Remnant, part IV

You should already be familiar with the history of the problems the Saints experienced in Missouri. Independence was hostile, and the Saints were driven away from Jackson County into surrounding areas.  By 1833 the possibility of building in Independence was lost. A revelation assured the Saints that the place for Zion was not moved. The consoling revelation states: “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.  Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered. They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion— And all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled.”  (D&C 101: 16-19.)

Zion was intended to be built in the center of the last part of Lamanite land available in 1831. The fact that the gentiles were expelled does not mean the site for building Zion was automatically changed. The Lord reiterated Zion wasn’t changed. The gentile children may be scattered, but the site would remain. More importantly, the Lamanite children were being scattered as well. The picture was changing on both sides of the line separating “Jew from gentile” in the years following the 1831 revelation. 

By 1838 the conflict between Mormons and Missourians had escalated to the point that it was called the “Mormon War.” The election battle at Gallatin on August 6, 1838 is at one end, and Joseph Smith’s surrender at Far West in November, 1838 at the other.

Missouri was lost to the Saints. The natives voted to expel them, and Governor Lilburn Boggs signed the Extermination Order on October 27, 1838 requiring Mormons to be exterminated or driven from the State of Missouri; a curious piece of Americana that was not rescinded until some 137 years later on June 25, 1976 by Missouri Governor Christopher Bond.

The immediate aftermath of the Extermination Order was the battle at Haun’s Mill, ultimately leading to the surrender in November by Joseph Smith. He was subsequently tried by a military tribunal and sentenced to death, but the death sentence was not carried out.

Joseph spent the winter of 1838-39 in the Liberty Jail, and in March, 1839 wrote a letter from which we have taken three sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 121, 122 and 123. The possibility of building in Missouri was lost, at least for the time.

The Saints moved to Commerce, renamed it Nauvoo, and started a new city. This one was also identified not only as “Zion” but as the “cornerstone of Zion.” (D&C 124: 2.)  So, although “Zion” was not to be moved, by 1841 the “cornerstone of Zion” was now in Nauvoo. This is not a contradiction. Zion has never been moved. But the Lamanites were moving, the Saints were moving, and the opportunity to locate it in the places where it could have been constructed earlier were no longer relevant.

We read the words of Section 101 to mean that the location remains in Independence, Jackson County. It is possible, however, there is another meaning. That is, the location hasn’t changed, although temporary opportunities existed earlier. It wasn’t built earlier, and will be built, but when it is built, it will be at the place always prophesied for its construction. Zion was to be located on the top of the high mountains.  (Isa. 40: 9.) Jackson County has no mountains, no mountain range, no possibility of fulfilling the promised environs for establishing Zion. (Isa. 2: 3.)  Make the descriptions “spiritual” if you want, but a mountain setting is clearly required for the prophesied Zion. (Psalms 133: 3; Isa. 52: 7; Joel 3: 17; Micah 4: 2; 2 Ne. 12: 3; D&C 49: 25; among others.)

Zion was always intended to be built upon the mountain top. (Isa. 30: 17.) Even a valley location in Salt Lake cannot answer to the description given in prophecy. A valley floor is not the “top of the mountain” upon which the beacon will be set. Zion has never been moved. Nor will it. In the same revelation which confirms Zion will not be moved, the Lord spoke of the Saints profaning the land earlier identified as Zion. “For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified. Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances. They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.”  (D&C 101: 5-7.)  

So the location identified for building Zion was lost.  It was lost because of the jarrings, contentions, envyings, strifes, lustful and covetous desires. This caused the land to be “polluted” and rendered it unfit for Zion. It is true, however, that in the same revelation making purchase of land in Jackson County was approved. (D&C 101: 70-71.) There is no doubt a glorious future for Jackson County. But that will be by and by. There is a gathering in the tops of the mountains which must precede that. If there is not a gathering in the mountains first, then ancient and modern prophecy will fail. There is to be a gathering within the boundaries of the everlasting hills. (D&C 133: 31-32.) Zion will flourish upon the mountains. (D&C 49:25.) There aren’t any places in Missouri that qualify for this preliminary gathering.

If jarring and contending can pollute Zion, are we ready for it now? If envy and strife will make it unacceptable, how prepared are we to gather to Zion now? If lustful and covetous desires will make it unfit for an inheritance, are we above those weaknesses now? So, how soon ought we expect the establishment of Zion to get underway?

All of this is an aside to the subject of the remnant.  But it is an important aside. The remnant will build the city of Zion. In 1830, when the earlier inhabitants were relocated to the area immediately adjacent to Jackson County, had the city been built it would have been there. It wasn’t time. It also wasn’t the place.  So, although the future of that place may be glorious at some point, the city of Zion to be built by the remnant, would necessarily be built where the remnant is located. Their location, if it answers to the description of prophecy, would be mountainous, in the top of the mountains, and a suitable place for refuge during a time of upheaval. We’ll follow the events of the 1840’s with that in mind.

Remnant, part III

To understand our own history and prophecies, we have to look at the events taking place during the time of the revelations. The composition of people and geography were dynamic, and changing. They were anything but static. So when you look at events at a specific moment in time, you have to look at the composition of the land and people to understand what was occurring.  If you miss it by a decade, you miss what was revealed.

From the beginning of the United States the Indians were a political problem in need of a solution for both State and Federal government. Various conflicts and battles resulted in temporary solutions. By the time we reach the end of the 1820’s, a more general solution was needed. Andrew Jackson came to office with a plan to deal with the problem.

Andrew Jackson wanted the Indians removed from the eastern portion of the United States, from Maine to Florida and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi.  He wanted them all relocated. Congress responded and passed the Indian Relocation Act of 1830, forcibly removing all Native Americans to the area owned by the United States and acquired from France in the Louisiana Purchase. The land used for the relocation was just beyond the western border of Missouri. In fact, the border town of Independence was located immediately adjacent to, and in the center of the relocated Indian tribes. You couldn’t get any closer, and you couldn’t be any more in the center than in Independence, Missouri.
Joseph Smith, expressing that “one of the most important points in the faith of the Church of the Latter-day Saints . . . is the gathering of Israel (of whom the Lamanites constitute a part)” seemed pleased that the American government was assisting in a gathering of the Lamanites, anticipating that it would facilitate their reception of the gospel. He even included in his history a positive statement expressing President Jackson’s views on the Native Americans (History of the Church 2:357–60).

