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2 Nephi 30: 2

2 Nephi 30: 2:

“For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.

To the extent that gentiles “will repent” they may become part of the Lord’s “covenant people.” They are not the remnant, but they may join in the covenant. If they do, then by virtue of the covenant they become “covenant people.”

What is required for the gentiles to repent?

What covenant must they enter into or receive so they may be numbered among the “covenant people?” Is membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the only thing needed to “repent” and become a “covenant people?” If not, then what else would be required?

To the extent that “the Jews will not repent” then they will be “cast off.” Although history has shown how the Jews have been treated (as Nephi put it), “ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them.” (2 Ne. 29: 5.) These difficulties suffered by the Jews are preliminary. The Lord always watched over and preserved them from complete destruction. However, when the Gospel is offered to them in the last days, in the final offering to the last (who had once been first–see 1 Ne.13: 42), they will reject the offered renewal of the covenant at their peril. If they reject it, they “shall be cast off” because that will sever the covenant.  “The Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.”

Although we know the Lord will extend every opportunity to the descendants for the sake of a covenant with those who have become the friends of God, there are limits. God will do all He has promised to do. He will forbear, entreat, beseech, send messengers, labor alongside with His messengers, and do all He can to reclaim the heirs for the covenant’s sake. In the end, however, the heirs must either accept what He offers, or be cast off.

It is extraordinary how long the Lord will extend His hand to reclaim His people. But everyone must choose to follow Him. We have our agency. We cannot be forced to follow Him. Even though He may be longsuffering and patient, He cannot compel any to be saved.  (Moses 4: 1-3.) Unless a person is free to choose for themselves, there is no existence.  (D&C 93: 30.) 

If you remove the right to choose, it is not only agency that is obliterated, but it is existence itself. Though we are utterly dependent on God for our very existence, sustained from moment to moment by Him loaning us the ability to move, breathe and act (Mosiah 2: 21), because we are free to make choices we exist. If you destroy the right to choose you have ended the personality of the person. [I have explained this in the beginning of Beloved Enos.]

Well, all of this is of no import if the gentiles do not “repent.” Whenever we brush up against that subject we wind up engaged in discussions about justice, mercy, vengeance and restitution. I’ve written about this process in both The Second Comforter and Come, Let Us Adore Him. Briefly, here are some of the most important points:  To be forgiven we must forgive. Not just forgive, but plead for mercy for those who have offended us. The role of accusing is left to “the accuser of the brethren” or Satan. (Rev. 12: 10.) When we accuse others we interfere with their salvation. If we are the one who was offended, and we make no accusation against them, then we become their savior. Satan’s right to accuse is inferior to ours as victims of the offense. We suffer in the flesh the wrongs of others. If we make no claim for justice, surrender those and seek instead for mercy on behalf of others, then Satan’s accusations can have no claim upon them. We mimic Christ, follow His example, and in our own limited way also atone for the sins of others. Joseph Smith was trying to get us to understand this concept when he taught: “If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins.” (DHC. 4:445)

I have explained this at length in what I’ve written in Come, Let Us Adore Him. Christ said this in His ministry repeatedly. He lived it.  He showed by His own example the way to obtain forgiveness for every wrong you have ever done. It is in the same way He went about atoning for sins. It is by suffering offenses and returning good. It is by forgiving those who despitefully use and abuse you. It is through loving those who are your enemies. It is by becoming sons and daughters of God. And it can be done in no other way. (Matt. 5: 38-48.) If you do not forgive others, you cannot be forgiven. (Matt. 6: 14-15.) This is why Christ, in teaching us to pray, told us we are only forgiven as we forgive others.  (Matt. 6: 12.) It is as we forgive that we obtain forgiveness.

The way is strait and narrow, and cannot permit you to pass through while carrying any burden of accusation, desire for revenge or even just complaint about others. When you lay down what you might justly claim against others and seek nothing for their offenses, then you are able to enter in. To be blessed, we must seek peace with those who would make war against us. (Matt. 5: 9.) When we judge all others with mercy, it is with mercy alone we will be judged. (Matt. 7: 2.)

