Jacob 5: 42-47

There was no fruit being produced anywhere in the vineyard. The Lord recognized that. The separated branches that He had visited were able to produce covenant sons and daughters of God, only to fail to keep the covenant alive. “[N]ow all the trees of [the] vineyard are good for nothing save it be to be hewn down and cast into the fire.” (5: 42.) That does not mean they aren’t going to be preserved. They will, but they will suffer the wrath of God. Then they will come forth at the end of the season, and be placed in a position of Telestial Glory to dwell in the same condition as this fallen world. (D&C 76: 81-85.) From the Lord’s perspective, that is undesireable. It is failure. It is tragic. This is the native condition this vineyard repeatedly lapses into, even with the Lord and His servant’s continuing care. What more could He do, indeed! How often would He have gathered us, but we refuse. (3 Ne. 10: 5.)

Even when the Lord bestows peculiar advantages on the branches of His vineyard, the results are not dissimilar to what goes on elsewhere. Highly favored and greatly blessed people seem as indifferent to their salvation as those who inherit challenges and difficulties. (5: 43.) The Lord “cut down that which cumbered this spot of ground, that I might plant this tree in the stead thereof.” (5: 44; see also, Ether 13: 1.) He provided the best spot in the vineyard by destroying the people inhabiting it. Then, as we shall see, He destroys the branches brought there once they also fail to produce suitable fruit.

The good spot was cleansed of the bad branches, yet the bad still overcame the good. (5: 45.) The Nephite civilization was, in the end, entirely overcome and destroyed because it failed to produce any more sons and daughters of God.

As the Lord surveyed the entire vineyard, He saw nothing but universal failure. There was no fruit able to be preserved against the coming season of judgment. The whole earth was worthy of destruction, because there were none whose hearts were sealed to the fathers in heaven, members of the Family of God, who could endure His presence at His return. In other words, there was no righteous branch living on the earth. All manner of fruit claimed to be good. All kinds of pretenders were claiming they were of God. They clammored “lo here!” and “lo, there!” and claimed they could deliver souls from hell. Yet no one was able to bring the living into contact with God, which was required in order for them to receive the “testimony of Jesus” promising them eternal life. (D&C 76: 51-55.) The Lord needed to begin over again. The vineyard was void of fruit-bearing trees. Despite this, the Lord reflected “it grieveth me that I should lose them.” (5: 46.) The Lord takes the salvation of mankind seriously. It is His work. And when they fail, He grieves.

The Lord lists all He does to try to provoke His “tree” to bear fruit. He does not “slacken his hand” nor does he fail to “nourish” it. (5: 47.) He “digged,” and He “pruned,” and He “dunged” the tree. These efforts include sending the Light of Christ, the Holy Ghost, scriptures, prophets, angels, visions, dreams and signs in the heavens above and the earth beneath. He has done this continually for His vineyard. But these many gifts from God, and the great work He has done have failed to produce fruit. At last He poses the question to His servant: “Who is it that has corrupted my vineyard?” (Id.) A worthy question, indeed. The answer is surprising, because it does not require a devil to be involved.

Jacob 5: 14-18

When the Lord scattered Israel, He “hid” them “in the nethermost parts of the vineyard.” (5: 14.) The word “hid” suggests the deliberate concealment of the people, their true origin, their blood relation to Jacob, their destiny to become part of the covenant Family of Israel, and their loss from the record of history and even their own memory of the earlier connections. The Lord of the vineyard intended for this part of His plan to remain concealed. He knew what He was doing. He was acting on a plan designed to produce preservable fruit, but mankind would be oblivious to His methods. His ways are not always shared or understood by man. (Isa. 55: 8-9.)

The places are not numbered, but described as “nethermost.” Nor is the design identified other than “some in one and some in another, according to his will and pleasure.” This is an order which He keeps to Himself, but we are told it reflects His “will” and His “pleasure.”

The Lord left the vineyard to continue in the ordinary course “that a long time passed away.” (5: 15.) There is no haste involved. Men come and go across generations while the design of God unfolds. We are impatient and want to see God’s plan unfold completely within our lifetime here, but His work is ageless and spans generations. Rarely does He promise a single generation will witness promised events. (See, e.g., JS-M 1: 32-34.)

When a “long time” had passed away, the Lord no longer stood watch, but took His servant and “went down” to “labor in the vineyard.” (5: 15.) His presence and ministry among men took a more direct effort. He “went down into the vineyard to labor” for the souls of men. Behold the condescension of God, indeed!

The underlying “root” was able to give “nourishment” to the hybrid people living when the Lord came. The surviving prophetic warnings and limited practices supported this new Dispensation, making it a field white, already to harvest. (5: 17-18.)

