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1 Nephi 13: 33 – 34

1 Nephi 13: 33-34:

“Wherefore saith the Lamb of God: I will be merciful unto the Gentiles, unto the visiting of the remnant of the house of Israel in great judgment. And it came to pass that the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying: Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel—and this remnant of whom I speak is the seed of thy father—wherefore, after I have visited them in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb—I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.” 
 
Here is meat indeed! What amazing truths unfold in this announcement!

Notice the definition of the “remnant” to whom the prophecies apply has now been given.  The distinction between the “gentiles” and the “remnant” are apparent here. Notice that although the gentiles will receive “much of my gospel” they will still remain identified as “Gentiles.” We may refer to the restored church as “latter-day Israel” or similar terms, but the Book of Mormon vocabulary applies the term “Gentiles” to us. This is akin to the “Samaritans” many of whose blood was as Jewish as those who were exiled to Babylon and returned. Even Christ didn’t acknowledge they were Jewish.

Why is it that the gentiles receive “much of my gospel” rather than the “fullness of my Gospel?”  As you consider that, remember Joseph used to lament about the Saints’ unwillingness to be taught new truths. Here are two of his comments:
 
“There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation.  It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand.” (DHC vol 6, p.184).

“Paul ascended into the third heavens and he could understand the three principle rounds of Jacob’s ladder – the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, when Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful to utter. I could explain a hundredfold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision were I permitted and were the people ready to receive them.” (DHC vol 5, p. 402.)

Joseph administered a form of endowment ceremony in Nauvoo, but told Brigham Young that he would have to finish it. Joseph initiated a few in the manner he received, but was not content with the form of the endowment. Brigham Young reported that Joseph told him, “Brother Brigham, this is not arranged right. But we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed, and I wish you to take this matter in hand and organize and systematize all these ceremonies.” (See Journal of L. John Nuttal, Vol. 1, pp. 18-19, quoted in Truman G. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1999, p. 97.)

Joseph also initiated a practice of sealing others to him, as the Patriarchal head of a dispensation. The nature of Patriarchal authority Joseph administered is different from what we currently understand or teach. Today we “seal” families together in genealogical lines based upon birth or legal adoption. Our families are tied together in what we understand was the intended purpose of Elijah’s prophecy about “turning hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers” so that the earth would not be smitten with a curse at the Lord’s return. But Joseph’s practice was somewhat different.

Joseph, who received the revelations on this matter, attempted to set out the manner in which the “family” will be constituted in eternity. He used Christ’s comment in Matthew 19: 29 to support the idea that those who are worthy will be placed in a family organization that would be completely restructured in the resurrection.  Orson Hyde later constructed a diagram of this teaching and published it in the Millennial Star Vol. 9 [15 January 1847] at pages 23-24.  If you search for that on-line you can find it. You need both the diagram and the explanation to understand the teaching. It is also in The Words of Joseph Smith at page 297. Please find and read it. You need to understand that teaching, which came to Orson Hyde from Joseph Smith.

As a result of this teaching, beginning with Joseph Smith and continuing until Wilford Woodruff discontinued it, sealing for eternity was not done in family lines. It was done instead to bind those who had received the Gospel to Joseph Smith, as the Patriarchal head of this dispensation. Joseph’s teaching was followed by Brigham Young, who sealed himself to Joseph as his (Joseph’s) son. John D. Lee, who was executed for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, was another sealed to Brigham Young as his son. Heber Grant’s mother was sealed to Joseph Smith, although his father was Jedediah Grant. As a result he (President Grant) considered himself Joseph’s son. That’s a side issue.

Returning to the gentile inheritance of “much of my gospel” referred to above, does it suggest that the gentiles are not/never were given generally or as a group possession of “the fullness?” Is “much of my gospel” something worth considering? Can you be certain Joseph delivered all he could or would, were the Saints willing to receive it? If it was “much” rather than “the fullness” then how does that change things?

