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Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 4

Jacob’s first recorded sermon identifies what concerns him. It is the “welfare of souls” (2 Ne. 6: 3) and “things which are, and which are to come” (2 Ne. 6: 4.) The definition of truth is knowledge of things which are, which were, and which are to come. (D&C 93: 24.) Jacob is interested in teaching truth. But the truth he wants to focus on is the present and future of his people.

He identifies Isaiah as speaking “concerning all the house of Israel” (2 Ne. 6: 5) and therefore they can be likened to the Nephites. Then he turns to the Gentiles and places them in the future role of “bringing thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.” (2 Ne. 6: 6.) In the dismal future of Nephite destruction by the Gentiles, there is still a more distant day when Gentile efforts will become helpful, not destructive. When that happens, the Gentile fortunes are reversed, and they will “bow down to [the Nephite remnant] with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of [Nephite] feet.” (2 Ne. 6: 7.) So the cataclysm which befalls the Nephites will also befall their Gentile vanquishers. They will be brought down to the dust as well.

Jacob also reports to his audience “the Lord has shown unto me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried  away captive.” (2 Ne. 6: 8.) Jacob must have asked to be shown. He asked and was shown, and therefore he knew his family had left Jerusalem in time to avert death or captivity. Jacob was born after they left Jerusalem; but he knew about it, inquired to know, and was shown their destruction.

This reaffirms how the departure by Lehi and the destruction of Jerusalem was inter-related. The Lord uses ‘just-in-time’ scheduling of events more often than not. There is no need to flee until the moment when the destruction is about to begin. Nor is there a need to begin the rainfall before the ark is completed. Nor is there a need to send down fire to consume the offering until the altar is built, the sacrifice offered, the water poured on the offering, and the prayer completed. (1 Kings 18: 31-38.) Timing is always the Lord’s.

Jacob also leaves nothing to the imagination of his audience. He tells them the Messiah will come to Jerusalem, will be scourged there, and will be crucified by them. Jacob knows this “according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me.” (2 Ne. 6: 9.) From this we see Jacob’s pre-sermon preparation does not consist of gathering together thoughts and quotes from poets or philosophers. He consults with angels and dispenses information from heaven. Here is a source which is to be trusted. When speaking of Jerusalem’s destruction, it comes from the Lord’s showing him, and of the Messiah’s mission. It comes from the angel’s speaking to him.

We think it an odd thing to have a man speak with the Lord and be ministered to by angels. Yet in the example of Jacob, it is almost matter-of-fact. As if he wouldn’t dream of speaking about such things without consulting with heaven.

Nephi’s brother Jacob is among the great figures in all of sacred scripture. The critical differences between him and his teaching, and other men giving what they regard as inspirational thought, should not pass by unnoticed. I’m growing to respect this man Jacob.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 3

When Nephi composed his small plate account, it was approximately 40 years after they left Jerusalem. He included his visionary experiences, but stopped short of giving a full account. (1 Ne. 14: 25.) As he prophesied about the coming of a Messiah to his brothers, they challenged Nephi’s teaching of a future Messiah. In that context, he resorted to quoting Isaiah “that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer.” (1 Ne. 19: 23.) Nephi’s use of Isaiah in his first book is limited to the single topic of whether the scriptures confirmed his own prophesy that there would be a Redeemer. (1 Ne. Chapters 20 and 21.)

The next quote of Isaiah occurs in Nephi’s second book. There the material is quoted by Nephi’s younger brother Jacob in his first recorded sermon. In Jacob’s use of Isaiah, the scope expands dramatically. Jacob uses it to cover the history, the scattering and regathering of Israel, the latter-day Zion, and then he preaches and expounds on these materials to give context to the Nephite experience. (See 2 Ne. Chapters 6-10.)

It is Jacob’s more expansive use of Isaiah that seems to have inspired Nephi to turn to the Isaiah materials to complete his own record. When Jacob’s sermon is finished, Nephi then adds 14 additional chapters of Isaiah material to complete his record. Then, to end his message Nephi takes Isaiah’s themes and gives his final lessons in an American setting, elaborating on the Isaiah themes.

