2 Nephi 28: 15

“O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!”
Now we reach a terrible point. Nephi records an inspired condemnation. For a person in Nephi’s position, recording words of condemnation holds terrible significance. They are not written unless they are instructed to do so, because their words will be fulfilled. I’ve explained this in Beloved Enos.

Nephi pronounces three “wo’s.” This is a three fold condemnation. It goes beyond this life. It will follow them into the hereafter.

Associated with the three “wo’s” are three names used for God: “Lord God Almighty.” It is a three fold assertion of divine authority. “Lord” refers to the Savior as Guide. “God” refers to Divine right and authority. “Almighty” refers to the irrevocable nature of the word used by God, and in turn the words given to Nephi. When you are confronted with all three, the “wo’s” are pronounced by a power that cannot be altered.

This is more than a setback in the hopes of the “learned, and the rich” who are being condemned. This is a condemnation which reaches into hell itself. It is so significant a pronouncement that when you read it you should pause and think of the dreadful import for anyone who fits into the curse.

Those, who in their pride, use the precepts of men as the basis for their “preaching false doctrines,” are not just wrong, they are damned for this perversion of the religion entrusted to them to preach in purity and truth.

In effect, they were given a precious and eternally significant treasure, and they have diverted it into something that makes them rich, puffed up, and powerful. It is tragic. It is pitiful–meaning it should inspire pity in each of us. These could be well meaning people who have fallen into this error. But they claim to preach the truth, using God’s name in vain, while they spread a vain religion which cannot bring people to the knowledge of Christ.

Who would wish such a condemnation upon others? Who can read these words and not be moved with compassion and alarm for those who have fallen under this condemnation? Who would not remove it from those who are condemned if they could?

Nephi could not make a greater plea for the salvation of all those involved. The pronouncement is terrible and its implications eternal. Yet this verse seems to have escaped notice.

Who alone claims they are speaking for God Himself when they preach?  Who could possibly qualify for this level of condemnation? This should make all of us think long and hard about any utterance we speak before we make our assertions “in the name of Jesus Christ.” The thoughtlessness which accompanies that expression among the Saints is contrary to the seriousness of the condemnation we invite if we preach false doctrine while puffed up in pride; thereby perverting the right way of the Lord.

In an example which is chilling to read, the first anti-Christ we encounter in the Book of Mormon (Sherem) uses this phrase to justify his preaching. He accuses Jacob of “perverting the right way of God.” (Jacob 7: 7.) He brings himself under Nephi’s curse. It was a small thing, therefore, for Jacob to reiterate the condemnation of Nephi against Sherem. (Jacob 7: 14.) Jacob was merely repeating what Nephi had already pronounced. And since Nephi had sealed the condemnation, it would be Nephi, not Jacob, who was responsible for the cursing.
This three fold wo, and use of three titles for God all suggest that teaching false doctrine and using man’s learning, while being filled with pride is so grave an offense that great care should always be taken before teaching, preaching or expounding on the Gospel. Only a fool would undertake to do so without knowing their words are approved of God. You cannot take cover using a Correlation Department, or a commentary, or a scholar’s words, or a selected bibliography. When you presume to preach the truth, you need to realize how serious a matter you are undertaking. Joseph Smith wrote from Liberty Jail: 
“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. 
“How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world!”  (DHC 3: 295-6.)
When we speak about Christ and His Gospel with others, we should do so with a sense of terrible awe and fear. If we have doubts about our message, we should remain silent rather than risk proclaiming what may be an error. It is a burden to be carefully undertaken.
As Nephi warns about our day, there will be many who will teach vain, foolish and false things coming from the precepts of men.

19 thoughts on “2 Nephi 28: 15

  1. I believe these words from Nephi are primarily directed at the leaders, and only secondarily relevant to those who are following. The trends and direction are always set by leaders.

    I know there are humble people reading this who want to condemn themselves and justify leaders. But taken in context, Nephi’s condemnation must necessarily be primarily aimed at those who lead.

    I wish it were otherwise. I cannot tell you how these words cause me grief. I take no delight in this.

    It would be easier to stop than to go on. But this Book of Mormon is something we must study if we are going to remove our condemnation. And it seems as if no one is willing to face its words. So the burden remains upon us.

  2. It really is a burden – as you say, Denver. This Book of Mormon has caused so much trouble and controversy in its short 180 year existence. Shouldn’t it cause all honest seekers of truth in and out of the Church great pause. The words of President Benson (back in the 80’s are beginning to really come alive now for me). I got it back then – but I didn’t really get it. Over the decades whisperings would cause me to briefly wake from my fitful and dreamy state, but the lull has often been overpowering. Now it is getting too in my face so as to cause me to either move one direction, or the other. A separation of the wheat and tares looms shortly.
    I always puzzled at the quote that we should ‘follow the Prophet and a majority of the Bretheren’ – as if it implied some watershed event and a massive schism among the Saints. Now I feel it approaching quickly as the moment of decision arrives for this group. Boyd K Packer has strongly alluded to its advent on the horizon.