There He found among those grafted into the natural root disciples willing to follow Him. Among them were those who were “good” and “like unto the natural fruit”– which would make them candidates to be adopted as sons and daughters of God, as the Family of Israel. The Lord rejoiced because He realized He could “lay up much fruit, which the tree thereof hath brought forth; and the fruit thereof I shall lay up against the season, unto mine own self.” (5: 18.)

The Lord’s personal ministry resulted in a great harvest of souls. There were many willing to accept His mission, respond to Him, and go through the process of changing into covenant Israel again. Sons and daughters of God returned to the earth by adoption into the Family of God. (See, e.g., Rom. 8: 16-17; Eph. 1: 5; 2: 19, 1 John 3: 2; among many others.)

False Spirits

Whenever there is an increase in spiritual manifestations, there is always an increase in both true and false spiritual phenomena. You do not get one without the other.

In Kirtland, new converts who were overzealous to participate in the new heavenly manifestations coming as a result of Joseph Smith’s claims, opened themselves up to receiving influences they could not understand, and did not test for truthfulness. They were so delighted to have any kind of experience, they trusted anything “spiritual” was from God. As a result, there were many undignified things, degrading conduct, foolish behavior and evil influences which crept in among the saints. Joseph received a revelation in May 1831 concerning this troubling development. In it the Lord cautioned there were “many false spirits deceiving the world.” (D&C 50: 2.) That Satan wanted to overthrow what the Lord was doing. (D&C 50: 3.) The presence of hypocrites and of people harboring secret sins and abominations caused false claims to be accepted. (D&C 50: 4, 6-7.) It is required for all people to proceed in truth and in righteousness (D&C 50: 9) if they are going to avoid deception. Meaning that unrepentant and unforgiven men will not be able to distinguish between a true and a false spirit.

All spiritual gifts, including distinguishing between true and false spirits, requires the Holy Ghost, given through obedience to the truth, which allows a person to distinguish between truth and error. (D&C 50: 17-23.) The truth is like light, and when you follow the light of truth it grows inside you until you have a “perfect day” in which there is no more darkness,but everything is illuminated by the light of the spirit within you. (D&C 50: 24.)

The revelation clarifies that a preacher of truth will become only a servant. He will not claim greatness, but will seek only to give truth; as a result of which false spirits will be subject to him. (D&C 50: 26-27.) But this only comes as a result of repenting of all sin, because the light of a perfect day cannot arise when men harbor evil desires and inappropriate ambitions within their hearts. (D&C 50: 28-29.) Truth will not leave you confused, but will enlighten your understanding. (D&C 50: 31.)

From this you can see how necessary it is for each of us to continually repent, conduct our lives in conformity with such truth as you presently understand, and avoid deliberate wrongdoing in order to be able to distinguish between a true and a false spirit. You must attract light. It is attracted by obedience to such light as you already have. When you proceed forward using the light you already possess to attract more light it will grow in one, consistent and truthful manner from a lesser to a greater light. All of it conforming to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Ambition in spiritual gifts leads to acceptance of evil influences. As part of the same problem in Kirtland, in September of the previous year, Hiram Page wanted to be like Joseph, and was able to attract a deceiving spirit to communicate with him through a seer stone. But the commandments he received were designed to lead him into error. (D&C 28: 11.)

Truth will always testify of Christ and lead to repentance. It will lead you to do good, not evil. To serve God and not follow men. To repent and forsake darkness which appeals to the carnal mind. (See Moroni 7: 12-19.)

Just because you have a “spiritual experience” you cannot trust it will invariably be from God. True spirits will:
-Testify of Christ.
-Lead to repentance.
-Be consistent with existing scripture.
-Lead you to be submissive to authority in the church.
-Edify and enlighten your mind.
-Be understandable and not cause confusion.
-Cause light to grow within you.
-Turn you toward Christ, not men.
-Never cause pride.
-Make you a better servant.
-Increase your love of your fellow man.
-Clothe you with charity for the failings of others.
-Conform to the true whisperings of the Holy Ghost you previously have received.
-Leave you humble and grateful for God’s condescension.
-Make you want to bring others to the light.
-Be grounded in love toward God and all mankind.
-Lead you to rejoice.

False spirits will:
-Deny Christ.
-Cause pride.
-Make you believe you are better because of the experience.
-Contradict the scriptures.
-Appeal to carnality and self-indulgence.
-Lead to rebellion against the church’s right to administer ordinances.
-Cause confusion.
-Lead to ambition to control others.
-Make you intolerant of others’ failings.
-Seek self fulfillment rather than service.
-Appeal to your vanity and assure you that you are a great person.
-Bring darkness.
-Repulse the Holy Ghost.
-Prevent you from repenting and forsaking sins.
-Interfere with serving others.
-Focus on yourself rather than the needs of others.