These transcripts raise the possibility that it was Jacob, rather than Nephi, who saw the fit between Isaiah’s materials and the Nephite/latter-day Americas. Nephi no doubt used the Isaiah material first, but confined it to the promise of a Messiah. He used it defensively to respond to his older brothers’ criticism. Jacob, on the other hand, uses it expansively.

If Nephi was giving credit to Jacob for this expansion (as his two books seem to indicate), then it tells us a great deal about Jacob, and even more about Nephi. For Jacob, we can know:
-He was a careful student of scripture.
-He saw what was possible, not only what was evident on the surface.
-He could apply Isaiah prophetically into the distant future.
-He could put his life and his people’s position in history into a prophetic context.
-He was more concerned with the future than with the past.
-He saw their time as important, but not the end of times.

What it would tell us about Nephi is that:
-He was meek.
-He gave credit to his younger brother.
-He allowed truth from the younger brother to instruct even him, the elder brother.
-He refused to fall into his own older brother’s jealousy and resentments.
-He was a ready student of Jacob’s – the younger brother.
-He recognized inspired truths.
-He wanted others to rejoice in the truth, even if he took a step back in allowing them to be presented.
-He rejoiced in the learning of others.

There is a great deal about the interplay between these two brothers that ought to inform our own approach to authority, truth, learning, “presiding” and recognizing inspiration in others. The Book of Mormon is a treasury of lessons applicable to us. We do not adequately appreciate them.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 2

Jacob’s first recorded sermon is not his first sermon. Quite the contrary. He admits he was given to a lot of preaching. Jacob records this: “ye know that I have spoken unto you exceedingly many things. Nevertheless, I speak unto you again; for I am desirous for the welfare of your souls. Yea, mine anxiety is great for you; and ye yourselves know that it ever has been. For I have exhorted you with all diligence; and I have taught you the words of my father; and I have spoken unto you concerning all things which are written, from the creation of the world.” (2 Ne. 6: 2-3.)
Jacob’s preaching was plentiful, and always based on two things: First, the words of Lehi. Second, the scriptures. In other words, he was not an innovator. He was a custodian of truth. He wanted to preserve the revelations entrusted to the Nephites; not to add to them, or stray from them.
It is interesting he had this strict orientation in his teaching, because give his background, he could have ventured into a great many other thing. We know his knowledge reached beyond the veil. As Nephi put it: “[Isaiah] verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him. And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him[.]” (2 Ne. 11: 2-3.) In their knowledge of the Redeemer, Isaiah, Nephi and Jacob were peers. Notice how distinct they were from one another in what they revealed. Although Nephi revealed some of what he learned, he used Isaiah as the primary source for his prophetic teaching. Jacob was even more discreet in how he ministered. Isaiah, on the other hand, wrote an extensive prophecy about all of history.
In his earliest recorded sermon Jacob reminds the audience how strictly he confined himself to the two categories above. Then, after Nephi’s death, when he took over as the primary prophetic leader of the Nephites, he still displayed the same caution about the text he took for his material. He told the people to come to the Temple and he would prophesy to them. (Jacob 2: 2.) Then in his sermon he quoted at length an allegory from the Prophet Zenos. (Jacob 5.) When he finished the lengthy quote he added his prophecy: “as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.” (Jacob 6: 1.) It goes by quickly, but there it is. Jacob’s prophecy is that what he read, the account Zenos wrote, was true. Jacob knew it was true. He had seen it, just like Isaiah had seen it, just like Nephi had seen it, and could tell you that Zenos also saw it and recorded the truth concerning the Lord’s unfolding work among the chosen house of Israel.
There is so much about Nephi’s younger brother which is a model of the true prophet. His ministry reflects the very things which we should expect to see from a messenger sent by the Lord.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob

The first words from Jacob, Nephi’s brother, are marvelous. He begins his public ministry among the people of Nephi with these words:

“I, Jacob, having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi,” (2 Ne. 6: 2.)

Jacob was “called of God.” He was also “ordained after the manner of his holy order,” meaning that his ordination came from God. He was like Melchizedek. The manner of this ordination is described in JST-Gen. 14: 27-29: “[H]aving been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God; And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.” This was the holy order to which Jacob was called by God.

