Nephi’s Isaiah

Nephi states straightforwardly why he uses the Isaiah material in his own prophecy. It is in Nephi’s record, but the statement comes from his brother Jacob. Nephi records what is apparently his brother’s first address.

The stage is set for the sermon in 2 Nephi Chapter 5. Here we learn of the construction of a temple by the Nephites. The temple dedication ceremonies are left out of the account. It is an interesting omission. By chapter 6 the temple is in service.

Jacob’s sermon could very well have been both the event marking the commissioning of the temple, and the first sermon delivered to the people in the structure. Nephi put this into his account because he obviously approved of the sermon and wanted it preserved for all time.

Jacob states this:
“the words which I shall read are they which Isaiah spake concerning all the house of Israel; wherefore, they may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel. And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel.” (2 Ne. 6: 5.)
-What does “likened unto you” mean?
-Is there a difference between something literal and being “likened?”
-Does that difference matter?
-What about the limitation Isaiah spoke about “all the house of Israel?”
-Does the Book of Mormon designation of the European bloodlines that would displace the Lamanites as “gentiles” disqualify the gentiles from “likening” the words to them?
-Does the Book of Mormon promise that the gentiles can be “numbered” with the house of Israel allow the same “likening” to apply to the converted gentiles? (2 Ne. 10: 18; 3 Ne. 16: 13; 3 Ne. 21: 6; 3 Ne. 30: 2.)

Assuming the words can be “likened” to you, then what does that mean? Are the words to be taken as an analogy to guide us or as a promise given to us?

Jacob explains the analogy he wants to draw to the Nephites beginning in 2 Nephi Chapter 9. It is instructive.

Nephi ‘went to school’ on his younger brother’s example. He fills 2 Nephi with Isaiah’s words. Then, in the closing chapters of his book, he provides his own commentary. He ends his record in this manner. With all he had seen, with all he knew, and with all he was told to withhold from us, he uses Isaiah as his basis to teach, preach, exhort and expound to us. Much of it is addressed directly to the “gentiles” of our day. He applies Isaiah to the gentiles.

A great key to understanding Nephi’s prophecy is that he used Isaiah’s words as a tool to deliver his (Nephi’s) message. Using Isaiah’s intent will not help you. It is irrelevant. You must use Nephi’s interpretive keys in his closing chapters to understand Nephi’s intent in “likening” the prophecy to his people and to the latter-day gentiles. This is why I wrote Nephi’s Isaiah. You will be disappointed if you think it is an interpretation of Isaiah. It is not. The book is about Nephi’s message, not the words he employed to “liken” unto us. If you accept this approach you don’t need my book. You only need Nephi’s words.

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As a postscript about the Perpetual Education Fund:

When President Hinckley announced it in the April 2001 General Conference he said the following:
“they will return that which they have borrowed together with a small amount of interest designed as an incentive to repay the loan.”

This was the original intent.

I’ve received many emails explaining the way the original program was compromised and poorly administered. I acknowledge there may be problems with how it turned out. But that is the responsibility of the employees at the Church Office Building. Those problems do not reflect the purity of intent by the church members who donated. I think there are a lot of people in the bowels of the Church Office Building who have performed poorly for the church. Since these are funds given by faithful members, there is a responsibility which hasn’t been kept by some of these employees. 

Lehi’s God

When Lehi first saw the Father sitting upon His throne, the description is as follows: “he thought he saw God, sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God.” (1 Ne. 1: 8.)

After being ministered to by Christ, (1 Ne. 1: 11) the description changes as Lehi reacts to his endowment of knowledge from the Lord. The record says: “And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God.” (1 Ne. 1: 15.) God the Father has ceased to be the impersonal “God” of verse 8, and has become Lehi’s God by verse 15.

It is in this sense that God becomes “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Matt. 22: 32.) God established His covenant with Abraham. Then He renewed and established His covenant again with Isaac. Then He renewed it again with Jacob. He was each of their God, by covenanting with each of them. None relied on a covenant given to their father, or grandfather, but each received directly from God a covenant in their own name.

Lehi also covenanted with God. He also knew the Father as “his God.” If you read what happened between verses 8 and 15, you will see how Christ ministers to a man and brings them into a relationship with the Father.

