Great Were the Covenants of the Lord Which He Made unto Joseph

Lehi teaches his youngest son, Joseph, about the writings and prophesies of their ancestor who was also named Joseph. This ancestor was the same Joseph who was a son of Jacob and was sold into Egypt by his brothers (as recorded in the Old Testament book of Genesis, chapter 37). As described in the verses below, he saw that Lehi’s family would create a branch of the house of Israel in the Americas. This branch would fall into apostasy but would be brought back into the light by the power of the Messiah in the last days.

“…Great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph. Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel…a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.” (2 Nephi 3:4-5)

He, Joseph the son of Jacob, also prophesied about a seer who would be born within his lineage and would accomplish a great work in the last days according to the will and power of God:

“…Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins…and unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins…which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers…[A]nd unto him will I give power to bring forth my work unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my work only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.” (2 Nephi 3:7,11)

This seer of the last days would also be called Joseph:

“And thus prophesied Joseph saying: Behold that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded…And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation. Yea thus prophesied Joseph: I am sure of this thing…for the Lord hath said unto me, I will preserve thy seed forever.” (2 Nephi 3:14-16)

Questions:

-Has the restorative work which the Lord accomplished through the prophet Joseph Smith been confounded? Or, does it continue to grow and strengthen under the Lord’s continuing guidance?

-Have those who have sought to destroy Joseph Smith, and the work the Lord gave him to do, been confounded? Did those who murdered Joseph think that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would die with him?

-Are those who reject the second witness of Jesus Christ and His gospel, as provided in the Book of Mormon, rejecting an offer of greater spiritual strength and understanding from God?

-How powerful are the covenants made by God with His children?

-Do you believe that God made the covenants with Joseph of Egypt as detailed in the above verses?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he, Joseph Smith, should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eyes upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back … to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was fore-ordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 96343.).

“Questions concerning the Prophet Joseph Smith are not new. They have been hurled by his critics since this work began. To those of faith who, looking through the colored glasses of the 21st century, honestly question events or statements of the Prophet Joseph from nearly 200 years ago, may I share some friendly advice: For now, give Brother Joseph a break! In a future day, you will have 100 times more information than from all of today’s search engines combined, and it will come from our all-knowing Father in Heaven. Consider the totality of Joseph’s life—born in poverty and given little formal education, he translated the Book of Mormon in less than 90 days. Tens of thousands of honest, devoted men and women embraced the cause of the Restoration. At age 38, Joseph sealed his witness with his blood. I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.” (Neil L. Andersen, “Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 66).

 

 

Look to the Great Mediator and Choose Eternal Life According to the Will of His Holy Spirit

Lehi, in counseling his sons to choose Christ, also teaches about the most important choices all must make.

“…I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; and not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.” (2 Nephi 2:28-29)

-How can a person look to Jesus Christ in his or her day to day life?

-What does it mean to be faithful to His words?

-How is keeping God’s commandments a path to greater freedom away from captivity?

-What is the will of the Holy Spirit? Can one’s will become one with the Holy Spirit’s will?

They Are Free to Choose Liberty and Eternal Life or Captivity and Death

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, that the Savior’s redeeming power offers a path of freedom, hope, and eternal life (which otherwise would have been unavailable because of the effects of Adam and Eve’s Fall).

“…The Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil…” (2 Nephi 2:26-27)

-Has every child inherited inevitable physical death, and separation from God, from their parents (going all the way back to Adam and Eve)?

-Will physical death and physical separation from God be permanent for anyone now that Christ has come and redeemed all from these effects of the Fall?

-Will everyone who is resurrected and brought back to God’s presence be comfortable staying there?

-Will Christ save all from spiritual death? Or, does He protect every soul’s freedom to choose whether to accept and follow Him?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ, an act of pure love, overcame the effects of the Fall and provided the way for all mankind to return to the presence of God. As part of the Atonement, the Savior overcame physical death and provided immortality for every one of God’s children through the Resurrection. He also overcame spiritual death and provided the possibility of eternal life, the life that God lives and the greatest of all the gifts of God” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Christians in Belief and Action,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 71).

