He is the Firstfruits unto God

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about the power of Christ to bring about the resurrection for all mankind and salvation for those who believe in Him:

“…The Holy Messiah…layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.” (2 Nephi 2:8-9)

Questions:

-Does the word “Spirit” in this passage have any reference to the Holy Ghost or God the Father’s spiritual strength? Or, is it only a reference to the power of Christ’s individual spirit?

-Do the members of the Godhead do anything without mutual support and approbation for one another?

-Has any spirit, besides Christ, had the power to resurrect his or her earthly body after death? How did Christ’s resurrection ensure that all of God’s children will be resurrected?

-What does it mean to believe in Christ?

-Is it sufficient only to believe? Or, it is more meaningful and pleasing to God if a person is valiant in his or her testimony of Christ?

-Is there a difference between salvation and exaltation?

How Great the Importance to Make These Things Known unto the Inhabitants of the Earth

Lehi continues to teach his son, Jacob, about Christ’s Atonement and all of mankind’s need for it:

“…He offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah…” (2 Nephi 2:7-8)

Questions:

-What does Lehi mean when he states that only those with a broken heart and a contrite spirit can receive Christ’s redemption from sin?

-Does “heart” in this passage refer to our personal will versus God’s will? Is it good to break down our will to make way for God’s will in our lives?

-Can one have anything but a “broken heart” when he or she truly keeps in remembrance the price paid by Christ to redeem those who choose to follow and obey Him?

-How is being prideful (which is the opposite of having a broken heart and a contrite spirit) a false state of being?

-Who among the inhabitants of the earth has God’s law? Who, if any, does not have the law?

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

“I believe that none of us can conceive the full import of what Christ did for us in Gethsemane, but I am grateful every day of my life for His atoning sacrifice in our behalf.

“At the last moment, He could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things. In doing so, He gave us life beyond this mortal existence. He reclaimed us from the Fall of Adam.

“To the depths of my very soul, I am grateful to Him. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. He secured our salvation” (Thomas S. Monson, “At Parting,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 114).

Teachings of the Seventy

“What are a broken heart and a contrite spirit? … The Savior’s perfect submission to the Eternal Father is the very essence of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Christ’s example teaches us that a broken heart is an eternal attribute of godliness. When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master.

“A broken heart and a contrite spirit are also preconditions to repentance [see 2 Nephi 2:6–7]. … When we sin and desire forgiveness, a broken heart and a contrite spirit mean to experience ‘godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance’ (2 Corinthians 7:10). This comes when our desire to be cleansed from sin is so consuming that our hearts ache with sorrow and we yearn to feel at peace with our Father in Heaven. Those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit are willing to do anything and everything that God asks of them, without resistance or resentment. We cease doing things our way and learn to do them God’s way instead. In such a condition of submissiveness, the Atonement can take effect and true repentance can occur” (Bruce D. Porter, “A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 32).

Video from Book of Mormon Central:

By the Law No Flesh is Justified…Wherefore, Redemption Cometh in and through the Holy Messiah

Lehi continues to teach his son, Jacob, about Christ’s Atonement and all of mankind’s need for it:

“…Men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.” (2 Nephi 2:5-6)

-Is there a God-given conscience that all have to some degree?

-How is the light of Christ tied to conscience?

-What is the law that cuts all men off from God (because they fail to follow it perfectly)?

-What is the distinction Lehi is making between the temporal law and the spiritual law?

-Is there any way to be reconciled to the law, and return to God, other than through the redemption that Jesus Christ offers?

The Way Is Prepared from the Fall and Salvation Is Free

Speaking to his son, Jacob, Lehi testifies of the following truths about Christ’s Atonement:

“[T]he way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.” (2 Nephi 2:4)

-Is there a difference between salvation and exaltation?

-In what ways is Christ’s salvation free? In what ways is it not free? Does it depend on how you define salvation? What was Lehi trying to emphasize when he referred to it as free?

-Did Christ free us from any lasting effects of the Fall that were brought about by the actions of Adam and Eve (physical death and separation from God)? Are there any conditions that need to be met before receiving these two elements of salvation from Christ? Is there anyone who will not receive them?

-Will everyone who is brought back to the presence of God—with a perfect resurrected body and, correspondingly, a perfect understanding of their status before God based on their choices during mortality—be comfortable staying in His presence?

-Is it accurate to think of a person as being saved if they cannot bear the presence of God and, therefore, will be separated from Him after mortality?

-What choices does a person need to make in mortality in order to be prepared to remain in God’s presence?

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

“Adam did only what he had to do. He partook of that fruit for one good reason, and that was to open the door to bring you and me and everyone else into this world. …

“… If it hadn’t been for Adam, I wouldn’t be here; you wouldn’t be here; we would be waiting in the heavens as spirits” (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 121–22).