For the most part, the gentiles will not repent. They will hold courts, use their time judging, exact conditions, set limits, and annotate their permanent records with notes showing what discipline a person has undergone. And happily employ control, compulsion and dominion over one another (D&C 121: 37) right up to the time when the trumpet sounds and it is everlastingly too late.  Others will justify this failure to forgive, shout praises to the abuse, and claim all compulsion and dominion is necessary to protect us from the evil. Even though our Master told us not to resist the evil, but forgive it. (Matt. 5: 39.)

For the most part, the gentiles will demand they be judged by a law they cannot satisfy.  Some few, however, will forgive and plead for the weaknesses and failings of others. They will forgive, and thereby be forgiven. They will obtain for themselves a judgment based only on mercy, for they have shown mercy to others. This atoning act of love and intercession will be the hallmark by which the children of God are identified in the Day of Judgment. (Matt. 5: 9.) Only the peacemakers can be trusted to live in peace with one another. All others are unfit for the presence of God.

2 Nephi 30: 1

2 Nephi 30: 1:

“And now behold, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you; for I, Nephi, would not suffer that ye should suppose that ye are more righteous than the Gentiles shall be. For behold, except ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall all likewise perish; and because of the words which have been spoken ye need not suppose that the Gentiles are utterly destroyed.”

This is troubling if you understand what is said here. Let’s see if we can pull it apart.

Nephi adds this direct comment to his descendants, the forebears of the remnant.  Although they are the target of covenants and beneficiaries of the restoration, they too need to keep to the path. Though they are “beloved brethren” to Nephi, they are not given any unconditional promises. No one is.  Everything we receive is based on what we do, think and say. (See both Alma 12: 14 and D&C 130: 20-21.)

Note that this is not about the actual remnant, but about the Nephites who would be destroyed. These people would have access to Nephi’s record until the time of Mormon, when they would be destroyed. You can see the time frame in the word usage, “Ye are” as to the Nephites, in contrast to “the Gentiles who shall be.”  This message is addressed to the Nephites in a time before the gentile.

What is particularly distressing is the comparison Nephi is making. He is saying that the Nephites, who possess the land of promise, needn’t think themselves “more righteous than the Gentiles shall be” because if these Nephite descendants do “not keep the commandments of God” then they “shall all likewise perish.” If the Nephites do not keep the commandments, they will, like the gentiles, perish.

This means that Nephi is confirming again his prophecy of the destruction of the gentiles.  They are doomed. And the Nephites are similarly doomed unless they are obedient.

Despite this warning we know what happened to the Nephites. They were destroyed. The gentiles will be destroyed also.

In the case of the Nephites and the gentiles, “ye need not suppose that the Gentiles are utterly destroyed.” That is, neither all the Nephites have been, nor all the gentiles will be “utterly destroyed.”

Well, this is happy news indeed. Some tiny fragment of the gentiles will actually survive the destruction of the coming days! So we ought to rejoice! All is well with us after all! And coming from Nephi we know that we have a promise from one holding sealing authority who will, as I have previously pointed out, seal this prophecy. (2 Nephi 33: 13-15.)

Interestingly Nephi warns his own descendants about their pride and haughtiness. He says that these Nephite descendants, heirs of the covenant, should not think of themselves as righteous. “I, Nephi, would not suffer that ye should suppose that ye are more righteous than the Gentiles shall be.” Nephi’s prophecy is clear to him, and clear to his descendants.  They both regarded the gentiles with pessimism. They (we) are doomed. So they saw us as something dreadful to be compared to.  When Nephi confirms they ought not think themselves better than us, he is giving a strong warning indeed. The odd thing is that we read these same records, this same prophecy, and we think we’re better than them! We have inverted the picture! We’re good, they were bad! But Nephi is using us as the dreadful comparison, the stark warning, the terrible warning that if the Nephites do not repent they will be like us and perish.

When you pick these words apart and see the message it makes you wonder how we could have come to our inverted view. Arrogance and pride really do blind us. Almost completely. What more could Nephi have said to get us to understand? (2 Nephi 32: 8.)

2 Nephi 29: 14

“And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.”

