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2 Nephi 28: 23

“Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.” 

This is a continuation of the warning. Nephi wants us to take quite seriously his warnings.

When you read words like these it becomes apparent the only safe way to measure his warning is to apply it directly and personally to ourselves. To think this was meant only for “others” is too complacent.

When the truth has made you angry, and you have forfeited the option of repentance extended to you, the “grasp of death” is upon you. You will remain subject to “death and hell.” Being “seized” by these two things, as you stand before the “throne of God” you will be certain that there will be, for you, a continuation of “the deaths.” (D&C 132: 25.)

Judgment is based “according to their works.”  (See also Rev. 20: 12-13; explained further in D&C 128: 6-8.) Joseph ties sealing power to these “works” which must be done under this authority and then recorded to become binding. This is the practice of the church. It is and has always been the practice of those having such authority. They not only perform the work, but upon having done so they create a record of having done so.

Upon being judged, they go “into the place prepared for them.” This place is, for those who are grasped with “death and hell” called “a lake of fire and brimstone.” A lake because it engulfs them so tightly they are flooded with the guilt. Fire because it is designed to purge and refine. Brimstone because of the bitterness of the experience. The torment there is “endless” meaning from God. (D&C 19: 4-12.)

This purging does not confer blessings, but merely balances out the claims of justice for those who would not accept mercy. (D&C 19: 15-19.)

Crying repentance is to warn, so the claims of justice may be avoided by obtaining mercy through Christ. Christ’s mercy is offered to all, but will only be received in full by few. All will be resurrected because of His sacrifice (1 Cor. 15: 22), and those who died without law will not be punished for their ignorance (D&C 76: 71-72; D&C 45, 54), but to receive the full benefit of His atonement must do as He commands (D&C 132: 22-23).

Those who love others and want their eternal welfare will invite everyone to repent and come to Christ. The prospect of others suffering needlessly because they would not repent is a great horror to them. This is why Nephi’s words are at times so blunt. This is why he wants to stir us all up to our terrible situation. It is merciful to speak to us in these frank terms.

I know some who have read these words of counsel from Nephi and find them objectionable. However, Isaiah spoke against those whose words were “smooth” but filled with deceit. (Isa. 30: 10.) To people who are content and filled with pride, it takes a great deal of candor to bring them to their senses. (Enos 1: 23.) Nephi’s warnings are intended to save as many of the gentiles who read his record from self-destruction as he can bring to repentance. It is better for us to take counsel from his hand than to dismiss his teachings. He can only warn his readers.  Since we are his readers, he must be speaking to us.

2 Nephi 28: 22

 
“And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.”
 
How can the devil “flatter” someone? Why would it be “flattery” to tell someone “there is no hell?” What does it mean that “there is no hell?” Have you ever heard this idea taught?  Historic Christians are fully persuaded of the existence of hell. We, on the other hand, have three degrees of GLORY in which the idea of hell is sometimes lost.
So, is there a “hell?” (D&C 19: 15.) Do those who go there suffer? How difficult is the suffering? (D&C 19: 16-18.)
 
How can it be flattery for the devil to tell someone “I am no devil?” Would his appearance to someone as an “angel of light” be flattery? (2 Ne. 9: 9.) Did the devil attempt to do this with Joseph Smith? (D&C 128: 20.) How was Joseph able to determine the devil was the devil, rather than an “angel of light” when he appeared? Did Joseph learn something about detecting evil spirits from this encounter?  What did Michael do to teach Joseph how to detect the devil? What did Joseph later teach about how to detect the devil? (D&C 129: 8.)  What kind of a handshake would you expect to be used to detect a true messenger?
 
Have others been confronted by Satan appearing as an angel? (Moses 1: 12.) Now if one were deceived by the devil, thinking him an angel of light, would the devil teach them false doctrines? (Alma 30: 53.)

Would the false doctrines make them and those hearing from them feel secure, or would it stir them up to repentance?