  3. DJones,
    thanks for the web addresses

    and thanks to the person who suggested Nibley’s Leaders and Managers talk

    Iraq – I’ve heard the quote also about following the majority of the brethren but I don’t know to whom it is attributed. Was is JS?
    Also, when did Packer allude to this? Thanks

  4. IC,

    Here are some quotes about what other people heard Joseph Smith to have said regarding the majority of the brethren and the records of the church:

    Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, reported: “Joseph the Prophet … said, ‘Brethren, remember that the majority of this people will never go astray; and as long as you keep with the majority you are sure to enter the celestial kingdom.’ ” Orson Hyde, Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, June 21, 1870, p. 3.

    William G. Nelson reported: “I have heard the Prophet speak in public on many occasions. In one meeting I heard him say: ‘I will give you a key that will never rust,—if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.’ The history of the Church has proven this to be true.” William G. Nelson, in “Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Young Woman’s Journal, Dec. 1906, p. 543; paragraph divisions altered.

    Ezra T. Clark remembered: “I heard the Prophet Joseph say that he would give the Saints a key whereby they would never be led away or deceived, and that was: The Lord would never suffer a majority of this people to be led away or deceived by imposters, nor would He allow the records of this Church to fall into the hands of the enemy.” Ezra T. Clark, “The Testimony of Ezra T. Clark,” July 24, 1901, Farmington, Utah; in Heber Don Carlos Clark, Papers, ca. 1901–74, typescript, Church Archives.

    These sources can be found in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith under the chapter,
    Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy.

    the link is


    As far as what Elder Packer said and when, IRAQ will have to get back with you on that. I’ll remind him since this is his wife.

  5. Denver, could you help me better understand the covenant we have made not to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed? How does that fit here? or does it?

  6. On “evil speaking” the following are relevant:

    First, it is not “evil” to say what is true.

    Second, it cannot be “evil speaking” when it comes from an accepted prophet (Nephi) and is found in the scriptures.

    Third, if the Spirit underlays the concept or thought, it is not you speaking it is the Spirit. If the message which comes from the Lord, or the Spirit, then it is not even you speaking. You are voice, but it is another who speaks.

    Fourth, a call to repent is not “evil” speaking; because if it were then we could never be urged to repentance. Because the issues involved in repentance are always going to be somewhat personal, cutting and difficult.

  7. Thank you for the reply Denver–that makes sense…meanwhile, why do we make that particular covenant in the temple? What exactly are we promising? Maybe we need to be clear who is the Lord’s anointed? It has always been my practice to pray about a bishop or stake president that serves in my ward/stake when they are called. In once case over the many years, I had a bishop that I did not get an answer about after he was called. In another case, I was prompted in advance who was to be called as our bishop….. as it turns out, I served with that bishop as his secretary. Are these the Lord’s anointed (ie as revealed to us)?

    Who are the Lord’s anointed?

  8. In the narrowest sense “the Lord’s anointed” would be those whom the Lord anoints. It would be those whom the Lord makes His, sealing them up to eternal life.

    In the broadest sense it would be anyone who has been through the Temple to receive their washings and anointings.

    It is NOT the Lord. As to Him, there are other commandments which relate to using His name in vain, His status as our Savior, and other appropriate rules for respecting and worshiping Him. But it only takes a moment of reflection to see the Lord’s anointed would be those whom He has anointed.

  9. sw (Iraq’s wife)

    thanks for taking the time to answer my question – helpful! (looks like you two make a good team)

  10. I loved this passage from the “Endowment History” pdf by Hugh Nibley linked to above:

    “As to evil speaking, my policy is to criticize only when asked to: nothing is to be gained otherwise. But politicians are fair game — they are hardly “the Lord’s anointed.” The Prophet Nathan soundly denounced David though he was “the Lord’s anointed,” but it was for his private and military hanky-panky, thinking only of his own appetites and interests. Since nearly all gossip is outside the constructive vale, it qualifies as “evil-speaking.”

    My guess is that the most natural reaction to the critique of Nephi of our modern-day church and its foibles tends to be defensive because have testimonies of the divine role the organization plays. Any criticism must be attempting to pry us away from membership in the organization. I don’t think that’s what’s involved here at all.

    Perhaps we fall slightly into the trap of first declaring that we need to stop assuming infallibility and perfection of leaders and organization and start getting our answers for ourselves from the Lord.

    Unfortunately, next we then hold up the leaders and organization against the measure of infallibility and perfection are then tempted to examine the failings in detail and lament the error and failings we find.

    Well, what did we expect, we just said that we don’t assume perfection in leaders and earthly institutions. They haven’t changed with this new revelation to us, but maybe we need to change our approach to them. We don’t throw them out because of their failings, we turn to the Lord and put our faith there. He can tell us through his Spirit the truth of all things, including the truth of the the teachings of those who stand as his imperfect legal administrators on earth.

    That’s the way I see it anyway.

