2 Nephi 31: 8-9

2 Nephi 31: 8-9:

“Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.  And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.”
 
This is an interesting cause-and-effect. Once Christ was baptized, “the Holy Ghost descended upon Him” as a result of the baptism. Now, true enough an ordinance was instituted by which hands are laid upon a person, post-baptism, where the “gift of the Holy Ghost” is bestowed. This practice was instituted by Christ. (Acts 8: 14-17.) However, in the case of Christ’s own baptism, no hands were put upon Him. He was baptized. The Holy Ghost descended upon Him.

It is clear that baptism is a gate through which all must pass.  Immediately after the ordinance, the Holy Ghost must become the companion of those who are redeemed.

Christ set the example. We are obligated to follow the example.

Receiving baptism without also receiving the Spirit renders the event incomplete. Nephi will explain the essential nature of the Holy Ghost in the redemption process in a few more verses. It is clear that the Holy Ghost is the instrumentality by which redemption itself comes. The Spirit is the guide which will lead back to the Lord’s presence. Without the guide, the doctrine of Christ is incomplete.

The water is something that we must pass through to keep the law.  It is the companionship of the Spirit which makes you justified, by leading you to do what is right. It is the resulting application of Christ’s blood on your behalf that will sanctify you. (Moses 6: 60.) You cannot receive sanctification without first receiving baptism and then also the Holy Ghost.

 
 If there is no other way, and all must comply, then the way is both “strait” and “narrow.”

Christ’s example is the only one for us to follow to obtain hope for our own salvation. He is the “prototype of the saved man” (Lecture 7, Lectures on Faith, paragraph 9). If it was necessary for Him, it is the more necessary for us.

Baptism is one thing, accepting the Holy Ghost is another. The one is objective, and openly visible when the act happens. The other is internal, involving welcoming a member of the Godhead into your life.

I remember kneeling on an Atlantic beach in the cool sand at the setting of the sun on the day of my baptism. The Atlantic is cold in September, and I was chilled from the ordinance, still wet while kneeling, and shivering as the elders began the ordinance.  When, however, they said: “receive the Holy Ghost” I remember becoming warm, beginning at my scalp and flowing downward until my entire body was warm and calm. It was palpable. It was physical. To me the experience was no less dramatic than the descent of the Holy Ghost “in the form of a dove” on the day of Christ’s baptism. It was every bit as objective, as physical and as memorable as any other distinct event in my life.

More importantly, I began to experience the fruits of that event immediately. What followed for me, within the hour of my baptism, was akin to what Joseph and Oliver experienced. (JS-H 1: 73.)  Within days I found also that the scriptures began to have far more distinct and clear meaning than ever before, again just as Joseph and Oliver found. (JS-H 1: 74.)

It was clear to me that the Holy Ghost imparts something altogether more significant than what I alone could do, understand, or accomplish. It expanded capacity, enlightened and informed the mind, and led to understanding things which were unknown and unknowable before.

This process is not just mandatory. It is a far superior way to experience life than to live alone, without God in the world.  (Alma 41: 11.) It is a blessing, a gift. The “gift of the Holy Ghost” is, without question, the great “gift” coming from God to aid us in our return to Him.

2 Nephi 31: 6-7

2 Nephi 31: 6-7:

“And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfill all righteousness in being baptized by water?  Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.”

Although Christ was the one mortal upon whom death could make no claim (He being holy), He nonetheless obeyed the same conditions as everyone else.  Notwithstanding His holiness, His right to face judgment and not be condemned, He set the example. No one else could face the judgment and pass. Therefore, everyone other than Him would require baptism for repentance and remission of their sins. He did not. He determined to obey anyway so everyone could see the strait path by which they can obtain hope.

He was flesh. He was mortal. He could (and did) die. Though death could not claim Him, He was to die. Baptism is the great symbol of death and resurrection, and He is the resurrection. He lived the symbol as well as the reality, so all others could have part in that victory. The symbol to point the way. The reality to open the way. We are in turn “shown the way” by what He did.

He also “witnesses” before “the Father that he would be obedient unto Him.”

Think about the command of understanding Nephi is exhibiting here. He is telling us that Christ’s mortal ministry would include these very specific events for these very specific reasons. This was what he was permitted to tell us. What other information was within his knowledge which he was forbidden from sharing? Does this level of understanding by Nephi tell you something about what can be learned from the Lord if you are diligent in following His path? Why, if you can see what may be available, would you not be willing to do whatever is asked of you in order to receive something similar in your own life?

Well, the foundation of the “doctrine of Christ” begins by seeing Christ’s example, learning of the necessity of baptism and obedience to the will of God.  That is where everyone must begin. If you start right, you are likely to continue in the right way. But if you do not begin aright, then you are not likely to have any ability to return and find the right way. You cannot enter in by some other way. If you enter in the right way, you will begin to recognize the True Shepherd’s voice. (John 10: 1-5.) This is the beginning. It is as important to the doctrine of Christ as all that will follow.

2 Nephi 31: 5

2 Nephi 31: 5:


“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!”

This is a missionary proof text, used to persuade everyone to get baptized. They used it on me. It worked. I got baptized.