Now we have an estimate of the time when a general disclosure of the records of these various nations will occur. It’s set in the time when the people who have survived the great distresses and wars of the last days will leave the New Jerusalem and return to their lands of possessions. That is, post-New Jerusalem, post-destruction of the wicked, and after the time when the Lord has come among them. When they are sent into their respective lands of possessions, then at last the entire record of the Lord’s dealings with each nation will be “gathered in one.”

So this won’t be anytime soon. Well, if soon, it will be after some more dramatic events, which will take our minds off the issue of missing scripture.
What is interesting is the Lord’s emphasis on those who “fight against my word.” He puts this first. The fight, as He puts it, is against both “my word and my people,” but it is the fight against His “word” that He lists first.  This is important.
You will recall there were two different reactions to the two parts of Lehi’s message. When it was repentance from their wickedness, the Jews mocked him. But when it was a message of the coming Christ, they wanted to kill him. (1 Ne. 1: 18-19.) This is the war against His “word” in a nutshell. The message of hope and redemption found in Christ is what the enemies of God always seek to suppress.
First, distort, suppress and exclude His word.  Then it follows that He has no people, because they cannot find their way back to Him.
Remember this is the great fight. It is relentlessly underway. So soon as His word becomes available, there will be forces, enemies, alliances, even good-intentions used to suppress, discard and alter His words. This is the great work of the adversary. This is the fight that gets waged first.
When the victory is won against His word, then the victory against the people is over. There cannot be any “people” belonging to Him if they do not possess His words in clarity, fullness, and with power.
What significance is there then in changing His words? Discarding His revelations? Suppressing His ordinances? Altering what He has revealed?  Designating some of His word as “mysteries” that ought to be feared or avoided? Why would Joseph Smith advise us to search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of God? Why would we be told to avoid them today?  What has happened in the fight against the Lord’s word among us? 

The purpose of His word is to establish His people. When people have His word, and obtain the light and truth that flows from it, then they are inevitably turned in their hearts to the fathers. Primarily among those fathers is the one mentioned here: Abraham. For in Abraham we see a return to the original order which preceded the flood. He inherited what “came down from the beginning” and restored the original ancient order. (Abraham 1: 2-3.) When the “word” and “people” are again here, they are directly linked to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and are heirs to the covenant and priesthood  they held. It is a return. It is a resurrection of an ancient order, where men know God and are His friends and companions while living here in this fallen world.

The results of having the Lord’s “word” is to then create a “people” who in turn are linked to “Abraham.” These things all follow in turn.  The fight against it is begun at the “word” to prevent the others who follow. If you can choke people off and get them to refuse His “words” then you can prevent them from ever becoming His “people” and realizing the association which brings their hearts to the fathers.

It is a consistent plan and a predictable fight. How’s it going in our time? What good things have we done to preserve His word? Have we kept intact everything He handed us through Joseph? Do we possess all of the word He intended us to have, study and live? Are we thereby made into new creations, His people? Do we show the fruits of being His people? Do the visions of heaven flow over us, and angels minister to us? Do we possess knowledge of God in the sense used in the Book of Mormon? Are we in possession of all the rights and powers conferred upon Abraham?

It is an interesting interconnection the Lord refers to here. Worth reflection at a minimum. Fasting, prayer and seeking as well, perhaps.

2 Nephi 29: 13

“And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.”
Well, happily the Jews “shall” get the Nephite words. Some day. Currently for the most part they don’t want them. And, even if they did, the “words of the Nephites” will include the sealed portion, because they are certainly part of the “words” the Nephites recorded. So this will be future, even if there were Jews interested in taking the offer today.
The Nephites also “shall” have the words of the Jews. However, once again as we have seen, the words include a great volume of material spoken by Christ, recorded by the Jews, and not in anyone’s current possession. So this, too, must be in the future. For now we aren’t even sure of who these “Nephites” are.
The Nephites and the Jews “shall” get the words of the lost tribes of Israel. This is a category, not a number. Remember that.  So once again, future event. Don’t know when.  Don’t know how many records. Don’t even know how many groups will be included.

But all these records are inevitably to come forth. Just not yet.