Assuming “much of my gospel” includes (as it tells us) those things which “shall be plain and precious” then do the gentiles have enough to allow them to receive an audience with Christ as the promised Second Comforter from John’s Gospel? (John 14: 18, 23.) If so, then will not Christ, along with the Holy Ghost, teach you all things needed, even if the gentiles are not in possession of the “fullness” of it all? (John 14: 26.)

This is important to understand. Nephi makes it clear how the gentiles can become adopted into the promised line and inherit a place among the chosen people who will be preserved, inherit this land, and be numbered among the house of Israel. While that jumps us ahead a bit, it is directly connected here. The first two verses of the next chapter state the following:

And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks— And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.”

If the gentiles will hearken to the Lamb, He will manifest Himself to them. What does that mean?

What does it mean to manifest Himself to us “in word?” What does it mean to manifest Himself to us “in power?” What does it mean to manifest Himself to us “in very deed?”

How would Christ manifesting Himself to you in word, in power, and in deed “take away your stumbling block?”

These are the means promised by the Book of Mormon to deliver gentiles so that they may become “a blessed people upon the promised land forever” so as to never be brought down into captivity. But to know this would require you to come into possession of the fullness.  Gentile possession of the fullness does not come from group-think, or group possession of some institutional magic. It comes by the same means as salvation has come to mankind from the beginning. The Catholics don’t have it and can’t give it to you.  No institutional church has the means to deliver the gentiles. It will come, if it comes at all, from Christ and on the same conditions as saved Joseph Smith, Paul, Alma, Moroni, Peter, Moses, Enoch, Abraham and others.

Now there is a great deal to understand about how to move from having “much of the Gospel” to having a fullness of it. But it was always planned for that final step to be taken by you with the Lord.  After all, He is the gatekeeper who employs no servant between you and Him.  (2 Ne. 9: 41.) This is why true servants will always point you to Him. False ones will claim they can save you, they have power to bring you to Him, they have been entrusted to open the door for you. The “gatekeeper” however does not need a doorman. Nor can He be fooled by men making pretensions to have authority while lacking any of His power. You must confront Him; or, to use His description, you must be comforted by Him.

If Joseph taught the organization of the Celestial Kingdom would involve reconstructed “family units” based upon the capacity of the individuals’ involved, did he understand doctrine differently than we now do? Why were the original sealings performed to bind people to Joseph as the Patriarch? Why was that continued through Wilford Woodruff?  Why was it discontinued? Although it was replaced with a method that provides us with sentimental associations, is there something about our understanding that is less complete, less accurate and less of how Christ intends to organize the eternal family?

It is clear from these verses in 1 Nephi Chapter 13 that the Lord intends to make redemption available to the gentiles, if they will receive it. But the primary means was never intended to be an institution. It was intended to be the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon speaks right over the heads of those who are trying to distract you from returning to Christ. You must either seek and find Him while here, or remain in this Telestial state worlds without end. His invitation is extended.  He will open the gate.

Where will we find true doctrine taught? From what source does it come? Will He not, as He has promised, send true messengers to warn before He cuts off and divides asunder? If you do not understand this it is because you will not ask Him.

So, let us press on. I find this is more interesting a Gospel than I had at first imagined.  Truly, such things do not enter into the heart of man. They must be revealed, or they stand unknown. Fortunately for us, the Lord has provided the Book of Mormon and sent Joseph Smith to establish a foundation from which we gentiles may derive hope.

1 Nephi 13: 31 – 32

1 Nephi 13: 31-32:

“Neither will he suffer that the Gentiles shall destroy the seed of thy brethren. Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness, which thou beholdest they are in, because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, whose formation thou hast seen.”

The gentiles are limited in how far they may go. Although the covenant people will be smitten and afflicted, they will not be utterly destroyed. Diminished, broken to the dust, but not altogether lost. And, no matter what afflictions they may be called to endure, the Lord intends to give them this, their promised land.