Compare 1 Ne. 1: 11-14 with Revelation 5: 1-8. In both there is a book, and it is Christ who is able to access the book. In both, a prophet, (Lehi and John) are able to then get access to the information which would be otherwise hidden from the world.

Lehi, as a recipient of the covenant directly from God, joined those who could call God “his God.”
It is the God of Lehi in the same way it is the God of Abraham; and the God of Isaac; and the God of Jacob; and the God of Nephi; and the God of Joseph.

Look at 2 Kings 2: 14 and you will see Elisha acknowledging that Elijah also knew God; and Elisha wanted to likewise come to know Him.

Is He also your God? If not, why will you not have Him to be your God? (1Ne. 17: 40.)

Plural Wives

Section 132 speaks to two issues: As to entering into an eternal marriage covenant between a man and a woman in this life, before death, and having that occur by God’s will and word, sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, the revelation is clear: It is mandatory. As to taking multiple wives, the revelation states conditions, making it clearly NOT mandatory.

The problem with this whole sideshow is that the argument we have going on between devout people over the necessity for plural wives distracts from the real issue. Instead of seeking to have God, by His word, establish a union that will endure into eternity by sealing it through the Holy Spirit of Promise, the debate is over the non-mandatory issue of taking multiple wives.

This sideshow is, of course, a tool of the adversary designed to move focus away from what is required for exaltation onto an issue that will never save a man or woman. Stop being deceived. Stop being distracted. Stop being preoccupied by the second issue, and recognize you will fail in your desire to preserve yourself and your marriage if you neglect to fully comply with the first.

That having been said, the revelation is rather clear about the conditions for taking plural wives. The first requirement is that the Lord must command it in order to raise up seed. This requirement is not found in Section 132, but is in Jacob 2: 30. This is where the underlying reason is stated for the Lord to give the command. Before you presume you understand this underlying doctrine, I would like to pose a few questions to consider:

-If the foundation for giving the command is found in the Lord wanting to “raise up seed unto Himself” then what is to “raise up seed unto the Lord”?
-Are you certain this is childbearing alone?
-Does having children ever “raise up seed unto the Lord?”
-Was Joseph Smith commanded?
-Did Joseph Smith “raise up seed to the Lord?”
-Why did Joseph Smith only father children with Emma Smith?
-Does the commandment to Joseph mean something other than breeding children with multiple women?
-Can a man “raise up seed unto the Lord” as Joseph Smith did, never fathering a child with any other woman than his wife, Emma?
-Who are the “seed” which Joseph “raised up unto the Lord?”
-How were they made Joseph’s seed?

Section 132 gives two conditions for taking plural wives:

-If the Lord commands. (As in 132: 35 where Abraham was commanded.)
-If a man having the correct authority asks and obtains permission. (As in 132: 39 where David asked and the Lord, through Nathan, gave him these wives.)
-If additional wives are taken without the Lord wanting to “raise up seed unto Himself” thereby opening the way, and one of the two foregoing conditions being met, then taking additional wives is an abomination. (As in 132: 38.)

Further, in order to take an additional wife, someone (either the recipient or an officiator) must have the necessary keys to seal the marriage. This is complicated by the fact that there is never but “one man at a time” who holds this authority. (132: 7.) So if Warren Jeffs has these keys, Thomas Monson cannot. But if Owen Allred has the keys, then neither Warren Jeffs nor Thomas Monson can have them. And, of course, if Alex Joseph has them, then that deprives Allred, Jeffs and Thomas Monson.

The problem is, that if you are wrong in guessing which of the groups actually have the keys (because there’s only one, mind you), then you are guilty of an abominable practice and you are condemned. You not only will fail to preserve your marriage, you forfeit your exaltation and condemn yourself.

Though I do not often make disclosures of this sort, one of the reasons I am writing this series is because I have asked, and the Lord has told me Warren Jeffs does not hold these keys. Those who follow him thinking he is leading to a better condition in the afterlife have been deceived. I would advise them to abandon that group and repent. Has not his recent behavior taught you he is in error? Has not his last declaration about who can father children made plain the man does not speak for God? Have you not eaten husks long enough? Is it not yet time to return and repent?