Why?
Read Mormon’s explanation: “But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people. And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken. And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.  And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.  Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.  Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me.” (3 Nephi 26: 7-12.)

What if I do believe these things? What if I will accept the things which He offers? What if my faith has been tried and I am found to be deserving of more information? Can a person come out from under the condemnation referred to above, even if the rest of mankind fails to acquit themselves? Alma comes with the reply:  “Yes.” (Alma 12: 9-11.) So, as it turns out, ignorance is voluntary.

Well, shut my mouth! (That’s a pun, you see.)
[Can you do puns in a religious blog? Or will the long faced and dour be offended? Well, they don’t get it anyway. Hey! Why are you reading this if it offends you? Stop it!]
What do you suppose it would take for the Lord to respond to us removing the condemnation that we labor under? How should we go about trying to make that happen? I don’t see it happening, do you? I’m sort of persuaded by Nephi’s pessimism of the gentiles of our day.  Even this mild blog discussion I am attempting has provoked ire in many readers. How we fix our collective disinterest seems a monumental enterprise beyond human ability. I fear it would take some great calamity to unfold before we would change. Then again, I think the Lord has already told us that. (D&C 1: 17; 45: 50.)

2 Nephi 29: 12

“For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.” 

This is more than interesting. The Lord speaks, various people write what He speaks to them. These groups include:

1.  Jews– we get that and it’s the Bible, right?
2.  Nephites– we get that too, the Book of Mormon, right?

3.  Other tribes– how many? Who? When?  Where? What?
4.  All the nations of the earth–Now it’s just too broad. What does “all the nations” mean, exactly?

So, let’s take this a bit by bit, going through each one:

1. Jews: We have a Bible. But we DON’T have all the writings of the Jews, do we? We already referred to missing prophets Zenos and Zenok, and there are others. Look in your Bible Dictionary for “Missing Scripture” and you’ll tree a list. (I’m pulling your leg.  If you look that up it’ll refer you to “Lost Books” so go there.)

[That reminds me of a joke I tell: If I get a tattoo it’ll say “Leviticus 19: 28.” But you probably won’t think that’s funny.]

Anyway, the Jews recorded more both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament than we have currently. So don’t get all certain the Bible is the final word from the ancient Jews. It isn’t. Never was. There’s more coming.

2. Nephites: Clearly more coming. Sealed material has not been revealed, and will be some day. Providing, of course, we were to actually merit the disclosure. So, I suppose that means don’t hold your breath.

3. Other Tribes: We got nothing. Not even a number. The one chance we had to get a number was blown by both the disciples in Jerusalem and the Nephites. I’ve written about this in The Second Comforter. So the only way to triangulate is to either take the allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob 5 and try to estimate– a risky proposition since it was intended to convey an overall meaning not a number– or we can work backwards from the crucifixion to the approximate 11 1/2 months later when Jesus appeared to the Nephites. Take the time spent with the Nephites, then estimate He’s been busy doing that same ministry elsewhere. Divide the time taken to minister into the available time and you get something between 10 and 18 other potential groups out there depending on your estimate of the time used. The record attempts to prevent us from being too accurate because it identifies three days specifically, then resorts to just “many times” to cover what may have been days or weeks. (3 Nephi 26: 13.)  However, when you read of the Nephite disciples “journeying and preaching” but coming together in “mighty prayer and fasting” and the Lord’s appearance again there, it seems closer to the 10 number than the 18. (3 Nephi 27: 1.) Well, you work it out. It’s just an unknown plural number which might be greater than just a couple. And for these we have no record at all.

4.  All nations: Nothing here, either. And no basis from which to compile an estimate.

So, from the foregoing we can see that we have some tiny fragment of the whole, and cannot even begin to construct an outline of what we are missing. But despite our ignorance, the Lord spoke to them, they wrote it, and it is available for some group to eventually read.  Apparently not us. We do not even get the rest of the record written on parchment and hidden by John, (referred to in the headnote to Section 7 of the D&C). We only get a part of the information from it. (D&C 7: 1-8.)