 
What does it mean for the devil to claim “there is none?” I’m reminded of Peter asking a minister if he knew who he (the minister) worked for. The minister did not know, and so Peter informed him he worked for the devil.  We don’t think about that much anymore, but it is nonetheless the case that there are many people offering instruction who are really either in the employ of the devil, or using then precepts of men as the fodder for their teaching.
 
What comes to mind with the image of the devil “whispering in their ears?” How close must the devil come to be whispering into a person’s ears? How attentive must the devil become to his target?
 
Why “awful chains” and not just “chains?”  Are there “chains” that are not “awful?” Why would these particular chains always become “awful?”
 
What does it mean that “there is no deliverance” from these chains? Why would there be no more deliverance provided?
 
The verses we are considering are part of a careful message and cannot be separated from each other. They blend together. So when considering this portion of the message you must also keep in mind the other things that went before in Nephi’s sermon.
 
I am awestruck by this great prophet’s message. It inspires fear for my fellow man when I read it. The plight in which some men find themselves by the traditions handed to us seem to be such a trap as to defy escape.  What can I say to liberate them?  What can I do to help them escape? Who am I to even dare think I can make any difference? What petitions might I weary the Lord with to help avert this end for others?

We seem to all be asleep and incapable of noticing this terrible warning. Why cannot we all awake and arise and put on the beautiful garments, going forth to meet with the Bridegroom? (Moroni 10: 31; D&C 133: 10.)

 
Perhaps some of you may make a difference in this battle. All of our souls are at risk and we seem more interested in preserving our current circumstances than in understanding them.

This Book of Mormon is alarming when we consider it a warning for us. Not at all the docile and superficial text we can turn it into when studying 8 chapters in a single 50 minute Gospel Doctrine class– reduced by the time taken for announcement, opening and closing prayers, and witty banter exchanged among affable Saints as part of our renewal of weekly fellowship. Those things are good, of course, but the book commands deeper attention.

 
If I had to say one thing has done more to bring me into harmony with the Lord than any other thing it would be this: I have taken the Book of Mormon seriously. I have assumed it is an authentic and ancient text written by prophetic messengers whose words ought to be studied for how they can change my life.  Though all the world may treat it lightly, I have tried to not do so. For that I believe the Lord’s approval has been given to an otherwise foolish, vain, error-prone and weak man.

Take the Book of Mormon seriously. Apply it to yourself. Not as a means to judge others, but as a means to test your own life. It is one thing to evaluate our circumstances, which the book compels us to do, but we needn’t go further than to realize our terrible plight.  From that moment the warning should work inside ourselves to help us improve within, see more clearly our day, think more correctly about what is going on, and act more consistent with the Lord’s purposes.

 
The Book of Mormon is the most correct book available. A person can get closer to God by abiding its precepts than with any other book.

2 Nephi 28: 22

 
“And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.”
 
How can the devil “flatter” someone? Why would it be “flattery” to tell someone “there is no hell?” What does it mean that “there is no hell?” Have you ever heard this idea taught?  Historic Christians are fully persuaded of the existence of hell. We, on the other hand, have three degrees of GLORY in which the idea of hell is sometimes lost.
So, is there a “hell?” (D&C 19: 15.) Do those who go there suffer? How difficult is the suffering? (D&C 19: 16-18.)
 
How can it be flattery for the devil to tell someone “I am no devil?” Would his appearance to someone as an “angel of light” be flattery? (2 Ne. 9: 9.) Did the devil attempt to do this with Joseph Smith? (D&C 128: 20.) How was Joseph able to determine the devil was the devil, rather than an “angel of light” when he appeared? Did Joseph learn something about detecting evil spirits from this encounter?  What did Michael do to teach Joseph how to detect the devil? What did Joseph later teach about how to detect the devil? (D&C 129: 8.)  What kind of a handshake would you expect to be used to detect a true messenger?
 
Have others been confronted by Satan appearing as an angel? (Moses 1: 12.) Now if one were deceived by the devil, thinking him an angel of light, would the devil teach them false doctrines? (Alma 30: 53.)

Would the false doctrines make them and those hearing from them feel secure, or would it stir them up to repentance?