A hopeful note sounds for the gentiles: The Lord will not let them “forever remain in that awful state of blindness” they are in when they arrive here. The Lord has commended the gentiles for coming to this land. They did so in response to the Spirit of God which “wrought” upon them. (1 Ne. 13: 13.) The gentiles came out of captivity and humbled themselves before God. (1 Ne. 13: 16.) The gentiles were given the “power of the Lord” because of their humility. (Id.)  In the preceding verse, the power of God was how they were delivered from their captivity. (1 Ne. 13: 30.) Despite all this, these gentiles are “in that awful state of blindness.”

How can the gentiles be both blessed to inherit all the Lord’s assistance and yet in an awful state of blindness?

What caused them to be blind?

If something is “plain” in the scriptures what must it include?

If something is “precious” in the scriptures what must it include?

If something both “plain” and “precious” has been removed, what has happened to the scriptures?

What does it mean to be blind? What does it mean to “stumble?”

What does it mean to cause plain and precious things “to be held back?”

Does any organization or group which “holds back” plain and precious things become part of that “abominable church?” Since “abominable” requires the use of religion to suppress truth or impose a false form of truth, can the definition of “abominable church” be limited to Historic Christianity? What about a modern church, even a restorationist church like the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) which suppresses or abandons truth? If they “hold back” truth, do they join in the collective assembly of false religions called the “abominable church?” Even it they came through Joseph Smith and accept the Book of Mormon?

What are the “plain and most precious” parts of the Gospel, anyway? Would it have anything to do with knowing Christ? Since this is life eternal, to “know” Him, would it be a simple and plain, but most precious teaching to urge people to part the veil of unbelief and behold their Lord? (John 17: 3.)

Where do we hear that message preached today? I think when I find such a message taught, I will give heed to it.

Nephi’s vision of these events does inform us, does it not?

1 Nephi 13: 30

The role of gentiles in the history of this land, promised to Lehi’s descendants, is not just covered in the Lord’s words. It is set out in some detail by Nephi. Therefore, we will look at some of Nephi’s prophecy from 1 Nephi Chapter 13.  Below is verse 30:

“Nevertheless, thou beholdest that the Gentiles who have gone forth out of captivity, and have been lifted up by the power of God above all other nations, upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands, which is the land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy father that his seed should have for the land of their inheritance; wherefore, thou seest that the Lord God will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the mixture of thy seed, which are among thy brethren.”

This comes after an explanation of how the gentiles will flee oppression in another land (Europe), come here, and overtake this land. Nephi has been shown the establishment of a great church that alters the teachings to be given by Christ to the Jews. Then the prophecy continues with the above statement.

Flight from captivity has brought the Gentiles here. They came here (originally) for religious freedom. They wanted to follow their conscious when it came to matters of God and belief. This land was a land of religious freedom for these gentiles.

They then were “lifted up by the power of God above all other nations.” This “lifting up” is not only to enjoy religious freedom to worship God. It also included the power to retain that freedom against any foreign threat to remove it. Therefore, ancillary to the religious freedom, the gentiles were necessarily given economic and military might with which to retain that freedom against “all other nations.” But the “power of God” which “lifted [them] up” is conditioned upon them always serving the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ. (Ether 2: 12.) The power of God cannot be used to protect a wicked people.

The land is “choice above all other lands.” Why is that so? What is it about the American continent which makes it more “choice” than any other location on earth?

Notice that here again Nephi is told that the land has been given to Lehi’s descendants as “the land for their inheritance.” Whatever dispossession the gentiles cause, these people have God’s covenant to return the land to them. What does it mean to have this land promised by God through covenant to Lehi’s descendants? Does that promise contain any condition? Will these people forfeit their right if they are wicked? If they will not forfeit the right, then what will happen to them if they cease to serve the God of this land?