So, there’s a lot to be had.  We don’t have it…But what we do have we won’t study. Well,  maybe there is a cause and effect…

Seems to me, you don’t want to talk about it. Seems to me, you just turn your pretty head and walk away. (Joe Walsh, from the James Gang era, before the heaviest toll was taken.)  

So the Lord wants us to know there’s ever so much out there. That we have a tiny fraction of what was once available. And we just don’t seem to care. We’d rather reduce the volume of topics we study and eliminate the “mysteries” from our diet of Gospel study, so as to relieve ourselves of any responsibility for what we already possess. We are beyond dumbing down the Gospel. We’re discarding it by the week. Tighter and tighter, until you are left alone, without God in the world. There’s a brilliant phrase. It comes from the Book of Mormon. It is found at Mosiah 27: 31; Alma 41: 11 and Mormon 5: 16. Of all the phrases turned in the Book of Mormon this is the most solitary, profound and descriptive of the fall from grace mankind experiences. It is perfect, even if what it describes is perfectly horrid.

Well, enough of this…

2 Nephi 29: 12

“For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.” 

This is more than interesting. The Lord speaks, various people write what He speaks to them. These groups include:

1.  Jews– we get that and it’s the Bible, right?
2.  Nephites– we get that too, the Book of Mormon, right?

3.  Other tribes– how many? Who? When?  Where? What?
4.  All the nations of the earth–Now it’s just too broad. What does “all the nations” mean, exactly?

So, let’s take this a bit by bit, going through each one:

1. Jews: We have a Bible. But we DON’T have all the writings of the Jews, do we? We already referred to missing prophets Zenos and Zenok, and there are others. Look in your Bible Dictionary for “Missing Scripture” and you’ll tree a list. (I’m pulling your leg.  If you look that up it’ll refer you to “Lost Books” so go there.)

[That reminds me of a joke I tell: If I get a tattoo it’ll say “Leviticus 19: 28.” But you probably won’t think that’s funny.]

Anyway, the Jews recorded more both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament than we have currently. So don’t get all certain the Bible is the final word from the ancient Jews. It isn’t. Never was. There’s more coming.

2. Nephites: Clearly more coming. Sealed material has not been revealed, and will be some day. Providing, of course, we were to actually merit the disclosure. So, I suppose that means don’t hold your breath.

3. Other Tribes: We got nothing. Not even a number. The one chance we had to get a number was blown by both the disciples in Jerusalem and the Nephites. I’ve written about this in The Second Comforter. So the only way to triangulate is to either take the allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob 5 and try to estimate– a risky proposition since it was intended to convey an overall meaning not a number– or we can work backwards from the crucifixion to the approximate 11 1/2 months later when Jesus appeared to the Nephites. Take the time spent with the Nephites, then estimate He’s been busy doing that same ministry elsewhere. Divide the time taken to minister into the available time and you get something between 10 and 18 other potential groups out there depending on your estimate of the time used. The record attempts to prevent us from being too accurate because it identifies three days specifically, then resorts to just “many times” to cover what may have been days or weeks. (3 Nephi 26: 13.)  However, when you read of the Nephite disciples “journeying and preaching” but coming together in “mighty prayer and fasting” and the Lord’s appearance again there, it seems closer to the 10 number than the 18. (3 Nephi 27: 1.) Well, you work it out. It’s just an unknown plural number which might be greater than just a couple. And for these we have no record at all.

4.  All nations: Nothing here, either. And no basis from which to compile an estimate.

So, from the foregoing we can see that we have some tiny fragment of the whole, and cannot even begin to construct an outline of what we are missing. But despite our ignorance, the Lord spoke to them, they wrote it, and it is available for some group to eventually read.  Apparently not us. We do not even get the rest of the record written on parchment and hidden by John, (referred to in the headnote to Section 7 of the D&C). We only get a part of the information from it. (D&C 7: 1-8.)

So, there’s a lot to be had.  We don’t have it…But what we do have we won’t study. Well,  maybe there is a cause and effect…

Seems to me, you don’t want to talk about it. Seems to me, you just turn your pretty head and walk away. (Joe Walsh, from the James Gang era, before the heaviest toll was taken.)  

