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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.

2 Nephi 28: 13

 
“They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.”
 
You must keep the prior verse in mind as you read this one. They are a continuation of thought.
 
It is an interesting thought to equate “fine sanctuaries” with “robbing the poor.”  Why do you suppose Nephi would make that equation? Does it give us any pause?
 
What “duty” would be owed to the poor that entitles them to come before a “fine sanctuary?”
 
Is there a duty to care for the poor that comes before the right of someone to wear “fine clothing?”
 
What does it mean to “persecute the meek?” Can you “persecute the meek” just by ignoring them? By neglecting them? Does any religion owe some duty to the meek? What obligation is owed to the meek by people of faith?
 
Who is “poor in heart?” What obligation do we all owe to the poor in heart?
 
Now look at the last phrase. It begins with “because.” Isn’t Nephi saying that our defects are all due to “our pride.” That is, “because of their pride they are puffed up” and this is the reason we “rob the poor.” This is the reason we “persecute the meek.” This is the reason we “persecute the poor in heart.” Or, in other words, we are proud and puffed up and therefore we cannot help but cause these other offenses.
We necessarily ignore our obligations to the poor and meek because we are filled with pride. We don’t give a second thought to what we’re doing with resources entrusted to us to bless and benefit others, because we believe we are entitled to have “fine sanctuaries.” We just presume we are justified in our “fine clothing” without regard to what we may owe others. 
 
There is a moment in film that helps illustrate this verse. It is in the closing of the movie Schindler’s List. The Allies had overrun the area and the Nazi rule had ended. As Schindler was receiving the gratitude of those who had been saved by his efforts, he was struck by what more he could have done. He was less interested in receiving gratitude than he was guilt ridden by how many more lives could have been saved had he parted with a ring.  Had he parted with a car it would have secured other lives. The thought filled him with guilt. He had done some, it was undoubtedly true. But his conscious was filled with remorse because he could have done more. And in that setting, doing more was saving lives. He preferred a ring to another man’s life. He preferred a car to a family’s lives. It tormented him. If you can harrow up your mind to remember this scene, then think of what we might have done with the great resources we have been given in place of some of the monuments we have built.
 
Why do we need chapels at all? Why not meet in homes? What good could be done with the money we have invested in the chapels we have built? Joseph Smith built temples; he did not build chapels. General Conference was held in an outdoor bowery. Do we have anything to apologize for in how we use our resources? Were or are there poor toward whom the Lord would have preferred us to show mercy, and do more? There are families who have supplied church leadership from their large construction companies who have built projects for the church. I am told these relationships are natural. They call who they know and associate with, after all. I suppose that is true.
 
Nephi seems troubled by his view of us. We seem untroubled by his words. At least we don’t seem to change our behavior much because of Nephi’s counsel.  We deflect it, and point to others as his real target.
 
Well, Nephi is nothing if not relevant to almost everything going on today.

2 Nephi 28: 10-12

 
“And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them. Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.  Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.”
 
Why does this mention the “blood of the saints?” What does it mean for their “blood to cry from the ground?” I’ve discussed this before, speaking of the earth’s own spirit.
 
What does “all” include? Even us? If “they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted” includes us, what does that mean? How could we also be “out of the way?” Is Nephi right? What about Wilford Woodruff’s claim that we would never be led astray? Can someone who promises to not lead you astray then lead you astray? How solid a guarantee does any man offer to you?
 
What does it mean to “have become corrupted?” Can a church be “true” and still be “corrupted?” (D&C 84: 53-58.)
 
What “pride” can religion impose upon people who believe false traditions? Does your faith make you “proud” to belong?  Do you think it makes you better than others? Do you believe you’re saved while others will be damned, because they don’t share your faith? Does that make you lose sleep at night, and want to cry out to save them–or to relax and enjoy your security?
 
What does it mean that the faiths are “all out of the way?” Is there only one “way?” If so, how would you recognize the right “way” from the wrong one?
 