How undeniably essential is baptism as a result of this argument? Does it seem to you that if Christ Himself needed to be baptized that without it it would not be possible for anyone to please God? If Christ needed it, then undoubtedly all of Christ’s inferiors need it as well. The only exception seems to be those children who are not accountable, and for whom Christ’s atonement will be applied because of the justice and mercy applied to such unaccountable young souls. (See Moroni 8: 20-22.) They need no baptism. But all of us do.  Without it we have no hope for redemption.

It is indisputable from this verse that baptism is essential. But the question remains “why?”  Why would this ordinance be required for residing in God’s presence in the eternal worlds? We know, of course, that all such matters were ordained before the foundation of the world, and cannot be changed now. (D&C 130: 20-21.) But that does not answer the question of “why?”

Have you ever inquired to know why? It is not answered in scripture. It is only implied.  Sometimes the best place to look for an answer is to go back to the beginning. Reading the account of Adam’s baptism (who was the first to receive the ordinance in mortality) we find a few things. By the water we keep the commandment. (Moses 6: 60.) The first man was taken by the Spirit and baptized, put under the water and brought forth out of the water again.  (Moses 6: 64.) After he had been buried in the water and brought forth again, he was told he had been born again of the Spirit. (Moses 6: 65.) Before any of the ordinance happened, however, Adam was told this: “behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.” (Moses 6: 63.)  Did you catch that?

Just before Adam’s baptism the Lord explains to Adam that the reason for “all things” being as they are is “to bear record of me [meaning Christ].” Baptism is designed to bear testimony of Christ. How so? In what way does baptism tell us about Christ?

Christ died, was buried, and on the third day arose from the dead. (D&C 20: 23.) He said He would do that before His crucifixion. (Mark 8: 31; Luke 18: 33.) His disciples did not understand this prophecy. (Luke 18: 34.)

Baptism is a reenactment of Christ’s death and resurrection. Once you have been placed under the water you are cut off from the breath of life. If you remain under the water for too long, you will die. While there, you are only able to survive by holding your breath. You retain the power to live, if you return to the surface soon enough, but your life is dependent upon the one performing the ordinance. They must lift you back to return you to life. Just as Christ needed the power of His Father, we also need the power of the officiator to raise us back to life. It is as if the life of Christ has been beautifully choreographed. Christ was sent to lay down His life and take it up again. That is what He did. As Joseph Smith explained in the King Follett Discourse: “The scriptures inform us that Jesus said, as the Father hath power in himself, even so hath the Son power—to do what? Why, what the Father did. The answer is obvious—in a manner to lay down his body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again. Do you believe it? If you do not believe it you do not believe the Bible. The scriptures say it, and I defy all the learning and wisdom and all the combined powers of earth and hell together to refute it. Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.”

First we receive an ordinance which shows us the way by symbols. We are shown the way back to redemption and resurrection, but must see it with the eyes of faith, before we behold it as it truly is. (Ether 12: 19.) If we are to rise from the dead and have eternal life in Christ, we must first enact that event through the ordinance which points to the reality of our future rise from the dead.

Ordinances are the preliminary act, designed to bear testimony of the real event. They are not the real thing, but a “type” of the real thing. They must be seen through the eyes of faith (Ether 12: 19) to allow us to gain the faith necessary to obtain the real thing. Before you are resurrected in a whole, complete and glorified fashion you must first voluntarily agree to enact that future event, looking forward in faith to that future day. Before you enter into the Lord’s presence, you must first enact that in the Temple, looking forward in faith to that future day.

All things point to Christ. However, only those who have the faith to see within them the underlying reality with the “eyes of faith” will obtain to the final promises and covenants intended for all of us to obtain.

2 Nephi 31: 4

2 Nephi 31: 4:


“Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.”

This puts us back into the narrative Nephi wrote much earlier in his first book. He described this in 1 Nephi 11: 27. Although the Lord’s mortal ministry was future, and separated by more than half-a-millennium, Nephi witnessed it. The Lord is able to make witnesses of His mortal ministry even of someone who lived at another time and place, as He has done with Nephi.

During that vision, Nephi saw more than the Lord’s mortal ministry. He was shown the entire history of the world through the end of time.  However, Nephi was only permitted to bear selective testimony of what he saw. Others were given responsibility for testifying to portions of what Nephi saw, but was not permitted to record. He saw it all. He was to record only some of what he saw. He was told at a certain point that the responsibility for recording it became John the Beloved’s and not Nephi’s. (See 1 Nephi 14: 19-28.) Nephi saw it, John the Beloved saw it, and others, including Isaiah, also saw it. (1 Nephi 14: 26). I’ve explained this in Nephi’s Isaiah.

Here Nephi returns to the Lord’s baptism to begin an explanation of “the doctrine of Christ” ( 2 Nephi 31: 2) so that Nephi’s testimony refocuses the reader on the path required for salvation. Since Nephi’s primary reason for writing is to save others, he cannot finish without a final direct appeal for all to understand the “doctrine of Christ.”

What is the difference between “the doctrine of Christ” and the “Gospel of Jesus Christ?” How do they relate to one another?

Here Nephi has linked together four distinct thoughts: First he has 1) already described the prophet which 2) the Lord had shown to Nephi. This was the earlier vision described above. That prophet 3) should baptize the Lamb of God during the Lord’s mortal ministry. The Lord, who is the Lamb of God 4) should take away the sins of the world.

This is a specific time and setting. It involves a specific event and two persons: John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Nephi has seen the event, and reminds us of it as a baseline from which to reconstruct the “doctrine of Christ.”

