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2 Nephi 29: 1-2



The quote of the Lord continues into 2 Nephi 29: 1-2:

“But behold, there shall be many—at that day when I shall proceed to do a marvelous work among them, that I may remember my covenants which I have made unto the children of men, that I may set my hand again the second time to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel;  And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel;”
The thought, “there shall be many” will be concluded in verse 3, and will be discussed there.

The day of the Lord’s “marvelous work” will be when He “remembers [His] covenants” made previously to “the children of men.” Those covenants to “the children of men” are all inclusive. This will include promises made to all mankind, without regard to their status as Israel, gentile, heathen, or even if they are living or dead as the work begins. It is the Lord’s covenants made in the pre-earth councils, and is for all mankind.

As fulfillment of these complete covenants, the Lord will “set [His] hand again the second time to recover my people.” Now the focus moves from “the children of men” to a sub-set of those He calls “my people.” His people are, by definition, necessarily affiliated with “the house of Israel” through covenant. These would include those called the “remnant” as well as those believing “gentiles” who accept the covenant and return through repentance to Christ.

Why do we see layers of covenants or promises referred to here? Why the covenants made “unto the children of men?”  Why then further “the house of Israel?” Why further “promises made unto Nephi?” Why still further “thy father” [meaning Lehi]? Why a work which will affect all these groups? And, finally, why does all of the foregoing return to “remembering Nephi’s seed?” What role does Nephi’s seed, or remnant fulfill in the promises made to all mankind?

Why does the Lord make a covenant with all humanity, but then reiterate the covenant with Abraham? Why do the covenants get repeated through Isaac and Jacob, the last of whom supplies the name of the covenant people “Israel?”  Why, after all those covenant recipients do the covenants get renewed with Lehi? Why immediately following Nephi do the covenants get renewed yet again in Nephi? Why does the Lord engage in this covenant making process to tie together the events of history and the lives of men? Can He still do this today? Does He still expect or want to enter into covenants with men today to further His purposes? Do those covenants necessarily get confined to an institution or priestly process rather than through Him, directly? Why not?

When we get to Nephi’s descendants, why are they the ones who are to provide “a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel?” What does this say about the significance of the Book of Mormon? Why is it the “standard unto the Lord’s people?” What does that do to clarify the condemnation resting upon the church under D&C 84: 57? How important is “the standard” established by the Lord? Why would Joseph Smith say the “fullness of the gospel” is contained in the Book of Mormon?

Why does the title page of the Book of Mormon, which was part of the translated record, contain this description:  “Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”

What does it mean that these words shall “hiss forth to the ends of the earth?”
Did you notice the Lord taking personal credit for the words of the Book of Mormon? What does the phrase “the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth?” How does the Lord taking personal credit for these words affect the Book of Mormon’s significance?

Come and be saved

In the preceding verses Nephi has changed from giving his own advice and counsel to quoting the Lord. He began in verse 30 with the words: “behold, thus saith the Lord” and continues quoting Him through the end of that chapter and into the next.

The third “wo” was pronounced by Nephi as a quote from the Lord. The “cursing of the gentiles” was pronounced by Nephi as a quote from the Lord.

Now I didn’t point that out as we went through the materials. It is significant enough that it requires additional attention.

Christ has divided judgment up into two separate functions. For those who will be blessed, He will delegate the honor of blessing to others, including His twelve at Jerusalem, (Matt. 19: 28, 1 Ne. 12: 9) and twelve Nephite disciples (3 Ne. 27: 27). Their judgment is honorary, however, because they are given no discretion in the matter. The Lord will decide the judgment. It is His alone, so as to insure it will be the right decision. (3 Ne. 27: 27.) For those who are to be cursed, however, Christ will be the one who pronounces the judgment. (D&C 29: 27-29.)

It is of terrible significance that these statements come from the Lord who alone holds the right to judge.  He sacrificed His life for all, and is the Savior and Redeemer, seeking to save all who will come to Him.  This is the same Lord who pronounces the words through Nephi: Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts!” (2 Ne. 28: 31-32.)

The message is delivered by Nephi. The words are the Lord’s. The merciful and loving Christ who suffered for all that they might not suffer if they would repent (D&C 19: 16), is announcing His pessimism about the latter-day gentile effort to obtain repentance. Why do we seem destined to fail? Why is repentance so difficult for us? What terrible “precepts of men” hold us bound in chains that we cannot break free.