“God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures evil agents spread throughout it. You can live a virtuous, productive, righteous life by following the plan of protection created by your Father in Heaven: His plan of happiness. It is contained in the scriptures and in the inspired declarations of His prophets. …

“Avoid worldly wickedness. Know that God is in control. In time, Satan will completely fail and be punished for his perverse evil. God has a specific plan for your life. He will reveal parts of that plan to you as you look for it with faith and consistent obedience. His Son has made you free—not from the consequences of your acts, but free to make choices. God’s eternal purpose is for you to be successful in this mortal life. No matter how wicked the world becomes, you can earn that blessing. Seek and be attentive to the personal guidance given to you through the Holy Spirit. Continue to be worthy to receive it. Reach out to others who stumble and are perplexed, not certain of what path to follow” (Richard G. Scott, “How to Live Well amid Increasing Evil,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 100, 102).

“When we choose to do the will of our Heavenly Father, our agency is preserved, our opportunities increase, and we progress. … The opposite is also true: when we don’t keep the commandments or follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our opportunities are reduced; our abilities to act and progress are diminished. … Obedience to the commandments ultimately protects our agency” (Robert D. Hales, “Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 25–26).

All Things Have Been Done in the Wisdom of Him Who Knoweth All Things

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, that God was not taken off guard or thwarted in any way by Satan’s successful effort to get Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

“…If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And [Adam and Eve] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:22-24)

Questions:

-Why were Adam and Eve unable to have children until after their fall?

-Will the difficulties of mortality help God’s sons and daughters truly appreciate the eternal blessings He has prepared for those who choose the path of joy?

-Can great joy be achieved during mortality as well?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“Did [Adam and Eve] come out in direct opposition to God and to his government? No. But they transgressed a command of the Lord, and through that transgression sin came into the world. The Lord knew they would do this, and he had designed that they should” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 103).

“The most important events that ever have or will occur in all eternity … are the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement.

“Before we can even begin to understand the temporal creation of all things, we must know how and in what manner these three eternal verities—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement—are inseparably woven together to form one plan of salvation. No one of them stands alone; each of them ties into the other two; and without a knowledge of all of them, it is not possible to know the truth about any one of them. …

“… Be it remembered, the Atonement came because of the Fall. Christ paid the ransom for Adam’s transgression. If there had been no Fall, there would be no Atonement with its consequent immortality and eternal life. Thus, just as surely as salvation comes because of the Atonement, so also salvation comes because of the Fall” (Bruce R. McConkie, “Christ and the Creation,” Ensign, June 1982, 9).

“Just why the Lord would say to Adam that he forbade him to partake of the fruit of that tree is not made clear in the Bible account [see Genesis 2:17], but in the original as it comes to us in the Book of Moses [see Moses 3:17] it is made definitely clear. It is that the Lord said to Adam that if he wished to remain as he was in the garden, then he was not to eat the fruit, but if he desired to eat it and partake of death he was at liberty to do so” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. [1963], 4:81).

“God’s premortal children could not become like him and enjoy his breadth of blessings unless they obtained both a physical body and temporal experience in an arena where both good and evil were present. …

“… We wanted the chance to become like our heavenly parents, to face suffering and overcome it, to endure sorrow and still live rejoicingly, to confront good and evil and be strong enough to choose the good” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 200, 204).

The Lord God Gave Commandment that All Men Must Repent

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about the meaning of mortal life and the vital importance of repentance:

“…Adam and Eve…brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth. And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent.” (2 Nephi 2:19-21)

Questions:

-How do you feel about your life being a time to show who you really are?

-If repentance means turning to God, how can this be accomplished in a person’s life?

-How many people in the world have a sense of the need of repentance? How many know how to turn to God? If they never are taught these things during mortal life, will they have an opportunity to receive this knowledge in the post-mortal spirit world (before the Resurrection and Final Judgment)?

-Is there any way to repent except through the atoning sacrifice of Christ?

-Are there any sins too heinous or evil toward which the healing power of Christ’s Atonement is ineffective?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“Repentance means striving to change. It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part. Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts (see 2 Nephi 25:23). Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome. Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving” (“The Divine Gift of Repentance,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 39).

Teachings of the Seventy:

“Since the fifth century, Christianity taught that Adam and Eve’s Fall was a tragic mistake. … That view is wrong. … The Fall was not a disaster. It wasn’t a mistake or an accident. It was a deliberate part of the plan of salvation” (“The Atonement: All for All,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 97).