Because of the covenant, the Lord will “not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy” the covenant people? Note the “mixture of thy seed” mentioned to Nephi. Why is Nephi promised a “mixture of thy seed” will be preserved? Does gentile oppression remove the promises to Lehi and Nephi? If not, what then do the promises assure them?

Why does God make a covenant to a worthy prophet-patriarch and bind Himself to fulfill the promise even with a posterity which may not be similarly faithful? Has the Lord done this before with Abraham? With Isaac? With Jacob? With Noah? Even though we knew nothing of these covenants when the gentiles overran the land, are they nonetheless God’s promise and something which He will fulfill?  How certain should we be that the Lord will deliver this land back to those who descend from Lehi and Nephi?

Why can a righteous prophet-patriarch obtain such promises from the Lord? What reason is there for such covenants to be made? Can they still be made? How? What did Lehi and Nephi do to qualify to receive such a covenant? Was there any intermediary? Will the Lord employ a servant when making such a covenant?

Well, this is interesting stuff.  Worth continuing to consider, I think.

A bit of a detour

I received the following question:
 
“You refer to D&C 84:26 which tells us that the “lesser priesthood …holdeth the key of the ministering of angels..” and imply that every deacon in the church holds the key to the ministration of angels. That does not sound right to me. I believe the “key to the ministration of angels” in Section 84 and the “three grand keys whereby (one) may know whether any ministration is from God” D&C 129:9 are one and the same. If so, there is no Aaronic priesthood holder in the church today who has the key the the ministration of angels as those grand Aaronic keys are only given to Melchezidek priesthood holders in Holy Places.”
 
My response:
 
The Endowment has two portions:  An Aaronic portion and a Melchizedek portion.  Brigham Young commented that the Aaronic portion should be given first, and separate from the rest. Then after proving oneself faithful and trustworthy, the Melchizedek portion would be received. We’ve never done it that way. However, if it were to be done that way, then those holding the Aaronic Priesthood, possessing the associated keys, would have the key to the ministering of angels.

Now, apart from that, before Joseph received any priesthood he entertained angels.  Aaronic Priesthood keys may give one a right to seek such a visit, may give a basis for such a search, but possession of such a key alone will not force it to happen. Nor does the absence of such a key prevent it from happening.

In effect, what we sometimes view as hard and fast rules are more like rules for polite conduct. It is the way which things “ought” to occur. But the Lord is not powerless to work around it anyway.

There is almost no hard and fast rule. Just as soon as we think we’ve figured out what the Lord MUST always do, we find out that He has a work-around plan that opens up any number of other possibilities as well.

D&C 84 is correct. And such a key does belong to the Aaronic order. However, the “key” referred to is to be found in the Aaronic portion of the endowment, which permits you to recognize a true messenger should one visit with you. However, as D&C 129 also reports, if the messenger does not have a body, he will nonetheless deliver his message.

_______________________

As to questions about the church and its current “failings” I am not inclined to make a list.  Salvation is not “corporate” anyway. Whatever the church does or doesn’t do, salvation is an individual process to work out person by person. If you say: “The church is perfect!”  Then I wonder how that saves me. Am I not imperfect? Does the church’s perfection aid me in any respect unless I will repent and return? Also, if you say: “The church is a corrupt mess!” Then I wonder how that damns me. Am I not still required to follow the Master? Was Peter perfect? Was Paul? Did their quirks and imperfections damn those who came forward and accepted baptism, received the Holy Ghost, and lived the Lord’s commandments?

There is a great disconnect between the church and Zion. But there is an even greater disconnection between the church and an individual’s salvation. We rise or fall based upon what light and truth we are willing to receive. Those who have the most should have the greatest capacity to help, encourage, and raise others. Sometimes the church puts on display the meanest of conduct. The most petty and self-serving of behavior. That does not relieve us from living as we should.

If a person trusts the church to save them, they must be shaken and brought to see the foolishness of their false belief.

If a person despises the church, they should be taught to show patience and charity toward their fellow Saint.