By 1831, after the relocation was well underway, the closest a white man could get to the Indians was Independence, Missouri. When you left Independence heading west, you would encounter the line dividing the land and establishing the territory the Federal Government exercised control over for the benefit of the tribes located there. It was for this reason the revelation given in 1831 refers to the “line running directly between Jew and Gentile.” (D&C 57: 4.)  The “Jew” being the American Indian tribes located across the border, and the “gentile” being the Americans, including the LDS missionaries at the time. 

In 1830 the first missionary to the “Lamanites” was called. Oliver Cowdery was told, among other things, the following: “And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them; and thou shalt have revelations, but write them not by way of commandment. And now, behold, I say unto you that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites.” (D&C 28: 8-9.)

Later the same month, Peter Whitmer was told to join Oliver in this first mission to the Lamanites. That revelation states: “Behold, I say unto you, Peter, that you shall take your journey with your brother Oliver; for the time has come that it is expedient in me that you shall open your mouth to declare my gospel; therefore, fear not, but give heed unto the words and advice of your brother, which he shall give you.  And be you afflicted in all his afflictions, ever lifting up your heart unto me in prayer and faith, for his and your deliverance; for I have given unto him power to build up my church among the Lamanites;” (D&C 30: 5-6).  Both Oliver and Peter Whitmer were assigned to find these Lamanites, preach the Gospel, and at some point a place where the city of Zion would be built would be revealed. So the Lamanite conversion and revealing of the city of Zion were to happen together. The remnant being required for Zion to be built.
You will recall we discussed earlier how the gentiles will only “assist” in building the city. The remnant will do most of the work. (3 Nephi 21: 23, discussed already.) So this mission was to locate the relevant group, and also locate the relevant spot where the remnant would construct the city of Zion.
In addition to Oliver and Peter, Parley Pratt and Ziba Peterson were called to serve this same mission. They went to Indians in New York, passed through Kirtland, and wound up in Independence at the end of the journey some time later. The Kirtland detour resulted in a large conversion, including Sidney Rigdon. Kirtland was the largest LDS congregation.
Well, the asides are interesting, but the point is that the search for Lamanites began in New York, and moved along until its end in a location center of the relocated tribes. It is immediately next to the boundary separating the Indians and whites, or in the language of revelation, “the Jews and gentiles.”
By the following year, Joseph came to visit the area. With the large relocated group of Lamanite nations across the border, and Independence the site from which all of them could be reached, Joseph received this revelation in July, 1831: “Hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, who have assembled yourselves together, according to my commandments, in this land, which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints.  Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.  And thus saith the Lord your God, if you will receive wisdom here is wisdom. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse.  Wherefore, it is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the saints, and also every tract lying westward, even unto the line running directly between Jew and Gentile;  And also every tract bordering by the prairies, inasmuch as my disciples are enabled to buy lands. Behold, this is wisdom, that they may obtain it for an everlasting inheritance.” (D&C 57: 1-5.)
At that moment in time we had everything in one convenient place. A land to build Zion, the remnant next door, central location, approval from God, and the permission to proceed with establishing a temple.

People, places, opportunities and events would all change between the early 1830’s and the mid 1840’s.  Dramatically. And so we will follow a few of those events and the accompanying revelations which reflect the dynamic changes among both the Saints and the Lamanites.

Remnant, part II

The first statement about the existence of the Book of Mormon in our day was made by Moroni to Joseph Smith.  Moroni stated, among other things: “he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.  He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;” (JS-H 1: 33-34).  The “former inhabitants of this continent” would necessarily be North America.

The remnant came from people who frequently received a place called “this land” in the prophecies. For example: “we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.”  (2 Nephi 1: 5.) The relevant “land” is one which the ancestors of the remnant were promised would be choice above all other lands. A land of inheritance for the remnant. And one to which people would be “led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” to later occupy. This is a reference to Nephi’s earlier vision wherein the unfolding history of the Americas were shown to him. That included the following:

There would be a man separated by “many waters” who would be wrought upon by the Spirit of God and make the journey across the “many waters” to the remnant “seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.” (1 Nephi 13: 12.) This identifies Columbus, whose original landfall was in the West Indies of the Caribbean. However, the prophecy continues with greater details, increasingly focusing on a North American setting.

After the original discovery by the man wrought upon by the Spirit of God (Columbus), the same “Spirit of God… wrought upon other Gentiles” who also made the migration across the “many waters.” (1 Nephi 13: 13.) Again it is not unequivocal because migration included and still includes both North and South America.

 
When the gentile waves of immigration overtake the promised land, they are humbled, fleeing from captivity (1 Nephi 13: 16), and the power of God was upon them (Id.). They were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations. (1 Ne. 13: 19.) These gentile people are then “lifted up by the power of God above all other nations, upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands, which is the land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy father that his seed should have for the land of their inheritance.” (1 Ne. 13: 30.) That description seems to identify the United States, for there is no historic basis for saying Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, Columbia or Peru are or ever have been “lifted up by the power of God above all other nations.” The United States, however, as the world’s single recognized “superpower” has fit this description. If it is the area of the United States being identified, then this is the “land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy father that his seed should have for the land of their inheritance.” Or, in other words, this is where one should expect to find remains of the remnant who inherited and will inherit again the land as their promise from the Lord.
 
The gentiles who inherited the area of the United States waged a continuing campaign to dispossess the native people, succeeding in causing them to dwindle, but not be utterly destroyed. (1 Ne. 13: 30-31.) It is in the United States, beginning in upper New York State that the gentiles are given the chance to remove the “awful state of blindness” through the restoration of the Gospel. (1 Ne. 13: 32, 34.) The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was a North American event, coming to the gentiles who are occupying the land covenanted to the fathers and upon which we would find the remnant. (1 Ne. 13: 35-36.)
 
There is enough, therefore, in Nephi’s prophecy to identify the area where the remnant would initially be found. That area is inside the United States. This is where the remnant would initially be swept away, smitten and afflicted by the gentiles. But they would not be utterly destroyed. A small fraction of them would be preserved, so the promises could be realized. (1 Ne. 13: 30-31.)
 