In the restoration of the Gospel, the first time this appeared in the church was in June, 1831 on Isaac Morley’s farm. As Joseph Smith recorded it in his history: “the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders. It was clearly evident that the Lord gave us power in proportion to the work to be done, and strength according to the race set before us, and grace and help as our needs required.” (DHC 1: 175-177.) To understand this statement of Joseph you would need to recognize there is a great difference between being “an Elder in the church”– an office held by operation of the church’s organization, much like a Relief Society President or a Sunday School President– and the Melchizedek Priesthood. Today there is no appreciation of that distinction. That is because we have little understanding of the history of the church or the scriptures.

In any event, Jacob was ordained by God to “his holy order” or, in other words, received the same High Priesthood as Melchizedek in the only way it can be received: “It [is] delivered unto men by the calling of His own voice.” Jacob was one of those.

Despite this, Jacob’s right to be a teacher among the people of Nephi reckoned from his brother’s presiding authority. Although Jacob was in possession of this calling from God, in order to minister to the people he needed to also be “consecrated by my brother, Nephi.” It was Nephi who was the presiding authority. Therefore, to preach to the congregation Jacob needed to be called and authorized. Nephi did this, and Jacob became a recognized, sustained teacher.

Without both, Jacob could have preached, taught and expounded, but he would not be able to speak in an organized meeting of the church over which Nephi presided. From this we see the order of things. The church and God’s authority do not necessarily overlap. But, in his wisdom, Nephi used the very man who God had empowered to be a minister of righteousness within the church over which Nephi presided. Nephi did not envy his younger brother’s calling, but supported and advanced him in it. Of course Nephi held the same calling, but that does not matter. Somehow men can find it within them to be jealous of others even if they are called themselves. After all, Lucifer was a son of the morning.

Joseph Smith, by revelation in January, 1841, was told that his brother Hyrum was to become “a prophet, and a seer, and a revealtor unto my church.” (D&C 124: 94.) Joseph did not envy his brother this calling, but immediately ordained him to the office of Assistant President; in an almost identical manner as had Nephi with his brother Jacob.

From the first phrase out of Jacob’s mouth, we encounter doctrine so very meaningful to understanding the way of God. What a great book we have in the Book of Mormon. I do think a man can get closer to God by abiding its precepts than from any other book!

Repentance

I received a question: “Knowing that the local church leaders sometimes misjudge the repentance process and sometimes struggle to know what the individual truly needs. Is it possible to properly repent for serious sins and have the repentance process be between just you and the Lord, without confessing your sins to your bishop? On many occasions, we read in the scriptures that repentance was done by confession to the Lord alone. If you truly had a change of heart and had abandon the sin, wouldn’t it be ok for you and I to do the same today, as recorded in the scriptures, without confessing to church authorities?”

This question is a reflection of just how “institutional” our orientation has become. The church is powerless to forgive sins. Christ forgave sins during His mortal ministry. (Mark 2: 5-12.) Christ forgives sins in His current ministry. (D&C 61: 2.)

Christ may allow men to possess the power to forgive sins as in the case of Joseph Smith (D&C 132: 46), but that has definite limits. Men are given such power because they will never use it independently of the Lord’s will. (Helaman 10: 5.) Even those who will be allowed to “judge” others in the final judgment, will not have independent reign, but must announce Christ’s judgment, not their own. (3 Ne. 27: 27.)

The only one who can forgive sin is Christ. He requires us to forgive one another, but will Himself determine whose sins He will forgive. (D&C 64: 10.) He is the only gatekeeper for forgiveness. (2 Ne. 9: 41.)

If you think the church leader is attuned to the Lord’s voice and can give you comfort, encouragement to come to Christ, and help guide you in the path, then counseling with such a man is very worthwhile, but he cannot forgive sins, for that you are required to look to the Lord.

Discarding and Staying Aloft

You can throw things out of the hot air balloon to try to stay aloft. But eventually, you will run out of things to discard and will descend anyway.

