, who baptized you, and any special feelings you had. You may also want to attend the next baptism in your stake or take part in doing baptisms for the dead at the next opportunity.
2. Look up baptism in the Bible Dictionary. Read the information and answer the following questions: What does the word baptism mean? How long has baptism been upon the earth? What does baptism symbolize? Why was Jesus baptized? (see 2 Nephi 31:4–9). What are the purposes of baptism? Who can baptize? What can you do to remember the covenants you made at baptism, and what are these covenants? (see Mosiah 18:8–10).
■ Nephi knew that having the Holy Ghost was an important key in striving for eternal life. Read 2 Nephi 31–33, and list at least six things the Holy Ghost can do for us.