    One more interesting piece that Nibley quoted from Brigham Young:

    “Are you prepared for the day of vengeance to come, when the Lord will consume the wicked by the brightness of his coming? No. Then do not be too anxious for the Lord to hasten his work. Let our anxiety be centred upon, this one thing, the sanctification of our own hearts, the purifying of our own affections, the preparing of ourselves for the approach of the events that are hastening upon us. This should be our concern, this should be our study, this should be our daily prayer, and not to be in a hurry to see the overthrow of the wicked. Be careful; for if they were all to be overthrown at once, how many would there be left that are called Saints? Not as many as I would have remain. We are prepared for the day that is approaching: let us then prepare ourselves for the presence of our Master—for the coming of the Son of Man. The wicked and the ungodly are preparing for their own utter overthrow, and the nation in which we live is doing so as fast as the wheels of time can roll, and ere long sudden destruction will come upon them. Seek not to hasten it, but be satisfied to let the Lord have his own time and way, and be patient. Seek to have the Spirit of Christ, that we may wait patiently the time of the Lord, and prepare ourselves for the times that are coming. This is our duty.”

    (JD, vol 9, p3)

  11. Ben, that was great! Waking up to our awful situation must be done only long enough to realize how we’ve contributed to the abominable portions so we can stop as individuals. This exercise is only for the repentant. Others will see it and use it as a weapon against others. They are the revilers. They were looking for an excuse to blame others before they ever heard of the problems anyway.

    Those who are listening who recoil at first are usually afraid that the painful reality will drive them to become revilers. If they seek the Lord, He will help them turn it on their own hearts as they have done in the past. These are not the ones to whom persistent problems stick to. These are the ones who have been looking to increase their faith to begin with. There is no need for the fear, though. This is part of the process.

  12. We are experiencing the lessons of the Liahona. Lehi’s family thought the Liahona represented a sure-fire insurance policy for their journey to the promised land. They were shocked to learn it worked according to their faith and led them off course when they didn’t have faith. They relied on it incorrectly and took it for granted that they were “in” with the Lord permanently from past faith.

    So it is with the Church. We are shocked to find out it works according to our faith, and when we don’t have faith, it leads us off course. It is our Liahona. Will we change it’s course and read the writing on the wall, as it were? The destiny is in our hands. The course must deliver us safely to our promised land. The promised land is qualifying to join in the house of Israel when the ship has sailed its course. It is entirely dependent on our faith. Even if the ship brings us to that point, remember what happened to Laman and Lemuel after they reached the promised land? In this thing there has been a type. Some will arrive at the wedding with no oil in their lamps. We know their fate.

  13. Ben… thank you. I downloaded the pdf you refer too… It is on my reading list. What a Godsend brother Nibley was. :)

  14. From page 50 of the PDF of the Nibley talk that DJones linked to:

    “What is the result of failing to live up to every covenant made in the temple? It is to be in Satan’s power … We can rationalize with great zeal–and that is the next step–but never escape from our defensive position. Many have noted the strong tendency of Latter-day Saints to avoid making waves. They seem strangely touchy on controversial issues. This begets an extreme lack of candor among the Saints, which in turn is supported by a new doctrine according to which we have a Prophet at our head who relieves us of all responsibility for seeking knowledge beyond a certain point, making decisions, or taking action on our own. From this it follows that one must never question a Manual or Lesson Book, even though it may swarm with errors and evasions. But obedience, the first step in enlightenment, is not the last.”

  15. I like that thought, Michael, about filling in the vacuum. That sounds like a good description of how we may’ve drifted to it.

    May I add though, about your first part (failing to keep covenants), to remember that Satan is a liar? Consider that one deeply. I don’t mean we would wish not to keep covenants, but don’t let Satan scare you. Think on that one if you will.

  16. At the close of a talk, testimony, or lesson the speaker will say “in the name of Jesus Christ Amen”. It is the practice for everyone to say “Amen”. Are we the listeners under condemnation when we say Amen even if we felt they have preached incorrect doctrine? Should we just be silent?

  17. Denver, following AK’s line of reasoning, is it proper for us to say “in the name of Jesus Christ” at the end of every prayer, or should we give the phrase a rest until we feel moved to include it from time to time?

    Even if we use it a good deal from time to time, is it actually more preferable with God that some formal prayers simply end with Amen, with the spirit of the prayer being in Christ’s name without it having to be said?

    Could it actually be considered modesty to avoid it on some prayers, letting the hearers judge for themselves if it is done in Christ’s name or not?

    I am getting weary of talking prayers for the labor involved, yet I want to labor in praying in different ways, so I know it’s not shear laziness…I feel like a pupil who has had too much of the schoolmaster and I want to be free, but perhaps until Christ comes we must continue with the practice of the Law of Mormon (like Law of Moses) and not risk an offense in public…?

  18. I have done a little research:
    Why is it important that we say amen aloud at the end of prayers and talks


    Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Which Way Are You Facing?” New Era, Mar. 2002, 8
    Why do we say “amen” at the end of our prayers, talks, and testimonies? Amen is a Hebrew word that means “may it be so” or “so it is.” We say it to show that we accept or agree with what has been said.
    In Old Testament times, people said “amen” when they took an oath. And in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called “the Amen, the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14).
    The next time you say “amen,” say it with meaning—now that you know what it means.

    So where does that leave us?

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