So the Lord wants us to know there’s ever so much out there. That we have a tiny fraction of what was once available. And we just don’t seem to care. We’d rather reduce the volume of topics we study and eliminate the “mysteries” from our diet of Gospel study, so as to relieve ourselves of any responsibility for what we already possess. We are beyond dumbing down the Gospel. We’re discarding it by the week. Tighter and tighter, until you are left alone, without God in the world. There’s a brilliant phrase. It comes from the Book of Mormon. It is found at Mosiah 27: 31; Alma 41: 11 and Mormon 5: 16. Of all the phrases turned in the Book of Mormon this is the most solitary, profound and descriptive of the fall from grace mankind experiences. It is perfect, even if what it describes is perfectly horrid.

Well, enough of this…

2 Nephi 29: 10-11

“Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.”
Within the Book of Mormon, as a new volume of scripture, is the caution that even it is incomplete. What a marvel that is if you think about it. Here’s a new revelation telling us that there are other revelations that aren’t included in either the Book of Mormon or the Bible.

Everyone nation, from time to time, received sacred messages from the Lord! No matter where they are – east, west, north or south, He’s been in touch. They have written it down. The records are sacred, and He watches over them.  They will be revealed. And, the good/bad news is that from their content we will be judged.

We are judged “according to our works,” but measured against “that which is written.” Think about that for a moment.
What if they haven’t come to light yet? Are they still written? Are they still going to be used to measure us? If we haven’t seen these words, why would it be appropriate for them to be used as a measuring stick for our conduct?  Was the Book of Mormon’s standards binding upon us even before the record came forth?
Why does He assure us He is unchangeable? Why does He assure us He is the same yesterday, today and forever? Is the standard going to change from ancient record to ancient record? If it does not change, then are we accountable for the same standard of conduct no matter when or where we live? How can we be held to account for things that are yet to be revealed?
If we cannot be judged against something we do not know (Mosiah 3: 11), how can these words set a standard for judging even before they are published?
I want to propose a concept that appeals to my mind. When we are trying to “prove” a proposition, it is possible to set up an experiment where we control all variables but one, then see what that one variable does. How it acts, or reacts. Life here is like that, I think. A fallen Telestial Kingdom, “or the world in which you presently reside”– to quote an authoritative source– is the same place for Able and Cain, Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Nimrod, Moses and Pharoah, Jesus and Ciaphus, Jacob and Sherem, Alma and Nehor, Joseph Smith and Thomas Sharp. Same place with all of these contemporaries. But with the exception of Enoch and Noah, (who took different routes, but nonetheless were both favored by God) all the other pairs had dramatically different outcomes? Why?
This world is a fallen, but controlled environment. We get introduced here with free will and the capacity to change. Inside that environment of a fallen world, there have been people who have come and lived with all the same limitations that we have, but who have grown to know God. Their lives are proof that it can happen. Their testimonies and records of success are part of the “proof” of God’s fairness and of mankind’s freedom to return to Him.

If the Bible and the Book of Mormon both attest to the fact that it is possible for mankind to overcome by faith and return to God’s presence, then we have the proof needed to see how this life should be lived. We have the evidence of God’s willingness to receive us, and of our own capacity to overcome and return to Him.

Testimony after testimony, experience after experience are recounted in the Book of Mormon. We have enough “proof” that this process is available and works. If we were to have more, in a different record, reaffirming the same thing involving other people, would it add any different proof than is already in our possession? If not, then can we be judged by the same standard without having the specific life stories before us to illustrate in another hundred ways how men have triumphed and men have failed?

Is it possible there are others, some of whom are still living, who may also have recorded unspeakable things? Do their words count? Are they binding upon us for no other reason than to prove that in this contemporary world of sin it remains still possible to return to God’s presence?
What interesting things the Book of Mormon raises for our pondering and edification. It is a revolutionary book, in the sense it revolutionizes our understanding of how God deals with mankind.

