When Nephi paraphrased Isaiah 29 in the 2 Nephi 27, he appropriated Isaiah’s words to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He adapted them making a paraphrase rather than a quote. (I explain the reasons for this in Nephi’s Isaiah.) Here he uses the Isaiah materials again to identify who he (Nephi) is: “the voice of one crying from the dust.” The primary audience for his writings will be those who come to read the book in the last days; when mankind will be in possession of the record which has been printed and distributed to the masses.
Nephi’s primary audience for his teachings are those who, like us, live in the last days after the Book of Mormon has come to light. Although Nephi’s descendants would have access to these same records, their greatest work and worth would be in the last days. Hence Nephi identifying himself as a “voice of one crying from the dust.”
There is also a secondary meaning. Because Nephi was mortal, he was made of the “dust of the ground.” (Moses 3: 7.) He was a man testifying to the truthfulness, as a witness in mortality, of the great things which exist beyond the veil. He is one of us, and yet able to tell us of things to come. Therefore, his witness is given in mortal weakness, but with the power of God behind it. His own strength is dust. The power of Christ to redeem, however, is without limit.
Three distinct groups are addressed in the message: Nephi’s descendants, called his “beloved brethren.” They are “brethren” rather than “children” because they would descend primarily from his brother’s seed who would overcome his. But there would be a mixture of his among them. So they were his “brethren.”
The second are called “those who are of the house of Israel.” These are the Jews, or others who keep their identity with Israel. Not the gentiles, who have been lost and must gain covenant status one by one, and thereafter live true to the covenant in order to be redeemed. “Those who are of the house of Israel” have been previously identified and discussed by Nephi in the Nephi 28.
The final group is “all ye ends of the earth.” That is, the gentiles, heathen, and those who are not otherwise included even in prophetic mention. All mankind. All the ends of the earth may receive what is offered and attain to covenant status, if they repent, acting no deception, without hypocrisy, following Christ. And all are included in the broad sweep of Nephi’s invitation to come to Christ.
His “farewell” is “until that great day shall come.” That day is when you see the Lord in judgment with Nephi there beside Him. At that time you will be “face to face” with Nephi, accounting for your heed or neglect of his message. He just mentioned that in the prior verses. He now bids you good-by until that moment. So you should look forward to meeting Nephi at this point. Although you need to take his message seriously if you intend to enjoy the moment.
What other prophets have warned us that their message will confront us in the presence of Christ while he, the prophet-messenger, is there with us at the moment of judgment? Nephi is in a very small group of qualified messengers whose words should be taken with soberness and respect. He is a towering figure when measured by the correct standard. We seldom encounter such a man. When we do, we would be well advised to take counsel from him.
What more can he have said to alert us to the importance of his message?
“And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness. And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.”
You judge. You decide. If you don’t believe, Christ will vindicate Nephi’s teachings, and you will learn just how wrong your judgment was. For Nephi will be at the judgment bar with Christ. You will stand “face to face” with Nephi as you stand before Christ. You will see, along with all those who abuse and treat true messengers as “things of naught,” that you have rejected Christ when you rejected His words delivered by one authorized to speak in His name. Nephi invites you to judge his words with the confidence of knowing that he was given power to say all he said. And he had the Lord’s confidence because he didn’t say anything about what the Lord instructed him not to speak about.
You will one day know Nephi was “commanded of [Christ] to write these things.” Nephi was commanded despite his “weakness.” In this context “weakness” is a relative thing. Because Nephi had seen the Lord his perspective allowed him to measure himself against perfection. It allowed him to assess the difference between the Lord as Teacher, and Nephi as servant.
The holiness, majesty and power of God were known to Nephi. He had already had the experience of seeing the absolute standard of holiness in Christ. For most people this will come at the last day, and will result in them understanding, for the first time, that they should have repented. (Mormon 9: 3-5.) Nephi had already been able to reconcile himself to Christ. Therefore Nephi knew of his own “weakness” and of the power of redemption found through Christ.
Nephi’s prayer was for the redemption of all. He hoped that “many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.” Nephi knew he had been redeemed. Yet he identifies with all of us who read his words, and hoped all may be saved.
The measure of a prophet’s ministry is in the salvation of others. Nephi does not celebrate his own redemption. He agonizes over the salvation of others. He labors for the redemption of “many…if not all” of the rest of mankind. This is the pattern. Redemption causes the redeemed to work for the salvation of others. Perhaps it might be better put that the reason someone obtains the kind of redemption Nephi obtained is because they are of a character to work for the redemption of others. There is no reason to withhold the promise of eternal life from them, because others will be redeemed as a result of their redemption. They will labor, preach, teach, intercede, seek, pray, and work tirelessly to bring others to the tree of life. They become a fellow-servant with Christ and labor alongside Him in the work of redeeming others. This is one of the reasons for the parable of The Busy Young Man in Ten Parables.