There is only one real solution to staying aloft: You must return to what got you lighter than air in the first place. There must be more fire.

You can’t fake such a fire. Your claims to have fire will accomplish nothing. You will continue to descend, even if there are momentary jumps from throwing something weighty overboard. Rhetoric is powerless to curb the fall.

It Will Be Again

As it was once, it will be  again. Adam was born again and received the Record of Heaven, or in other words the Holy Ghost. (Moses 6: 66.) Adam was born of the Spirit and quickened in the inner man. (Moses 6: 65.) Through this he was after the Order of the Father. (Moses 6: 67.) This same Order will return again at the end of the world. (Moses 6: 7.) The end of the world is the destruction of the wicked (JS-M 1: 4) to happen at the Lord’s return. (Matt. 13: 38-40.)

This same Order is connected with surviving the day of His return. “There are, in the church, two priesthoods.” (D&C 107: 1.) “There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to [in the Epistle to the Hebrews]” (TPJS, p. 322-23; DHC 5: 554-55.)

God, who presides over this process, created Adam in His likeness and image. The image of God’s body consists of both the male and female, and they together are called Adam. (Moses 6: 9.) Through it, the man and woman called Adam begat a son named Seth. (Moses 6: 10.) From this we can see the procreative power, which produces offspring, is possible only through the man and woman called Adam, because together they possess this godlike attribute. Apart they are not in God’s image. Their seed continues, which is what God does. (D&C 132: 19-20.) The return of this Order, that was from the beginning, requires the man and woman who have had God’s Spirit poured on them, and have been quickened. It is promised to return again before the end of the world.

We do not inherit these things by imposing our views on God, but by allowing ourselves to become converted to His views. His are as far above ours as the heavens are above the earth. (Isa. 55: 9.) We must receive counsel from Him, not give it. (D&C 22: 4.) God alone makes us a son of God. (Moses 6: 68.) Enoch was also a son of God. (Moses 6: 27.)

Noah, whose days are like the Coming of the Son, was ordained to this same Order by God. (Moses 8: 19.) Noah called upon men to repent, but men did not listen to him. (Moses 8: 20.) Moses told them to repent and follow Jesus Christ, receive the Spirit and be taught by heaven which will reveal all things; but the people did not listen. (Moses 8: 24.)

When they refused to repent, God destroyed all flesh because of their corruption and violence. (Moses 8: 28-30.) “But as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man.” (JS-M 1: 41.) The good news is that this Order will return. There will be the opportunity to repent. God intends to make sons again. This promise should make us all search the matter and freely repent of our sins, using the Spirit as our guide to find God’s will. Then we should have the courage to conform to it. This is good news, as long as we are willing to heed it.

Cake: Shadow Stabbing

Cake’s lyrical prose sometimes strikes a chord of truth. I’ve puzzled over why they aren’t recognized for their musical genius by more folks.

“Adjectives on the typewriter
He moves his words like a prizefighter
The frenzied pace of the mind inside the cell…

Outside, outside the world
Out there you don’t hear the echoes and calls
But the steel eye, tight jaw,
Say it all, say it all
But the white paint, plastic saints
Say it all, say it all, say it all…

Say somebody’s got to say it all
Somebody’s got to say it all…”  (Cake: Shadow Stabbing.)

How much wasted time is devoted on the umbilical keyboards of the Internet ranting over things that have no value, giving the mis-impression of accomplishing something important? In the din of opinion, we gather that the truth no longer has an independent existence. It is all opinion. If you should sway it then you’ve done something godlike, because in the polling and measuring what people think really matters.

Outside there is still God. Even if we don’t hear the echoes and calls of the flood engulfing mankind when we turn to Him. There, apart, outside the world, if you should encounter God you will find yourself with a steel eye and tight jaw, and no longer able to look upon the white paint and plastic saints where the world continues to adore and worship.

Somebody’s got to say it all….

Not to please others, but to just speak what desperately needs to be said. Somebody’s got to speak it.