So they were here. And some of them remain still.  So, when we begin to identify who they are, the initial proof of their identity is found in Nephi’s prophecy and our own history. I do not think it was intended to be particularly difficult to see what was prophesied or who was involved. But we need to pay some attention or we miss the information lying before us.
Joseph Smith also made statements identifying the former occupants of the area that is now the United States where the Book of Mormon people were situated. From his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, we have the following description of what Joseph told the family during the four years he was being educated by Moroni in the annual visits to the Hill Cumorah before obtaining possession of the plates: “During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.” The reference to “this continent” being a reference to North America.
 
There are other references by Joseph Smith, as well.  In looking at this I am not trying to identify where Book of Mormon events occurred. Instead I am only interested in the subject of whether at the time of dispossession of the land, the people who were dispossessed were descendants who had promises extended to them in the Book of Mormon. It seems evident that is the case. It seems almost undeniable that the promised people who are yet to receive the benefit of an earlier covenant with Lehi and Nephi, Jacob and Enos, include those who were occupants of the area of the United States during the early years of American conquest.
 

Remnant, part I

When I started, I doubted a blog was an appropriate venue to address a topic like the “remnant” of the Book of Mormon. This is still an experiment.
 
If you’re new to this blog, you need to go back and start reading sometime in April. Then you’ll have the foundation for understanding this topic as we move forward.
Undoubtedly there will be those who don’t bother to read what has been written previously. They will make comments here about something that was thoroughly discussed in earlier posts. Just grin and bear it.  For the most part, I will be ignoring it.
I’ve tried to remain focused even when there have been questions good enough to answer. But to start answering even very good questions is to hijack the topic and run afield. There have been occasional asides, but that’s because of human weakness and the inability to resist temptation.
We are trying to fit our traditions about the remnant and their role into the framework of the Book of Mormon. From what we’ve seen so far, it should be clear that we, the Latter-day Saints, are identified as “gentiles” in the Book of Mormon. We are not ever identified as the “remnant.” As a result, the prophecies about the “remnant” are not prophecies about us. They are primarily descendants of the Lamanites, but have some mixed blood of Nephi as well. They are grouped by the Lord into several different clans, and remain identified as “Nephites, and the Jacobites, and the Josephites, and the Zoramites… the Lamanites, and the Lemuelites, and the Ishmaelites.” (D&C 3: 17-18.) These are those who, though diminished in numbers, are still with us. They retain both a separate identity before the Lord and prophetic inheritance from previous covenants. They are not us and we are not them.
There are two great books which discuss two different views of where the Book of Mormon geography took place. One is by Sorenson, titled An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. The other is Prophecies and Promises by Meldrum and Porter.  Sorenson says Central America, Porter and Meldrum say North America.
It is not necessary to resolve the question of Book of Mormon geography in order to have a discussion of this topic. The place could be either Central or North America. The result of the last genocidal wars was that the fighting spread into the Finger Lakes region of New York, with Moroni ultimately placing the plates in the Hill Cumorah, where Joseph Smith recovered them.  Therefore, there were descendants of these people located in the North American area by the time the Book of Mormon record ends. Furthermore, during the time between 400 a.d., when the record ends, and the time of post-Revolutionary American in 1805, when Joseph Smith was born, there were many undocumented migrations of people we know nothing about other than what anthropology tells us, which is not much.
So when we get to Joseph Smith and his comments about the “descendants of the Book of Mormon” he is speaking at a time disconnected from the events in the Book of Mormon. I take Joseph’s comments at face value, and presume them to be correct. When Joseph talks about the ancestors of the American Indians being the Book of Mormon people, I accept that.
Also, I think it is better to let the words of prophecy speak for themselves and not impose our own beliefs or traditions on them. We tend to see in the words meanings that are harmonious with our own preconceptions. It is better to abandon those preconceptions and see if the words give us any better or different explanation of what is to happen.  That way we are not misinformed by the traditions of men, even if they come to us from very good men. 
I do not judge what others believe, explain or teach. They are entitled to their beliefs. But each of us are entitled to believe and take at face value the words of prophecy in scripture, even if they collide with some other notions. I think it better to abandon the ideas which collide with scripture than it is to wrestle the scriptures to conform with the ideas.  But you can do as you choose.  I really do claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of my own conscience, and believe it my duty to allow all men the same privilege. I will let them worship how, where, or what they may. That’s not a hollow statement for me. I believe in complete freedom of conscience for you and for me. We are accountable to God only for what we believe. Until the COB correlates that out of the Articles of Faith by editing instead of by conduct, I will continue to believe in, and practice the principle of freedom of belief. [That is why so many comments critical of me appear in this blog and why relatively few of those praising me are allowed through.] 
So, with that brief introduction, we turn to the trail we’ve been on for some time. The remnant….

2 Nephi 33: 15

 
“For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen.”
 
Another reminder of Nephi’s status. Not only does he preach the words of Christ, but he also has the authority and power to “seal on earth” his message.  He obtained this directly from the Lord. He is a trusted servant, acting in the similitude of the Savior Himself. Holding the power to seal, he proceeds to do so. Those with eyes to see will realize this is an important punctuation mark on the the final statement he leaves for us in his message.
 
The power to seal and “the Lord commanded me, and I must obey” go hand in hand. One simply does not receive this kind of authority if they will begin to freelance. They are to use it only in the manner the Lord would use it. Although the power is theirs to use, they are governed by their character to use it only according to the Lord’s command. Nephi, for example, received this acknowledgment when given the power to seal: “that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.” (Helaman 10: 5; see 10: 4-5 for the more complete explanation.)
 
When Joseph Smith received this power it was given in connection with his calling and election made sure. It happened between 1829 and 1832, the exact date is unknown. It was reduced to writing in 1843 in D&C 132. It is my view that the revelation making mention of it was not a single event, but rather as many as five different revelations related to the same subject, all of which were dictated at the same time and included in Section 132. I’ve explained this earlier in a series of posts about Section 132. Go back and look here, here, here, here, here, and here  if you don’t remember it.
 