Now, if you are of the view that you need to live polygamy, then you need to take every precaution to first know:

-The Lord has, in fact, commanded you; or
-You are in possession of the correct authority and you have asked God and been given His permission; and
-You are capable of “raising up seed unto the Lord” (which means that in the resurrection, you have the ability to take them with you in the ascent through the heavens, passing the sentinels who stand guard along the way, leading your company by the knowledge you have to endure that fiery ascent back to the Throne of God.)

If there is any part of that you do not understand, then you are utterly incapable of satisfying the conditions and you should run from this idea because you are not capable of living the conditions. If you understand and think you have authority to go forward, then I would further caution you that this is not something men take on themselves, but something which God or His ministering angels alone supervise. Do not trust some sentimental feeling, or “burning in the loins.” These are serious matters, not to be trifled with by the foolish and aspiring – and NEVER an invitation to the carnal.

Cursing and Abominations

Before proceeding further, it is important to recognize that this is not an inconsequential matter. If someone guesses they can have plural wives and they are wrong, they have gone too far. They are taking a dangerous step. They risk eternity. Therefore this topic should not be approached casually, or because someone “thinks” this is proper. Either they know because God has instructed them by commandment, exclusively for the limited reasons it is allowed to be practiced, or they are involved in a serious, grievous sin.

In Section 132, words like “he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery” are included for those who proceed absent the Lord’s command. (D&C 132: 43.) Those who go too far can “fall from his exaltation” when these things are done in violation of God’s will. (D&C 132: 39.)

In Jacob, the improper taking of an additional wife is called “whoredoms and an abomination” by the Lord. (Jacob 2: 28.)

Those who proceed in our dispensation in the absence of the Lord’s direct command to them are included among those the Lord described as gentiles filled with “whoredoms, and of secret abominations.” (3 Ne. 16: 10.) If you are engaged in the practice, and recognize it is an abomination, and you will “repent and return unto [God’s ways], saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.” (3 Ne. 16: 13.)

None but fools will trifle with this topic.

Read Section 132 and see if the Lord commands you to either take or be a multiple wife. Don’t impose it in the language. Don’t force it into the revelation. Instead, read it as if the practice is forbidden, an abomination, adultery, or whoredom. Where do you see it demands you to take or be a multiple wife?

Verses 2 through 28 explain celestial marriage without mentioning anything other than a single wife. This explanation of having a single wife sealed to the man is the law which “must be obeyed” or exaltation is impossible. And “if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” (D&C 132: 3-4.) The law, however, is for a man and woman to be sealed together for eternity and to have that sealing ratified by “the Holy Spirit of Promise.”

But it is a man (singular) and a woman (singular). For example:
“a man” and “a woman” and “he” and “she” and “him” and “her” (132: 15)
“a man” and “a wife” (132: 18)
“a man” and “a wife” (132: 19)
“a man” and “a wife” and “he” and “she” (132: 26)

These verses, from 2 through 28, speak in the singular throughout. One man. One woman. And these verses are the ones that speak of exaltation, thrones, dominions, kindgoms, principalities, all heights and depths. (132: 19.) In fact, the very verse where these things are mentioned is in connection with “a man marry a wife by” the Lord’s word. (Id.)

Celestial marriage and the celestial law of inheriting exaltation is set out in the very revelation that mentions for the first time the eternal marriage covenant. This occurs ONLY in those verses which are describing marriage between “a man” and “a woman” and not elsewhere.

The focus of these verses is not on multiple wives. Rather the focus is on the preservation of marriage into eternity by God and by His word (132: 12) which is “sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.” (132: 7.)

Therefore, the question is not whether you have multiple wives. The right questions are:
-Are you sealed by God?
-Are you sealed by God’s word?
-Are you sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise?
If you do not obtain this promise sealed to you by God, through His word, sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, then it does not matter. “[I]f a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word.” (132: 18.)

Your individual hopes, wishes, aspirations and ambitions are nothing. The only thing which will endure is that which is established by God. Or, more completely, by God, through His word, which is then sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

All of this discussion takes place in verses 2 through 28 of the revelation. None of it forces you to read it as referring to multiple wives. You cannot find the multiple wives information anywhere in these verses. If you think it is there, it is because you have put it there by your own interpretation. Multiple wives is NOT included.

