He Doeth Not Anything Save It Be for the Benefit of the World

After describing the sin and secret combinations that would exist among the Gentiles in the last days (see previous post), Nephi teaches that Satan has promoted such things from the beginning to bring souls down into captivity. In contrast, Nephi gives insight into how and why the Lord does His work.

“The devil…is…the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he blindeth them with his strong cords forever. (2 Nephi 26:22)

For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness. He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. (2 Nephi 26:23)

Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price. Behold hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation: Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.” (2 Nephi 26:24-28)

Questions:

-Does the devil have anything good to offer? Is there any limit to his hatred and ill-will towards every living soul on the earth?

-Is it even possible to comprehend the extent of the goodness God has to offer? Is there any limit to His love and generosity toward every living soul on the earth?

-How many in the world see repentance as a way to embrace the goodness that God has to offer and reject the destructive aims of Satan?

The Gentiles Preach up unto Themselves Their Own Wisdom and Their Own Learning

Seeing our time, the prophet Nephi touches on some of the spiritual and organizational characteristics troubling the people (Gentiles) who would largely displace the remnants of his and his father Lehi’s descendants.

“…The Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor. And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice. And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things…” (2 Nephi 26:20-22)

Questions:

-When seeing the weaknesses of the Gentiles, is Nephi focused more on the people of the United States and Canada? Does his critique also refer to the Latin American countries south of the United States? Is there also some reference to all nations throughout this fallen world?

-Are the churches Nephi is referring to Christian places of worship? Or, is his meaning more generalized to refer to all organizations that developed from the Christian churches and the related Enlightenment culture of Europe?

-What stumbling block is Nephi referring to in this passage? And, why does he refer to it as a great stumbling block? Is this a reference to the absence of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (because of apostasy) as these organizations formed?

-What are the organizations that have been “built up” to have the most power and influence in the United States in our time? Have similar organizations been built up in other countries in the Americas and throughout the world?

-Do these organizations focus on the power and miracles of God? Or, do they put greater emphasis on — and give greater credit to — what they perceive to be human power and human wisdom? Do many of these organizations take advantage of the poor?

-Are their many institutions and organizations that (inadvertently or intentionally) cause envying and strife?

-What are secret combinations? What are the consequences of having oath-bound groups in our society that do evil for their own worldly gain?

Their Speech Shall Whisper out of the Dust

Nephi prophesies that—after his father’s descendants have been displaced by settlers (Gentiles) from the Old World—the voices of the Nephite and Lamanite prophets would whisper out of the ground to their descendants and to the entire world.

“…I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men…The prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten. For those who have been destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit…and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.” (2 Nephi 26:14-16)

Questions:

-Does the Book of Mormon have a familiar spirit to many of those with Native American heritage?

-Does it have a familiar spirit to many others around the world who also have ancestry linked to the house of Israel?

-On the broadest scale, does the Spirit whisper to the heart of every earnest truth seeker that the Book of Mormon is God’s word to the entire world?

Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God

Nephi reemphasizes that his record (and the records of the Nephite prophets who would follow him) is intended to be a testament of Jesus Christ to both Jew and Gentile, wherever they might live across the entire earth.

“…As I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.” (2 Nephi 26:12-13)

Questions:

-How does Christ work with the Holy Ghost to manifest Himself to those who believe in him?

-Does the passage above suggest that the effort to believe needs to be exercised before the witness of the Holy Ghost will come?

-Are mighty miracles, signs, and wonders occurring among those who have steadfast faith in Christ?

The Spirit of the Lord Will Not Always Strive with Man

Nephi sees (through a prophetic vision given to him from the Lord) that, after falling into deep wickedness, many of his people in the Americas would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection (around A.D. 33-34). After being visited by Christ in person, three generations would pass away in peace and righteousness before wickedness and destruction would again afflict his people. Nephi identifies the loss of the Spirit as the reason for his people’s fall.

“…The Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness. And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell. For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction…” (2 Nephi 26:9-11)

Questions:

-Why do individuals choose darkness rather than light? Why do whole societies, such as the Nephites did, fall into a general pattern of prideful behavior and sin?

-How and when do things get to the point where the Spirit completely withdraws from a distinct group of people?

-Is it possible for a group or society that hasn’t received the fullness of God’s law to reach such a state where they reap destruction based on their rejection of God’s Spirit?

-Is it ever too late to turn back to God as an individual (even within a society that is headed the opposite direction)?