Remember that the Jews who confronted John the Baptist did not ask him what ordinance he was performing. They did not ask why he was performing the ordinance. They only asked what authority permitted him to be performing an ordinance which they already understood and undoubtedly already practiced. Why would John baptize if he were not Christ, or Elias (in that context meaning Elijah), or another returning prophet who already had the authority. ( John 1: 19-28.) The inquisitors already understood the ordinance.

Baptism was a pre-Christian ordinance. Because of historic interests which conflict with one another, both the Jews and the Christians downplay or ignore that truth.

Look at the wording above and ask yourself:  Why, when the vision is shown to Nephi, is Christ identified as “the Lord?” Then, when Nephi beholds His baptism, why does he refer to Christ as “the Lamb of God?” The same person, at first identified as “the Lord,” and then identified as “the Lamb of God.” Why these two identities? Why would it be so clear to Nephi that the Lord holds these two identities that he would use them in this single verse to make Christ’s identity and deeds clear to the reader? How do the different names/titles help us to better understand Christ?

Why is a pre-Christian prophet commissioned to know and write about these things? Why would the Nephite descendants from the time of this writing through the time of Moroni all be entitled to know about this event? What importance is it for us to understand this about Christ?

Well, let’s push further into the “doctrine of Christ” to see what it may persuade us to do or believe.

2 Nephi 31: 3

2 Nephi 31: 3:

“For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.”
 
This raises an interesting side issue.  Nephi’s explanation of how God speaks to different people “according to their language” is something worth explaining. We have a great example in the visit of John the Baptist to Joseph and Oliver found in JS-H 1: 68-70 and Oliver’s account in the footnote there. The language they quote from John the Baptist is phrased differently by each of them, although both are quoting the angel. Angel’s leave an impression. Notwithstanding Joseph Fielding Smith’s teaching that memory from such things fade with time, my experience tells me quite the contrary. Such things are distinct and memorable. Often, if you need to hear a quote, the person who received it can quote word-for-word what they were told many years later; particularly when the quote is a declarative statement of what is to be or what is conferred. When, therefore, Joseph and Oliver give two different accounts of the quote, I understand this not to be a contradiction, but an example of the thing Nephi is referring to in this verse.
The communication of angels is not usually verbal in the traditional sense of verbal communication. That is, no air is being vibrated. Rather, the form the communication takes is for the angel to “speak” by delivering to the mind of the person spoken to the concept or declaration to be understood.  Then the person, receiving the concept or declaration into their mind, is obliged to  convert into words the message received. If the vocabulary of the recipient is German, they will use German to reduce the message to words. If English, they will use English. If their vocabulary is rich and complex, the words may be more exact. If their vocabulary is simple, the words may be simple.
However one comes into the presence of God or His angelic ministers, once there, the thoughts that come to the person will conform to their understanding, their vocabulary, their manner of phrasing. The underlying purpose is always the same: to make the communication plain to the understanding of the person visited. 
 
It is also true that the Lord “giveth light unto the understanding” and does so according to the heed and diligence we give to what we have already received. (Alma 12: 9, see also D&C 50: 24.) We cannot understand some things even if they are explained to us if we do not have the necessary light to permit that understanding. Light and truth attract one another.
When we approach God, we do so by degrees not merely by study. We find ourselves gaining light that quickens our understanding. What we cannot understand at first, gains clarity only after a period of living true to the things we already have. 
 
The commandments are not something we follow to please God, but something we do to understand God. Living true to what we believe He expects of us, allows us to gain an appreciation for what kind of Being He truly is. In that sense, the commandments are not so much burdens to bear, but revelations to understand. The greatest understanding, of course, does not lie in strict conformity to the letter of any law or commandment, but the insight obtained from the underlying principle you discover as you follow it. Commandments should soften or break your heart, not harden it. When a commandment hardens the heart of the follower, they have misunderstood the commandment altogether. This was the case with the accusers of Christ, who followed the underlying intent with perfection, while breaking the superficial requirements regularly.
 
None of it will become “plain” to the follower until they have done and understood what the commandments were attempting to reveal to them. When, however, you encounter a Nephi, you have someone who now sees the issues plainly. It was meant for us all to see them plainly.

2 Nephi 31: 2

“Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying.”
Nephi has been pondering for over four decades about the great revelations given to him in the Arabian Peninsula. (2 Nephi 4: 16 and 2 Nephi 5: 34.) His creation of, and inscription on the plates were after these long deliberations and reflections.

When he says “the things which I have written sufficeth me,” he is putting a punctuation mark on his plates. He is saying he has finished his ministry, finished his prophecy. He has refined and set out his message in a deliberate, careful way. These books of Nephi are not internet blogs undertaken daily. They are not rapid-fire responses, nor stream-of-consciousness statements. They were planned for the ages. Born from pondering, inspired by revelation, described as prophecy by the author, and filled with light and truth if considered with care by any reader. Nephi’s pronouncement that they “sufficeth me” is a powerful statement by an aging prophet.

Years of preparation and reflection allow him to “speak plainly” to us. There’s no need to be vague. No reason to hide our plight from us. He wants us to understand. When he attempts to “speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying,” we read into it the wrong definitions, associate his words with others who will never read the book, and consider ourselves blessed and vindicated instead of condemned, and called to repentance. We do that a lot. What good is it to read things which tell you to be proud?  Why follow a religion that tells you you’ve no reason to repent? Everyone but you is going to hell, right? (Alma 31: 17-18.) Because so long as you remain affiliated with the broad mainstream of your church, God will save you. And if there’s any hint of error, He will beat you with a few stripes and all will be well. Nephi has already condemned that as an error, hasn’t he? (2 Nephi 28: 8.)