The Spirit Is the Same, Yesterday, Today, and Forever

As he recounts (somewhere around 588-570 B.C.) how his son Jacob had come to know Christ, Lehi focuses on the power and consistency of the Spirit, who is the third member of the Godhead, in testifying of Christ.

“…I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men. And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” (2 Nephi 2:3-4)

-Did the Spirit have the power to testify of Christ in ancient times, before He came to the earth? Was the Spirit’s testimony in any way vague or indirect? Or, was it a clear manifestation without ambiguity?

-Did the power of the manifestation depend on the faithfulness and spiritual strength of the individual to whom the witness came?

-Is it possible for us, who live after Christ’s coming, to receive a clear manifestation, without ambiguity, that He was (and is) who He said he was?

God Shall Consecrate Thine Afflictions for Thy Gain

By the time he and his family reached the Americas, Lehi had grown old. Before passing away, he took the opportunity to instruct his family. While speaking to Jacob (Nephi’s younger brother), Lehi touches on the meaning of adversity when it is endured with faith.

“[I]n thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren. Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” (2 Nephi 2:2)

Questions:

-How precious is faithfulness in distress to God?

-How much easier is it to bear your burdens, knowing that God will consecrate them to your gain (if you endure faithfully)?

Inasmuch as Ye Shall Keep My Commandments Ye Shall Prosper in the Land

Lehi testifies to his sons that God is eternally consistent and how they will fare (physically and spiritually) depends on their choices in relation to God’s standards:

His ways are righteous forever. And he has said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” (2 Nephi 1:20)

Questions:

-What does it mean to prosper in the land? And, how is it the opposite of being cut off from God?

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

“When I say prosperity I am not thinking of it in terms of dollars and cents alone. … But what I count as real prosperity, as the one thing of all others that is of great value to every man and woman living, is the growth in a knowledge of God, and in a testimony, and in the power to live the gospel and to inspire our families to do the same. That is prosperity of the truest kind” (Heber J. Grant, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant [2002], 124).

If Iniquity Shall Abound Cursed Shall Be the Land for Their Sakes…But unto the Righteous It Shall Be Blessed Forever

Lehi, the Book of Mormon prophet, speaks of some of the special characteristics of the promised land as established by God in the Americas.

“[T]his land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.” (2 Nephi 1:7)

Questions:

-Is there any land where God does not bless the obedient and withdraw blessings from the wicked?

-Has God established certain lands — such as the promised land of the Americas — where this dynamic of blessing and cursing is swifter and more pronounced? Why would He do so?

-Does iniquity abound in America (or areas within the Americas)? If so, are there signs of God withdrawing His favor from these peoples and places? Are their signs of liberty being lost?

The Lord Has Covenanted This Land unto Lehi and His Children Forever

After arriving in the Americas, Nephi recorded more of his father Lehi’s teachings and prophecies. The first recorded prophecy relates to the promised land which they had obtained from the Lord in the Americas…

“[W]e have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord. Wherefore, I, Lehi prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.” (2 Nephi 1:5-6)

Questions:

-Are their Native American groups who are the descendants of Lehi and, thus, have a special God-given privilege to inherit and prosper on certain American lands (much as the Israelites where given a promised land in the Near East by God)?

-Where are these promised lands in the Americas?

-Is all North and South America covenanted to Lehi’s descendants? Or, are their promised lands more localized?

-Can individuals or groups, who live in the areas of the Americas promised to Lehi’s descendants, ultimately prosper and find lasting protection without sustaining and cooperating with the children of Lehi?

-Is there a key to Lehi’s descendants finding their full potential — in peace, prosperity and strength — upon the lands promised to them?

-What do the above scriptural passages suggest about God’s will in relation to Columbus, the Pilgrims, and many others that have come to the Americas?

Be Obedient to the Commandments and Endure to the End

Nephi concludes his first book of scripture with a testament to the power of obedience.

“[I]f ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is. Amen.” (1 Nephi 22:31)

Below are some of God’s commandments as found in the first 22 chapters of the Book of Mormon  (the portion of the book that has been covered by this blog so far).

Condemn not the things of God.” (from the ancient Introduction)

“Remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.” (1 Nephi 10:20)

Ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive.” (1 Nephi 15:11)

Hear ye the words of the prophet.” (1 Nephi 19:24)

“Come near unto me.” (1 Nephi 20:16)

Questions:

-How much more meaningful are our efforts to keep the commandments because of Christ and the Atonement He worked out in our behalf?

-Why is enduring to the end important?

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

“Obedience is powerful spiritual medicine. It comes close to being a cure-all” (Boyd K. Packer, “Balm of Gilead,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 18).

“The most important of all the commandments of God is that one that you are having the most difficulty keeping today. … Put that aright and then you start on the next one that is most difficult for you to keep. That’s the way to sanctify yourself by keeping the commandments of God” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], 30).