I am a Latter-day Saint. But that is merely a congregation. It dosen’t matter much, really. Within that congregation there are those who want to control what I think. They are waging a losing battle. To win they must persuade, not condemn and intimidate. Show me the errors and I will gladly abandon them. Demand I walk away from truth and I will die first. This is why truth can only ever be spread by gentleness and meekness, by persuasion and kindness. It cannot be dictated. (D&C 121: 41-42.)

When all you have left is a hollow cry that you have authority, you’ve lost the argument. YOU (no matter who “you” are) don’t have any authority. Only heaven has that. (D&C 121: 35-36.) And it isn’t sharing it with the proud, vain, ambitious and controlling. (D&C 121: 37.)

Quoting someone in a position of “authority” who is not in possession of the truth should not persuade anyone, and certainly does not persuade me. Those echoes and calls can’t even be heard once you’ve gone outside the world.

Ignorance can be put on stilts and equipped with a bullhorn, requiring everyone to notice it. But it remains unworthy of the time it takes from you.

It would be better to know God than to please men. I doubt many men who know God ever do please men again. Instead they look with pity at the white paint and plastic saints. It would be good to reach them, but it is only necessary to let God reach you.

The Importance of Scriptures

As a sign of the Lord’s keen interest in the scriptures He pointed out to the Nephites they had neglected to include Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy in their records. He admonished them to “search the prophets” who had testified of Him. (3 Ne. 23: 5.) Samuel the Lamanite was an outsider, whose ethnic identity was with the largely apostate enemies of the Nephites. His genealogy was not kept among the Nephites. He did not live among them. Where he came from and where he went afterwards was apparently unknown to the Nephites. None of that mattered to the Lord, because the Lord sent him.

Samuel had no Nephite credentials. Everything necessary to assess his relevance is summed up by the Lord: “Verily, I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people[.]” (3 Ne. 23: 9.)

When he spoke, Samuel modestly stated his credential: “Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart[.]” (Hel. 13: 5.) And, “behold, an angel of the Lord hath declared it unto me[.]” (Hel. 13: 7.)

Samuel warned them they were condemned because of their love of riches. (Hel. 13: 20-22.) This love caused them to be filled with “great pride, unto boasting, and unto great swelling, envyings, strifes, malice, persecutions, and murders, and all manner of iniquities.” (Id. v. 22.) Samuel warned them they boast they would have accepted the true prophets and not persecuted them (Hel. 13: 25), but they were worse than their predecessors because “if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquites, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.” (Hel. 13: 26.) In contrast, when a man comes to declare the people are righteous, and do not need to repent, but all is well with them, such a man “ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.” (Hel. 13: 27-28.)

Though the Nephites rejected him, and he fled from among them, when the Lord came He acknowledged He had sent Samuel. He criticized the Nephite records for neglecting to include the full extent of Samuel’s prophecy, asking “How is it that ye have not written this thing[?]” (3 Ne. 23: 11.) The content of scriptures should always reflect the Lord’s words, no matter the source He elects to speak them.

This example from the Book of Mormon is a clear warning intended for our day. Christ’s admonition to “Search the prophets” is just as important an admonition now as it was then. So the challenge remains to keep ourselves ready, and listen to the words of the Prophets. It is our common misconception, however, that there will never be another Samuel the Lamanite who is an outsider and without credentials to be given a message for us by the Lord. We expect that if there is a message for our day it will come from the head of the church, not some obscure outsider, like Samuel. We imagine it is always safe to disregard such characters. It is curious, however, that the Book of Mormon, which is the “most correct book” includes this odd departure as an example. It is odd the Nephites never figured out our system. It is so much better than theirs was. We really are a royal generation, the most blessed of all who have ever lived! We never face such a test, because we imagine we have an authorized source of truth, an institutional charisma that can never fail, and through which we can never be led astray. The Lord has made it so much easier for us in our day. It somehow makes sense to us, but leaves me wondering if the Lord ought not apologize to the Nephites for making it so much harder for them. Then there is that unfortunate recent announcement by the church a few days ago about church leaders speaking “in the absence of revelation” which complicates these questions.

It makes me wonder if our eternal salvation depends on sorting out the truth from error. Or, alternatively, if it matters in the more immediate unfolding history preliminary to the Second Coming and the whole earth being cursed if we get it wrong.