If his words were plain and intended to be taken at face value, why read into them justification for yourself and your sins? Why think they condemn everyone but you?  Why are they speaking in disparaging terms about those who will never have the book? Why did Nephi write a book condemning only those who will never read it? Surely, if he was in fact “plain” in his meaning, then we ought not read anything into it other than what it says and how it says it. It must be a message to us.
If it is addressed to us, then we have more than one “wo” pronounced upon us by Nephi. We have been warned. We need to change what we are doing. The gentiles with whom we are identified (D&C 109: 60) are collectively condemned. We need to separate ourselves by our behavior from theirs. We need to repent.

Now, just in case you think, as a recent comment has asserted, that the Lord has sent another message vindicating us as a collective gentile body/church in D&C 1: 30, I would remind you that revelation came from the Lord in 1831. In the following year the Lord gave another revelation that put the church under condemnation. (D&C 84: 54-58.) We know that condemnation was not lifted, because of President Benson and Elder Oaks. 

More troubling still is the Lord’s threat to reject the gentile church altogether in January of 1841 if the church did not follow His strict appointment and complete building a temple in the time He provided. (D&C 124: 31-32.) The warning was given that even if the temple were built, we would still be condemned if we failed to do what He said. (D&C 124: 47-48.)
Did we keep the appointment given us? The Nauvoo Temple was not completed before Joseph Smith died. The endowment was not completed by Joseph, but Brigham Young was told he had to finish it. (See this post dated June 30 titled 1 Nephi 13: 33-34.) Did we keep the appointment? Have we been able to avoid being rejected as a church? Have our covenants been fulfilled?

Why do we repeat endlessly the praise from 1831 but ignore the threatened rejection that came in 1841? From January of 1841, until Joseph’s death in June of 1844, we had three and a half years to complete the Nauvoo Temple. Was that “sufficient time” to do what was required of us? If so, we did not complete it. Why was Joseph taken?  Was that any indication about when the “sufficient time” expired? If so, what then?  Where would that leave us?

Is our best hope to be found in the messages and warnings of the Book of Mormon? Can there be gentiles found who will believe its message? How carefully ought we study it?

Did you know the church had almost no use for the Book of Mormon until Hugh Nibley’s efforts? (You know that if you’ve read Eighteen Verses.) Hugh Nibley, by his efforts beginning in the 1950’s, practically discovered the Book of Mormon for the church. He’s gone now.

Even though Moses was taken from ancient Israel, and with him the authority of the priesthood, (see D&C 84: 25-26) the ancient Israelites remained the Lord’s people. He still worked through them and sent them messengers from time to time. These messengers were rarely the High Priest. Although in Samuel’s case he displaced the High Priest.  (1 Samuel 3: 1-21.) They were sent from time to time. Their qualifications were private, as the Lord told Moses they would be. (Numbers 12: 6.) I have no doubt Hugh Nibley was sent to us. If you’ve paid close attention, his departure has created an intellectual collapse at the center of the faith, with various egos contending to be noticed. They aspire to put upon them Hugh Nibley’s mantle. They are not made of the same stuff, called with the same calling, nor endowed with the same capacities.

I doubt we’ll see someone like him again. Perhaps we may someday see someone with an equally important message, but among those born in this dispensation, there is none to compare to Brother Nibley.

Well, now we’re off-point again. So back to Nephi…

2 Nephi 31: 1

 
And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you, my beloved brethren. And I cannot write but a few things, which I know must surely come to pass; neither can I write but a few of the words of my brother Jacob.”
 
Don’t make any mistakes, Nephi was a prophet. He knew he was a prophet. He also knew his testimony and explanations were indeed prophesy. So, in case you were wondering, here he removes any doubt. He is “making an end of my prophesying unto you.” And he identifies “you” to mean his “beloved brethren.” Who would that be? Could gentiles be included as his “beloved brethren?” What would a gentile have to do or be in order to qualify for that description? They why aren’t you doing that?
 
Why “cannot” he “write but a few things” further? Is there a limit put upon his prophecy for us? (1 Nephi 14: 28.) Would he have liked to have said more? Does he assure us what he did write is true and complete as far as permitted to be written? (1 Nephi 14: 30.)
 
What does it mean that he knows it “must surely come to pass?”  How can he know that? What does it mean about the information we have in his record? How closely was the information given in conformity with what the Lord wanted him to reveal? How seriously should we take the record or prophecy of Nephi?
 
Why does Nephi refer again to his brother Jacob? What did Nephi and Jacob have in common in their faith and knowledge? (2 Nephi 11: 2-3.) What does this imply about the validity of their testimony, their prophecy, their commission to deliver words of warning? What level of attention should their words attract from us? If we give them strict heed, will they lead us in the way of life and salvation?
 