Several have made comments on the question of how we are to repent and come to Christ.  There is a fundamental first step to be taken which the Lord has explained repeatedly in His teachings. I have written about this often, including in my first and last books.

In the chapter on the Atonement in Come, Let Us Adore Him there is an explanation given of what Christ suffered and what obligations are devolving on us as a result. We must do as He did, suffer in like manner, and forgive all offenses. His infinite suffering cannot be replicated in one sense, but in our own sphere and time we do suffer offenses and abuses. We are required to forgive as He forgave. It is our own forgiveness of others that qualifies us to receive forgiveness from Him. When we harbor grudges and resentments, we cut ourselves off from His Atonement. IF we are to be forgiven we must in turn FORGIVE others.  In The Second Comforter it is shown how we must make intercession on behalf of others, even our enemies, if we are to have a hope in Christ. We must lay down the burden of sin to enter into His presence. Much of that “sin” in each of our lives has been the offenses against us, and the resentment and anger we hold from these abuses. There are people who have done you wrong. There are some who did so intentionally. When you forgive them, and plead on their behalf for the Lord to also forgive them in sincerity and love, you are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Your Lord did this. You must do as He did to be like Him. It is the only way to understand your Lord. In this, you must suffer as He did, choosing to forgive offenses rather than to seek justice. When you show mercy, you merit mercy. The beginning of repentance is found in forgiving others.

Your just claims for retribution must be surrendered. Your worthy desire to have vindication must be abandoned. Your right to have judgment against the ones who abused you must be forfeited. And you must go on to pray for their forgiveness.

If you have read all I have written you already know this. I am disappointed to have those who have not read what I’ve written trying to make sense of this blog. It will make absolutely no sense if it is not seen as an extension of what I’ve already covered. Even this brief statement about the relationship between your own salvation and redemption through following Christ is a brief note, a cryptic signal, and altogether inadequate to explain the matter. The careful, patient and fulsome explanation has been laid out elsewhere in what I’ve written. You must go there to see why, along with the many places in scripture where the Lord has made the matter clear.

Nephi takes no delight in pronouncing these wo’s and writing the “cursing” the latter-day gentiles face. The Lord takes even less. He suffered and died to make salvation possible for these very same latter-day gentiles. He would save them all. But to do so it is absolutely necessary to bluntly warn those whom He loves. Enos recorded his own ministry and how it was affected by the audience he addressed: “And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.” (Enos 1: 23.)

Why would a joyful Lord, who delights in our own happiness, speak in terms of “wo’s” and “cursing” to us? What is it about us as His audience that compels Him to rebuke us? Have you thought of the standard in Section 121 (“reproving betimes with sharpness when moved upon by the Holy Ghost”) as part of this rebuke?

He so completely loves us that John equated Him with love. (1 John 4: 8.) Can you imagine the frustration it causes our Lord to have to speak in these terms to us?

Why do we not repent? Why do we harbor and protect our sins? Why do we worship men rather than God? Why do we cleave to the precepts of men rather than the Holy Ghost? Why do we resist the truth when it is declared to us. Why do we demand that the truth be conformed to our understanding of the precepts of men? Why do we measure the things of God against our own traditions? Why do we not abandon instantly our false notions, and stop arguing against the truth which is in Christ? Why do we think any institution, fellowship, association or man can lead us to salvation instead of Christ alone who can save? (2 Ne. 31: 19.)

How long will you harden your heart against your Lord, whose pleas are aimed only at saving your soul? Why turn away and say that you prefer membership in a great and spacious building, pointing an accusing finger at those who would lead you to eternal life? (1 Ne. 8: 26-31.) Your awards and honors are nothing.  Your recognition and praise is corrosion. Everything here is doomed to decay, rot and fail. (Matt. 6: 19-20.) This is the Telestial Kingdom. Everything here, every institution, organization and order is Telestial. None of it will survive death. (D&C 132: 7.) Even the one association intended to endure (the family) will not endure unless it is through the Holy Spirit of Promise.

If you are going to be rescued from this Telestial Kingdom, it will be Christ who rescues you. His arm has been stretched out to you as long as you have been here, and it will remain stretched out until you depart here.  If you are not saved, it will be because of your rejection of Him, not His rejection of you. He has done all He could. He has sent stern warnings, warm invitations, cheerful messengers, the dignified and the undignified, to show in all things He is willing to meet you more than half way. Those who reject these widely different invitations are accountable for their failure. (Matt. 11: 7-24.)