The explanation for multiple wives begins after the explanation of what is required for exaltation. These verses permit two exceptions to the prior, mandatory requirement that marriage is limited to a man and a woman who are sealed by God, through His word, by the Holy Spirit of Promise. These two exceptions will be considered next.

To reaffirm the point of this post: If you guess wrong by taking multiple wives, your mistake is called “whoredoms” and “an abomination” and will condemn you. Unless you repent and return to God, you forfeit your exaltation.

Jacob and Section 132

Through Joseph Smith we have two scriptural sources dealing with plural wives. Jacob 2, in the Book of Mormon condemns the practice as “an abomination,” but leaves it open to be practiced if the Lord commands. The reason the Lord would command is to “raise up seed unto [Him].”

Section 132, beginning at verse 29, discusses why earlier prophets took more than one wife. It “permits” taking more than one wife under two conditions. But Section 132 should be read in light of what Jacob taught regarding the limitations and purpose of having more than one wife.

Before carefully examining the scriptures, a bit of history is necessary. Joseph first learned about the subject during the translation of Jacob sometime in 1829. Oliver was with him when the answer was first received. Therefore, at least two people knew about the subject as early as 1829.

As the earlier post on William Clayton’s Journal shows, Joseph did not put the revelation into writing until July 1843. Between 1829 and 1843, any explanation by Joseph (or Oliver) would have been verbal, private, and not necessarily understood properly, recorded correctly, or practiced openly. In other words, whatever happened between 1829 and 1843 is bound to be extremely difficult to accurately recreate. Those involved were trying to cover it up, and make it difficult and hopefully impossible to know it took place. They did not want it public.

Moreover, not everyone who was taken into confidence by Joseph was trustworthy, or honorable. Some men were predisposed to exploitation of vulnerable women. John C. Bennett, for example, was a sexual predator before coming to Nauvoo. When he became the Mayor and a member of the First Presidency, he learned about these unrecorded teachings and began to behave in a contemptable manner.

John Bennett would later publish salacious details of sexual misconduct in Nauvoo, attributing to Joseph some of his (Bennett’s) own conduct. Some of what Bennett wrote was true (i.e., private taking of multiple wives) and some of it was sensational, untrue, and was a reflection of his own behavior projected onto others, most notably Joseph Smith.

The Bennett expose of Nauvoo underground sexual practices acquired increased credibility years later when Brigham Young began to openly practice and advocate taking plural wives. Some people who had not believed Bennett at first, changed their minds and took him as a credible source once the public revelation of plural marriage became international news.

Section 132 was not revealed publicly in 1843. When it was finally made public, it also seemed to vindicate Bennett’s accusations about Nauvoo private behavior. The revelation was attributed (I think correctly) to Joseph Smith, and therefore it established a religious basis for the Bennett accusations stemming directly from Joseph.

In addition to Bennett, others also knew of the private taking of additional wives. The most vocal parties with inside information were critics of Joseph Smith who left the church. These disaffected former Mormons had little reason to tell an accurate story. They were trying to discredit the church, not to defend it. Even if they attempted to be “fair” in retelling what they knew, their accounts are colored by:
-Disaffection for Joseph Smith.
-Hostility to the religion.
-Questions about whether or not they fully understood the matter.
-Issues about how “hidden” and “secret” practices were explained.
-Their attempts to make themselves appear more moral than their private conduct actually reflected.

All of this strongly suggests to me that the words of Jacob and Section 132 need to be carefully studied, and the history of how the practice was conducted by the few who knew what was happening must be taken with some careful skepticism about its accuracy.

When characters like John Bennett and William Law were involved in seducing women and claiming there was a secret teaching allowing “spiritual wives” because Joseph Smith had actually discussed the principle with them, it becomes apparent that whatever Section 132 permits or does not permit, the principle can be abused. It was abused by these men, and other insiders. Joseph’s public statements condemning adultery, and denouncing polygamy can be reconciled with Section 132. But to reconcile it all requires some knowledge about these events. It also requires recognition that the neat, tidy history that ignores these rather messy interpersonal conflicts and betrayals of trust is inadequate.

Plural wives is as unpleasant a topic as you encounter in our religion. However, its unpleasantness does not detract from the importance of sorting it out. Given the various conflicting charges and countercharges, it is a relief to just accept a superficial account and hope it is true. That applies to BOTH sides. BOTH those who reject the practice, as well as those who welcome it, need to be willing to sort through it and reach the correct conclusion.