Being Miserable Forever He Sought Also the Misery of All Mankind

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about the origins and motivations of the devil:

“…An angel of God…had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God. And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind.” (2 Nephi 2:17-18)

-How much of the misery in the world has been promoted and sustained by Satan’s influence?

-Is physical misery or spiritual misery more potent and long lasting?

-How can misery by relieved by turning to, and choosing to follow, Jesus Christ?

-Who will triumph in the end? He who is seeking mankind’s bondage and misery? Or, the Savior, who is seeking mankind’s growth and joy?

God Gave unto Man that He Should Act for Himself

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about how God structured mortal life so we would be free to choose between the good and the evil.

“…There is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon. And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” (2 Nephi 2:14-16)

Questions:

-Do you believe there is a God? If so, why?

-Is there is a Spirit that testifies to the heart and soul that God exists? If so, when and how does this occur?

-Do you have a worldview that allows for good and evil? If so, are those categories of good and evil defined by you or by God?

-Do books such as the Bible and the Book of Mormon help define God’s standards of right and wrong through the commandments and teachings found in them?

-If God has defined good and evil, what happens if men and women create their own separate definitions of what belongs in these categories?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“The simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death … without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 105).

“Four great principles must be in force if there is to be agency: 1. Laws must exist … which can be obeyed or disobeyed; 2. Opposites must exist—good and evil, virtue and vice, right and wrong—that is, there must be an opposition, one force pulling one way and another pulling the other; 3. A knowledge of good and evil must be had by those who are to enjoy the agency, that is, they must know the differences between the opposites; and 4. An unfettered power of choice must prevail” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 26).

“Without the existence of choices, without our freedom to choose and without opposition, there would be no real existence. … It is a fact that we can neither grow spiritually nor thereby be truly happy unless and until we make wise use of our moral agency” (Neal A. Maxwell, One More Strain of Praise [1999], 80).

“Adam and Eve [through the Fall] became mortal. Happily for us, they could also beget children and fulfill the purposes for which the world was created. … Other blessings came to us through the Fall. It activated two closely coupled additional gifts from God, nearly as precious as life itself—agency and accountability” (Russell M. Nelson, “Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 34, italics added).

“The old saying ‘The Lord is voting for me, and Lucifer is voting against me, but it is my vote that counts’ describes a doctrinal certainty that our agency is more powerful than the adversary’s will. Agency is precious. We can foolishly, blindly give it away, but it cannot be forcibly taken from us.

“There is also an age-old excuse: ‘The devil made me do it.’ Not so! He can deceive you and mislead you, but he does not have the power to force you or anyone else to transgress” (Boyd K. Packer, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 74).

If There Be No Righteousness There Be No Happiness

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about the power of God’s law to create meaning through consequence and how all things witness there is a God.

“…If ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” (2 Nephi 2:13)

-Do you believe sin is real?

How meaningful would life be without consequences?

-Do the most lasting consequences occur in this life? Or, do they occur when each individual is brought back to God’s presence to be judged?

-How is righteousness tied to happiness?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators:

“Happiness comes of righteousness. ‘Wickedness never was happiness.’ (Alma 41:10.) Sin never was happiness. Selfishness never was happiness. Greed never was happiness. Happiness lies in living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Gordon B. Hinckley, in “Fast-Paced Schedule for the Prophet: Meets with Young Adults, Youth in Three Meetings in Colorado,” Church News, Apr. 20, 1996, 3).

There Must Be Opposition in All Things

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about how life’s difficulties signify and create meaning in human choice:

“…It must be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” (2 Nephi 2:11)

-Is it accurate to say that life can be deeply difficult and deeply rewarding?

-Do you believe God has given us a deeply meaningful challenge in giving us mortal life?

-Is it possible to view earthly trials as a means to greater refinement, rather than as arbitrary setbacks?

All Men Come unto God to be Judged of Him

While teaching his son, Jacob, Lehi addresses an important connection between the Atonement and the Final Judgment.

“…Because of the [Holy Messiah’s] intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him.”

-How much more meaningful is a belief in a Day of Judgment if it is coupled with the concept that we lived with God before our mortal lives and, in that premortal realm, agreed to come to earth to be tested?

-Would it be possible for anyone to return to God’s presence without Christ’s intercession?