Joseph received this power, and this fullness between 1829 and 1832. However, by 1841 Joseph was no longer able to use it because it had been “taken from [the church].” (D&C 124: 28.) It would not affect Joseph individually, for his calling and election was made sure. (D&C 132: 49.) But if “taken,” it would affect the church.
 
Nephi’s power to “seal” his writings at the command of the Lord, and his own obedience, now make his words binding on all of us. They become covenantal. Hence the reference to remembering “the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon.” (D&C 84: 57.) It is not merely interesting doctrine, nor even prophecy, but has reached covenantal status by virtue of the priestly seal placed upon it by Nephi. We ignore it at our peril. We define it as just a volume of scripture at our loss. It was intended to be studied and followed as the means to reassert a covenant between ourselves and God. By following its precepts we can return to God’s presence where we are endowed with light and truth, receive intelligence and understanding. Each of us is invited to make that return. Nephi lived it, and as a result was able to teach it. We should do the same. That is, live it to be able to understand and then teach it. It is the doing that leads to the understanding.
 
There is a great deal of what Nephi taught that we have not considered. 
 
Now let’s talk bout the remnant.

2 Nephi 33: 14

“And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day.”
  

From Nephi’s perspective, if you deny his message, reject what is taught, and walk away from his teachings, then you “will not partake of the goodness of God.” You have been offered fruit from the tree of life, and you’re just unwilling to “partake of that goodness.” It is ingratitude and foolishness. (D&C 88: 33.)
This word “partake” hearkens back to the tree in Lehi’s and Nephi’s dream. (Lehi’s version is found in 1 Nephi 8.) People prefer to go join in a crowd inside a building. The building is a symbol of man’s work. The “arm of flesh” is used to build such structures. No matter how “great” or “spacious” such work may be (1 Ne. 8: 31), it is nonetheless the product of human labor. In the dream, those who enter into the building do so to join the multitude in mocking and scorn of those who choose the tree instead. (1 Ne. 8: 33.) In contrast to this, the tree bearing fruit is a product of nature–God’s product. Man’s labors do not produce trees. Without God, trees do not exist. Man cannot take credit for either the tree or its fruit. It is a gift given to him.
Now the gift must be obtained by coming to the tree. You cannot partake of its fruit while standing at a distance. You must go to the tree, take the fruit in your hand, and “partake of the goodness of God” before you are able to realize how “delicious” this goodness truly is. (1 Ne. 8: 10-12.)
So Nephi’s invitation to “partake of the goodness of God” is a reminder at the end of his record of the visions he received at the beginning of the record. Come, partake, be saved.
What would you need to do in order to “respect the words of the Jews, and also [Nephi’s] words?” Why does he add “and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God?” Does this mean that if you have “respect” for Nephi’s words and the Bible, you will receive other words? Words from “the mouth of the Lamb of God?” Does it suggest you will speak directly with Christ? That part of the fullness of this process is to once again speak to and hear from “the Lamb of God?”  Will it result in Christ speaking to you in the flesh? (2 Nephi 32: 6.)
Why will Nephi’s words “condemn you at the last day?” Why does Nephi bid an “everlasting farewell” to those who won’t “partake of the goodness of God?”
Is Nephi uncharitable? Are his words harsh, unkind or intemperate?  Should he be praising us more and condemning us less? Is this a “hard thing” he has spoken to us? (1 Nephi 16: 2.) If it is not harsh, unkind, or intemperate, then should this kind of warning be given by anyone who is concerned for the salvation of your soul? Why? If your messengers don’t challenge you to repent, but instead use smooth words, reassuring you in your present course, would their message conflict with Nephi’s message? What would you make of such a conflict between their praise and reassurance, and Nephi’s stark warnings?

2 Nephi 33: 13

“And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.”

When Nephi paraphrased Isaiah 29 in the 2 Nephi 27, he appropriated Isaiah’s words to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He adapted them making a paraphrase rather than a quote. (I explain the reasons for this in Nephi’s Isaiah.) Here he uses the Isaiah materials again to identify who he (Nephi) is: “the voice of one crying from the dust.” The primary audience for his writings will be those who come to read the book in the last days; when mankind will be in possession of the record which has been printed and distributed to the masses.

Nephi’s primary audience for his teachings are those who, like us, live in the last days after the Book of Mormon has come to light. Although Nephi’s descendants would have access to these same records, their greatest work and worth would be in the last days. Hence Nephi identifying himself as a “voice of one crying from the dust.”

There is also a secondary meaning. Because Nephi was mortal, he was made of the “dust of the ground.” (Moses 3: 7.) He was a man testifying to the truthfulness, as a witness in mortality, of the great things which exist beyond the veil. He is one of us, and yet able to tell us of things to come. Therefore, his witness is given in mortal weakness, but with the power of God behind it. His own strength is dust. The power of Christ to redeem, however, is without limit.

Three distinct groups are addressed in the message: Nephi’s descendants, called his “beloved brethren.” They are “brethren” rather than “children” because they would descend primarily from his brother’s seed who would overcome his. But there would be a mixture of his among them. So they were his “brethren.”

The second are called “those who are of the house of Israel.” These are the Jews, or others who keep their identity with Israel. Not the gentiles, who have been lost and must gain covenant status one by one, and thereafter live true to the covenant in order to be redeemed. “Those who are of the house of Israel” have been previously identified and discussed by Nephi in the Nephi 28.

The final group is “all ye ends of the earth.” That is, the gentiles, heathen, and those who are not otherwise included even in prophetic mention. All mankind. All the ends of the earth may receive what is offered and attain to covenant status, if they repent, acting no deception, without hypocrisy, following Christ. And all are included in the broad sweep of Nephi’s invitation to come to Christ.

His “farewell” is “until that great day shall come.” That day is when you see the Lord in judgment with Nephi there beside Him. At that time you will be “face to face” with Nephi, accounting for your heed or neglect of his message. He just mentioned that in the prior verses. He now bids you good-by until that moment. So you should look forward to meeting Nephi at this point. Although you need to take his message seriously if you intend to enjoy the moment.

What other prophets have warned us that their message will confront us in the presence of Christ while he, the prophet-messenger, is there with us at the moment of judgment? Nephi is in a very small group of qualified messengers whose words should be taken with soberness and respect. He is a towering figure when measured by the correct standard. We seldom encounter such a man. When we do, we would be well advised to take counsel from him.