Just because the fundamentalists have recognized more of the truth about the history does not mean they have sorted it out aright, nor that they are living a “higher” law. It may mean they are just as wrong about their conclusions as they think the church is for abandoning the practice.

I’ve taken the topic seriously. I’ve accorded the advocates’ arguments respect. I think they are wrong. As I continue this discussion I’m hoping some of them may be persuaded there is still some of the story they haven’t yet sorted out correctly.

Joseph Smith History, Part 3

Joseph Smith’s entire ministry was connected to scripture. It began with an encounter between him and God which he was only able to describe using the language of scripture. It extended to an encounter with Moroni which he again described using a host of scripture to convey the meaning of what the angel impressed into his mind.
It turned to translating a volume of scripture. This required him to take every thought of the ancient prophets and translate them from one language into another. The language of the Book of Mormon repeatedly adopts phrases from the King James version of the Bible to weave together the ancient narrative. Given the circumstances, and what we have been told of that process, Joseph’s mind was embedded with phrases that would have seemed familiar to him as he struggled to capture in his own tongue the ideas of the long dead authors. It would not have been derivative from the King James’ Bible, but would have sidled alongside it in phrasing, structure and concept.
Just like Nephi’s vision of the fullness of God’s works, Joseph Smith likewise saw God’s unfolding plan. Nephi was forbidden from disclosing what he beheld. To bear testimony, however, Nephi adopted the language of Isaiah to explain his own (Nephi’s) testimony. It is important for us to recognize that when Nephi was writing Isaiah, and then expounding on the material he’d etched into the plates, he was acting the role of a prophet. Isaiah’s words WERE Nephi’s testimony. They allowed him to tell us what the Lord wanted us to know, and to do it using the words of scripture composed by Isaiah.
Jacob accomplished the very same thing. Jacob adopted the words of Zenos, and the allegory we’ve been reviewing, to testify of the things he had seen and heard from the Lord. I went over how Jacob had, like his brother Nephi, been visited by the Lord. Jacob was also looking for the language to express his own vision. He invited his people to the temple where he was going to deliver to them his own prophecy. When they arrived, he read them the allegory, Zenos’ prophecy, the story of the olive tree. When he completed that retelling, Jacob announced the following: “as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.” (Jacob 6: 1.) Jacob, who behleld the Lord and was ministered to by Him, bore his testimony and established his prophecy by retelling Zenos’ olive tree story.
Christ’s great Sermon on the Mount was based on the Law of Moses. The law of retaliation (lex talonis) set out in the prior law was contrasted with what the Lord now established as the underlying meaning for that law. Instead of striking back, bear the blow and forgive. Instead of refraining from adultery, remove lust from your heart. Instead of rebuking, harbor no ill will toward your brother.
Christ’s entire ministry was based on expounding the scriptures. Interestingly, He forbid us from calling one another “fools” in His great sermon. (Matt. 5: 22.) Then He called men “fools” for their blind misapplication of scripture. (Matt. 23: 16-19.) The same scriptures which, in the hands of the Lord will save a man, are the tools for deceiving men and leading them into destruction when used by the Pharisees and Scribes.
For Nephi, using Isaiah was the perfect means to preach salvation. For Jacob, using Zenos was the perfect means to preach and prophesy about his people and us. For Joseph Smith, using the words of scripture to translate into English the words of earlier prophets was a master work of a man who received a dispensation of the Gospel. For Christ, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He was able to show how necessary His own sacrifice and offering was to fulfill all righteousness.
However, for the blind guides, the use of scripture to develop as commandments the doctrines of men, the Lord only had the term “fools” to describe their wickedness. They would not enter into heaven, and would instead hinder others who followed them from entering.
Joseph was commanded to “translate” the Bible. His Inspired Version was a work which led in turn to some of the greatest revelations of our day. Reading about “heaven” in John 5: 29 led to an inquiry which provided Section 76 to us all. The Vision of the Three Degrees of Glory was given because of an inquiry about scripture. Earlier John the Baptist came because of an inquiry about baptism as a result of translating scripture. The work of the Prophet Joseph Smith was intimately linked and could not be separated from the words of scripture.
At one point a calm Lord told His critics to search the scriptures, because His detractors claimed they would have eternal life from what was contained in them. But, He added, they testify of Him. (John 5: 39.) So it is not merely claiming the scriptures support a proposition that deserves respect, but instead whether the matter taught has underlying it the truth. Joseph’s history shows what an adept prophet can do when employing scripture to inform the reader of God’s will. In that respect, Joseph Smith does not take a back seat to Nephi or Jacob. It is a marvelous thing to behold; assuming you recognize it as one of the signs that testifies Joseph was indeed a prophet.