Sometimes you and I need to speak of the church’s perilous and foolish conduct.  Sometimes we need to think of the church’s vital and continuing role.

As reasonable people we should no more entertain the myth of church perfection than we should view the church as an abhorrent enemy to our salvation. It is neither. It is a tool. It serves an important role. Ultimately, however, the church should not (and indeed cannot) come between you and the Lord. No-one belongs there.

When the church tries to insert itself between you and the Lord it deserves criticism; even censure. When the church makes a well-intentioned mistake, the mistake should be noted and avoided. But frank discussions about those things do not weaken the church or the faith of those who engage in the discussion. It means, instead, that people care and take seriously the subject of their salvation.

I have no interest in leaving the church. Nor do I have any interest in leading it. Each of us has a duty to proclaim the Gospel, and having been warned, to warn others. (D&C 88: 81.)  Elder Ballard told us to use the internet to share the Gospel. The article is in the July 2008 Ensign. Basically, this blog is Elder Ballard’s idea.

My view of sharing the Gospel is not, however, to defend the indefensible, or to dress up swine and decorate them with jewelry and pretend we aren’t debasing either the pig, the clothing or ourselves. There is so much mischief going on inside the church right now that I don’t think 500 General Authorities can get control over it. It is a run-away train. Between correlation, and the organizational systems in place, it is almost dysfunctional. 

The management structure for the church’s various departments is similar to what one would see in General Motors or Black & Decker.  Each “division” is separately accounted for and needs to justify its expenditures based upon performance. Measurable results are expected. The goal of course is salvation. However, goals such as “increasing faith in Jesus Christ” are used to justify expenditures. Then polling or focus group information is used to show the goals are being met. The lengths to which charades are enacted inside the Church Office Building are painful to many of those who work there. Agreements to keep information confidential has not prevented private sharing of the frustrations lived inside the great white building downtown.

The justification for Correlation is set out by them (the Correlation Department which oversees all manual writing) in the Gospel Doctrine Manual on The Doctrine and Covenants and Church History; lesson number 42. In there the following quote appears:  “Explain that the purpose of Church correlation is to preserve ‘the right way of God’ (Jacob 7: 7.)”  The quote is taken from Sherem, the first anti-Christ in the Book of Mormon, who is bringing an accusation against Jacob. Sherem, the anti-Christ accuses Jacob of perverting the right way of God by teaching of Christ. It is this accusation which the Correlation Department has lifted and used to justify their own actions.

Sherem was stricken and died. May those who use his words to justify their own failures share a similar fate when the coming plagues arrive. If his words are good enough to justify their actions, then his fate is good enough for them to share.

Correlation has robbed the church of vitality, deprived the Saints of power, and created an environment in which oppression and abuse is inevitable. Seeking to have true doctrine is no excuse for suppressing discussion, enshrining a militant orthodoxy, and following down the same path that destroyed Historic Christianity’s connection with God.

Well, I’m off topic and not doing any good with this. So let’s return to a discussion of the scriptures. If we want light, we find it in the Book of Mormon.

What does it all really mean?

There are some great comments on the previous posts. I’ve not wanted to interrupt what I was doing to address them. Before moving on to another set of scriptures relating to those questions and comments, here are a few responses:


To whom has the Book of Mormon been written?

What possible good would it be for a message to be written for an audience who would never read the Book of Mormon?

If the term “Gentiles” is sometimes quite broad (and it is in some contexts), does the message get addressed to all of them? Is the message tailored to those who would read the book?

If the warnings are read to apply only to non-LDS occupants of the land, then what do the warnings accomplish? Do they make us proud? Do they make us feel better than “them,” since only “they” are condemned and not us? What kind of a warning is it if the only ones being warned are those who will never read the book?

Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at least retain the power and authority to preach the Gospel and administer the rites of baptism, and laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost? When I prayed, as the missionaries were instructing me, I got an answer that led me to baptism. I believe that baptism to be authoritative and approved by the Lord. Does anyone think the church lacks the authority to baptize for the remission of sins? I do not. If, therefore, the church has that authority, does it not continue to occupy an important, even central role in the Lord’s work?