What more can he have said to alert us to the importance of his message?

2 Nephi 33: 11-12

2 Nephi 33: 11-12:


“And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness. And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.”


You judge. You decide. If you don’t believe, Christ will vindicate Nephi’s teachings, and you will learn just how wrong your judgment was. For Nephi will be at the judgment bar with Christ. You will stand “face to face” with Nephi as you stand before Christ. You will see, along with all those who abuse and treat true messengers as “things of naught,” that you have rejected Christ when you rejected His words delivered by one authorized to speak in His name. Nephi invites you to judge his words with the confidence of knowing that he was given power to say all he said. And he had the Lord’s confidence because he didn’t say anything about what the Lord instructed him not to speak about.


You will one day know Nephi was “commanded of [Christ] to write these things.” Nephi was commanded despite his “weakness.” In this context “weakness” is a relative thing. Because Nephi had seen the Lord his perspective allowed him to measure himself against perfection. It allowed him to assess the difference between the Lord as Teacher, and Nephi as servant. 
The holiness, majesty and power of God were known to Nephi. He had already had the experience of seeing the absolute standard of holiness in Christ. For most people this will come at the last day, and will result in them understanding, for the first time, that they should have repented. (Mormon 9: 3-5.) Nephi had already been able to reconcile himself to Christ. Therefore Nephi knew of his own “weakness” and of the power of redemption found through Christ.


Nephi’s prayer was for the redemption of all. He hoped that “many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.” Nephi knew he had been redeemed. Yet he identifies with all of us who read his words, and hoped all may be saved.


The measure of a prophet’s ministry is in the salvation of others. Nephi does not celebrate his own redemption. He agonizes over the salvation of others. He labors for the redemption of “many…if not all” of the rest of mankind. This is the pattern. Redemption causes the redeemed to work for the salvation of others. Perhaps it might be better put that the reason someone obtains the kind of redemption Nephi obtained is because they are of a character to work for the redemption of others. There is no reason to withhold the promise of eternal life from them, because others will be redeemed as a result of their redemption. They will labor, preach, teach, intercede, seek, pray, and work tirelessly to bring others to the tree of life. They become a fellow-servant with Christ and labor alongside Him in the work of redeeming others. This is one of the reasons for the parable of The Busy Young Man in Ten Parables.


Nephi is working directly toward redemption of others. There is no secondary or indirect route being taught. There is no attempt to get some kind of “activity” started, or to introduce a program to do anything apart from bringing you to repentance. He wants you to approach Christ directly through the power of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, which will teach you all things you should do. He wants you to hear and speak with the tongues of angels. He does not want to entertain, distract, or emotionally move you. He wants you to come to Christ. Nephi only tells you the minimum about himself, giving only such information as may be relevant to his message concerning Christ. To the extent he is able, Nephi consistently draws your focus to the Lord.


There is great understanding of how a true friend of Christ lives, acts and thinks found in Nephi’s writings. They are a urim and thummim into what you find in a man of God. Imitations will always exist.  But the real thing is going to be far more like Nephi than Joel Osteen. More sleeves rolled up and fewer cuff-links.


I do hope we may all join Nephi and are saved in the kingdom at that last day. I hope we recognize how great Nephi’s teachings are, and how they address our day with the message we need to hear and heed.

2 Nephi 33: 10

2 Nephi 33: 10:


“And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.” 

After the conditional statement warning the gentiles of their need to be reconciled to Christ, Nephi speaks to his “beloved brethren” and the “Jews,” but omits specific mention of the gentiles. Instead he refers to “all ye ends of the earth.” This would include all those who are neither Jew, nor Israelite, nor gentile. This is a lot of people who are called “heathen” because they have little direct prophetic mention. Nephi, for example, only refers to them once in his writings. (2 Nephi 26: 33.) In that single reference Nephi promises all, if they will repent and return to Christ, can be saved. All are invited. All can come. Everyone may learn of Christ, find Him and be saved.

There is a distinction between God’s absolute willingness to accept all who will come to Him, on the one hand, and the prophetic foreknowledge of who would accept the invitation, on the other. The opportunity is open for all. There will be few who will accept.

Nephi’s testimony is based on Christ and employs both Christ’s doctrine and teachings. He assures us as readers that if we are willing to accept his writings we are, in fact, accepting the words of Christ. If you believe Christ, you will believe Nephi. For almost everything Nephi has written comes directly or indirectly from Christ. To believe in Nephi’s words is to believe in Christ, and to believe in Christ is to accept Nephi’s words.

Think about that for a moment. Nephi does not leave you wondering if the message will save you or not, whether he has some special inside information or not, or whether he has seen the Lord or not. He is direct and does not require you to guess. He has not adopted any equivocal or carefully studied words or phrases to tell you about Christ. He is blunt, even plain. His words offend those who are unwilling to surrender their sins and repent. He says what he has written “are the words of Christ.” This means that before he taught, before he wrote, before he concluded his testimony, he consulted with and obtained approval from Christ.

There is nothing vague in Nephi’s warnings, nor unclear in his message.

He openly invites the gentiles to repent. He does so repeatedly. He tells us that with the exception of only a few, we are condemned and will fail in our dispensation. As to those few, he warns us that we will be prone to err because of the things we are taught. (2 Nephi 28: 14.) He offers us a clear, light filled body of teachings that will clarify for us the body of doctrine that will save us. However, we must take his warnings seriously and study them with care. 

Imagine how much effort and thought went into preparing to carve into the metal plates. Imagine the amount of thought he employed before undertaking the final, permanent etchings to complete his ministry. His brother commented about how arduous the process was during his writing on the same plates. (Jacob 4: 1.)

Nephi saw our day, and knew how difficult it would be for us. He wrote a message to be preserved and available no matter who would lead us, no matter what messages we would hear, no matter what confusion would develop. He gave us a message to announce the conditions of salvation over the heads of any foolish, vain or false teachings. They are a lifeline extended to the gentiles, as well as his beloved mixed blood descendants (the remnant), and the Jews.

Nephi knows his words will teach anyone who accepts them “to do good.”