As he ends his record, an aging and dying prophet, whose journey began on another continent is pleading to us to save ourselves. He has been such a significant source of faith in moments of despair, that when the Lord was reminding Joseph Smith of faith in troubled times, He drew directly from Nephi’s life. Joseph was in Liberty Jail, abandoned by force of arms by his people, who had been evicted from Missouri. The governor had ordered the extermination of Mormons if they remained. Joseph’s people had been killed, mobbed, evicted, driven in the snow from Missouri, their property pillaged, their women abused, and their houses burned. In a dungeon cell, Joseph was lamenting his plight. He felt abandoned by the Saints, and by God. As he pled for relief, the Lord told him to face adversity without complaint, because it would ultimately be for his good. When the Lord spoke and reminded Joseph of moments of despair over which faith and hope triumphed, one of the moments used was taken from Nephi’s life:

“if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (See, 1 Nephi 18: 13-16.)
 
It was no accident that the 116 pages were lost, compelling the use of Nephi’s full record to begin the Book of Mormon. It was a “wise purpose” indeed. (Wds. of Mormon 1: 6-7.) These words were always destined to come to us unabridged, from the hand of Nephi unaltered, translated by the gift and power of God into our language by Joseph Smith. Now they confront us, inform us, elevate us, warn us and deliver to us the means of obtaining the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2 Nephi 31: 1

 
And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you, my beloved brethren. And I cannot write but a few things, which I know must surely come to pass; neither can I write but a few of the words of my brother Jacob.”
 
Don’t make any mistakes, Nephi was a prophet. He knew he was a prophet. He also knew his testimony and explanations were indeed prophesy. So, in case you were wondering, here he removes any doubt. He is “making an end of my prophesying unto you.” And he identifies “you” to mean his “beloved brethren.” Who would that be? Could gentiles be included as his “beloved brethren?” What would a gentile have to do or be in order to qualify for that description? They why aren’t you doing that?
 
Why “cannot” he “write but a few things” further? Is there a limit put upon his prophecy for us? (1 Nephi 14: 28.) Would he have liked to have said more? Does he assure us what he did write is true and complete as far as permitted to be written? (1 Nephi 14: 30.)
 
What does it mean that he knows it “must surely come to pass?”  How can he know that? What does it mean about the information we have in his record? How closely was the information given in conformity with what the Lord wanted him to reveal? How seriously should we take the record or prophecy of Nephi?
 
Why does Nephi refer again to his brother Jacob? What did Nephi and Jacob have in common in their faith and knowledge? (2 Nephi 11: 2-3.) What does this imply about the validity of their testimony, their prophecy, their commission to deliver words of warning? What level of attention should their words attract from us? If we give them strict heed, will they lead us in the way of life and salvation?
 
As he ends his record, an aging and dying prophet, whose journey began on another continent is pleading to us to save ourselves. He has been such a significant source of faith in moments of despair, that when the Lord was reminding Joseph Smith of faith in troubled times, He drew directly from Nephi’s life. Joseph was in Liberty Jail, abandoned by force of arms by his people, who had been evicted from Missouri. The governor had ordered the extermination of Mormons if they remained. Joseph’s people had been killed, mobbed, evicted, driven in the snow from Missouri, their property pillaged, their women abused, and their houses burned. In a dungeon cell, Joseph was lamenting his plight. He felt abandoned by the Saints, and by God. As he pled for relief, the Lord told him to face adversity without complaint, because it would ultimately be for his good. When the Lord spoke and reminded Joseph of moments of despair over which faith and hope triumphed, one of the moments used was taken from Nephi’s life:

“if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (See, 1 Nephi 18: 13-16.)
 
It was no accident that the 116 pages were lost, compelling the use of Nephi’s full record to begin the Book of Mormon. It was a “wise purpose” indeed. (Wds. of Mormon 1: 6-7.) These words were always destined to come to us unabridged, from the hand of Nephi unaltered, translated by the gift and power of God into our language by Joseph Smith. Now they confront us, inform us, elevate us, warn us and deliver to us the means of obtaining the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2 Nephi 30: 18

“Wherefore, all things which have been revealed unto the children of men shall at that day be revealed; and Satan shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more, for a long time. And now, my beloved brethren, I make an end of my sayings.”


The truth will be revealed. But truth of this nature will involve something else. Satan will have no power. When we gather enough light and truth, Satan’s influence and power ends. We find that Satan is “cast out” because he can no longer deceive.


His primary tool is the lie. When there is enough truth, there is no longer any reason to believe or teach a lie. Therefore, he has lost power.


His secondary tool is the lusts and appetites of the flesh. When these are controlled, he is rendered completely ineffective. He is bound.


Once the lies are exposed and the appetites of the flesh are subdued, the hearts of men are freed from captivity. Nephi is describing a future day when this will be the the common situation for mankind.


Of course, this doesn’t have to be a future day. It is possible to gain enough light and truth today so the lies are exposed to your view. It is also possible to subdue the appetites of the flesh. In any event, the desires, appetites and passions ought to be kept within the bounds which the Lord prescribes. We say that, but we don’t often do that. Most people are not willing to actually subdue their desires, passions and appetites. It seems weird to suppress the desire for revenge, to actually turn the other cheek, and to return good for evil. In short, it would appear the Savior’s conduct in willingly going to His death without accepting Peter’s offer to use the sword in His defense was a bit nutty. At least from the perspective of the damned. (They can’t even stop watching pornography. Latter-day “Saint” indeed. What’s saintly about the vengeful, lustful, and gluttonous? But that’s an aside…)


Binding Satan so he has no “power over the hearts of the children of men” is an interesting phrase. Why “power?” Why “power over the hearts?” Why “children of men” rather than sons of God? (See the dialogue between Moses and Satan where Moses refers to himself as a “son of God” but Satan calls him a “son of man” in Moses 1: 12-13.) Isn’t that interesting? 