 
What does it mean for the devil to claim “there is none?” I’m reminded of Peter asking a minister if he knew who he (the minister) worked for. The minister did not know, and so Peter informed him he worked for the devil.  We don’t think about that much anymore, but it is nonetheless the case that there are many people offering instruction who are really either in the employ of the devil, or using then precepts of men as the fodder for their teaching.
 
What comes to mind with the image of the devil “whispering in their ears?” How close must the devil come to be whispering into a person’s ears? How attentive must the devil become to his target?
 
Why “awful chains” and not just “chains?”  Are there “chains” that are not “awful?” Why would these particular chains always become “awful?”
 
What does it mean that “there is no deliverance” from these chains? Why would there be no more deliverance provided?
 
The verses we are considering are part of a careful message and cannot be separated from each other. They blend together. So when considering this portion of the message you must also keep in mind the other things that went before in Nephi’s sermon.
 
I am awestruck by this great prophet’s message. It inspires fear for my fellow man when I read it. The plight in which some men find themselves by the traditions handed to us seem to be such a trap as to defy escape.  What can I say to liberate them?  What can I do to help them escape? Who am I to even dare think I can make any difference? What petitions might I weary the Lord with to help avert this end for others?

We seem to all be asleep and incapable of noticing this terrible warning. Why cannot we all awake and arise and put on the beautiful garments, going forth to meet with the Bridegroom? (Moroni 10: 31; D&C 133: 10.)

 
Perhaps some of you may make a difference in this battle. All of our souls are at risk and we seem more interested in preserving our current circumstances than in understanding them.

This Book of Mormon is alarming when we consider it a warning for us. Not at all the docile and superficial text we can turn it into when studying 8 chapters in a single 50 minute Gospel Doctrine class– reduced by the time taken for announcement, opening and closing prayers, and witty banter exchanged among affable Saints as part of our renewal of weekly fellowship. Those things are good, of course, but the book commands deeper attention.

 
If I had to say one thing has done more to bring me into harmony with the Lord than any other thing it would be this: I have taken the Book of Mormon seriously. I have assumed it is an authentic and ancient text written by prophetic messengers whose words ought to be studied for how they can change my life.  Though all the world may treat it lightly, I have tried to not do so. For that I believe the Lord’s approval has been given to an otherwise foolish, vain, error-prone and weak man.

Take the Book of Mormon seriously. Apply it to yourself. Not as a means to judge others, but as a means to test your own life. It is one thing to evaluate our circumstances, which the book compels us to do, but we needn’t go further than to realize our terrible plight.  From that moment the warning should work inside ourselves to help us improve within, see more clearly our day, think more correctly about what is going on, and act more consistent with the Lord’s purposes.

 
The Book of Mormon is the most correct book available. A person can get closer to God by abiding its precepts than with any other book.

2 Nephi 28: 21

2 Nephi 28: 21:

“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”

Now we have reached a point where the audience becomes unavoidably identified with the gentiles of the last days who claim to be assembling as “Zion.” This term gets applied in the Book of Mormon in a highly selective way. It includes the following:

-Last days time frame;

-Post-restoration of the Book of Mormon;
-People who are either claiming or who have actually assembled together as Zion.

We are the only ones who fit this definition. Therefore the application of these verses to include us is required. We cannot point to others and say we are not among those being warned.

What does “pacify” mean?

What does “lull” mean?
What does “carnal security” mean?

If you have people who are pacified, lulled with carnal security, what kind of people are you speaking about?

Why would these people think they were “Zion?” What possible basis could people who are pacified, and lulled with carnal security have for thinking they are “Zion?”

What does it mean that “all is well in Zion?”  What does it mean “Zion prospereth?” Does “all is well in Zion” mean the same thing as “Zion prospereth?” If not, what is the difference?  Is one “spiritual” and the other “carnal?” 

Can one be an attitude, while the other is a measurement or statistic? Can “all be well in Zion” mean that we have comfortable controls and guarantees in place which will protect us?

