All People Shall Dwell Safely in the Holy One of Israel If It So Be That They Will Repent

As Nephi continues to expound on the prophesies and messages of Isaiah (chapters 48 and 49), he reemphasizes – despite the turmoil of the last days and all that will befall those who fight against Zion – that there is always safety in Jesus Christ.

“[A]ll nations, kindreds, tongues, and people shall dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel if it so be that they will repent.” (1 Nephi 22:28)

-Does Christ deny anyone or any group who comes to Him?

-Is there any other way to come unto Christ, besides through repentance?

-If the standard we repent to is the Divine Christ, how much emphasis and focus should be placed on repenting daily?

-Does the thought of a Perfect Standard encourage you or discourage you?

-Is encouragement or discouragement, in looking to Christ, a choice we make?

-How important is it to have faith that such a standard is obtainable for the standard to be meaningful?

-Would Christ want us to obtain anything less than the potential He has given us through his example and atoning sacrifice?

-If we allow His power into our lives, are there limits to what Christ can make of us as individuals and as groups?

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

“Why have our Father and His Son commanded us to repent? Because they love us. They know all of us will violate eternal laws. Whether they be small or large, justice requires that every broken law be satisfied to retain the promise of joy in this life and the privilege of returning to Father in Heaven. If not satisfied, in the Day of Judgment justice will cause that we be cast out of the presence of God to be under the control of Satan [see 2 Nephi 9:8–10; 2 Nephi 2:5].

“It is our Master and His redeeming act that make it possible for us to avoid such condemnation. It is done through faith in Jesus Christ, obedience to His commandments, and enduring in righteousness to the end.

“Are you taking full advantage of the redeeming power of repentance in your life so that you can have greater peace and joy? Feelings of turmoil and despondency often signal a need for repentance. Also the lack of the spiritual direction you seek in your life could result from broken laws. If needed, full repentance will put your life together. It will solve all of the complex spiritual pains that come from transgression. But in this life it cannot remedy some of the physical consequences that can occur from serious sin. Be wise and consistently live well within the boundaries of righteousness defined by the Lord” (Richard G. Scott, “The Path to Peace and Joy,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 25).

During the Millennium Satan Will Have No Power and the Holy One of Israel Will Reign

Nephi teaches his brothers about the state of the Lord’s people after they have been gathered in and the wicked have been removed from the earth.

“And the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall, and the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power and great glory. And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture. And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth.” (1 Nephi 22:24-26)

Questions:

-Would it be possible for Satan to be bound if the earth was not cleansed of wickedness?

-Will some, who did not call themselves Christians, know Christ when He returns to the earth to reign? Will some, who did call themselves Christians, not know Christ when He returns? What is the Light of Christ?

-How will the social and economic systems of the earth change under the guidance of God Himself? What level of joy, peace, and unprecedented progress will be experienced as Satan loses all power on the earth?

-Will all people immediately be one with the Lord’s people? Or, will missionary work continue during Christ’s reign on earth? (This reign is also referred to as the Millennium)

Teachings of the Seventies

“When we are righteous, Satan has no power over us. A prophecy about the Millennium teaches us that ‘because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness’ (1 Nephi 22:26). This scripture is speaking about the condition that will exist in the world when the people as a whole live in righteousness, but the principle can be true today for us individually. … Individually we can be free from any power the adversary would like to have over us by living righteously. He only gains power as we allow it by our choices” (Paul V. Johnson, “Free to Choose Liberty or Captivity” [Brigham Young University devotional, Nov. 6, 2012], 5–6, speeches.byu.edu).

These Are Those Who Must Be Consumed as Stubble

Nephi continues to interpret and expand on Isaiah’s prophecies.  After emphasizing that all who fight against Zion will be destroyed, he provides additional detail about the aims and characteristics of those who will not be protected in Zion as the time of Christ’s return draws near.

“…All churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble.” (1 Nephi 22:23)

Questions:

-Is Nephi referring to churches specifically as places and organizations for traditional Christian worship? Or, is he referring to all organizations and groups — whether they would normally be called churches or not — that are focused on power, the lusts of the flesh, and popularity?

-Have some corporations and companies become church-like in our day? How do such corporations try to exercise control over the flesh? How important is it for large companies to do whatever keeps them, and their products, popular among the widest portion of the population possible? If the standards of the population at large begin to deteriorate how likely is it that these organizations will mirror and seek to justify the deteriorating standards? What level of depravity would an organization need to fall into in order to be in danger of destruction at the time of Christ’s coming?

-Has wielding government power become a kind of practical church — where the “greatest difference” can be made through social policy that helps society to “progress” — and a substitute for the Gospel for some? Are those who believe in a God of miracles more likely or less likely to view government in this way?

-Do some Christian churches focus more on gaining income and popularity than they do on teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ as found in the scriptures?

The Lord God Shall Cause a Great Division among the People

Nephi prophesies about the great division that will occur among the inhabitants of the earth as the Lord gathers the house of Israel out of all lands and peoples during the last days.

“…It shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth. And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire.”  (2 Nephi 30:8-10)

Questions:

-Who are the Lord’s people?

-According to these versus, what kind of person will the Lord help and protect as wickedness grows around the world?