The Lord continually asks: “What more could I have done?” (Jacob 5: 41, 47, 49, 75; 2 Ne. 15: 4.)

Apparently we will only accept the “precepts of men” and trust the “arm of flesh” and therefore merit the coming disappointments.

Come unto Christ and be saved.

2 Nephi 28: 32

“Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts.” 

After all these warnings, the mention of Zion, the foolishness of following the “precepts of men” Nephi turns again to identifying the most relevant group being warned. It is “the gentiles” (or us). As he considers our collective effort and how we allow the “precepts of men” to be our guide, he states his overall conclusion about our performance: “Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts!”

This is the third wo. And it is accompanied by a three name title. This time incorporating the “Hosts” or Family of God. This is the Father’s judgment upon us. His status as the “Lord God of Hosts” is clearly intended to let us know those proud gentiles who rely upon  the sparks of their own fire as their light will lay down in sorrow. (Isa. 50: 11; 2 Ne. 7: 11.)

When the Lord’s open arm is extended all the day, they reject Him and walk away. They prefer their own false ideas to the truth found in Christ. In the end they have “denied the Lord” because all His efforts toward them have been rejected.
Still, despite all these failings, and all the wo’s pronounced upon them, it is NOT the Lord’s failure. It is the gentiles. Even now the Lord would welcome them “if they will repent and come to Him.” His arm is yet “lengthened out all the day long.” So long as life remains, He is pleading for our repentance. So long as we are here, He will welcome our repentance. And, so we do not miss the point, He also uses a three-name title when extending the plea to us for our repentance. He is speaking on behalf of, and as the chief among, all the “Hosts of heaven.”  The entire council would welcome us back, if we would but return.
Can you not sense the agony of this plea? Can you not feel the mercy God would grant to any penitent soul? Despite this, men prefer their arrogance, their own precepts, their own false teachings to being taught by the Holy Spirit. We refuse to repent because we prefer our false teachings. We prefer our traditions that build up our pride, and tell us we are going to be exalted because we are good and deserve God’s favor. We’ve put up with tithing, and with faithful meeting attendance, and followed faithfully all kinds of leaders in every ward and stake we’ve ever attended. We’ve passed temple recommend interviews and attended faithfully our tithing settlement meetings – in short we think we’ve done everything God could possibly ask of us. 
Except we have NOT repented and come to Christ. Had we done that, we would have been embraced in those opened arms of our Lord. In five points of contact with a loving God, we would have heard unspeakable things and know we escaped the wo’s pronounced by Nephi.
Nephi’s assessment of the gentile performance is consistently pessimistic. Coupled with Nephi’s description of a consistently open and accepting Lord who would welcome us at any time were we willing to repent.
Nephi’s message gets mangled in our distorted cultural rewriting of meanings. When someone points out what he’s saying, it produces anger and resentment. The result is not particularly encouraging for the gentiles. Not merely because of Nephi’s prophetic words, but also because of our reaction to them.

2 Nephi 28: 31

 
“Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
 
Now we move beyond the wo’s to cursing.  Cursing by one holding authority to seal is a terrible thing to encounter. However, we should expect that one having that authority, possessing correct knowledge, along with the ability to lead into light and truth, would do all he could to be clear about a matter so those who read what he has said will understand unmistakably the responsibilities they face. Nephi is discharging a duty, and doing so with our best interests in mind. We shouldn’t take offense. We should be grateful even if it is painful to read.
 
So again we confront the phrase “trust in man” along with “maketh flesh his arm.” Have you considered the meaning of these terms? Have you thought about them as symbols?
 
“Trust in man” is another way of describing reliance on man to save. Man’s theories or hopes or vain formulas as the path to God is another way to describe “trust in man.” Do you want a preacher who will give you the philosophies of men mingled with scripture? 
 
Something from Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations to “flesh out” the meaning of a phrase in scripture? A little story of personal experience from your own life, to personalize the meaning of a verse from the Bible? Will you trade that for an inspired warning that your soul is in jeopardy and you are cursed because of what you accept in place of the power of the Holy Ghost as your guide?
 