Can “Zion prospereth” mean new converts, new buildings, new numbers, more tithing receipts, growth and political influence? What else might it mean?

Do we satisfy the notion that “all is well in Zion?”  That is, can you see a reason to say that Zion is well at present? Do our people say that?

Do we satisfy the notion that “Zion prospereth?” That is, can you see any reason to say that Zion is presently prospering? Do our people say that?

Why would it “cheat souls” to make them think “all is well in Zion” and that “Zion prospereth?”

Why would it lead people “carefully down to hell” for them to believe all is well and Zion prospers?

Can Zion ever relent? Can Zion tolerate a little sin? Does it cheat us if we are good, decent people, and we recognize we are good and decent? Even if we are good and honorable, can we be deceived? (D&C 76: 75.) How does prosperity blind us? Do John’s words to the Laodiceans tell us how we can err? (Rev. 3: 17.)

What quality does the devil employ to mislead us? Does being led away “carefully” mean it is harder to recognize the peril? Should it be hard to avoid deception? Why do those who take the Holy Spirit as their guide avoid this kind of deception? (D&C 45: 57.) Can anyone qualify to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit (Moroni 10: 5.) Can anyone qualify to receive Christ as their guide? (D&C 93: 1.)

What good does it do to follow even a true messenger, if you do not receive a testimony from Christ? (D&C 76: 98-101.)

To whom should you look for salvation?

Does part of the problem Nephi relates here grow out of the notion that being part of a group will matter? If you accept baptism and other saving ordinances from those with authority to minister them, but you do not come to Christ, will the ordinances alone save you? Since the ordinances do matter (Mark 16: 16; 2 Nephi 9: 23), what must you do after receiving them? (D&C 20: 25.) Is part of enduring to the end helping others within your own ward family? Can you just walk away from your obligations to the church after entering into the covenant of baptism? (Mosiah 18: 8-10.)

2 Nephi 28: 20

 
“For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.”
 
One of the most effective ways to end thought or discussion is to get angry. Lawyers use anger as a tool to turn witnesses into thoughtless and emotional pawns. People make very bad decisions when they are angry. I’ve mentioned before my father’s saying that he never spoke a word in anger than he did not later regret.
 
This is a time of great anger. Anger about religious ideas flows from insecurity and feeling threatened by the idea. It is not possible to have a discussion when people are insecure, angry and unwilling to be thoughtful about ideas.

This is the work of the devil. He succeeds when people close their minds and fill with anger at teachings which introduce ideas that challenge assumptions.

 
This is why the Jews wanted Christ killed.  This is why they wanted to kill Lehi when he spoke of Christ. The teachings ran contrary to the presumptions, and as a result the response was emotional, angry and closed down thought and discussion.
 
Using fear to shut down people’s ability to consider, ponder and pray is a technique used with amazing success. When you hear the argument that something will put you in peril, jeopardize your salvation, and to be afraid of the idea or discussion, you ought to ask yourself whether the notion that shutting down discussion seems right or not. Is it merely using fear to cause rage and anger? Can it be a tool to cause you to turn “against that which is good?”
 
All kinds of ideas need to be considered to bring you to the Lord. Closing down because of fear will hinder the process, as the devil knows. (D&C 38: 30.)
 
The tool of anger is the other side of fear.
 
The object of this is always to cheat your soul, close your mind, keep you from learning the truth.
 
Now is the great day of anger. Have you noticed how much of the discourse in public life is based upon fear and anger? Those larger social dynamics invade the community of Saints, as well. We are as vulnerable to this technique as the rest of society.
 
Be slow to anger, quick to forgive; open and prayerful. The great plan to cheat your soul will not succeed with you if you remain humble and open.

2 Nephi 28: 18-19

 
“But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof. For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish;”
 
Remember that this comes at the end of Nephi’s ministry. He saw the vision of the great and abominable church at the beginning of his journey into the wilderness. There has been over forty years between the time of the earlier visions and the time of this summary of his great teachings. (See 2 Ne. 5: 34.)
 