Why is it that such power over the hearts of the children of men will be lost? It is as if entry into a Telestial World will bring about the binding of Satan, even before becoming a “son of God,” and beginning the final journey into the Lord’s presence. This is interesting – as if Nephi understood the Temple itself. (2 Nephi 5: 16.)


Satan’s power is lost for a “long time” but not forever. Why? How will Satan be loosed again?  (Rev. 20: 7; D&C 43: 31; D&C 88: 110.) I’ve described this event and the reasons in “The Great Competition” in Ten Parables.


The final phrase is because Nephi was through with his message for a while. He may have intended to take his writing up again, but the final phrase indicates he was done for the time. We cannot tell how long it was between the last verse of Chapter 30 and the first verse of Chapter 31. When he takes up his writing again, he is clearly ending his ministry. How long he took to compose his final thoughts is undisclosed. But this will be an old man, finishing his mortal warning to us.


Let’s take a look at it…

2 Nephi 30:16-17

“Wherefore, the things of all nations shall be made known; yea, all things shall be made known unto the children of men.  There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed; there is no work of darkness save it shall be made manifest in the light; and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed.”

This is another confirmation by Nephi of what was written before. The Nephites will have the records of the Jews and lost tribes of Israel, and the Jews and the lost tribes will have the records of the Nephites. “The things of all nations” will include these various Divine messages and teachings given to the various nations/people of the earth. The “children of men” in that day will have available to them the records that allow them to see how the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. They will realize that these distant echoes of the Gospel which appear in other faiths, traditions and sacred texts were, at one time, an authentic communication from the Lord or His servants.

So much of what appears to contradict will be found to have a common root. The things that have been sealed and kept from public discourse will become part of the public dialogue. We will not have the same requirement for “secrets” to be kept. But “nothing which is secret” will remain so. It will all “be revealed.”

When the truth is unsealed, so are the conspiracies, the foolishness and the ambitions that have worked to keep the truth from becoming known. None of the “work of darkness” which has been afoot will be kept from public view, but “it shall be manifest in the light.” Whatever excuses men have had to suppress the truth, deny the Spirit, and employ the “arm of flesh” as their guide will be exposed for what they are. They will put on display. The wisdom of the wise will be seen for the foolishness it was. The strength of man’s arm, the studied foolishness gained from social sciences, opinion polling, focus groups and other attempts to figure out where the ignorant are going and jump in front of the trend to feign leadership, will be seen for what it was. The endless praise and adoration given to these foolish and weak political, governmental, business, educational and “moral” leaders will be seen for what it was.

Oh the wisdom of God and the foolishness of men! When men are educated they think they are wise. (2 Nephi 9: 28.) All the studied ignorance of men will be recognized as foolishness, rather than as wisdom as it is now. (1 Cor. 3: 19.) Then the fools will at last shut their mouths and cease to thunder out their errors. (Isa. 52: 15.)

You can almost feel Nephi’s relief as he contemplates this outcome. The final vindication of the truth. The final conquest of the foolishness of men. It is consoling to consider that this odd and corrupt world we find ourselves in will at some point finally end. The truth will be vindicated. The errors and evil we enshrine in our institutions and art will collapse. We will emerge from behind the scales of darkness covering our eyes and at last see things as they are in the light of heaven.

…I’m thinking the most common reaction will be “oops” or some four letter equivalent…

You realize you can fix that today, right? You know the Gospel intends to take you out of this fallen world and into that kind of light even now, right? That was what Christ was trying to do all along. That is why He’s provided the scriptures (primarily the Book of Mormon for us) to help us catch on before the terrible end is upon us. So you can do something about all this.
Or you can think it just “weird,” remain as you are, and enjoy the decline. ‘Cuz lotsa folks is do’in just that, ya know…

2 Nephi 30: 11-15



“And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.  And then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling, together; and a little child shall lead them.  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”


These words, again borrowed from Isaiah, are familiar to all of us. The time frame puts it inside the larger Nephi prophecy regarding the fulfillment of covenants made to the “fathers.”


What is interesting for us is the narrative of end-of-times peace and return of righteousness. This includes a “people of God” returning to inhabit the earth set inside the Book of Mormon narrative prophecy. The Book of Mormon remnant figure centrally into the progression. It (the book) comes forth, and from that time until the fulfillment of the return of righteousness and peace, the book’s involvement is central. The gentiles receive custody of it. Don’t do much with it. Some few actually believe it. They will eventually take it to the remnant. The remnant begin to come onboard with their conversion. They increase, the gentiles decrease, the momentum builds. The gentiles ultimately get swept away, while the remnant begin to grow into the fullness of the Gospel in all its rights, ordinances, and return to the knowledge of Christ.


As the culmination of these trends, which begin small, but gain momentum as they roll forth, we see the final product for what it was always intended to become: Zion. Once the stone cut out of the mountain without hands begins to roll forth, it will not stop until it has filled the whole earth.


Among those who are destined to fulfill these events, they will “not hurt nor destroy in all” the Lord’s “holy mountain.” What does it mean to “not hurt?” What does it mean to “not destroy?”  Why a “holy mountain?”