“Maketh flesh his arm” is another way of saying the “strength” of man, rather than the “strength” of God. The arm is also the means by which a sign or covenant might be set forth. By putting the “flesh his arm” rather than the signs of priestly authority from a true messenger, the implication is that any surrogate for God will do if they just have a few bona-fides. Credentials will be enough.  Have they been to college and received training for the ministry? A man cannot preach unless he’s been trained for the ministry, you see. Are they a scholar? We like to defer to them. We quote them, study them, and believe in their techniques and methods.
 
But Nephi keeps thundering back: No man’s precepts should be accepted when they do not originate in revelation and the Holy Ghost.  Without a connection to revelation and the Holy Ghost, the teachings are all the arm of flesh. If you want to trust in that, you will be cursed.

Nephi puts it into two, opposing camps. There are only two. There are either inspired teachings, given by revelation and confirmed by the Holy Ghost, or they are man’s understanding. The first will save you. The other will curse you. There is no happy marriage. You cannot have both. This sword cuts both ways, and forces you to make a decision. Your eternity will be affected by the decision. So either you find the right way and follow it, or you are relying upon men and will in the end be cursed.

 
Interesting choice. Terrible dilemma. Glad we are absolutely guaranteed that the men we trust to lead us cannot ever lead us astray.  Or the majority of them won’t anyway. Because if we had to rely only on something as flimsy as the Holy Ghost to choose we would be forced to fast and pray, be humble and penitent to solve this terrible dilemma for us; working out our salvation with fear and trembling before God. (Philip. 2: 12.) 
 
I’m glad we don’t have to go through that.  We’re the best of heaven and have come down to strut and fret our hour upon the stage, all the while enwrapped in several layers of guaranteed eternal life insurance policies paid for by the blood of martyrs and pioneers who suffered so we might be able to live comfortably. We are just GOOD people. They envied us. Everyone has, you know.  The prophets all looked down from antiquity and longed to live among us, the favored few…
Oh, wait a minute, I got carried away. I forgot we were trying to understand Nephi’s message. For a minute there I was too wrapped up in our own message. Well, to return to Nephi – someone’s going to be cursed for trusting in men. Only those whose precepts and teachings originate in the Holy Ghost are going to be saved. It is a terrible burden to confront. It almost makes us want to turn away in sorrow rather than continue on following our Lord. (See John 6: 65-67.) But, then again, who else has the words of eternal life other than Him?

2 Nephi 28: 30

“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more, and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”
Here Nephi shows he is the prophetic precedent upon which others would build. We often quote Alma for this idea, because Alma lays it out more completely. But Alma’s teaching has its root in Nephi’s warning here. (See Alma 12: 9-11.)
Notice the Lord’s promise that He will “give unto the children of men.”  He is liberal and does not upbraid us for asking. (James 1: 5-6.) Indeed, He admonishes us to seek, ask and knock.(Matt. 7: 7-11; D&C 88: 63.)
Notice that “unto him that receiveth” is the singular.  It isn’t “those” but “him.” Meaning each of us individually may come to Him and ask and receive. However, “from them that shall say, We have enough” is plural.  Meaning, there are many who could have been taught, had they not shut the doors. The collective will resist new revelation, even when it continues. They will shut their minds and not tolerate learning of truths.
When, however, groups close their minds it becomes impossible to keep what they have. It is inevitable that “from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”  Meaning, that we are either in a process of restoration or apostasy. The instant we stop restoring truths, we begin to lose them. You cannot just keep what Joseph restored to you. That will be lost. You either continue on and receive on-going revelation and new visions, visitations and restoration, or else you begin to forfeit what you already have. So soon as you walk away from one precept, from one doctrine, from one ordinance, you have begun the process of apostasy or falling away.

This environment is not static. It is always in change.  Either it is being built up, created and newly formed, or it is decaying, dying and falling apart. It never holds static. This is because the things of this world testify of Christ’s Gospel. (Moses 6: 63.) The path is only upward.  So soon as you stray from it, you lose the path. This is why you take the shoes from off your feet and put them on again as a symbol that you accept the path. You never remove them again, because once upon that path you are to remain so. The path is accompanied by greater light and truth, going from grace to grace until you receive a fullness. (D&C 93: 19, 26-28.)