If you teach someone, and they want to “convert” and be baptized, would you not baptize them into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

What is the mission field for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Who is not included?

If all the world is the mission field for the church, what, then, becomes the mission field for the Church of the Firstborn?  [I do not hold that the Church of the Firstborn is a formal organization, existing here as a formal order.  I believe its members associate with others who are not of this world, and consequently the Church of the Firstborn is never in competition with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.]

Would members of the Church of the Firstborn not pay tithes to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Would they not attend its meetings?  Would they not support its programs? Would they not use The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to assist them in raising their children? Would they not have their families baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Even if they held authority given them directly from the Lord, would they not continue to be faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? To uphold and respect the authorities who are given the duty to preside?

Until the Lord brings again Zion, where should we all join in fellowship?

Would members of the Church of the Firstborn ever envy those presiding in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Ever challenge their right to preside? Did Christ ever try and displace Caiaphus? Did He not admonish us to follow His example?

Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints limit the amount of light you can acquire by your own heed and diligence? (D&C 130: 18-19.) Can any man prevent God from pouring out knowledge upon you if you will receive it in the proper way?  (D&C 121: 32-33.) Can any soul approach the Lord, see His face, and know that He is? (D&C 93: 1.)

Of what relevance is it if other Saints give no heed or are not willing to receive knowledge from the Lord? Should we belittle them? If not, what then is our responsibility toward them? (3 Ne. 12: 16.)

What does it mean to let a “light shine?”

Why, upon seeing that light, would someone “glorify your Father who is in heaven” rather than heap praise and attention upon you? What is it about the nature of the light which you are to shine that produces notice of the Father rather than notice of you?

David Christensen’s definition of “whoredoms” was interesting. Whether you take the meaning in 1830, or you take our modern sexual meaning, would it change the result of any analysis? One fellow who worked at the Church Office Building told me that approximately 60% of active adult male members of the church regularly view pornography.

Kisi also raised a question regarding Ishmael’s Ephriamite lineage. Orson Pratt, Franklin D. Richards and Erastus Snow all said Joseph Smith mentioned in passing that the lost 116 pages included a reference to Ishmael’s lineage and he was from Ephriam. Does this change anything? If so, how? What other outcome might then be possible? Would this potentially even further limit the Gentile involvement?

On the subject of Joseph’s statements contained in the Nauvoo era transcripts:  These were the very materials from which Joseph’s talks were reproduced. The Documentary History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Jr., was compiled from these original materials. When The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith was prepared, it was done using these materials.  The paper I wrote included the original source materials, not the derivative compilations.

As to the importance and reliability of these materials, first, those involved were the leading church fathers at the time. Thomas Bullock was the official scribe for Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo talks. His versions were kept at Joseph’s request and were official accounts.  Second, the Joseph Smith Papers project now underway through the Church Historian’s Office is attempting to make more of these original source materials available to the Saints. If they are not important, then the Church would not be investing millions of man-hours and dollars to bring the sources into the hands of the Saints.

It is not wise to dismiss as “mud” the very kinds of materials that give the best source for Joseph’s teachings. Indeed, D&C 130 is an amalgam of comments Joseph made in a talk given April 2, 1843 recorded by some of the very same scribes used in the paper I wrote.  I’m just using original materials, rather than derivative, second hand interpretations made years later by others who were not present (or living) when the statements were made by Joseph.


Well, enough of the aside – onward still….

3 Nephi 16: 17-20

 
“And then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say: Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.”
 
