Nephi allows for no exception to the problems facing latter-day churches. He writes they have “all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.” (2 Ne. 28: 11.) This presents a dilemma for me. I believe the church I belong to was established by the Lord. I also believe:
-The Lord gave my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) a commission to baptize.
-Also a commission to lay on hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
-Also a commission to bless the sacrament.
-Also a commission to preach, teach, exhort, expound and spread the Gospel of Christ to all the world.
If what I believe is true (and I think it is), then how can Nephi’s all inclusive condemnation of “all” the latter-day churches be reconciled with Nephi’s criticism?
It seems to me that being “chosen” by the Lord has never, in any past dispensation among any past group of believers, had the effect of removing all errors from those who were “chosen.” Nor has it prevented them from falling into error. No matter the relationship between people and God, they have always remained free to choose. For the most part, that freedom has resulted in drifting from the truth, and the need to be reminded and called back. Or, in other words, the need for repentance.
Nephi’s message is his call to us to repent. It is his reminder of the errors which will or have crept into every church, including my own. Therefore, his message is as relevant to me, as a Latter-day Saint, as it is to any other person belonging to any other faith. Perhaps it is even more relevant to me because I actually believe in the Book of Mormon, whereas other faiths do not.
Look at Nephi’s explanation for why all churches have become corrupted: (And I would add, being “corrupted” is not the same thing as being utterly corrupt.)
-There is too much “pride.”
-There are “false teachers” who do not teach the truth.
-There are “false doctrines” which differ from what the Lord taught to save us.
-The churches are “lifted up” and “because of pride they are puffed up.” (2 Ne. 28: 12.)
Now Nephi can warn us all because he was shown us in vision and wrote scripture to caution and guide us. But I, on the other hand, can only take his instruction and examine myself. Am I caught up in these problems? Do I search for the doctrine of Christ? Can I detect false teachings? Am I willing to be stripped of pride? In other words, do I take Nephi seriously enough to examine my own beliefs and conduct?
The teachings of Nephi are challenging. But they have the power to rescue us if we will let them.