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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.

2 Nephi 29: 6-7

 
“Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?  Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?”
 
This is a continuing statement made to Nephi by the Lord. Besides the sermons delivered in the New Testament and Third Nephi, this is one of the most extensive revelations to be found given by Christ. Given its length, and the fact it is a quote from the Lord, we are compelled to take note. The Lord is doing all He can to draw our attention to the fact that the Book of Mormon MUST be valued above the Bible. It MUST take its place in latter-day study of God’s acts among men.
 
To say you have enough information from God is foolish.  God “created all men,” and as a result He “remembers all men.” He will “bring forth [His] word unto the children of men” in whatever place, time and circumstance as He decides. He cannot be circumscribed by our preferences or false understanding. He can and does exercise the prerogative to speak to whomever He decides.
 
When the Book of Mormon came forth, all people were startled at the idea God had more to say. They thought it an odd thing for anyone to claim there was yet more scripture. Joseph was persecuted and hated for announcing he had a new volume of scripture.
 
Now, some 180 years later we think the Lord is bound to talk to a specific person, in a specific way, and that anyone else or anywhere else is beyond the Lord’s capacity to accomplish. In our own way, we are also bound to a tradition which excludes the Lord’s prerogatives; we just redefine the box we confine the Lord.
 
He “brings forth His word” without regard to our views, and to “all the nations of the earth.” Now “nations” is not the same thing as we regard it today. The “nations” at the time of the Book of Mormon were something we would call “people” or “ethnicity” like the Israelites.  
 
The definition of an “isle of the sea” includes everything that is not part of the great Euro-Asian-African land mass. Although we regard North America as a continent, in the Book of Mormon vernacular it is an “isle of the sea.” (2 Ne. 10: 20.) Further, most of Israel was relocated onto the isles of the sea. (1 Ne. 22: 4.) So when the Lord affirms He speaks to those on the “isles of the sea” He is confirming that there are multiple locations, involving multiple parties, each one of which has received sacred communication from Him. There are, in short, still a great deal of His words which have not as yet come to our attention. They are coming. When they do, we are warned to take care in what we choose to reject.
 
When I was first investigating the church, this argument was presented to me by the missionaries in one of the first discussions. I have to admit the proposition made such sense to me that I found it completely persuasive. The idea that God would not be in communication with the vast majority of mankind living separate from Palestine during the Lord’s life seemed to be a sort of abandonment by the Lord. If He is the God of all mankind, then ought He not speak to all mankind?
The “wise men from the east” were not locals to Palestine.  Yet they remained both connected to, and watching for signs involving the birth of the Lord. If them, why not others? The Book of Mormon answers this query. This idea was too persuasive for me to find doubt.
 
If God does remember all mankind, and speaks to the various nations over time, then the failure to keep the information intact is also explained. The Book of Mormon shows what and how a society’s faith fails and is lost. It explains how very careless mankind is with knowledge given by God.
 
Riddles of history are better answered both directly and indirectly in the Book of Mormon than any other text, including the Bible.

2 Nephi 29: 4-5

 
“But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles? O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.”
 
If you wonder at the Lord’s patience and willingness to forgive you have an answer here.  The Lord’s respect for and defense of the “Jews” as His “ancient covenant people” is unmitigated by any criticism of them. Instead He points to their “travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews” experienced in bringing forth this Biblical record.
 
The Jews deserve our thanks, our gratitude and our respect for this great work of preserving the record.

Twice the Lord calls the Jews His “ancient covenant people.” The Bible is a record of rebellion, persecution of the righteous, and slaying of prophets. It is a record of a fallen people who were often in apostasy, resisting true prophets calling for repentance, and suffering the judgment and condemnation of God.  When the New Testament record (also a product of Jewish writers–even in the case of Luke who, though born to gentile parents, was converted to Judaism) came into existence it was the Jews who resisted and persecuted the Lord. Yet He still calls them His “ancient covenant people.” He insists we have been ungrateful to the Jews for their work on the Bible.
 
This is the Lord speaking in the first person.  Nephi is quoting Him. These are the same people Lehi taught would be the only ones “who would crucify their God.” (2 Nephi 10: 3.) Yet despite that, Christ refers to them as His “ancient covenant people” to whom we owe a debt of gratitude! How merciful is our Lord?
 
Now, those who produced the Bible text are not merely the believers, true prophets, and victims of Jewish hostility and persecution.  The text may have originated with the prophets, but it passed quickly into the hands of the priests and Levites, scholars and Rabbis.  These others may not have had the same divine inspiration and association with angels, but they nevertheless attended with strict discipline to preserving the record of the prophets. Even those who directly challenged the Lord included the scribes who worked to preserve the records of the prophets. These “labors” and “pains” and “diligence” have produced gratitude from the Lord!
 