Nephi is telling us how to receive the fullness. It comes only through revelation and the opening of heaven. You may be anointed to become kings and priests, but the realization of these blessings depends upon your faithfulness. If you are true and faithful the time will come when you will be called up and anointed, whereas now it is all conditional. Only Christ can remove the conditions. To have Him do that requires Him, as the Word, to intercede on your behalf. It requires Him to confirm by His own voice from heaven that you are His, and to establish His covenant directly with you.
Whether it is the words of an old book or the words of an older ceremony it is the same. They can’t save you. Only following the exact same path as the ancients followed can result in arriving at the same end. As the Sixth Lecture from the Lectures on Faith states:

“When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain.  Under these circumstances then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.  It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.”
What role does revelation play? Without it no person can be saved.

Who must receive the revelation? Each person for themselves.

What happens when revelation stops? To the person for whom revelation has ended, there is no salvation, (Moroni 7: 37-38) and they will immediately begin to lose what they were previously given. (Verse above.) To the people who refuse to receive more, “from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”
Nephi has declared it, using authority from God to do so.  We either accept his counsel and warnings or reject it at our peril.

2 Nephi 28: 29

“Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” 

This general principle is addressed first. Nephi will build on it in the following verses. But the first statement is the broadest.

An earlier “wo” was pronounced upon those who rely on the uninspired teachings of men who use their own precepts. Now he adds a second “wo” to those who also deny the need for continuing revelation. We claim we are unlike all other faiths because we believe in the concept of continuing revelation. However, that notion is greatly modified by us to the point where the continuation of revelation is so limited, so curtailed, and so distrusted that we are generally unacquainted with any new revelation.

Do we hear of visions and visitations? Not much, if at all. We think that such things are reserved for leaders. For example, if Elijah were to return with a message to someone, we would expect the person with whom he would visit would be the church President. If it were someone other than the church President, we would instantly be suspicious because Elijah wasn’t following the “chain of authority” as we expect. [Interestingly, as soon as you know Elijah was involved you should consider that another line of authority may be created.] So even if we heard from Elijah, it would cause us trouble and likely be rejected as too irregular. This would be true of other heavenly messengers, as well.

What visitations could we tolerate? Pretty much we’d only think it appropriate for an ancestor to visit with a descendant to give a family message. A deceased great-grandfather coming to bring a message about one of his descendants would seem to fit within the whole “chain of authority” model we have created. Family business. Seems to be acceptable. However, even then, we would expect the person involved to “keep it to themselves” because it was inappropriate to share things like that. Too personal. Too sacred. Too much information of a deeply personal nature to warrant talking about it with others.

What if the great-grandfather were Abraham? Would that fit the model? What if his concerns ran to all who are living?  Would that family be large enough to warrant talking about it with almost anyone? Oops, we’re back to the whole “chain of authority” argument again, and would expect Abraham to limit his visit to the chief Mormon-in-charge. So a visit by Abraham would be suspect as well.

What if the message were from John the Beloved? He has a continuing ministry to visit with people and bring them to salvation. In fact, his ministry includes visiting with those who will be “heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.” (D&C 7: 1-6.) Still, if a person had him minister to him, we would not want to hear about it, would question the propriety, and wonder why John would come when other perfectly authoritative men are living on the earth inside the church holding the same keys as John. So, that would be questioned and regarded as irregular as well.

So as Latter-day Saints we believe in the continuation of revelation, visitations, visions, etc. so long as they conform to our limited model, come to the right person, and don’t disturb anything we have going on at the present.  Which is to say we don’t believe in continuing revelation much at all.

What about Christ? Can He visit with anyone whom He deigns to visit? That’s a little closer call, because He seems to have promised to come to all. He also displayed remarkably democratic tendencies both on the day of His resurrection, and when visiting the Nephites. (I’ve explained His disregard for the church hierarchy He established on the day of His resurrection in Come, Let Us Adore Him.) He seems much less interested in respecting established religious authority than we do. So we might allow the Lord to visit with someone, but, then we wouldn’t want to hear many details because that would be wrong for some reason. Probably “casting pearls before swine” or “profaning” or “disrespecting the line of authority” or something. Not sure which one, but there’s got to be a prohibition against it somewhere.

So we have tendencies that are difficult to put into a hard and fast rule, but I’m going to attempt it

Rule 1: We believe in continuing revelation; predicated upon the following:

(a) Mostly to the President of the church;
(b) But with others whenever:
–(1) It is a grandparent who lived sometime during the restoration or had some unique reason to be coming back, but never
—(i) an ancestor so long back they would be Biblical, because that puts us back into (a) above;
—(ii) if they have a message which would be of general interest, because that puts us back into (a) above;
—(iii) if the visit involves knowing something or clarifying something which might be sacred, because such things are wrong to discuss or acknowledge.
–(2)  It is the Lord, but that’s because He pretty much gets to do what He wants to do; except if it’s important we’d want Him to explain why He didn’t follow (a), above—and it better be a pretty good reason or else we’ll have to question the report.