Given the scholarly arguments over the meaning and application of Isaiah, here we encounter a profound insight from Christ.  He attributes this quote from Isaiah to the coming events in the Americas. In this declaration by Christ we learn Isaiah was NOT speaking of the return to the Middle East for these events to unfold. Instead the “waste places of Jerusalem” are nowhere near Jerusalem. It is another place, far away, where the residue of Jerusalem’s scattered people are wasted, then restored again. It is also plural. One is here, in the Americas, on an “isle of the sea.”  (2 Ne. 10: 20.) Now we can know from Christ’s own interpretation that Jerusalem’s “waste places” are scattered throughout the world. This land is one of them.

Then we see something odd. After the removal of the Gentiles, there is joy, rejoicing, singing together, seeing eye to eye and a return to Zion. The emotional setting seems at odds with what we anticipate.  Destroying Gentiles and having the trauma of those days would seem to produce mourning and lamentation. It does not. Instead it produces singing in joy.

To redeem Jerusalem is to re-establish the promised heirs upon their own land, and bring again Zion. Whatever bottle-neck of destruction needed to bring that triumph to pass will be worth it. So great will be the peace that follows that it will wipe away all tears. Truth, saving doctrine and being fed by Christ’s own message will end all laments.  (Rev. 7: 17.)
How is the Lord’s “holy arm” made bare? How will “the eyes of all nations” see it? What will the ends of the earth behold, as the salvation of God takes place? Why is it “all the ends of the earth” which will behold it?

What does it mean to “see eye to eye” when Zion is brought again?

Why is Zion to be “brought again” rather than re-built?

If the Lord is to comfort His people, what will that “comfort” include? Why has He consistently used the word “comfort” to describe His visit with people?

Why, when the waste places are redeemed, does it say “Jerusalem” will be redeemed? Is redeeming the “waste places” the same as redeeming “Jerusalem” itself? How does that affect the meaning of other scriptures?

Why are “singing together” and “seeing eye to eye” connected in the same thought?

What does it mean to “become one” as a people? Can we ever accomplish that by acquiring enough “sameness” or “uniformity” in conduct, thought and speech? Is it worth any effort at all to mimic one another? If we are to “become one” how should each of us proceed to accomplish that? How does Christ expect us to become “one?”  (1 John 3: 2.)

3 Nephi 16: 16

3 Nephi 16: 16:


“Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance.”

 
As a result of the their behavior, the Gentiles forfeit the land. The ones who inherit the land will be “this people” or the ones to whom Christ was speaking. The land will belong to the remnant – those who were standing before Christ at the time of this address.
 
Now, the actual inheritors will not be those people, but those who claim the right as descendants through their fathers. It will not, and cannot be the Gentiles. There were no European migrants in the audience when Christ spoke on this occasion.

We need to know who “this people” is to know who will inherit the land.
 
We also need to know what “this land” was to be able to know if the Gentiles who inherited the “land of liberty” (2 Nephi 10: 11) which would “never fall into captivity except for wickedness” was North America (2 Nephi 1: 6-11).  Hence the relevance of knowing the location of the Book of Mormon lands.

That is such a side-track that I hesitate to even revisit the subject.  I will only add that there are arguments for both North American and Central America.  I think the better argument is for North America. 

The various possessors of the land all have the same condition:  They either follow Christ as they occupy the ground or they are swept away and others who will follow Christ will supplant them.
 
This was established by covenant with Lehi generations before Christ visited with and taught Lehi’s descendants. Lehi recorded the covenant:
 
“Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever. But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them. Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten.”  (2 Nephi 1: 9-11.)
 
Christ’s words dovetail with the covenant made with Lehi. The same Lord announcing them both. That condition and lease of this land remains conditional. Keep the conditions and you may be preserved to inherit the land and be numbered with the house of Israel.  Violate them and be swept away.
 
So we see that the times of the Gentiles, as they end, become quite perilous for the Gentiles upon the land. They will forfeit their hold, however improbable it may seem to them at the present. Christ’s Father has declared it so. Who, then, can disannul?
 
