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Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 7

The problem with war is it arouses the instinct for killing. As men adapt to war, they become predatory, seeking to destroy those they view as the enemy. They study and train to trade life for death.

Zion will not possess those skills. They won’t learn them and will not need them. Zion will be a place of peace, where those who are unwilling to take up arms against others will flee. (D&C 45: 66-69.) Though peaceful, the glory of the Lord will strike such fear among the wicked they will not dare come up against that place. (D&C 45: 70.) As unlikely as this seems, it is true.

When mankind has degenerated to the point of looking at one another as prey, the Lord will not allow His people to become prey to the terrible and the mighty. As Jacob (borrowing from Isaiah) explained, “For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them that contend with thee.” (2 Ne. 6: 16-17. ) The Lord intends to establish His covenant among those who take the Spirit as their guide, who reject the doctrines of men as truth, who do not trust in the arm of flesh, and who have not dwindled in unbelief.

Those who qualify, and who are in a covenant with Him, will see the destruction of those oppressors who threaten them. The armies and mobs who think they can overtake Zion will learn to their dismay that the Lord intends to protect them in such unmistakable acts they will be compelled to confess He is God and Zion is His people. As Jacob put it: “And I will feed them that oppress thee, with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (2 Ne. 6: 18.)

The Lord has two contradictory persona’s in scripture. He is the Lamb of God, and He is the Lion of Judah. Those two persona’s appear in widely separated passages of scripture. They merge together in one passage of scripture written by the Apostle John. It was John who shared Nephi’s vision and who was permitted to write of it. Nephi deferred to him. John uses both titles in succession when describing the Lord’s role in loosing the seven seals, calling the Lord both “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah” and “a Lamb as it had been slain.” (See Rev. 5: 5-6.) He is the Lion of Judah to those who seek to prey upon His covenant people. He is the Lamb of God to His own.

When you see the Lamb and the Lion lie down together, you may know the Day of Judgment is at hand. It will be both great and terrible to the righteous and wicked.

Jacob knew this. Jacob saw these things before they happened, so he could write his testimony as a warning to those who live in the last days. He was a prophet more for our day than for his own. Provided, of course, we have the eyes and faith to see it.

Jacob’s skill in expounding doctrine is not limited to his commentary. It includes the careful selections from Isaiah chosen to illustrate his points and clarify his views. Since he saw the Lord and was ministered to by Him, Jacob becomes adept in recognizing and expounding truth in a way which is trustworthy, and reflects his knowledge of the Lord’s great work to save the souls of men.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 6

Jacob makes a startling promise for those who live when the destruction begins preliminary to the cleansing of the world before the Lord returns. He says “none will he destroy that believe in him. And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, quakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine.” (2 Ne. 6: 14-15.)

This amazing promise is predicated on “believing in Him.” This requires us to understand what the word “believe” means in the parlance of the Book of Mormon. Those who believe in Him know and accept correct doctrine, or the truth about Him. Those who do not know and will not accept correct doctrine or the truth have dwindled in unbelief. They do not believe in Him. They may have religion, may belong to churches, may be active in all their observances, but they are not in possession of belief in Him. Instead they accept for doctrines the commandments of men, and their hearts are far from Him. They teach false and vain things. As a result they neither enter into the kingdom nor suffer those who are entering to go in. This includes those who, though they are humble followers of Christ, are nevertheless led that in many instances they do err in doctrine. (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

There will be many who are destroyed who will be quite surprised by it. They will complain that they have prophesied in Christ’s name, and in His name cast out devils, and done many wonderful works, but they do not know Christ, and therefore never did believe in Him. (See Matt. 7: 22-24.)

If you are one of those who believe in Him, and who will not dwindle in unbelief, will not accept the commandments of men as doctrine, but will take the Spirit for your guide, then Jacob promises that Christ will not destroy you. The rest He will destroy.

Fire will upset the order of things and make societal collapse inevitable. Men’s self-inflicted woes will not be the only sign of Divine disapproval. The earth will quake to signal God’s disapproval. Interruptions of social order and control will be followed by self-inflicted violence. Bloodshed will be widespread among the survivors. Disease and pestilence will be one of the results of the lack of social order. Air and water will be contaminated. Neglected hygiene will lead to the promised pestilence. As the downward spiral continues, food production and distribution will be inadequate to prevent widespread, global famine. It is as if Jacob could see the sequence of events and gave us the list of how it would unfold, step by step, as the unbelieving are wiped from the earth.

Survival during this bleak time depends on the qualification of “believing in Him.” Suddenly, if you think Jacob knew what he was talking about then our doctrines take on terrible significance. What we believe matters. Not just in the distant after-life, but for the preservation of our present lives. Jacob does make a powerful case for studying the Gospel a good deal more carefully than we can accomplish in a 40 minute class-discussion, with an approved “discussion leader,” using Correlated materials, rather than a teacher declaring and testifying of true doctrine.

I’m pretty sure Jacob would be a very marginalized Mormon, if he were among us today.

Nephi’s Brother Jacob, Part 5

Jacob has some relevant instruction for us. He reports: “And blessed are the Gentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do not unite themselves to that great and abominable church, they shall be saved; for the Lord God will fulfil his covenants which he has made unto his children; and for this cause the prophet has written these things.” (2 Ne. 6: 12.) Some of the Gentiles will be preserved, as well. It will be those who:

1. Are among those of whom the prophet has written. Interesting condition. These are already the topic of revelation. That requires us to study the revelations to know something of the Gentiles “of whom the prophet has written.” That is no small topic in its own right.

2. Are repentant. Of course, that requires the recognition of the need for repentance. Most of the Gentiles are unaware of their need to do so. Some because they are not religious. Others because they are overly religious and fail to understand that their religion condemns them. It does not justify them.

3. Fight not against Zion. Here is “Zion” which will come into being at some point. Not today, but by and by. When it does, there will be Gentile opposition to it. Those who aren’t initially invited will find the idea of Zion without them offensive. Their response should be to repent (as in 2, above). Instead, because of their blindness and jealousy, they will “fight against Zion.”

4. Do not unite with the great and abominable church. This is not a single congregation. It is the world itself. The entire world is divided into two: One is the church of the Lamb of God. The other is everything else. (1 Ne. 14: 10.) This is a bigger problem than it may first appear. Inasmuch as there are endless ways to belong to the great and abominable church, but a single way to avoid the great and abominable church, the odds are Gentiles will not find Zion. Instead they will fight against her and join the worldly minions who are opposed to her.

Most of the Gentiles will not meet these four conditions. Consequently, they will be so reduced they will “lick up the dust of their feet” who are in Zion. (2 Ne. 6: 13.) For those few Gentiles who give heed to Jacob’s teaching, there is good news.

Despite all the Gentiles have done to disappoint the Lord, He will “set himself again the second time to recover them.” (2 Ne. 6: 14.) Jacob will elaborate on this future in his own book. Chapter 5 of his book contains an allegory describing all the Lord’s efforts to produce fruit suitable to be preserved against the harvest. Jacob was well qualified to know what he was teaching. His brief confirmation that the allegory is true is so modest, so plain, so direct that it speaks of the man’s confidence. It is unadorned by rhetoric. The starkness of it suggests Jacob is a man of few words because they aren’t necessary.

Jacob bears close study. Unlike the later writers (beginning with Mosiah), Jacob carved his book onto the small plates of Nephi himself.

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.