Nephi is working directly toward redemption of others. There is no secondary or indirect route being taught. There is no attempt to get some kind of “activity” started, or to introduce a program to do anything apart from bringing you to repentance. He wants you to approach Christ directly through the power of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, which will teach you all things you should do. He wants you to hear and speak with the tongues of angels. He does not want to entertain, distract, or emotionally move you. He wants you to come to Christ. Nephi only tells you the minimum about himself, giving only such information as may be relevant to his message concerning Christ. To the extent he is able, Nephi consistently draws your focus to the Lord.
There is great understanding of how a true friend of Christ lives, acts and thinks found in Nephi’s writings. They are a urim and thummim into what you find in a man of God. Imitations will always exist. But the real thing is going to be far more like Nephi than Joel Osteen. More sleeves rolled up and fewer cuff-links.
I do hope we may all join Nephi and are saved in the kingdom at that last day. I hope we recognize how great Nephi’s teachings are, and how they address our day with the message we need to hear and heed.
“And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.”
After the conditional statement warning the gentiles of their need to be reconciled to Christ, Nephi speaks to his “beloved brethren” and the “Jews,” but omits specific mention of the gentiles. Instead he refers to “all ye ends of the earth.” This would include all those who are neither Jew, nor Israelite, nor gentile. This is a lot of people who are called “heathen” because they have little direct prophetic mention. Nephi, for example, only refers to them once in his writings. (2 Nephi 26: 33.) In that single reference Nephi promises all, if they will repent and return to Christ, can be saved. All are invited. All can come. Everyone may learn of Christ, find Him and be saved.
There is a distinction between God’s absolute willingness to accept all who will come to Him, on the one hand, and the prophetic foreknowledge of who would accept the invitation, on the other. The opportunity is open for all. There will be few who will accept.
Nephi’s testimony is based on Christ and employs both Christ’s doctrine and teachings. He assures us as readers that if we are willing to accept his writings we are, in fact, accepting the words of Christ. If you believe Christ, you will believe Nephi. For almost everything Nephi has written comes directly or indirectly from Christ. To believe in Nephi’s words is to believe in Christ, and to believe in Christ is to accept Nephi’s words.
Think about that for a moment. Nephi does not leave you wondering if the message will save you or not, whether he has some special inside information or not, or whether he has seen the Lord or not. He is direct and does not require you to guess. He has not adopted any equivocal or carefully studied words or phrases to tell you about Christ. He is blunt, even plain. His words offend those who are unwilling to surrender their sins and repent. He says what he has written “are the words of Christ.” This means that before he taught, before he wrote, before he concluded his testimony, he consulted with and obtained approval from Christ.
There is nothing vague in Nephi’s warnings, nor unclear in his message.
He openly invites the gentiles to repent. He does so repeatedly. He tells us that with the exception of only a few, we are condemned and will fail in our dispensation. As to those few, he warns us that we will be prone to err because of the things we are taught. (2 Nephi 28: 14.) He offers us a clear, light filled body of teachings that will clarify for us the body of doctrine that will save us. However, we must take his warnings seriously and study them with care.
Imagine how much effort and thought went into preparing to carve into the metal plates. Imagine the amount of thought he employed before undertaking the final, permanent etchings to complete his ministry. His brother commented about how arduous the process was during his writing on the same plates. (Jacob 4: 1.)
Nephi saw our day, and knew how difficult it would be for us. He wrote a message to be preserved and available no matter who would lead us, no matter what messages we would hear, no matter what confusion would develop. He gave us a message to announce the conditions of salvation over the heads of any foolish, vain or false teachings. They are a lifeline extended to the gentiles, as well as his beloved mixed blood descendants (the remnant), and the Jews.
Nephi knows his words will teach anyone who accepts them “to do good.”
The gentile problem is not in reading his words, but in “believing in them.” Gentile interpretation almost always involves unbelief. We do not let his words hold their “plain meaning” but want to construe them, read into them praise, and remove from them the blunt warnings given us. We want to make ourselves justified by the words that warn, condemn and challenge us to do more. Our unbelief separates us from Nephi’s message even as we read his words.
It does no good to argue with him. It does no good to juxtapose his words of counsel and warning with other words of comfort and reassurance. He is alarmed by our condition and warns us to flee from error. We want to read into these words other ideas Nephi never intended.
When we began back with Alma, Chapter 13, it was with the idea we would let the words speak for themselves. We were going to try and see what was being said apart from our own desires or hopes. We’ve been trying to let Nephi have his own words and meanings as we’ve been looking at his teachings, as well.
An inspired teacher will not offer their own words and pretend they come from Christ. They are not going to dare speak in the name of Christ if they offer only their suppositions, hopes, and understanding. They know, as Nephi, that to do so is to take the Lord’s name in vain, and to preach for doctrines the commandments of men. It is often the case, however, that men will urge their own views hoping to make them more convincing, while using the name of Christ. Surely every such teacher will be held to account before Christ for every idle word spoken in His name without His authority or approval.