The many confident assurances of God’s favor we have do give us comfort, don’t they? They are either true and right, and we have little to fear. Or they are among the abominations that allow foolish, vain and false notions lull us to sleep. The difference between those two propositions is quite alarming. I hate it when we have to make hard choices.

3 Nephi 16: 15

 
“But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.”
 
The Gentiles, to whom the restoration of the Gospel came, will fail to repent and return to the Lord, and will doom themselves to destruction.
 
The land reverts back to those to whom it was originally promised.  They, the rightful heirs, will “go through among them, and shall tread them down.” What does it mean to be “tread down?”

When salt has lost its savor, it becomes useless. The preservative has become a contaminant. The corruption, the abominable religion, is worse than what they were before inheriting the fullness of the Gospel. They have sinned against a greater light. And in the process they have rejected the Greatest Light of all.
 
What did the Gentiles do to become salt without savor?  Why are they good for nothing but to be cast out? Why is it appropriate that the Gentiles who previously cast out and trod down previous inheritors should now be trodden down?  What did the earlier heirs do to merit destruction at the hands of the Gentiles? How does the cycle seem to repeat itself in the actions of both of these peoples?
 
Why do the trodden down peoples, who were the first heirs, remain the “Lord’s people” even when they have been dispossessed of the land and destroyed by the Gentiles? Why are the first to become the last, and the last to become the first? Why do such cycles of history repeat themselves? Why is the Book of Mormon unable to help the Gentiles avoid this cycle of destruction? Was the Book of Mormon intended to help the Gentiles avoid their fate? What did the Gentiles do with the Book of Mormon instead of using it as a guide to avoid destruction?
 
These prophecies are spoken by Christ, but ordained by the Father.  What does it tell us about the Father’s involvement with this unfolding history? How does the “foot of my people” reflect symbolically upon the process of destruction? If the Gentiles have rejected the fullness of the Lord’s Gospel, but the feet of those who cry peace are beautiful upon the mountains, why do the one people get trodden and the others tread upon them?  Why are clean feet preserved and the filthy cast out and trodden down?
 
How serious a matter is this Gospel? How should we conduct ourselves toward the Gospel? What is the Gospel’s fullness?
 
This becomes more than interesting; it is gripping.

3 Nephi 16: 13-14


“But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.  And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father.”

Here Gentiles are given hope. Although as a group, they will fall away and reject the fullness, if there are any among them who “repent and return” they may still be numbered among those who are the Lord’s people. Those whom He calls “my people.”  Those dear to Him by covenant and promise.

The few who do will be required to “repent and return.” Why do they need to “repent?” Why do they need to “return?” What have they been doing that will require this “repentance” and “return?”  

Does it mean they will not remain in the way, but will have been led out of it? Will they necessarily have to abandon the abominations, or false beliefs, which have become part of their religious traditions?

Where did these false religious ideas arise?  If the Gentiles inherit the fullness of the Gospel, then reject the fullness, what did they first receive? What did they do with what they received?

How can some few still persist and be numbered among the house of Israel?  What must those who “repent and return” accomplish?  How will they be able to accomplish this?

Nephi had described these “few” earlier in a prophecy about our day in 2 Nephi 28: 14They 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.”

What does it mean to have “all gone astray?” Does “all” truly mean “all?” How can a “few, who are the humble followers of Christ” exist? Do these “few” “nevertheless err?”

What causes the “few” to err? What does it mean that they are “led, that in many instances they do err?” What does it mean to be “taught by the precepts of men?” Wasn’t that the very problem that provoked the Restoration in the first place? Weren’t men teaching for doctrines the commandments of men? Did that produce only a form of godliness, which had no power?  (JS-H 1: 19.)

Those who “repent and return” will be spared from being trodden down and torn up. Others of the Gentiles, who do not “repent and return” are destined, like the original inhabitants of this land, to be trodden down and torn up. Their inheritance here is probationary. If they fail the probation, they will be swept away. The Gentiles will be gone, just as the earlier civilizations are gone. It will be the Father’s doing.