The earth itself will be “full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” What “knowledge of the Lord” is referred to here? How completely does the water cover the sea?  Will there be any need for one man to say to another “know ye the Lord” in that day, or will all who remain know Him? (Jer. 31: 34; D&C 84: 96-99.)


We imagine that day, but do not live for it. We think ourselves qualified to be part of that group. But ask yourself, do you make others hurt? Do others who hurt find relief from their pain by what you are willing to suffer, without returning evil for evil, but good for evil? Or do you believe such ideas to be “weird?” Because they are, indeed, for all we do, all we say, all we live and all we are, so alien to us that they are weird indeed.


From inside that culture, looking back at us and our time, reading our foolishness, observing our entertainment, they will think us more than “weird.” They will think us utterly insane.  And they will be right. We are the madmen, claiming ourselves to be righteous, while dwelling in raw sewage and celebrating revenge, discord, hatred and anger. We speak of Zion while marketing Babylon. We ask “what will sell” before we undertake any project. We study the trends of the fallen, wicked and perverse in order to adapt our faith, our words, and our conversations to appeal to Babylon. The social statistics of Latter-day Saints run about 7 years behind the larger population.
We’re all headed to hell, but console ourselves that we remain “peculiar” because we are slower in our descent than the larger population. It never occurs to us that a complete break will be needed.


The Lord plans to provide that break. The question then will be whether we join with those who lament the fall of Babylon (Rev. 18: 9-11), or among those who will rejoice at the coming of Zion (D&C 84: 96-102.) Perspective is affected by what our hearts value. Unfortunately, the choice is “either-or,” and not both. (Luke 16: 13.)


Well this is indeed “getting weird”…

2 Nephi 30: 9-10

2 Nephi 30: 9-10:

“And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire.”
 
Nephi quotes Isaiah to weave a second witness into this end-of-times description of the Lord’s agenda.
 
Righteousness for the poor. Equity for the meek. Smiting for the earth. Death to the wicked. For the poor, why “righteousness?” For the meek, why “equity?” For the earth, why shall it be “smitten?” What is the “rod of His mouth” to be used to smite the earth?
 
For the wicked, it is the “breath of His lips” which will slay. Have you considered what this means? Why His “breath” when that is the mechanism that brings life to Adam, (Gen. 2: 7) and the Spirit to His disciples? (John 20: 22) Does the word “breath” imply the converse of bringing life, and the removal of the Holy Spirit? If so, how do those ideas affect the meaning of the Lord’s decision to “slay the wicked?” In what sense will they be “slain?”
 
What does it mean that “the time speedily cometh?” From what point is the measure taken to decide the “speed” of His coming? Is it from Nephi’s prophecy, or from the time in which the prophecy is set?
 
What does it mean there will be “caused a great division?”  How would that “division” manifest itself? Is it first spiritual, then physical? Or is it both from the start? If it is first a great spiritual division, followed at some point in a physical gathering together of these two groups into separate locations, how would it unfold?
 
How will the wicked be “destroyed?” (Mormon 4: 5.) Will they also be able to destroy the people whom the Lord identifies as “His people?” (1 Ne. 22: 16.)
 
What does it mean that the Lord “will spare His people, yea, even if it so be that He must destroy the wicked by fire?” Is that true?  Would the Lord personally intervene to protect His people? Has He done anything like that before? If so, when? Why? Can He still do that today? In a time of tremendous upheaval and destruction, can He selectively preserve His people? (3 Nephi 9: 1-13.) What protection is there from such forces of destruction?
 
Have you noticed how things seem to be speeding up?  Business cycles that used to take generations now play themselves out in a few years. Political dynasties are crumbling and institutions which were once impervious to change are being forced to change. Cultural norms are changing so quickly that change is itself the new culture.  The days seem to be shortening, don’t they. (Matt. 24: 22; JS-Matt. 1: 20.)

2 Nephi 30: 7-8

2 Nephi 30: 7-8:

“And it shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ shall also become a delightsome people.  And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth.”

Nephi has circled back and is reiterating his earlier prophecy, assuring us that this is the order, these are the priorities and this work is indeed universal.

The scattered Jews will begin to believe in Christ, and as they do they will be gathered again. These will also be among the people destined to become “delightsome” as a result of the Gospel.

Again, we have the reminder of the universal nature of this work. Every nation, kindred, tongue and people will be invited. The invitation is to result in a “restoration of His people upon the earth.” That is, the purpose of the creation was to produce God’s people. By and large that hasn’t happened.

From the rebellion of Adam’s children, through the almost universal rebellion at the time of Noah, mankind has been unwilling to become His people. The times when we find a “people of God” upon the earth is the exception, not the rule.

The desire to see Zion return is not the same thing as seeing its return.

I sometimes wonder if people who speak of Zion have any clue of the tremendous gulf between what that will require and who we are as a people. Having a vocabulary is not the same thing as having the heart to produce Zion.

How do people live with one another in peace?  Without any poor among them? While seeking the best interest of all, and without ambition. Why would we believe we can get that great task done in a short effort in our day? There is no precedent living in anything like Zion, in this or the last seven generations.

Having the Gospel understood is the first step, of course. As a group, there is such a poor command of the scriptures that we have some considerable study before us. Passing familiarity with some scriptures is not of much use. They are the standard given to us to help reveal the basis for becoming a covenant people.