Nephi knew this doctrine. Nephi understood how weighty a matter is was to use the Lord’s name in connection with teaching doctrine. Nephi writes in the full confidence that the Lord has approved his message, inspired his words, and will vindicate them to those who will believe them.
Personally, I would hardly dare to teach doctrine if I did not know what I say to be true. Nephi’s example is perhaps more important in this respect than in any other. He is surely worthy to be called a “teacher and a ruler” by all of us. (2 Nephi 5: 19.)
-Do we walk in the strait path?
The good news, and the thing we should rejoice over, is that Nephi does
extend to us gentiles an opportunity to be saved. All we must do to join in the blessings is to:
Letting go of all I’ve held onto,
I’m hanging by a moment here with you
Forgetting all I’m lacking
I’ll take your invitation
You take all of me..
Nephi may have gloried in plainness, but we glory in positive messages telling us we will be saved in our sins. Nephi may have gloried in Jesus, but we use His name to endorse our products and ratify our false teachings. Nephi may have urged the plainness of truth itself, but we market based on focus group tested and opinion polled results so our product line should get good market acceptance.
We encounter so much doctrine in Nephi’s writing. It is almost impossible to understand this writer-prophet without some effort to learn the doctrine ourselves. Perhaps we de-emphasize doctrine at the peril of losing the very message Nephi wrote.
The circle has closed and the eternal round is completed. Nephi has godly feelings and godly empathy for a doomed posterity. We behold at last the veil removed. We see such nobility of character, and greatness of soul that we are compelled to accept his role as teacher and ruler. He has taught righteousness all his days. Though his older brothers refused to acknowledge or accept him, we should not. His parting message suggests, however, that more of those who will read his record have the same spirit as Laman and Lemuel than will have the necessary spirit to recognize and “esteem of great worth” what he has provided to us.
Nephi would like to teach us (his readers) all he taught those who lived with him and heard him speak. But he could not. Even the things he was able to etch in the metal record he left was incomplete when compared to the body of teachings he preached to his people.
There is also a significant difference between speaking and writing. When you speak there are many tools of speech – emphasis, movement, presence, and radiation of the Spirit to help the speaker measure the effect of the message on the audience. When Nephi taught by the power of the Holy Ghost, he was able to see how his audience was receiving it. He knew when it penetrated “unto the hearts of the children of men.”
Writing was another matter. Particularly when it would be translated from one language to another before the gentiles would receive the words. The distance and language between Nephi and his audience is so great that Nephi came to the sad realization that a reader who is not already prepared to have the Spirit with them as they read will miss the power of the message.
In their presence Nephi could use the power of the Holy Ghost to affect the spirit of those who were listening. However, a reader separated by language and culture, and more than two millennia would have to have the Spirit first before being able to understand his message.
It was the recognition that many gentiles would read this record without possessing the Spirit that made Nephi acknowledge the gap between his spoken ministry and his written one. Those with “hard hearts” may be affected by his presence and preaching. Those with “hard hearts” who only have his written record, however, are going to “cast things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.” They won’t recognize that they were from God, written by a prophet who knew God, and were the result of a commission to preach given by God. Instead they will think him “a thing of naught.”
Nephi’s message will mean far more to those who are prepared. For those who are not prepared, the message will be meaningless. Nothing. A thing of “naught” to be “cast away.”
That is always the case. The Lord commissions someone with a message and the audience has a role in receiving the message. Powerful public ministries do not convince everyone. Even Nephi failed to convert Laman, Lemuel and the majority of those who were living together at the time of Lehi’s death. Then, immediately upon Nephi’s death, there were struggles in the society he helped found.
The process of salvation is always a work between God, His children, appropriately sent messages, and adversity and opposition. Nephi is reminding us how vital having the Spirit is to the success of understanding his written message. We should ask ourselves often if our hearts are open to receiving truth, no matter how it comes to us, and no matter how it may challenge our presumptions, pride and foolish traditions.
What a terrible thing it will be for some to realize they “esteemed as things of naught” the very words which might have saved them had they given heed.
If you “must not perform any thing unto the Lord” before praying and consecrating it “for the welfare of thy soul,” then how should you proceed? How much thought should you take about the Lord and your relationship with Him daily? How careful should you be about your words, thoughts and works? (Alma 12: 14.) It is again, a reminder that we should always remember Him, and keep His commandments which He has given us, that we may have His Spirit to be with us. (D&C 20: 77.)
You want an authority to tell you.
God’s Spirit will always teach you to pray and to ask Him about the truth. And if you ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, He will manifest the truth unto you. He can tell you the truth of all things if you will ask and permit the Holy Ghost to respond. (Moroni 10: 4-5.)
If you will not humble yourself and ask for this to be made known to you, then you cannot be brought into the light. Then the only result will be to perish in the dark.
If you will follow the steps with the required real intent, acting no deception before God as you do, then you will receive the Holy Ghost. It will be unlocked to tell you what you lack and what you need to do. This inner light is a powerful source which can literally tell “you all things what ye should do.”