Jacob Chapter 5

Of all the material Jacob could have adopted as his prophecy, his selection of Zenos’ allegory of the Olive Tree is telling. The account is a journey through various dispensations of the Gospel, tracking a bloodline of chosen people. To Jacob’s credit, he realized the work of salvation was devoted primarily to rescuing the descendants of a chosen line beginning with Abraham.

The allegory is a family story. The use of the Olive tree is a deliberate symbol of a family, and of the tree whose value was beyond question in the culture from which the allegory sprung. To understand the story, it is necessary to settle on meanings.

The tree is a family line belonging to the “house of Israel.” (Jacob 5: 3.) The work of the Lord of the vineyard and his fellow laborers is designed to cause the chosen family line to produce fruit worthy of preservation. The “fruit” is people, or more correctly, children raised in righteousness who comprehend and accept the Gospel and abide by its teachings. The name “Israel” is the new name given to Jacob. Jacob was renamed by the Lord because the Lord took him into His own family. Naming signifies Fatherhood over Jacob, and the name Israel signifies the Family of God.

Not every descendant of Jacob is also a descendant of Israel. Blood is one thing, adoption into the Family of God is another. The allegory should be read with the proper context. It is about preserving the Family of Israel, or in other words, the Family of God.

To correct and instruct the chosen family, it was necessary for the Lord of the vineyard, in a desperate attempt to cause the family to produce fruit worthy of preservation, to disburse the children, scatter them throughout the vineyard, graft wild branches into the roots and tame branches into wild roots. In one sense the failure of the chosen family is to the world’s great blessing. In the end, the world overcomes the chosen family and all those grafted into it, and in the final effort the work returns to the original roots and the original branches in a desperate final attempt to salvage something from the vineyard before it is burned.

Choosing this allegory as the great central theme of Jacob’s book shows his comprehension of sacred history and prophecy, and his knowledge of the future. Unlike Nephi, whose muse was Isaiah, the fully mature prophet Jacob turned to Zenos to act as “second witness” to his prophecy. We have in Jacob Chapter 5 the great explanation of how we got where we are today, and what will unfold before the Lord’s return to burn the vineyard. It is odd we spend so little time with the material. It is the central theme of all man’s history (from God’s point of view).

The family is scattered into several different parts of the vineyard:
First, the location of the original tree.
Second, an undisclosed number of “nethermost parts of the vineyard.” (Verse 14.)
Third, a “poorest spot.”  (Verse 21.)
Fourth, a “poorer spot than the first.” (Verse 23.)
Fifth, a “good spot.” (Verse 25.)
However, there is no attempt to quantify the number of spots because the allegory is intended to convey meaning apart from numbers. You can cross check the other prophecies from Nephi (2 Ne. 29: 3) and Christ (3 Ne. 17: 4) and find there is no definitive number given of how many separate groups are included in the “nethermost parts of the vineyard” where Israel was scattered.

What should leap out to you from this allegory is the nature of the Gospel and God’s work among mankind. It was and is related to preserving a single family line. The “God of Israel” is concerned with preserving the chosen line of heirs. The Gospel was and is a family matter, and the target of the Lord’s work is now and always has been the preservation of a specific group He intends to preserve.

This is an image we have trouble with in our current multiculturalism. We tend to view all mankind as the beneficiaries of God’s plans to save mankind. They are to some extent. After all, He provides the sun and rain to everyone regardless of their ethnicity. (Matt. 5: 45.) And every people are given according to His mercy some portion of truth calculated to benefit them. (Alma 29: 8.) However, Zenos and Jacob agree the Lord’s primary effort has been directed at preserving one family, and the world has been the incidental beneficiaries of this global effort to preserve them.