Do not think all spiritual experiences can be trusted. There is no difference between the activities of deceiving spirits today and those in Kirtland, as well as those in the New Testament times. If you follow the Lord you must still test the spirits and only follow those which point to Christ. (1 John 4: 1.) Even Joseph Smith had to ask God about some of the phenomena going on in Kirtland before he knew which were of God and which were deceiving.

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.

3 Nephi 21: 10-11

 
“But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.  Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.”
 
This statement has caused endless conjecture. Who is the “servant?” Was this Joseph Smith? Wasn’t it Joseph who was “given power to bring forth the words to the gentiles?” If Joseph was this “servant,” then what does it mean he will be “marred,” but the Lord will “heal him?” Is he coming back? Will Joseph be resurrected? Will he be born again?
 
Although Christ is speaking, this raises a matter worth addressing in connection with the statement. Therefore we’ll take a bit of a detour and address it. First, the purpose of prophecy is not always to make a matter clear before it happens. Prophecy may not have a clear meaning before an event happens, but once it has happened it becomes apparent that the event was foretold. This keeps the prophecy from controlling the event, but allows those who have faith to see the Lord’s hand in operation. Therefore, having some difficulty in attaching specific meaning to the prophecy is exactly in keeping with prophecy’s traditional way of communicating an event.
 
Second, the words of prophecy are not always established in the same way. In fact, there are a variety of ways in which the language is fixed. Below are descriptions of the various ways the language of a prophecy comes about:
 
The Lord may give, announce or dictate the language and the prophet takes it down word for word. If this is the case, then the one who receives the language may not understand their meaning, even though they received the message. (In this case it is Christ who is speaking. We assume He would know fully the word’s meaning.  However, Christ has explained that His Father knows things that have been withheld from Him. See, e.g., Mark 13: 32. So, you cannot rule out that even in this case the language was given and the meaning withheld.)
 
Sometimes it is not the language or the words that are given to the prophet, but a vision is shown or opened and then the prophet is left to craft a description. In such cases the words are the prophet’s, but the underlying meaning is the Lord’s.
 
Sometimes a vision may be shown or opened, but when the prophet takes to write the description, the language is prescribed, or limited by inspiration. In this instance, the prophet’s understanding may be greater than the words used, and the language will be designed to accomplish the Lord’s purposes rather than to make what the prophet understands clear to the recipient.
 
With respect to when one or another form of language is in scripture, we may not always be able to tell. Section 76 is one example we know how the language came to us. There was a vision, opened to both Joseph Smith and Sydney Rigdon, and as the vision proceeded Joseph would dictate the words given to him by the Lord to describe what he and Sydney beheld. The words were the Lord’s.The vision was greater or included more understanding for Joseph and Sydney than the words of the revelation. Hence Joseph’s comment: “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.” (TPJS p. 304.)
 
It is not important to fully understand the statement of Christ in this prophecy until AFTER it is fulfilled. Before it is fulfilled the following questions are interesting to contemplate as you think about its meaning:
 
Is the “servant” who will be “marred” and then “healed” a single individual, or a people with whom the Lord is working?  If a people rather than an individual, then who is this servant?
 
If the ones who will cause the servant to be “marred” are plural, who are they? Are they a group, or groups? If groups, which are they? What is their affiliation with the “great and abominable church?”
 
What does it mean that the “servant” will not be “hurt” but will be “marred?” How can one be “marred” without being “hurt?”
 
Is the “servant” in verse 10 the same as the “him” in verse 11? Have the subjects changed? That is, can verse 10 be speaking about a people, but verse 11 be addressing a person whose work it was (or is) to bring forth Christ’s words?  If an individual, is Joseph Smith the only one who can qualify? Can others also bring forth words of Christ to the gentiles, and the gentiles given an opportunity to accept or reject the words at their peril?
 
If they risk being cut off by rejecting the words, then can more than Joseph Smith be qualified to be “(even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.” That is, when the latter-day prophets are sounding alarms and warning, is the message from Christ–no matter who speaks it– something, if rejected, will cause people to be cut off from the covenant?
 
How does one cut themselves off from the covenant? If you will not listen to Christ’s words, do you thereby cut yourself off by not listening? Would that be true if Joseph Smith is a prophet and you reject him? Would that be true if Brigham Young were a prophet and you rejected him? What about an angel sent to you? What about someone like Abinadi, or John the Baptist, or some other unexpected messenger? Would the same be true anytime someone decided to reject a message authorized or sent from the Lord?
 
Now go back and re-read verses 10 and 11 with these questions in mind and see if you get a different meaning from them.