Thy Ways Are Just

Nephi saw in a prophetic vision that, that after falling into deep wickedness, many of his people in the Americas would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection (around A.D. 33-34). Though it is a great burden on his soul to have this knowledge, Nephi resolutely testifies that God is just in all that He does.

“…After the Messiah shall come there shall be signs given unto my people of his birth, and also of his death and resurrection; and great and terrible shall that day be unto the wicked, for they shall perish; and they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground against them.” (2 Nephi 26:3)

“And they shall be visited with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and all manner of destructions, for the fire of the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (2 Nephi 26:6)

“O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people! For I, Nephi, have seen it, and it well nigh consumeth me before the presence of the Lord; but I must cry unto God: Thy ways are just.” (2 Nephi 26:7)

Questions:

-Do you believe, as Nephi, that God’s ways are just?

-When God allows the physical destruction of those of his children who have fallen into wickedness as described in the verses above, is He still acting out of concern for their eternal welfare?

-Can only God feel righteous anger and still be justified? Or, is righteous anger possible for mortals as well?

Worship Him with All Your Might, Mind, and Strength, and Your Whole Soul

The Nephites practiced the law of Moses, but Nephi perceived that his people could easily lose track of the purpose of the law, which was to point their minds and hearts to the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ. After teaching that Christ was the only way by which a man or woman could be reconciled to God, Nephi cautions his people that they will be responsible for this clear knowledge he had given them.

“…The words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law. And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore, ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.” (2 Nephi 25:28-29)

Questions:

-What does it mean to worship Christ with all of one’s might, mind, and strength? What does it mean to worship Him with all of one’s soul?

-In our time where expression of the self, in almost any form, is celebrated and narcissistic individualism is a common value, how many people are willing to bow down to God?

-Does Nephi present whole-hearted devotion to Christ as a nice ideal? Or, does he present it as a spiritual necessity?

It Is by Grace That We Are Saved After All We Can Do

Nephi taught his people that reconciliation with God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ was more important than anything else. He understood that no matter how close he (or anyone else) came to living God’s law perfectly, salvation would always depend on Christ’s merciful intervention.

“…We labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

 Questions:

-While establishing faith in Christ that allows us to be reconciled with God is absolutely foundational, how important is what we do to build on that foundation going forward in our lives?

-Once one understands that Heavenly Father will, because of repentance available through Christ’s Atonement, choose the better part of a mortal life by treasuring up and eternally magnifying all the good that person does, is it likely that living by God’s law and doing good works will become more important or less important to that person?

-What can God make of “all we can do” with Christ on our side?

The Nations Who Shall Possess Them Shall Be Judged of Them

Nephi obtained a promise from the Lord that his record would be preserved for as long as the earth exists. Those who have access to his record and teachings will be held accountable for what they do with them.

“…The Lord God promised unto me that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved, and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation, that the promise may be fulfilled unto Joseph, that his seed should never perish as long as the earth should stand. Wherefore, these things shall go from generation to generation as long as the earth shall stand; and they shall go according to the will and pleasure of God; and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written.” (2 Nephi 25:21-22)

Questions:

-Which nations possess the record of the Nephite prophets as initiated by Nephi (a large portion of which is found in the Book of Mormon)?

-Is it at all intimidating to know that you will be responsible, in God’s eyes, for what you do with the truths found in the Book of Mormon?

-Do you think the blessing of having the light and knowledge contained in the Book of Mormon is worth the added responsibility?

-Are most, or all, true covenants with God tied to covenants he has made with others who have gone before (such as how promises received by Nephi were tied to the promises Joseph received)?

There is None Other Name Given under Heaven Whereby Man Can Be Saved

Nephi declares God’s interventions to save the Israelite people during the Exodus to be a foreshadowing of the ultimate intervention Christ would make to offer salvation to all mankind.

“As the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved.” (2 Nephi 25:20)

Questions:

-In the late centuries B.C., how many people—besides Nephi and his followers—had a clear understanding of who Christ would be and what He would do for mankind? Could Nephi have obtained such a clear understanding without receiving revelation from God’s Spirit?

-By that same Spirit, is it possible for those living today to know who Jesus is and what He has done?

-Can any intellectual or theological formulation effectively replace this witness of the Spirit when it comes to understanding who Christ is and what He did for us? Is there any personal revelation more import to receive from the Spirit than the witness of Christ’s divinity and mission?