If He is willing to thank them, how generous is our Lord in His thanks to mankind! How ungrateful are we?
 
We tend to see those with whom we differ as enemies. But the Lord does not want us to approach religious disagreement in this way.  Instead he would have us “recover” them. He says: “ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them.” As Joseph Smith’s History recounts, his persecutors ought “to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me.” (JS-H 1: 28.) That is the only way to obtain agreement – persuasion, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned. (D&C 121: 41-42.) Instead of “holding a court” against someone, we ought to preach the Gospel to them and teach them the truth with love and meekness. It is clear the Lord is showing by example how our attitudes ought to be displayed with those who persecute and reject us. But, then again, He taught the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5, 67) and in how He lived (John 8: 10-11) and died (Luke 23: 34). Oddly we would convict and excommunicate the adulterer, but our Lord would not. Nor does He who holds the greatest claim to condemn the Jews condemn them. Instead He says we ought to have gratitude for their pains, labors and diligence.
 
What does our ingratitude merit us? It merits us judgment. For the same judgment we apply to them will in turn be applied to us. We will see it used as the basis for His rejection of us:  “I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.”
 
Being a religious people is fine; but being a self-righteous people has always been perilous.  It is no different today. We should use the scriptures to inform our inner life. It is meant for internal use only. External application is likely to cause burning.

2 Nephi 29: 3

 
“And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.”
 
This is one of the great missionary scriptures.  It is used to show the Book of Mormon already anticipated an argument against it, and as a result shows there is no reason to reject the Book of Mormon because there is already an existing, recognized volume of scripture.
 
The gentiles are prone to prefer the Bible to the Book of Mormon. We emphasized the Book of Mormon for a few years, but found that other faiths were critical because we were not using the Bible as we should. So there has been a conscious effort to re-emphasize the Bible and de-emphasize the Book of Mormon. This has been done to broaden our appeal to members of other faiths.
 
The gravamen of the argument is in the words: “there cannot be any more Bible.” The idea there are other words of God, requiring equal respect to the words in the Bible, is a shocking heresy for many of the gentiles.  Remember that first phrase in the first verse: “Behold there shall be many” who are going to say this. The “many” are the gentiles, and their criticism will be Bible-based.
 
So, how are we doing with this idea? Do we prefer the Biblical teachings to those of the Book of Mormon? Do we spend more time with the Bible than the Book of Mormon in our own individual study? If we had to choose one as the “standard for our people” which one would we choose? The Book of Mormon (as verse 2 suggests) or the Bible (as verse 3 suggests)?  The Lord’s standard is the Book of Mormon. The gentile standard will be the Bible. Once again we are at odds with Historic Christianity.
 
This is not to say we disrespect the Bible. We don’t. We accept it as scripture. It is an admittedly valuable standard work, to be used in study and receiving knowledge of the things of God. Indeed, among other things the Book of Mormon testifies of the truth of the Bible.  Therefore the Bible is certainly accepted as a work of importance and value to us in matters of faith. But only one can assume primacy. The primary one for us is the Book of Mormon.
 
We may be justified in our attachment to and affection for the Bible. But the Book of Mormon must be preeminent. Our respect and affection for the Doctrine and Covenants, Temple and church organization is also well placed and should inform our understanding and behavior. But the Book of Mormon was intended to be the primary means for the Lord to impart understanding to us.
 
Much has has been written and said about this volume of scripture, but we are only now beginning to understand what we are looking at.

In Eighteen Verses I have shown how little we have done so far with this book of scripture. I have never attempted to be exhaustive in any discussion about the book. In a decade of teaching weekly about the book, where I only went from 1 Nephi 1: 1 to Jarom 1: 4, the discussion was not exhaustive.
 
This book was a gift to us. We ought not think the Bible has more to offer than what we find in “the most correct book” because a “man can get closer to God by abiding the precepts [of the Book of Mormon] than any other book,” just as Joseph Smith said.
 
The primary text of scripture I have used in The Second ComforterNephi’s Isaiah and Eighteen Verses has been the Book of Mormon. The primary text used in this blog is the Book of Mormon.
 
Until we understand that book, I fail to see why we think we should have more. There is more in that book than we’ve noticed. The first step ought be to notice what we have. Then things will be added. However, until we have taken the Book of Mormon seriously, I fail to see why the most important message for us –found within that book– should not be the first thing to be understood.

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.