2 Nephi 29: 9

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.”
The assurance to us by the Lord that He is the “same yesterday, today and forever” appears often in scripture. (See, e.g., four times by Nephi including 1 Ne. 10: 18; 2 Ne. 2: 4; 2 Ne. 27: 23, and above; Alma 31: 17; Mormon 9: 9; Moroni 10: 19; D&C 20: 12; and D&C 35: 1, among other places.) Why do you suppose the Lord wants us to trust in this idea? What is it about the Lord’s “sameness” that is important for us to understand?
Are the Lord’s expectations different from one generation to the next? Are His teachings?  Are His ordinances? Can we discard what He has given us and be justified? If His expectations are as unchanged as He is, then how important is it for us to study and retain all that He has given by revelation to mankind? How important is it to keep ordinances entirely intact?
If the Lord does not change, and the story of the Nephite people is a story of temporary success followed by ultimate failure, then how relevant is that account for us? Does temporary success in repentance guarantee constant favor from the Lord? When the Book of Mormon follows splinter groups in the narrative, because the splinters kept the commandments of God better, does that preserve a relevant lesson for those reading the book today? If so, how?
If the Lord “speaks forth [His] own words according to [His] own pleasure” then how can we control to whom and when He is permitted to speak? If He reserves to Himself this right, what effect does our system of recognizing an authoritative message from Him have upon His right to speak? Did the revelation given to Oliver Cowdrey that told him that he could not write commandments, but only according to wisdom, and never command Joseph Smith who presided over Oliver, establish a binding precedent on the Lord? (D&C 28: 4-6.) If so, what limit does that place on the Lord?  Does the limitation on someone being sent forth as a missionary to preach the Gospel, and the requirement they be “regularly ordained by the heads of the church” limit the Lord’s ability to speak His own words?  (D&C 42: 11.) If so, in what way?
Does the revelation to Joseph Smith informing the Church in 1831 that no one other than Joseph Smith is to receive commandments and revelations for the Church limit the Lord’s ability to speak to anyone else? (D&C 43: 1-6.) In particular, what of the Lord’s counsel that this limitation was intended as “a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.” (Id. verses 5-6.) Does that prevent Him from speaking “according to His own pleasure?”
What about the 1830 revelation given to Joseph Smith that no one other than Joseph Smith is to receive revelations and commandments in the church? (D&C 28: 2.) Does that limit the Lord’s ability to speak according to His own pleasure?
Do the promises given to Joseph Smith apply directly and continually as the binding precedent and complete limitation on the Lord’s capacity to speak to us? If so, then can He still speak to individual members of the church but without providing a “revelation and commandment” to the entire church? For example, do we expect only President Monson to receive revelation on the individual members of your own family? How is President Monson supposed to be doing that for the families of some 13 million church members? If that isn’t possible, then what about the approximate 2,000 stakes? Do we expect only President Monson to receive revelation about each of these divisions? If the stake presidents have been delegated responsibility, then can the stake president receive all revelation for each family within the stake? Can the stake president alone receive revelation for the families of his stake?
If each person is intended to receive some revelation for themselves, is that an absolute bar to receiving revelation for another? If, for example, someone were not in your ward, not in your stake, not even living in your state, but asked you to give them a blessing because of illness or injury, are you entitled to receive revelation while giving the blessing? Even if you have no connection to this person by family or church calling?  Should you proceed with the blessing? If so, would you expect the Lord to assist, give revelation, and even inspire a commandment to the person if it were appropriate?
How hard and fast are the rules we impose on the Lord? Does His statement that He alone will decide when and to whom He speaks according to “His own pleasure” need to be weighed as part of the equation? If He cannot speak to anyone other than Joseph Smith, then did Joseph’s death prevent Him from speaking further? If He cannot speak to anyone other than Joseph’s successors in the office of President of the High Priesthood, then what if the occupant of that office is ill, infirm, or disabled?
Would the “system” govern, or the Lord’s “own pleasure” govern? If it is “His own pleasure” then how can we possibly know when He speaks?  What about the Lord’s house being a house of order? Once He has a church established, should we trust He will confine His efforts to that church alone?
I suppose all these questions are answered by the Lord adding to “His own pleasure” that “because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.”
In the final analysis, it is left to us to fast, pray, seek the guidance of the Spirit, and to find where the Lord’s own pleasure in speaking is to be found. I do not expect someone other than the presiding authorities to conduct the affairs of the church. Nor would I expect anyone would organize a ward or stake other than someone having authority over that responsibility, regularly recognized by the church. I would not expect to either pay tithing to, nor be asked to pay tithing to, someone other than a Bishop in the church.  But, just as Elder F. Enzio Busche encountered gifted sisters with the gift of prophecy and visions, I do not believe revelation is or can be confined to any single office, person, or group. (See F. Enzio Busche’s book, Yearning for the Living God.)  While serving in various church leadership positions, including as a General Authority, he encountered gifted women with spiritual capacities who astonished him. But, to his credit, he did not doubt them.
God speaks according to His own pleasure. He cautions you that just because He says one thing at one time, He is never limited in what He may say at another time; even if you think it contradicts His earlier statements. He is living and He has the final decision in what He says and to whom He speaks. We must not forget that principle. Even though we may not like the uncertainty this introduces to our trusted systems. He alone will remain in control.