Well, We believe all that God has revealed to authorized people in positions of authority, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal to the proper channels many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God; and that once it has been reviewed by the Correlation Department and published by Deseret Book it will become something which we can all accept as being from an authorized source and reliable.

Until that happens, we have absolutely received enough of the word of God and we don’t need any more of the word of God. And, by damn, if someone comes claiming revelation or an independent apostolic witness of the Lord’s resurrection we will want them to cut off an arm or some other member of the body and then restore it again, so that we may know he has come with power. I’m quite confident that ought to satisfy our need to see a sign before we will believe a proposition.

Now we know for certain Nephi’s warning is to those other faiths that do not accept continuing revelation and not to us. However, as to those, Nephi has pronounced a prior “wo” for their acceptance of the precepts of men, and now a second “wo” upon them for their refusal to accept continuing revelation. These begin to mount up and ought to worry those to whom these concerns are addressed, whoever they may be. Perhaps Nephi should have written his book for those people, instead of us good folks who read the book and know for certain that we’re alright.

Trivial Pursuit

I got a question which I’m going to interrupt and answer.  The question included the following:
[After describing some personal stuff that’s mentioned in passing on the blog, it continues] “they are things that I would have steered away from because I truly believed that is what would please the Lord…I am seriously asking myself what is it that I am not understanding. I thought I was being obedient to what the Lord would want me to be doing. But am I actually like a Pharisee about these things? Are they not as important as I make them? Does the Lord really not care that I try to be really careful about what I see or listen do…even though I am doing it because I believed it to be offensive to MY spirit and THE spirit? Are these important things? Are you trying to give us a message to open our eyes that we get caught up in the wrong things?”
First, I have tried to be invisible in what I write, other than to point out failings. I think the only things about myself which are important are: 1) flaws; 2) my witness of Christ. Everything else is distracting and moving focus from the real subject (Jesus Christ and His teachings), to a distraction and non-issue (myself).
In The Second Comforter I mention what I called the “Pharisee Phase” in which the endless rules of conduct are followed by a Latter-day Saint in an attempt to be good.  I’ve said this was useful and probably everyone goes through it. But it isn’t going to work.
Most of the stuff we concern ourselves with is meaningless and time wasting. What matters are the principles and ordinances of the Gospel; and more important still, the underlying charity or pure love of Christ. Everything is attempting to get you to love your fellow man. Not in the sappy sentimental way we associate with “loving” someone.  Because sometimes the most charitable thing you can do is rebuke someone, as we see from Nephi. Sometimes a sharp word comes from being moved upon by the Holy Ghost. (D&C 121: 43.) But in the end the person rebuked should still feel they are loved and the reason for the rebuke was the concern held for them.
I know the church advises against R-rated movies. I think that’s good advice. But there are some movies that are important works, but have an R-rating. Schindler’s List was rated R. So was Braveheart. We are related to Robert the Bruce, and this movie has been seen by my children as part of understanding what it means to descend from the Scotts.  My father landed on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944. Saving Private Ryan is, for me, a personal story about what my father went through. I have watched it and own a copy of it, and my children have seen it in an attempt to have them understand their grandfather’s sacrifices. So I do not always follow that advice given us. But others may, and I have respect for them. Your question said you “believe it to be offensive to your spirit” which is so important a statement that I would always defer to your decision on such matters. It simply is not my place to tell you to do something which offends your spirit. You should trust it as a guide.
Paul’s teachings in Romans Chapter 14 (which I posted about earlier), is the only way we can become “one” as a people.  I respect your motivation more than your actions, because they are pure. But we err when we judge another’s actions and attribute to them motive. Pure motive cannot be known by observing actions. If we could judge motive from acts, then we would condemn Nephi for murdering Laban and stealing the brass plates. We would condemn Abraham for lying about the status of his wife Sarah, claiming her to be a sister. We would condemn Jesus for violating a clearly understood teaching about the Sabbath and not doing any labor upon the Sabbath. We would be wrong. Nephi was constrained to implement God’s judgment, Abraham was acting on the direction of the Lord, and Jesus was honoring the Sabbath by keeping it holy, even if that came at the expense of performing labor.
We are told to refrain from judging one another precisely because we cannot judge motive from actions.
I would rather laugh than be stern. In fact, when Joseph refers to his “native cheery temperament” I would go a little further. I am prone to sarcasm and irreverence, because Mark Twain influenced my sense of humor while a child and I’ve never recovered. To me most of our problems are so stupid they compel us to mock them. But people wouldn’t understand that if I adopted that approach, so I do not. When, however, I see Elijah mocking the priests of Baal and I identify with Elijah’s conduct in that undignified scene. (1 Kings 18: 27.) But most people would find that troubling and mistake the conduct and misjudge motive. 
The Lord was gregarious, but we’ve turned Him into a caricature. The leaders of the church have themselves become imprisoned by an image which requires them to be holy from birth and never stray from a sort of “plastic-fantastic” single, dimensional, cardboard persona. Inside this trap you see them living as if on constant display (which they are), wearing the uniform of a white shirt, dark suit and power tie to see a movie, (should they ever attend a movie). The Saints want it, the Brethren deliver, and everyone moves about judging motive from conduct when it is utter rubbish.
Don’t think I am important or spend any time trying to understand me. It is less than worthless, it is a distraction. I’m simply not important. About me there are only two things which matter: 1) I am flawed and error prone and anything but perfect. I watch inappropriate movies, laugh out loud at stupidity, have a highly acute bullshit-detector and tend to use it at the wrong times. I do not seek for, nor want anyone’s admiration. It would be better for me if people readily accepted that my errors are many, and therefore, they ought not depend upon me. They will more quickly look to the Lord if they do not look to me. 2)  I have seen the Lord and He has ministered to me.  The details are only set forth to the extent I have been required to set them forth. They appear in 9 words in The Second Comforter, and in two chapters in Come, Let Us Adore Him. I can tell you that when I said on this blog: “I have never won an argument with the Lord” that I was referring to what appears in Come, Let Us Adore Him. Long before anyone leveled any criticism at me for publishing something which I should have kept to myself, I made the same (and better) arguments with the Lord against putting it into print. He has “strong reasoning” which I am unable to overcome. (D&C 45: 10.) I am no volunteer. I do as I am required. And I understand Joseph’s comment that if he hadn’t lived it he wouldn’t have believed it. I doubt I would believe me if I were anyone else. What I have written is, nevertheless, true.