We will look at the history of this family as told through the allegory of the Olive tree.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 8

Jacob uses Isaiah Chapter 50 to establish the reality of a coming Messiah, in addition the centrality of Israel to the Lord’s plans. Israel is forever backsliding and wayward. Yet the decision to “divorce” Israel is the Lord’s and He refuses to do so. (2 Ne. 7: 1.) It was always in His mind to preserve a remnant of Israel as His “fruit” or the product of His mission and ministry. Jacob will return to this theme in his own book. We will look at that later. Here we are just becoming acquainted with Jacob as a teacher.

Even at the end of days, the Lord will continue to focus on redeeming Israel. The “rock” from which they were hewn was Abraham and Sarah, the father of the righteous and his beloved wife. (2 Ne. 8: 1-2.) The problem with Israel is the slumber that keeps them from awakening to their awful situation and repenting of their sins. Jacob sees the end of time, and Israel still slumbers and cannot establish Zion because of their deep sleep. They must awake, put on the strength of salvation or priesthood, shed their filth for beautiful garments, and cease association with the unclean and uncircumcised. (2 Ne. 8: 24.) Zion will not otherwise come to pass.

Zion will never emerge from those who slumber in the dust, whose necks are bound with iron. (2 Ne. 8: 25.)

Zion evades those who desire it because they are too ill-educated, thinking their scholarship has merit and the Holy Spirit does not. (2 Ne. 9: 29.) They are rich, and think it a good thing rather than a hindrance. (2 Ne. 9: 30.) They will not hear, and therefore are as good as deaf. This form of deafness prevents them from hearing the warning and so they will perish in their ignorance of the truth. (2 Ne. 9: 31.) They are also deliberately blind, refusing to see the truth when it is presented to them. (2 Ne. 9: 32.) They are uncircumcised, liars, whoring after other gods, and worshiping idols. (2 Ne. 9: 33-37.)

It is Jacob who testifies the “keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel” and “he employeth no servant there.” (2 Ne. 9: 41.) Jacob entered through that gate and met the Gatekeeper. He reminds us that He “cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” (Id.)

Jacob then reminds us of his role – the prophet’s role: “Would I harrow up your souls if your minds were pure? Would I be plain unto you according to the plainness of the truth if you were free from sin?” (2 Ne. 47.) The prophet’s role is always to cry repentance. Priests may preside, and kings may rule, but the prophet’s voice is always crying repentance. Prophets have almost never presided over a congregation (other than occasionally a small inner-circle). They always speak from the sidelines crying for a return to God’s ways. Even when there were cities who repented in response to the message of repentance, the prophets who gathered them taught repentance and left it to the assembly to govern themselves. So it was with Enoch, and Melchizedek, and similarly Joseph attempted to teach repentance to his people. Enoch and Melchizedek were able to teach the people who wanted so desperately to repent (and did so) that they had angels and the Lord come dwell among them. Joseph sought to accomplish the same, but the Lord never dwelt among the Saints of this dispensation. Jacob bids his brethren and us to repent, hoping his teaching will eventually lead to a latter-day Zion. Apparently there will be a small group who will eventually repent and qualify for the Lord to come dwell among them. It remains a distant possibility, without any concrete progress underway as yet.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 6

Jacob makes a startling promise for those who live when the destruction begins preliminary to the cleansing of the world before the Lord returns. He says “none will he destroy that believe in him. And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, quakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine.” (2 Ne. 6: 14-15.)

This amazing promise is predicated on “believing in Him.” This requires us to understand what the word “believe” means in the parlance of the Book of Mormon. Those who believe in Him know and accept correct doctrine, or the truth about Him. Those who do not know and will not accept correct doctrine or the truth have dwindled in unbelief. They do not believe in Him. They may have religion, may belong to churches, may be active in all their observances, but they are not in possession of belief in Him. Instead they accept for doctrines the commandments of men, and their hearts are far from Him. They teach false and vain things. As a result they neither enter into the kingdom nor suffer those who are entering to go in. This includes those who, though they are humble followers of Christ, are nevertheless led that in many instances they do err in doctrine. (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

There will be many who are destroyed who will be quite surprised by it. They will complain that they have prophesied in Christ’s name, and in His name cast out devils, and done many wonderful works, but they do not know Christ, and therefore never did believe in Him. (See Matt. 7: 22-24.)