The gentile problem is not in reading his words, but in “believing in them.” Gentile interpretation almost always involves unbelief. We do not let his words hold their “plain meaning” but want to construe them, read into them praise, and remove from them the blunt warnings given us. We want to make ourselves justified by the words that warn, condemn and challenge us to do more. Our unbelief separates us from Nephi’s message even as we read his words.

It does no good to argue with him. It does no good to juxtapose his words of counsel and warning with other words of comfort and reassurance. He is alarmed by our condition and warns us to flee from error. We want to read into these words other ideas Nephi never intended.

When we began back with Alma, Chapter 13, it was with the idea we would let the words speak for themselves. We were going to try and see what was being said apart from our own desires or hopes.  We’ve been trying to let Nephi have his own words and meanings as we’ve been looking at his teachings, as well.

An inspired teacher will not offer their own words and pretend they come from Christ. They are not going to dare speak in the name of Christ if they offer only their suppositions, hopes, and understanding. They know, as Nephi, that to do so is to take the Lord’s name in vain, and to preach for doctrines the commandments of men. It is often the case, however, that men will urge their own views hoping to make them more convincing, while using the name of Christ. Surely every such teacher will be held to account before Christ for every idle word spoken in His name without His authority or approval.

Nephi knew this doctrine. Nephi understood how weighty a matter is was to use the Lord’s name in connection with teaching doctrine. Nephi writes in the full confidence that the Lord has approved his message, inspired his words, and will vindicate them to those who will believe them.

Personally, I would hardly dare to teach doctrine if I did not know what I say to be true. Nephi’s example is perhaps more important in this respect than in any other. He is surely worthy to be called a “teacher and a ruler” by all of us. (2 Nephi 5: 19.)

2 Nephi 33: 7-9

2 Nephi 33: 7-9:

“I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat. I have charity for the Jew– I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came.  I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.”
It is necessary to read all three verses to see what Nephi is saying. What distinctions does he make? Is his charity to his people unequivocal? Is his charity to the Jews unequivocal? Is his charity to the gentiles equivocal? Why?
Does the condition that appears in the final verse apply to the preceding group (gentiles) or to all three groups? How do the remarks made by Nephi in the prior verses we have looked at modify or explain which group the final limitation should be applied?
What has Nephi foreseen or said to suggest he has hope for his own people? What has he done to seek charity by his consecrated petitions for his own people? What has he said about the future inheritance of the covenant blessings for both his people and the Jews?
On the other hand, how little promise has he shown for the gentiles?  How conditional are their latter-day rights? How much failure has been prophesied regarding the gentiles? 
Since we’ve been discussing this for months, I am not going to repeat it. You can look to see the scope of Nephi’s declarations for his people, for the Jews and for the gentiles. After you’ve done that, it becomes plain that Nephi has:
Charity for his people.
Charity for the Jews, from whence he came.
Charity for the Gentiles, but he cannot hope for the gentiles except they shall be reconciled to Christ, enter into the narrow gate, walk in the strait path, and continue to do so until the end of the day of probation.
We are reminded again of the Savior’s own prophecy of the failure of the gentiles. (3 Nephi 16: 10.) We are reminded of the Lord’s promise to take the fullness from us in 1841 if we did not complete the construction of the Nauvoo Temple within the allotted time given. (D&C 124: 32.) If we failed, we would be rejected. We did not complete the Nauvoo Temple in the three and a half years allotted after that revelation while Joseph was alive. Then Joseph was taken, much like Moses was taken.  (D&C 84:25.) What the Lord threatened we would lose permanently at the end of our appointment was the fullness of the priesthood, which He had already removed from us in 1841. (D&C 124: 28.) So the gentiles sit in a precarious position indeed.
You must answer for yourself the questions posed by Nephi’s teaching:
-Have we been reconciled to Christ?
-Have we entered into the narrow gate?
-Do we walk in the strait path?
-If so, have we done so as a people until the end of our days of probation?
To be able to restore again that which we lost before 1841 would require someone truly mighty in Spirit. Fortunately, we have been promised that lifeline will be extended to us again at some point. (D&C 85: 7.) However even he will not be able to help a gentile who has not been diligent having their name written in the book of the law of God.
The mothers who minister to their children in patience and love will undoubtedly be among those whom the Lord will remember in that day.  The first parable, The Busy Young Man, is about those little acts through which we find our Lord. The Weathered Tree is about the enduring power of a mother’s love, and how like the Lord’s own sacrifice, this often under appreciated calling has been and continues to be.
Mothers oftentimes do not take time to study because they are too busy engaged in the actual work of charity, love and service. Some may not be able to construct a scripture-based explanation or exposition, but they recognize truth by the light acquired within by their fidelity to the Lord’s system of conferring light and truth.
I have been far more impressed with mothers in Zion than with the tattered remains of what is now called Zion by the gentiles. The pride and foolish traditions which claim authority while lamenting the lack of power are the expected results of the latter-day gentile stewardship according to Nephi.

The good news, and the thing we should rejoice over, is that Nephi does
extend to us gentiles an opportunity to be saved. All we must do to join in the blessings is to:

-Be reconciled to Christ.
-Enter into the narrow gate.
-Walk in the strait path.
-Endure to the end of our days of probation.
So we do have a choice. No matter what failings have occurred or things we lack.
It was Lifehouse who sang an anthem to yearning:
Desperate for changing,
starving for truth,

Letting go of all I’ve held onto,
I’m standing here until you make me move
I’m hanging by a moment here with you

Forgetting all I’m lacking
Completely incomplete
I’ll take your invitation
You take all of me..
I like that song. It is strangely applicable to the condition we find ourselves. But our yearning of course ought to be for the Redeemer who alone can save us.

2 Nephi 33: 5-6

2 Nephi 33: 5-6:

“And it speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth; wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil. I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.”
 
Nephi’s writings “speaketh harshly against sin.”This is because of “plainness of the truth.” If you’re going to speak plainly about sin, the words are necessarily harsh, because there’s no other way to be plain about it. Warning against sin and pride is offensive. (2 Nephi 4: 13.)
 
Those who become angry at the truth have “the spirit of the devil” in them. That is, they are under the devil’s influence and deceived. Nephi understood this principle because of his older brothers’ reactions. (1 Nephi 16: 1-2.)  So when someone becomes angry at the truth, they are in darkness.
 