Between the time Nephi saw the visions (set out beginning in 1 Nephi 11) and the time of this final instruction, Nephi has had decades to ponder on the things he was shown in vision. He has, in fact, spent those years reflecting constantly upon the visions he received. (2 Ne. 4: 16.) It is foolish to believe that Nephi, Joseph Smith or any prophet understood what they saw the day they saw it. Only time, careful, solemn and ponderous thought can unravel what a person is shown in vision by the Lord. The understanding of a prophet is not static. It unfolds. Joseph’s first impression of the first vision was personal. He thought it was a message to him about himself. By the time he had finished translating the Book of Mormon, organizing the church, and collecting a following, Joseph realized the first vision was not his, but it belonged at a minimum to a larger community of believers. Eventually he would come to see it belonged to the world. The version we have in the Pearl of Great Price reflects that changing understanding. In it he gives the first understanding in what he told his mother the day it happened: He learned that Presbyterianism was not true.  (JS-H 1: 20.)
 
So this statement goes back forty years earlier and Nephi’s vision of the fall of the great whore. This universal false religion will fail. It will “fall.” The “fall” will be “great.” It will “tumble to the earth”– meaning that it will no longer stand on its own, but will altogether collapse.
The purpose of this great calamity is to bring about repentance. The purposes of God, even in punishment, are to elevate and save others.
Notice the devil’s tool that will be used in opposition to repentance: they will “be stirred up to anger, and perish.” That is, to harden hearts and to blind eyes, anger will be the most effective tool. Rather than being humbled by the fall of the great whore, those who will continue to resist repentance will be angry for the losses. They will lament the loss of what they held so dearly.
 
This, then, is how the groups break down – For those who repent, the difficulties they encounter bring humility and contrition. For those who refuse to repent, they respond with anger at their trials.

This is the great watershed test. If your set backs in life humble you, then your heart is soft and you are a candidate for repentance.  If you become angry, accuse God of causing evil, and refuse to be comforted, you are not a candidate for repentance. Your anger is a tool used to blind you. The one employing the tool is the enemy to your soul.

 
The trials and difficulties are gifts to stir you up to repentance. That is how you ought to respond. The only way to approach the Lord is through humility. Anything that aids you in becoming humble is good, merciful and just.  You should view it as a gift. No matter the difficulty. Christ descended below it all; and none of us are greater than He.  (D&C 122: 8.)

2 Nephi 28: 16-17

 
“Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth! For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish. But behold, if the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
 
Nephi warns against “turning aside the just for a thing of naught.” A “thing of naught” means something without value.  To “turn aside” is to leave or move away from. So he is telling you to be careful to not walk away from the truth being taught by a “just” or true source, and instead follow after something of no value.
 
This rejection of a true messenger and following after a false one inevitably results in “reviling that which is good.” When you reject the truth you normally have to deal with a troubled conscious. The way to calm it is to “revile against” the thing you have rejected. Not only do people “revile against” the message, but they go on to “say that it is of no worth!”
 
Think about the general reception given to the Lord’s messengers throughout scripture. They are always the object of criticism and reviling. Nephi is describing a syndrome here which always attaches to the true message and true messenger. They aren’t valued, but thought “a thing of naught.” The argument is always: “If what they had to say were important, it would come from someone more important.”  Content is ignored in favor of status.
 
Now the Lord allows this to go on and always has. But, as Nephi reminds us, there does come a time when the limit has been reached. When the limit has been reached, the end “will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth.” That is, when the time has come, the turn will be so swift that they cannot repent any longer. Judgment will overtake them too quickly.

The moment when they have reached the limit is described by Nephi as “fully ripe in iniquity.” That means they will no longer even listen to the truth. They have completely closed minds. It would do no good to extend them further opportunity, because they will not take any advantage of it.
 
So they are scheduled for destruction.
 
BUT, Nephi reminds us, they can repent. If they will change their minds and come to Christ, He will forgive them and heal them. If they repent, they will be preserved from the destruction. However, as has already become clear, their destruction is due to the fact they are “fully ripe.” So although repentance remains theoretically possible, and the Lord will accept even late return to Him, the offenders are committed to their offense. They are not likely to take advantage of the opportunity.