I notice how the subject of “calling and election” gets mentioned from time to time.  It would be better to learn about the fundamentals of the Gospel that we are not living than to attempt to understand what lies at the end of the struggle.

Losing ourselves implies something quite distant from the self-centered worry that grows out of not knowing your standing before God. The first step is to pray in sincerity, asking God to soften your heart that you may believe. The steps Nephi followed are described in first few chapters of The Second Comforter. Those steps are not given to us merely to contemplate. They are given for us to follow.

As we see Nephi wrapping up his two books of scripture, he turns to the distant view of a return upon the earth of a “people of God.”  We could have been that people. We even fancy ourselves as being likely to be among such a people. But if we lived that kind of life, we would already associate with such beings here, in the flesh. We would know we have part with them, because we would be associating with heaven now, as they will do then.

There is no one else who you need to look to other than the Lord. There is enough revealed in the Book of Mormon to tell you what you must do to become part of His people. You don’t need me, or a program, or a leader, other than Christ. He has offered the opportunity for each of us to become part of His people.

Well, onward still….

2 Nephi 30: 6

 
“And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people.”

Once the remnant is in possession of the Gospel, they will “rejoice.” What does that mean? What form would “rejoicing” take as a result of receiving the Gospel?

What does it mean to “know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God?” How would they recognize that?

What are the “scales of darkness” which cover eyes? How would the scales have been over their eyes in the first place? What does it mean to have the scales “begin to fall from their eyes?” Does “begin to fall” mean something about a gradual process, rather than a single quick event? How do scales continue to remain in place, even as they “begin to fall?” What does that imply about the difficulty in overcoming errors because of false understanding or traditions? Even the remnant will struggle to fully remove the “scales of darkness.”

Why are there “not many generations” involved in this process? Do you need “generations” to pass away in order to fully remove darkness?

Why is it not possible to accomplish this in a single generation?

If the Lord’s purposes in redeeming the remnant will take “not many generations” then why do we think we can accomplish it in one? How gradual a process is involved?

What does it mean to become a “pure and delightsome people?” (For many editions of the Book of Mormon, this phrase used to be, “white and delightsome.” It was changed back to the original, “pure” rather than “white” in the 1980 edition.)

 
Why does purity and being “delightsome” to the Lord go together?

If this process is going to involve “not many generations” then how far away are we from this unfolding?

When we read prophecy like this, we should realize we are looking at unfolding history from the Lord’s perspective.  We want to know what will happen in our single lifetime. We are impatient. He is interested in having us know the truth.

Nephi’s prophecy gives us a perspective that helps put our own time into context. We are in a hurry. History is not. There is a great deal left to do. There is a great deal left to happen. Nephi is letting us see this lengthy agenda.

2 Nephi 30: 4-5

“And then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews.  And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.”
Once the remnant obtain a copy of the Book of Mormon, from a believing gentile hand, they will realize they are originally come out of Jerusalem.  They will realize also that they are “descendants of the Jews.” 

It comes full circle. Those who were lost have returned again. The “prodigal” will return.  (Luke 15: 11-32.) There will be joy at the return.

This will happen as a preliminary to “the gospel of Jesus Christ [being] declared among them.” The Gospel being declared requires a true message, true messengers, authority, and ordinances. That will follow the remnant receiving the Book of Mormon. To what extent the gentiles bring those things and to what extent it will require heaven’s direct involvement, remains to be seen. But when the remnant reconnects, they will reconnect in every respect. The “gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them!”
As a result of these events, the remnant “shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers.” What does it mean to be restored? What knowledge? Which fathers? The Nephites, and Lehi, or to the earlier “fathers” as well? Does this include Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

What does it mean they will be “also [restored] to the knowledge of Jesus Christ?”  What does this “knowledge” involve? What kind of relationship with Christ does this imply?

If we wonder at the “knowledge” the remnant will obtain, we have a parallel given to us: The future remnant knowledge of Christ shall be akin to that “which was had among their fathers.” Meaning they will grow to know what the earlier Nephite disciples and peoples knew. What kind of knowledge does that include?

When the right target receives the right Gospel, the results are dramatic. When the wrong group is entrusted with the Gospel, they tend to let it atrophy, grow dim, and become a social order without the power of godliness. The restoration was intended to cure that problem. But as with any gift from God, we must do more than to “take no thought but to ask.” (D&C 9: 6-7.) We must pursue knowledge and act with alacrity when it is given.
If we do not do this, then the result is not a blessing, but a cursing. (D&C 124: 47-48.) No matter what we are offered by the Lord, we must act consistent with His will to receive the blessings offered. When we fail to fulfill the obligation He appoints to us, then we fail to obtain what was offered. (D&C 124: 31-32.)
Once they have been given the gospel, the remnant will not fail. Their reconnection will be as a nail in a sure place, not to be moved. Their knowledge will grow into the perfect day, just as it might with anyone who is willing to receive what Christ offers.  (D&C 50: 24.) Noon at the summer solstice is a symbol of the perfect day. This year, in contrast, at midnight of the winter solstice there will be an eclipse. This would be a symbol in the heavens of the opposite of the perfect day.  When it arrives it undoubtedly is a sign relevant to the time. (Those things are never accidents or mere happenstance.)

The ideas begin to accumulate. Darkness and light. Free will and acceptance of what is offered by God. So many divergent roads that are offered in place of the one that remains strait and narrow, but nevertheless in a straight course before you. (2 Nephi 9: 41.)