Christ gave this as one of the signs of the deceived.  They argue against the truth and become angry. (3 Nephi 11: 29.)
 
Those who are Christ’s, however, join with Nephi in glorying in plainness, even if it cuts or requires repentance. They appreciate the plain direction which allows them to follow in the true path. They appreciate truth, even when it condemns their acts and requires them to change. They glory in Christ, preferring Him to unbelief, traditions of men, and the arm of flesh.
Nephi knew Christ had redeemed his soul from hell, for He had declared it to Nephi. The reason Nephi understood the fullness of Christ’s Gospel, could declare the doctrine of Christ, and was a prophet given a commission to teach was because he had been taught by the Lord. (2 Nephi 11: 2.) The return to Christ’s presence was not merely a spectacular event to write in a journal, or a bragging point to claim among others. Indeed, much of what Nephi obtained from the Lord was never recorded for us or Nephi’s posterity. The return was to obtain light and truth, or intelligence, which is the glory of God. It was to be ministered to by the Perfect Teacher. This, in turn, made Nephi the great minister he became.
 
The Greatest Servant teaches servants to serve. They are not chosen to be idolized. They are not chosen so a band can strike up “Hail to the Chief” when they enter a room, as everyone rises in adoration and respect. Nor are they chosen to wear silk robes, with subservient sycophants kissing their ring in adoration, hoping for favors. They are chosen instead to serve, while being discarded, challenged, rejected and scorned. Yet in this they only follow their Master, who came not to be served, but to serve. Christ disparaged us gentiles because we submit to abuse and call our abusers our benefactors. (Luke 22: 25-27.)
 
We hardly understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ at all because we utterly reject its principles. We won’t live them to know if they are true. Then in our ignorant darkness we judge the light. All the while Nephi’s words invite us to choose a different route, act with real intent, with full purpose of heart, repenting of our sins to find our way back into the light. Instead, we cling to the false traditions of our fathers, claiming for ourselves the prerogatives of God Himself, believing we are better than others, and failing to see the burden of sin we carry in our blind ignorance.

Nephi may have gloried in plainness, but we glory in positive messages telling us we will be saved in our sins. Nephi may have gloried in Jesus, but we use His name to endorse our products and ratify our false teachings. Nephi may have urged the plainness of truth itself, but we market based on focus group tested and opinion polled results so our product line should get good market acceptance.

 
Nephi’s way would work better, you know. The truth attracts those who seek truth. No matter how utterly it may fail in market testing, truth sells. Truth attracts. At least it attracts the Master’s sheep, and we’ll never be able to save any others anyway. So we should offer the truth to make a clarion call to those sheep. When we dilute it with the theories of marketing, the arm of flesh, salesmanship and branding, the sheep have no idea that there is any truth under the slick presentation. How can you hear the Master’s voice in such a cacophony of Wall Street gibberish? Truth alone wins, prevails, succeeds against all opposition and will have its final vindication in the triumph of the Lamb!
 
I appreciate Nephi’s plainness and preference for the truth. I think I may join him in that view. I suppose, however, it’ll make some folks angry.

2 Nephi 33: 4

“And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.”
Nephi makes a practical application and provides us with an example of his teaching of “consecration.” He knows the Lord God will “consecrate” his “prayers for the gain of [Nephi’s] people.” Notice that the benefit of that consecration is not for the welfare of Nephi’s soul, but the welfare of others. Once again Nephi follows his teaching, and then elevates the purpose from “the welfare of [his own] soul” to the welfare of others. (2 Nephi 32: 9.) His concerns are selfless, sacrificial and intercessory. He has become a man of charity and full of love for others. These whom he calls his “beloved brethren” and his “people” are, in fact, those who will destroy and supplant his own descendants. Although a “mixture” of his seed will be there, these people for whom he is consecrating his petitions to God are the Lamanite victors over his posterity. If you have read Beloved Enos you will see the elements of redemption playing out in Nephi’s words similar to how they play out in Enos’ words. Charity is the end result of this consecrated life.
Nephi’s words were “written in weakness” but he knows the Lord God will make them “strong unto them.” Who is “them?” How does the Lord God make “words strong” to someone? What power communicates the strength of Nephi’s words?
What does Nephi mean by “it persuadeth them to do good?” Why is persuading to do good part of the way to recognize words from God?
What does Nephi mean “it maketh known unto them of their fathers?”  Which “fathers?” Does the reference to “their fathers” help you identify who “them” is referring to?
Why do words which will become strong always focus upon “Jesus, and persuade to believe in Him?” Can words which speak of something else, or other programs, initiatives, organizations and events ever “become strong?” Must the message focus upon Christ before it is possible for it to “become strong?”
Why must you “endure to the end, which is eternal life?” What end?  We’ve asked that before, but not answered it. How long must the enduring last, if it is to result in “eternal life?” Will it be a great deal after this life before you have learned enough to be saved? Will you need to endure then, as now, for eternal life to be yours?
What else were you going to do after this life? Planning to play a harp and sit on a cloud somewhere with Captain Stormfield? Or were you planning to be engaged in a good cause, enduring to the end of all time and all eternity, worlds without end? 

We encounter so much doctrine in Nephi’s writing. It is almost impossible to understand this writer-prophet without some effort to learn the doctrine ourselves. Perhaps we de-emphasize doctrine at the peril of losing the very message Nephi wrote.