Who are “false teachers” that teach “false doctrine?” Does “false” include omission of important truths? If one teaches truths about Christ, but does not teach you how to return to His presence, is the teacher “false?” What would qualify someone to be “true” and teach the right “way?” How would you distinguish between true and false teachers? Between true and false doctrine?
 
How can “false teachers” corrupt a church?  Can they corrupt any church?  Even ours?

Why does becoming “puffed up” and “pride” follow false teachings? What is it about false religion that brings pride to its followers? How does false security caused by corrupt doctrine lead to “pride?”


What would the opposite religious attitude be for “pride?”  Would humility, a broken heart and a contrite spirit be different than “pride?” What kind of teaching would cause a listener to become contrite, humble, meek and submissive?  What kind of teaching would defeat pride and break a person’s heart? Can you have both? Can you be “humble” and “broken hearted” and also be proud of your religion? If you cannot, then can you think deeply about your faith, your meetings, your conferences, your private as well as public conversations and ask yourself if the teachers to whom you listen lead you to pride? Lead you to humility? Lead you to contrition and repentance?

 
Who is Nephi describing? Is it possible it could apply to us along with all other organized faiths?
 
I have often heard my fellow-Saint speak of the sense of pride the Conference Center gives them. It is a great, spacious and technologically advanced center. I’ve thought the ceiling of that building looks somewhat like that very successful evangelist Joel Osteen’s amazing church. I’ve wondered if the architectural firm took hints from other successful mega-churches when designing the Conference Center.  Have you noticed how the dimmed lights and the magnified images, magnified voices and focus upon the great pulpit is designed to use all the modern audio-visual technology to create heroic images within the building for the audience? It is a technical marvel. Really state of the art. It is hard for me not to take some pride in it all. Anyone who wonders if our church is respectable, successful, powerful or advanced, who visits the facility will no doubt leave with the conclusion that, despite our humble origins, we certainly have made a success in the world for ourselves. It is a story of overcoming and prospering. 

If those whose bloodstained footprints covered our westward migration could see what we’ve become, I wonder what delight (or disappointment) they would feel. Would they have any mixed emotions at seeing this monument in granite, glass, brass and walnut? The third-of-a-billion dollars we spent on it produced a landmark of splendor for the ages.  Poor Joseph had only an open air bowery to use. Adam, too, used the open plains of Adam-Ondi-Ahman to meet. We are, of course, blessed with more resources to use as part of our “worship.”

2 Nephi 28: 9

“Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.”
The alarming use of the word “many” suggests this is to be a widespread problem in our time. These teachings are denounced as “false and vain and foolish.” We should look at each:
What does “false” mean? Does something have to be thoroughly and completely wrong to be false? Is it enough to be off by enough to rob the teaching of power?  How many truths will a liar tell while trying to get you to believe an ultimate lie?  How well does a deception work if there isn’t some truth included in the message?  So, then, how difficult will detecting the error be?  May the very elect be deceived? (Matt. 24: 24, see also JS-M 1: 22.) How will one be able to decide between a false and a true teaching? (Moroni 10: 5.)
What does “vain” mean? Is the best meaning “futile” or “without power?” If a teaching robs you of power, deprives you of the Spirit, is that “vain?” What would you trade in exchange for having power in the Spirit? If a little flattery is enough, would you take the assurance that God loves you, and will never let you be deceived enough to get you to let go of the responsibility to ever have His Spirit to be with you? (Moroni 5: 2.) If the current President of the Quorum of the Twelve has lamented our lack of power, is it really a lament about our vain beliefs? If so, what can you do about it? How can you avoid having your faith become vain?
What does “foolish” mean? Would something that is so poorly based, so weak and powerless to save, and utterly false be foolish? What about trusting a man to save you, rather than the Lord? What about the notion that there is a man who will be perfectly unable to ever lead you astray? How foolish is it to trust your salvation to the inerrancy of a man?
What kind of a heart is “puffed up?” How would these false, vain and foolish doctrines result in a proud following? Why would they think themselves better than they are because of these doctrines?
What does it mean to “seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord?” What does it mean to “seek deeply?” What foolish men would think they could ever “hide their counsel from the Lord?” Who would believe that God would be bound to follow what a man dictates–because they have keys to bind Him– rather than recognizing that the Lord alone holds all authority to judge and will alone determine all judgment? (See 3 Ne. 27: 27.) How foolish is it to become a sycophant of priestly pretenders, hoping that they will save you in the day of judgment? Will appeasing an LDS authority be of any more value than kissing a Cardinal’s ring when you are standing before the Lion of Israel to be judged? How well will the vain ceremonies and guarded conspiracies work in the day when everything is shouted from the rooftops?
What does it mean to have “works” which “shall be in the dark?” Does this just mean hidden? Does “darkness” also include the quality of the works? What kinds of work are “dark?” Can obliterating part of a sacred ceremony remove light and replace it with dark? Does curtailing the Saints’ ability to discuss true principles, exercising control and dominion and compulsion to prevent knowledge from spreading all contribute to darkness in the minds of the Saints?