-Will the kind of people the Lord will protect and gather during the last days take joy is seeing the wicked suffer? Are those who are humble and meek likely to have ill will towards others and have a vengeful spirit?

-Would God destroy the wicked other than to spare His people?

-Does God reprove anyone who is willing to repent and come to his Son, Jesus Christ (regardless of whether they are of the house of Israel or not)?

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

“I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested. God’s wrath will soon shake the nations of the earth and will be poured out on the wicked without measure. (See JS—H 1:45; D&C 1:9.)” (Ezra Taft Benson, “I Testify,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 87).

The Gentiles Will Deny Me

Nephi prophesies that, as the house of Israel is gathered out of the Gentile nations in the last days, many (if not most) of the Gentiles will deny Christ’s work because they will trust their own thought systems and the security of their social networks more than the witness and power of the Holy Ghost.

Cursed is he who putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (2 Nephi 28:31-32)

Questions:

-How tempting is it to trust the power of mankind (that works on a mortal and temporal scale) more than God (who works on an eternal scale)?

-Can mortal and temporal power seem like the only power that matters if one does not receive the Holy Ghost’s witness of eternal power?

At That Day Shall He Rage in the Hearts of the Children of Men

After giving the Lord’s assurance that those who repent will not be destroyed, Nephi extends a warning to those living in the last days (the time in which we now live): Before being destroyed, the devil and his kingdom will grasp desperately at the hearts of all in an attempt to anger them against God’s light and goodness.

“…If the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Hosts. But, behold that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof. For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger and perish; For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Nephi 28:17-19)

Questions:

-What would lead a soul to “anger against that which is good”?

-In a scenario where the light and power of God’s work becomes more and more evident on the earth, will it be possible for those who do not repent to avoid becoming angry?

-Will things reach such an awful state among those who have consolidated against God’s work that a portion of those who have been lulled into the devil’s kingdom will wake to their terrible situation and repent?

They Have Closed Their Eyes and They Have Rejected the Prophets

The Book of Mormon testifies that the Lord is actively overseeing His creation and always reaching out to His children on earth to encourage good choices (righteous living in obedience to His commandments). God perceives all that is real and true and guides His children on earth accordingly through His Spirit, his prophets, the scriptures, and other means. In the verses below, the prophet Nephi sees the state of those who reject the Lord’s prophets and His Spirit in the last days.

“…All ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye shall cry out, and cry; yea ye shall be drunken but not with wine, ye shall stagger but not with strong drink. For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, you have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.” (2 Nephi 27:4-5)

Questions:

-How is the impaired state that comes with being drunk, similar to the spiritual state of those who have cut themselves off from the ultimate light and truth only God can offer?

-How many throughout the world are staggering under the influence of belief systems that are not based on the deepest realities?

-Are some of the most common belief systems (that are not based on God’s revelations to mankind) actually a deep spiritual sleep?

-Are there prophets and seers on the earth today? If so, what are their claims to having authority from God to share His word?

-Are we in as much need of a prophet today as in the times of the Bible? Are our issues and problems more complex or less complex than in past ages?

All the Nations that Fight Against Zion Shall Be as a Dream of a Night Vision

The prophet Nephi foresees that all who set themselves against Zion in the last days will find emptiness rather than joy and satisfaction.

“…All the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision; yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.” (2 Nephi 27:3)

Questions:

-Where is Zion located today?

-Does it have more than one location?

-Is it currently everywhere where the pure in heart can be found? What does it mean to be pure in heart? Can one be pure in heart without the purifying power of the Holy Ghost?

-Who is participating in the formation and growth of Zion?

-Who is fighting against Zion? What is the motivation driving those who fight against Zion? How long lasting will be the satisfaction they gain from distressing Zion?

-Will the results of God’s active interventions make it clear who He supports and who He doesn’t in the last days? Will any setback for Zion be lasting?

They Shall Be Drunken with Iniquity and All Manner of Abominations

The prophet Nephi saw the state of the world in the last days before the return of Jesus Christ.

“…In the last days, or in the days of the Gentiles—yea, behold all the nations of the Gentiles and also the Jews, both those who shall come upon this land and those who shall be upon other lands, yea, even upon all the lands of the earth, behold, they will be drunken with iniquity and all manner abominations. And when that day shall come they shall be visited of the Lord of Hosts, with thunder and with earthquake, and with a great noise, and with storm, and with tempest, and with the flame of devouring fire.” (2 Nephi 27:1-2)

Questions:

-Has the earth been visited with thunder, earthquake, great noise, storms, tempest and the flame of devouring fire in our times?

-Have these kinds of events been more common in our modern times as compared to early times?

-Do you feel it is accurate to say that the world is “drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations” in our time?

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

“I know of nothing in the history of the Church or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now.

“Words of profanity, vulgarity, and blasphemy are heard everywhere. Unspeakable wickedness and perversion were once hidden in dark places; now they are in the open, even accorded legal protection.

“At Sodom and Gomorrah these things were localized. Now they are spread across the world, and they are among us” (Boyd K. Packer, “The One Pure Defense” [evening with a General Authority, Feb. 6, 2004], 4).

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?