2 Nephi 33: 3

“But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.”
Nephi’s single-minded focus was life-long. Now, as he writes advanced in age, with a retrospective knowledge, and prophetic foreknowledge of revelation, he confirms what he has written is “of great worth.” When a prophet like Nephi appraises the work as “of great worth,” it is important to realize that your disagreement with the assessment is a reflection on you, not him. It is a reflection of your own level of understanding rather than on the work itself.
Are Nephi’s two books “of great worth” to you? Why? Can you articulate the reasons they have this “great worth” in everything you think and do in your daily life? How have they changed you? If there is nothing you can point to of value, then perhaps you have not yet found the “great worth” Nephi believed his writing to hold.
Why “especially unto [Nephi’s] people?” Who are Nephi’s “people?” Why would they be more valuable to them? Why would they have a special value to them, above the value to the gentiles?
When Nephi says he “prays continually for them,” who is the group he identifies as “them?” Why does he pray for “them?”
Why does Nephi cry into his pillow at night because of “them?” Who are they and what did Nephi know would be the end of “them?” (See 1 Nephi 12: 19; 1 Nephi 15: 5.)
Nephi knew his cries to the Lord would not go unheard. He knew the Lord would keep a covenant made with Nephi concerning “them.” (1 Nephi 13: 30.) The remnant of Nephi’s seed would not be utterly destroyed. Nevertheless, the future destruction would be near absolute, leaving only a remnant.
Despite this foreknowledge, Nephi nevertheless reports he made it a practice to nightly “cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.”
Nephi kept faith in the face of certain destruction of his descendants.  Hope in the face of looming apostasy by his seed. Charity toward those who would reject the Lord.
He has ceased to be exclusively a prophet, and has risen to the role of intercessor and advocate for the unworthy. He has become covenantal father, and presiding Patriarch over a lineage whose redemption will come through his covenant with the Father. He has joined the ranks of the “fathers” toward whom hearts must turn in order to avoid cursing at the Lord’s return. (Malachi 4: 6.)

The circle has closed and the eternal round is completed. Nephi has godly feelings and godly empathy for a doomed posterity. We behold at last the veil removed. We see such nobility of character, and greatness of soul that we are compelled to accept his role as teacher and ruler. He has taught righteousness all his days. Though his older brothers refused to acknowledge or accept him, we should not. His parting message suggests, however, that more of those who will read his record have the same spirit as Laman and Lemuel than will have the necessary spirit to recognize and “esteem of great worth” what he has provided to us.

It is almost too great to take in for the few who are the humble followers of Christ. However, they can avoid being led into error by recognizing in Nephi the teacher and ruler who was sent to deliver a message of salvation to a doomed people. For those who now live under the same prophetic doom, (3 Nephi 16: 15; 3 Nephi 20: 16; 3 Nephi 21: 12) Nephi represents a lifeline offered to those humble enough to accept his message. They will gladly recognize their plight, awake and arise and become people of prayer.

2 Nephi 33: 1-2

“And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.”

Nephi would like to teach us (his readers) all he taught those who lived with him and heard him speak. But he could not. Even the things he was able to etch in the metal record he left was incomplete when compared to the body of teachings he preached to his people.

There is also a significant difference between speaking and writing. When you speak there are many tools of speech – emphasis, movement, presence, and radiation of the Spirit to help the speaker measure the effect of the message on the audience. When Nephi taught by the power of the Holy Ghost, he was able to see how his audience was receiving it. He knew when it penetrated “unto the hearts of the children of men.”

Writing was another matter. Particularly when it would be translated from one language to another before the gentiles would receive the words. The distance and language between Nephi and his audience is so great that Nephi came to the sad realization that a reader who is not already prepared to have the Spirit with them as they read will miss the power of the message.

In their presence Nephi could use the power of the Holy Ghost to affect the spirit of those who were listening. However, a reader separated by language and culture, and more than two millennia would have to have the Spirit first before being able to understand his message.

It was the recognition that many gentiles would read this record without possessing the Spirit that made Nephi acknowledge the gap between his spoken ministry and his written one. Those with “hard hearts” may be affected by his presence and preaching. Those with “hard hearts” who only have his written record, however, are going to “cast things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.” They won’t recognize that they were from God, written by a prophet who knew God, and were the result of a commission to preach given by God. Instead they will think him “a thing of naught.”

Nephi’s message will mean far more to those who are prepared. For those who are not prepared, the message will be meaningless. Nothing. A thing of “naught” to be “cast away.”

That is always the case. The Lord commissions someone with a message and the audience has a role in receiving the message. Powerful public ministries do not convince everyone. Even Nephi failed to convert Laman, Lemuel and the majority of those who were living together at the time of Lehi’s death. Then, immediately upon Nephi’s death, there were struggles in the society he helped found.

The process of salvation is always a work between God, His children, appropriately sent messages, and adversity and opposition. Nephi is reminding us how vital having the Spirit is to the success of understanding his written message. We should ask ourselves often if our hearts are open to receiving truth, no matter how it comes to us, and no matter how it may challenge our presumptions, pride and foolish traditions.

What a terrible thing it will be for some to realize they “esteemed as things of naught” the very words which might have saved them had they given heed.

2 Nephi 32: 9

 
“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”
 
Another significant reminder by a prophet of what is needed.
 
The great passage from Alma on prayer is an echo of Nephi. (Alma 34: 17-27.) Nephi said it first.
 
What is involved with “performing anything unto the Lord?” How much of what we do in our daily responsibilities ought to be performed “unto the Lord?” (Rom. 12: 1.)
 
Do not “perform any thing” for the Lord until you have “in the first place” prayed to consecrate your performance. Here Nephi teaches you how to live the law of consecration. You don’t need others to join you. You don’t need a city to live where all things are held in common. You only need your own pure intent, acting no hypocrisy, consecrating your performance to the Lord for the welfare of your soul.

If you “must not perform any thing unto the Lord” before praying and consecrating it “for the welfare of thy soul,” then how should you proceed? How much thought should you take about the Lord and your relationship with Him daily? How careful should you be about your words, thoughts and works? (Alma 12: 14.) It is again, a reminder that we should always remember Him, and keep His commandments which He has given us, that we may have His Spirit to be with us. (D&C 20: 77.)

 
What does it mean to “pray always, and not faint?” What does “praying” have to do with “fainting?” What does it mean to “faint?” Can you “faint” in your spiritual life? Is a physical “faint” merely an example of what happens to us in the spirit? If so, what must you do to avoid becoming “faint” in your prayers?
 
How many of your prayers have ended by your mind drifting away? No certain conclusion to the prayer, just a distracted mind becoming occupied by something other than the prayer being offered? Is that to “faint?”
 
What does “fainting” tell you about your vulnerability? What precautions do you need to take to be able to “pray always” and not be vulnerable to “fainting?”
 
Is the primary difference between the outcome of the lives of Nephi and Jacob on the one hand, and Laman and Lemuel on the other, how they regarded prayer?
 
What does having prayer as a priority say about an individual?