2 Nephi 29: 8

 
“Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.”
 
Why would anyone complain or murmur because God has spoken? We do. Somehow we get offended at the very idea God can or has spoken further. It is disturbing. It requires us to learn more, and may require us to change. It is inconvenient. It is troubling.
 
But new information from God should always be welcomed. It should be exciting and delightful, even if it requires us to change.
 
Not only does the Lord remember all nations, but He “speaks the same words unto one nation like unto another.” Meaning two things:  First, the records are going to agree on doctrine, ordinances and practice. There will not be some shocking departure from what we have already learned. But, second, we may find that other records have done a better job of preserving deeper insight into the history or truths than have we.
 
At one time the record written by Moses contained what is now in the Pearl of Great Price. At one time the record written by Abraham also found in the Pearl of Great Price was among the Biblical record. However, they were lost until they were restored through Joseph Smith. At one time the Biblical record contained the prophecies of Zenos and Zenock, only a small portion of which are still available through the Book of Mormon.
 
Although the records will agree, that does not mean there will not be significant additions to our understanding as a result of these becoming available. Even the record of the Nephites is sealed, and that of the Jaredites only partially translated. (Ether 1: 4-5.) Joseph and Sidney were forbidden to give the full account of the vision of the afterlife. (D&C 76: 114-115.) So you must not presume that “the same words” will be identical to the teachings preserved in our records. They may include much more.
 
It is also interesting how the Book of Mormon contains so much more information upon close inspection that it appears to have in a quick read. It is a measure of how seriously we take the Lord’s words as to how carefully we search the text.
 
As I’ve pointed out, most of the Book of Mormon scholarship is devoted to the question of the book’s authenticity. Word studies, Jewish idioms, internal consistencies, author variances and other examinations of the book have dominated the Book of Mormon library we have produced. I have proceeded from the premise that the book is authentic, that it is what it claims to be, and worthy of respect. Then, based on that premise, I’ve asked what the book teaches. The result has been more than edifying, it has been at times shocking. I’ve found that most of the deepest doctrines taught by Joseph Smith can be found in the Book of Mormon. When his revelations reach the greatest heights, the Book of Mormon equals what is revealed.
 
We tend to view the Book of Mormon as a “basic” version of doctrine, because we all know there are sealed portions yet to be revealed. However, I think that attitude is wrong. Everything in the sealed portion is already in the book we have in front of us. But to find it we must look more carefully at the text than we generally do.
 
I keep hoping that by showing respect to the text we can accomplish two things:  First, please the Lord and remove our condemnation from neglecting this valuable ancient record. Second, increase our respect for the value of doctrine. Without the unique doctrines restored through the Book of Mormon, we may as well be Presbyterian or Methodist.

These verses promise us that the testimonies of differing nations will agree.  They will all testify both of Jesus Christ as Redeemer and Savior, and provide the means by which we can come to Him and be saved.

The numerous examples of the Book of Mormon all converge on knowing Christ.  Indeed, the text has more examples of Christ ministering through the veil to mortal men than any other record, including His Judean ministry. It is a veritable treasure of Second Comforter experiences. If you want to know Christ, the Book of Mormon is your best guide.