How humble it is for the Lord to be willing to accept the reluctant, tardy and slow to repent. Nevertheless, He is willing to accept even them. He suffered for all, and will redeem as many as will come to Him. Initially, He won’t destroy them with the wicked. Ultimately the outcome will depend upon how committed they are to the process of repentance. For to repent is to come to Him. They decide if His open arms will be where they finally embrace Him; of if they will stand afar off and think it too hard to surrender their sins and go further.

2 Nephi 28: 15

“O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!”
Now we reach a terrible point. Nephi records an inspired condemnation. For a person in Nephi’s position, recording words of condemnation holds terrible significance. They are not written unless they are instructed to do so, because their words will be fulfilled. I’ve explained this in Beloved Enos.

Nephi pronounces three “wo’s.” This is a three fold condemnation. It goes beyond this life. It will follow them into the hereafter.

Associated with the three “wo’s” are three names used for God: “Lord God Almighty.” It is a three fold assertion of divine authority. “Lord” refers to the Savior as Guide. “God” refers to Divine right and authority. “Almighty” refers to the irrevocable nature of the word used by God, and in turn the words given to Nephi. When you are confronted with all three, the “wo’s” are pronounced by a power that cannot be altered.

This is more than a setback in the hopes of the “learned, and the rich” who are being condemned. This is a condemnation which reaches into hell itself. It is so significant a pronouncement that when you read it you should pause and think of the dreadful import for anyone who fits into the curse.

Those, who in their pride, use the precepts of men as the basis for their “preaching false doctrines,” are not just wrong, they are damned for this perversion of the religion entrusted to them to preach in purity and truth.

In effect, they were given a precious and eternally significant treasure, and they have diverted it into something that makes them rich, puffed up, and powerful. It is tragic. It is pitiful–meaning it should inspire pity in each of us. These could be well meaning people who have fallen into this error. But they claim to preach the truth, using God’s name in vain, while they spread a vain religion which cannot bring people to the knowledge of Christ.

Who would wish such a condemnation upon others? Who can read these words and not be moved with compassion and alarm for those who have fallen under this condemnation? Who would not remove it from those who are condemned if they could?

Nephi could not make a greater plea for the salvation of all those involved. The pronouncement is terrible and its implications eternal. Yet this verse seems to have escaped notice.

Who alone claims they are speaking for God Himself when they preach?  Who could possibly qualify for this level of condemnation? This should make all of us think long and hard about any utterance we speak before we make our assertions “in the name of Jesus Christ.” The thoughtlessness which accompanies that expression among the Saints is contrary to the seriousness of the condemnation we invite if we preach false doctrine while puffed up in pride; thereby perverting the right way of the Lord.

In an example which is chilling to read, the first anti-Christ we encounter in the Book of Mormon (Sherem) uses this phrase to justify his preaching. He accuses Jacob of “perverting the right way of God.” (Jacob 7: 7.) He brings himself under Nephi’s curse. It was a small thing, therefore, for Jacob to reiterate the condemnation of Nephi against Sherem. (Jacob 7: 14.) Jacob was merely repeating what Nephi had already pronounced. And since Nephi had sealed the condemnation, it would be Nephi, not Jacob, who was responsible for the cursing.
This three fold wo, and use of three titles for God all suggest that teaching false doctrine and using man’s learning, while being filled with pride is so grave an offense that great care should always be taken before teaching, preaching or expounding on the Gospel. Only a fool would undertake to do so without knowing their words are approved of God. You cannot take cover using a Correlation Department, or a commentary, or a scholar’s words, or a selected bibliography. When you presume to preach the truth, you need to realize how serious a matter you are undertaking. Joseph Smith wrote from Liberty Jail: 
“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. 
“How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world!”  (DHC 3: 295-6.)
When we speak about Christ and His Gospel with others, we should do so with a sense of terrible awe and fear. If we have doubts about our message, we should remain silent rather than risk proclaiming what may be an error. It is a burden to be carefully undertaken.
As Nephi warns about our day, there will be many who will teach vain, foolish and false things coming from the precepts of men.