If you are one of those who believe in Him, and who will not dwindle in unbelief, will not accept the commandments of men as doctrine, but will take the Spirit for your guide, then Jacob promises that Christ will not destroy you. The rest He will destroy.

Fire will upset the order of things and make societal collapse inevitable. Men’s self-inflicted woes will not be the only sign of Divine disapproval. The earth will quake to signal God’s disapproval. Interruptions of social order and control will be followed by self-inflicted violence. Bloodshed will be widespread among the survivors. Disease and pestilence will be one of the results of the lack of social order. Air and water will be contaminated. Neglected hygiene will lead to the promised pestilence. As the downward spiral continues, food production and distribution will be inadequate to prevent widespread, global famine. It is as if Jacob could see the sequence of events and gave us the list of how it would unfold, step by step, as the unbelieving are wiped from the earth.

Survival during this bleak time depends on the qualification of “believing in Him.” Suddenly, if you think Jacob knew what he was talking about then our doctrines take on terrible significance. What we believe matters. Not just in the distant after-life, but for the preservation of our present lives. Jacob does make a powerful case for studying the Gospel a good deal more carefully than we can accomplish in a 40 minute class-discussion, with an approved “discussion leader,” using Correlated materials, rather than a teacher declaring and testifying of true doctrine.

I’m pretty sure Jacob would be a very marginalized Mormon, if he were among us today.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 4

Jacob’s first recorded sermon identifies what concerns him. It is the “welfare of souls” (2 Ne. 6: 3) and “things which are, and which are to come” (2 Ne. 6: 4.) The definition of truth is knowledge of things which are, which were, and which are to come. (D&C 93: 24.) Jacob is interested in teaching truth. But the truth he wants to focus on is the present and future of his people.

He identifies Isaiah as speaking “concerning all the house of Israel” (2 Ne. 6: 5) and therefore they can be likened to the Nephites. Then he turns to the Gentiles and places them in the future role of “bringing thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.” (2 Ne. 6: 6.) In the dismal future of Nephite destruction by the Gentiles, there is still a more distant day when Gentile efforts will become helpful, not destructive. When that happens, the Gentile fortunes are reversed, and they will “bow down to [the Nephite remnant] with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of [Nephite] feet.” (2 Ne. 6: 7.) So the cataclysm which befalls the Nephites will also befall their Gentile vanquishers. They will be brought down to the dust as well.

Jacob also reports to his audience “the Lord has shown unto me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried  away captive.” (2 Ne. 6: 8.) Jacob must have asked to be shown. He asked and was shown, and therefore he knew his family had left Jerusalem in time to avert death or captivity. Jacob was born after they left Jerusalem; but he knew about it, inquired to know, and was shown their destruction.

This reaffirms how the departure by Lehi and the destruction of Jerusalem was inter-related. The Lord uses ‘just-in-time’ scheduling of events more often than not. There is no need to flee until the moment when the destruction is about to begin. Nor is there a need to begin the rainfall before the ark is completed. Nor is there a need to send down fire to consume the offering until the altar is built, the sacrifice offered, the water poured on the offering, and the prayer completed. (1 Kings 18: 31-38.) Timing is always the Lord’s.

Jacob also leaves nothing to the imagination of his audience. He tells them the Messiah will come to Jerusalem, will be scourged there, and will be crucified by them. Jacob knows this “according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me.” (2 Ne. 6: 9.) From this we see Jacob’s pre-sermon preparation does not consist of gathering together thoughts and quotes from poets or philosophers. He consults with angels and dispenses information from heaven. Here is a source which is to be trusted. When speaking of Jerusalem’s destruction, it comes from the Lord’s showing him, and of the Messiah’s mission. It comes from the angel’s speaking to him.

We think it an odd thing to have a man speak with the Lord and be ministered to by angels. Yet in the example of Jacob, it is almost matter-of-fact. As if he wouldn’t dream of speaking about such things without consulting with heaven.

Nephi’s brother Jacob is among the great figures in all of sacred scripture. The critical differences between him and his teaching, and other men giving what they regard as inspirational thought, should not pass by unnoticed. I’m growing to respect this man Jacob.

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