When is the last time you were encouraged in the Temple to understand and discuss the meaning of the Temple ceremonies? When was the last time you were told NOT to discuss the Temple meaning inside the Temple? If you can’t discuss it inside the Temple, and you covenanted not to discuss it outside the Temple, then where can you discuss its meaning? How will you learn if you are unable to share ideas about the symbols and their meaning? Is it “dark” when the light of teaching is closed to view?
I don’t know if any of you recall that Hugh Nibley was given access to the chapel in the Provo Temple to speak to waiting patrons about the meaning of the Temple for a number of years. While waiting for a session to begin, patrons could listen to and ask questions of Hugh Nibley in an atmosphere of sharing and getting answers.  Today, in contrast, they discourage you from discussing anything about the Temple even inside the Temple. I refer to an incident in the Jordan River Temple in The Second Comforter. I was told to not discuss meanings while in the Celestial Room speaking with full time missionaries assigned to my stake. I presided over the missionary work of the stake and worked closely with these wonderful young men. But I was told to stop teaching them. This is common today. It ought to end.  We will only understand sacred symbols if we are able to teach one another about what we have learned. When I think of the library of material I have had to get through to be able to understand, I am left to wonder at how difficult the process has been made for those who would sincerely and humbly like to seek after further light and knowledge by teaching one another.
We should welcome as much light and truth in our exchanges with one another as we have to offer; in the right setting and with the right Spirit. It is not casting pearls before swine when the audience is prepared, worthy and interested in obtaining knowledge for the right reason. Now even if you have the very best of audiences, in the most sacred setting, we are told to not discuss what may be of vital interest to a soul seeking to gain further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil.
How little discarding of light must one cause before they are doing “works in the dark?” It is such a terrible question with such fearful results that I would hesitate to be the one who limits the Saints’ ability to seek into truth.
Now, to balance things somewhat, I want to affirm several fundamental truths:
-We are accountable for our own search into the truth.
-No one can limit you if you are searching with real intent having a contrite spirit and broken heart.
-There is no conflict between fulfilling your duties to the church on the one hand and your responsibilities to the Lord on the other.
-You cannot blame anyone else if you have not been diligent about your own search.
-In the end, whether there is active opposition or active assistance provided to you, it is necessary for you to make the internal changes and to follow the path.
  
No outside party will control what is yours alone to control. But the first step to be taken is to realize you really are personally responsible. You can’t depend on others nor on an institution to do the work for you. But as you awaken to that recognition, you should not lose heart or become discouraged. Nothing has been lost collectively which you may not still lay claim upon for yourself.
I do think we could make a greater overall gentile success with a different, more benign attitude as a group. But even if you must work against a corrosive environment, you can still do it. You have the greatest tool in your hands. You truly can get closer to the Lord through the Book of Mormon than any other means. It is a guidebook written for us and for now.