2 Nephi 28: 14

“They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.”
This is so sobering and relevant a verse that it is the first thing quoted in the dedication of the first book I wrote, The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil. This is our moment. Inside this foolish age there are nevertheless a “few, who are the humble followers of Christ.” These are the salt which preserve the world. These are the leaven who keep us still from destruction.

“Stiff necks” do not bow in prayer and praise before a Lord to whom they regard themselves as unworthy. They are undaunted by their unworthiness. They think themselves justified, and therefore without any need to bow in reverence.

“High heads” do not tilt down to behold the less fortunate to whom they might have provided relief. They ignore the destitute and needy, preferring only to see those who are on their standing or above. Who can help elevate them? Who can give them an advantage? Who is a good contact to keep? The “high heads” will be careful about what social advantages come from associations, and will always pick carefully those whom they deign to notice.
But these stiff necks and high heads belong to those carrying a burden of sin.  They are prideful, wicked, given to abominations and whoredoms. These are the ones who sit upon the labors of others, and fare sumptuously here. So long as your neck remains stiff and your head held high, you will never notice Lazarus lying at your gate.
But what of the “few, who are the humble followers of Christ?” What of them?
It is clear in this verse that they do NOT lead, but are instead being led. They are “led that in many instances they do err.” That is, those who qualify to be called the “few, who are the humble followers of Christ” are not themselves leaders. They are being led by others.

The others who lead them “cause them to err.” And why do they cause this?  “Because they are taught by the precepts of men.” Therefore, the humble true followers are misled into accepting false, foolish and vain (or powerless) beliefs because the ones who preside over them are only able to offer the “precepts of men.” These “precepts of men” are unable to bring the “humble followers of Christ” to the knowledge of Him.

Keep in mind that the “precepts of men” are repeated by Nephi in this written sermon more than any other phrase. The learning used to lead is distracting, even damning, whenever it fails to lead to the Lord. Men’s precepts cannot rescue us.

Why are not the “humble followers of Christ” doing the leading? Because they do not have the “stiff necks and high heads” to become noticed, to be added to the group of insiders. Their clothes are not costly, their home “sanctuaries” are insufficiently ornate. They are not the stuff of renown and recognition. They are, in a word, the least.
It is a troubling image which begins to emerge from Nephi’s words. They are shocking for us to consider. If the alternatives are what Nephi seems to leave us, then how much better is it to be among the “few, who are the humble followers of Christ” than among those with the authority to lead them?

I do not believe any of us are in a position to fully understand our times. We live inside a cultural fog that makes our judgments inside the bubble distorted in ways Nephi did not experience from his vantage point.  The Lord can give us a clearer perspective through revelation, as He did for Nephi. But we are not equipped to fully recognize our peril standing inside this age and culture.

The one thing that is abundantly clear is that Joseph Smith was right about the need to reconnect with God. His first and primary message remains the testimony of James 1: 5:  If we lack wisdom, we should ask of God. God will give liberally to those who ask with a sincere heart, having real intent. Whether you believe Joseph’s account or not, Joseph was pointing us to James and testifying James made a promise which God will fulfill. So test James. Ask with real intent. Perhaps you will begin to see how Nephi’s words of warning are exactly what is needed to save us from our peril. At a minimum, the petition will make you closer to being one of the “few, who are the humble followers of Christ” because of your desire to know from Him the truth of your plight.

He always intends to save those who wait upon Him. Those who serve Him and do as He asks will never be forsaken. All that is required to qualify is to repent and come to Christ with sincere intent. No matter what else is going on, the Lord can take your life’s circumstances and make them work to fulfill His work. And His work is your salvation and exaltation.
The first step is to recognize the peril you face. The second is to then do something about it. To take the first step without the second is worse than meaningless. It inspires fear and pessimism. That is wrong. Happiness is the goal of our existence. That comes from Christ. So do not just notice your plight, but make the necessary flight back to Him.