2 Nephi: 28: 28

“And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.”

This is the constant problem. People do not care about religion. So when someone like Nephi delivers a message to the audience that is threatening because it contradicts their presumptions, they get upset. They are fearful. They “tremble, and are angry.” When Nephi puts out the message, he knows those he addresses are going to react in a very negative way. He will become the object of their distrust and dislike.

But Nephi reminds the audience that it isn’t him they have a problem with. It is “the truth of God.”
There are two reactions: One is anger, because it condemns them. The other is gladness. Those who are “built upon the rock” –meaning Christ– have their hope and faith in Him, for He is the “Rock of Heaven,”(Moses 7: 53) and they “receive it with gladness.” 
Those who are “built upon a sandy foundation” will “tremble.” This would mean they are struck with fear. They are afraid of the message. They fear because they begin to realize their religious convictions may be wrong. They are afraid they “shall fall,” or in other words, if the message is true then they may be doomed and their high hopes dashed.

They would rather be angry and try and suppress the message than to receive it and repent. If someone has a good heart, then any warning is appreciated. Even if it informs them they are mistaken. They want truth. So a warning is appreciated when it permits them to correct their errors. These people are built upon the Rock, because truth alone determines what they will accept. They “hearken to the truth” because they are interested in knowing truth.

This message from Nephi reminds all of us about the difference between those who are grounded in the testimony of Jesus (the Rock) and those who hope their brand of religion will aid them (the sand). False hopes are quickly threatened when exposed to the truth. Knowledge that you are built upon the testimony of Jesus, however, cannot be shaken. Critics will be ground into dust by such a stone, but will not damage it. (Daniel 2: 45.) Those with such knowledge would suffer death, but not deny the Lord.  (Mosiah 17: 10.) Though called upon to suffer for His name, they will not submit, but choose to die secure in the knowledge they have of Christ. (D&C 138: 13-14.)
This kind of faith requires sacrifice, as explained in the Lectures on Faith previously posted. The Book of Mormon calls it “knowledge” and that lecture requires you “actually know the course you are pursuing is pleasing to God.” That is, whether you call it “faith” as the Lectures do, or “knowledge” as the Book of Mormon does, it is the same. You must come to know Christ has accepted your sacrifices. You should re-read that if you want to reacquaint yourself with the requirements for gaining such faith.

