“But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles? O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.”
If you wonder at the Lord’s patience and willingness to forgive you have an answer here. The Lord’s respect for and defense of the “Jews” as His “ancient covenant people” is unmitigated by any criticism of them. Instead He points to their “travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews” experienced in bringing forth this Biblical record.
The Jews deserve our thanks, our gratitude and our respect for this great work of preserving the record.
Twice the Lord calls the Jews His “ancient covenant people.” The Bible is a record of rebellion, persecution of the righteous, and slaying of prophets. It is a record of a fallen people who were often in apostasy, resisting true prophets calling for repentance, and suffering the judgment and condemnation of God. When the New Testament record (also a product of Jewish writers–even in the case of Luke who, though born to gentile parents, was converted to Judaism) came into existence it was the Jews who resisted and persecuted the Lord. Yet He still calls them His “ancient covenant people.” He insists we have been ungrateful to the Jews for their work on the Bible.
This is the Lord speaking in the first person. Nephi is quoting Him. These are the same people Lehi taught would be the only ones “who would crucify their God.” (2 Nephi 10: 3.) Yet despite that, Christ refers to them as His “ancient covenant people” to whom we owe a debt of gratitude! How merciful is our Lord?
Now, those who produced the Bible text are not merely the believers, true prophets, and victims of Jewish hostility and persecution. The text may have originated with the prophets, but it passed quickly into the hands of the priests and Levites, scholars and Rabbis. These others may not have had the same divine inspiration and association with angels, but they nevertheless attended with strict discipline to preserving the record of the prophets. Even those who directly challenged the Lord included the scribes who worked to preserve the records of the prophets. These “labors” and “pains” and “diligence” have produced gratitude from the Lord!
If He is willing to thank them, how generous is our Lord in His thanks to mankind! How ungrateful are we?
We tend to see those with whom we differ as enemies. But the Lord does not want us to approach religious disagreement in this way. Instead he would have us “recover” them. He says: “ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them.” As Joseph Smith’s History recounts, his persecutors ought “to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me.” (JS-H 1: 28.) That is the only way to obtain agreement – persuasion, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned. (D&C 121: 41-42.) Instead of “holding a court” against someone, we ought to preach the Gospel to them and teach them the truth with love and meekness. It is clear the Lord is showing by example how our attitudes ought to be displayed with those who persecute and reject us. But, then again, He taught the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5, 6, 7) and in how He lived (John 8: 10-11) and died (Luke 23: 34). Oddly we would convict and excommunicate the adulterer, but our Lord would not. Nor does He who holds the greatest claim to condemn the Jews condemn them. Instead He says we ought to have gratitude for their pains, labors and diligence.
What does our ingratitude merit us? It merits us judgment. For the same judgment we apply to them will in turn be applied to us. We will see it used as the basis for His rejection of us: “I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.”
Being a religious people is fine; but being a self-righteous people has always been perilous. It is no different today. We should use the scriptures to inform our inner life. It is meant for internal use only. External application is likely to cause burning.