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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.

2 Nephi 28: 24-25

 
“Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!  Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!”
 
The word “therefore” ties all that went before to this warning about “Zion.” The threat of damnation, the pronouncement of “wo’s,” and the cautions about false teachers spreading false teachings are all designed to cause unease to Zion. That would be us. Or it would be what we claim about ourselves.
 
It is foolish to turn Nephi’s message into a warning to some other latter-day group. The gentiles, who have received the Book of Mormon, and who claim they are better than others, puffed up with conceit about being chosen and highly favored of God, are the ones who would identify themselves as “Zion” in Nephi’s prophecy. Not others. Us.
 
If you have reacted to the previous discussion with the notion that the interpretation given is really just my “opinion,” and not an actual warning targeting the Latter-day Saints, you should reconsider. Although Nephi’s message has been construed to apply to other faiths, (and the language certainly permits it) this part of Nephi’s sermon makes the conclusion inevitable. He is not warning others. He is not primarily targeting the world of the last days. He is warning and attempting to save the souls of those who receive his writings and self-identify themselves as “Zion.”
 
This means if we are “Zion” we can never be “at ease.” We can never relent.  Self-praise and assuring words that make us relax are not only false, they cheat us whenever they remove the burden of repentance we must bear.

There can be no ease. There can be no determination that “all is well” until we have repented and come to Christ. When Christ has forgiven us, we can know we are forgiven.  When Christ has promised us eternal life, we can know we have eternal life. Until then, we remain at risk and in jeopardy every hour we are here. (1 Cor. 15: 30.) When, however, you know you are sealed up to eternal life, you have the more sure word of prophecy or the testimony of Jesus. (D&C 131: 5.)

 
When can a person know they have a part in Zion? When the Lord Himself has made them a citizen. When the description given below is the description of their lives, then they may know it will be well with them:
 
“They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—  That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;  And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.  They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—  They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—  Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.  And they shall overcome all things.” (D&C 76: 51-60.)
 
These are they who have been told by the voice of God from heaven that they have eternal life. They are those who have obtained a hope in Christ.
 
When the Gospel of Christ is taught, it is always the purpose to bring people to this point. It is not Christ’s Gospel when the teachings fall short of declaring this to the audience. Nephi was not trying to get you to improve your behavior or to become a good citizen. He was not attempting to make you a conservative, mainstream American. He was warning you to flee from this corrupt and failing society to a higher place where you can obtain communion with the Church of the Firstborn. A place where you join the household of God.
 
Zion is not and has never been the product of an institutional organization on this earth.  It is a byproduct of there being citizens of heaven living here. Zion is the only way such persons can live with one another. First obtain a hope in Christ, and then all things will be added to you.
 
Why, then, should there be no ease among us?  Because we have too few for the Lord to bring again Zion. Until then we do not have Zion, and our false claims to it only serve to make us at ease while there remains yet a great unfinished labor to perform.
 
It is Nephi’s love for us, his desire to see us saved and happy, that causes him to use such harsh words of warning. He knows what we lack. He wants us to overcome it all and join him in the chorus singing anthems of praise, because our joy cannot be expressed without such songs! (D&C 84: 98-102.)

Constitutional Forum 2

I will participate again at the American Heritage School in a Constitutional Law forum.  The format is a panel discussion.  It is at 7:00 p.m. this Thursday, the 5th.  American Heritage School is located across the street from the Timpanogos Temple in American Fork.

This panel will be discussing First Amendment freedom of speech issues.  

Since some of you attended last time, I thought I ought to post a notice again.

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.