2 Nephi 28: 26

2 Nephi 28: 26:

“Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!”
Now we return to Nephi’s theme. Don’t listen to the “precepts of men.” This warning is not for the teachers or leaders. Nephi is not saying to them: “don’t teach with your own learning.” He has already consigned them to hell.(2 Nephi 28: 15, supra.) Now he is speaking to the “few, who are the humble followers of Christ.” (2 Nephi 28: 14.) In place of three “wo’s” there is only one.
Nephi pronounces a “wo” upon those who “hearken” or accept the “precepts of men.” They will be condemned. Their hopes will not be realized. They will suffer setbacks in their progression and will not attain to the hopes they might have otherwise attained. But their offense is less than that of the “lead them” and “cause them to err.” (2 Nephi 28: 14.)
If you “hearken” to the “precepts of men,” you are denying “the power of the God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.” It is necessary for you to both deny God’s power and rebel against the gift of the Holy Ghost in order for you to “hearken to the precepts of men.” God’s power was designed to keep you from making these errors. The gift of the Holy Ghost was given to lead you to the knowing the truth of all things. (Moroni 10: 5.) When, therefore, you hearken to men’s precepts you are not confirming through the Spirit that what is being taught is merely man’s precepts.
With a tool like the Holy Ghost available to you, you are accountable for what teachings you accept. It is possible for you to listen to a teacher whose precepts are dark and to know as he speaks that the Spirit does not ratify his words. It is your responsibility to weigh all things and hold onto only those things which are good. (1 Thes. 5: 21.)
When Jesus was asked about two witnesses He said He was one, the other was His Father, who also bore witness of Him. If they did not listen to the power of the Father, nor incline their hearts to receive the witness of the Spirit, then they could not know the Father, and could not receive that second witness. (John 8: 17-19.) Nephi is saying the same thing. That is, no man teaching the precepts of men should be able to deceive you. Rather, for every teaching and every teacher, there should be a second witness coming from above which bears witness to you that you are hearing the truth.
So many Latter-day Saint teachers resort to sentimentality and emotion in their teaching, talks, books and testimonies. Some are fooled into thinking an emotional reaction is the same as a witness of the Spirit. Emotions rarely communicate light and truth or intelligence. The Spirit bears witness of the truth, conveys light and intelligence, and may not at all be emotional. Or, if emotions are involved, it may be fear (Isa. 6: 5), dread (Gen. 28: 17), or even horror at what you encounter. (Gen. 15: 12-18.) Mere sentimentality is a false substitute for the witness of the Spirit. Joseph Smith explained it this way: “When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (TPJS p. 151.)
The warning from Nephi about how you deny the power of God, you reject the gift of the Holy Ghost whenever you “hearken to the precepts of men” is based on this principle. You have the tools to detect when you are being taught by men using the arm of flesh to advance an idea or notion. You are accountable, hence the “wo” pronounced on you by Nephi.
Ask yourself the following questions as you hear a teacher:

-Does he teach you to come to Christ?

-Do the teachings convey intelligence upon you, or just sentiment?
-Do they awaken inside you light and truth that you hadn’t considered before?
-Are the teachings based on the revelations of heaven, or some study, analysis or tool developed by academics?
-Are you encouraged to seek for a confirmation from the Spirit?
-Did you learn something new, but find yourself feeling you have known it before?
-Whether it causes dread, fear or even horror, does the Spirit tell you, nonetheless, it is of God?
-Are you more inclined to get on your knees and call upon God because of what you have learned?
-Does the speaker merely want you to honor her, or an institution?
-Does the speaker hold him/herself out as an expert or someone with impressive credentials?
-Does he rely on status or office as the reason to trust his teaching, or instead rely on the truthfulness of his message? No power or influence can or ought to be exerted by virtue of office or position, only by persuasion and pure knowledge. (D&C 121: 41-42.)
-Are the words noble and great, despite your view of the person who is delivering them?

You may be surprised when you ask such questions at what you learn. Nephi is saying it is your own responsibility if you allow yourself to be taken in by the precepts of men. Wo unto you if you do.