Their State Becomes Worse Than if They Had Never Known the Spirit of God and Righteousness

The prophet-historian Mormon, who abridged the Nephite records into what would be translated as the Book of Mormon, pauses during his historical narrative to teach an important truth about the fate of those who know the truth and then reject it.

He describes how former Nephites, who once had the gospel but then rejected it and joined the Lamanites (the Nephite’s enemies), were more murderous than the Lamanites who had never had the truth of the gospel. This was demonstrated when the Lamanite army came upon a group of unarmed, non-resisting people and the former Nephites among the Lamanite army killed many more non-combatants compared with those in the army who had always been Lamanites. (Alma 24:20-30)

“…After a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things.” (Alma 24:30)

Questions:

-Why would those who once had the Spirit of God, and then reject that Spirit, fall into deeper levels of sin than they would have if they had never known the truth of God?

-Who in the world today has had an abundance of God’s Spirit? Do they have the potential to become more hardened against God than others who haven’t had that abundance (depending on their choices)?

These Things Ought not to Be

The Lord’s servants preach against specific actions that tear at the fabric of society and corrupt the soul.

“…Those priests who did go forth among the people did preach against all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and malice, and revilings, and stealing, robbing, plundering, murdering, committing adultery, and all manner of lasciviousness, crying that these things ought not so to be…” (Alma 16:18)

Questions:

-How many of the above things does popular culture in the United States take lightly?

-How much damage has been done to our society and culture because some of these things have been treated as though they aren’t the spiritual and societal poison they are?

-Do some businesses, corporations, and media outlets have systems set up that profit from a degree of deception and disingenuousness?

-Do some politicians and practitioners of law benefit from the creation of strife, malice, reviling and envying?

Ye Cannot Be Saved in Your Sins

Amulek teaches that reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ is the only way to obtain the kingdom of heaven. Such reconciliation requires true repentance away from sin.

“…No unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.” (Alma 11:37)

“[Christ] shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death, for behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works.” (Alma 11:40-41)

Questions:

-How does Christ draw a person from being in sin and save him or her from sin? Will He ever violate the principle of free agency to do so?

-If to be in sin means being complacent about wrongdoing, is it clear why Christ won’t save a person in his or her sin?

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?

They Should Do None of These Things…For Whoso Doeth Them Shall Perish

Seeing the American Gentiles, and their weaknesses in the last days, Nephi provides a warning about certain unrighteous behaviors that will bring spiritual and physical ruin.

“…The Lord hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.” (2 Nephi 26:32)

Questions:

-What does it mean to take the name of the Lord in vain?

-Are you surprised that Nephi lists the casual or mocking use of the name of God among such things as murder and stealing?

-If, as the scriptures attest, the Holy Ghost testifies of God, what happens when a person makes a mockery of God’s name? Will the testimony of the Spirit withdraw from that person?

-What happens to a person spiritually if God’s Spirit withdraws from them? Will that person be more prone to feel malice and envy?

-How often does a terrible thing such as murder occur in the absence of such things as lies, malice, envy, and sexual promiscuity?

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)?

Wo unto All Those Who Die in Their Sins

Jacob describes some of the spiritual darkness that can enter the lives of men and women and separate their souls from God for eternity.

“…Wo unto the deaf that will not hear; for they shall perish. Wo unto the blind that will not see; for they shall perish also. Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day. Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell. Wo unto the murderer who deliberately killeth, for he shall die. Wo unto them who commit whoredoms, for they shall be thrust down to hell. Yea, wo unto those that worship idols, for the devil of all devils delighteth in them. And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins.” (2 Nephi 9:31-38)

Questions:

-What causes spiritual deafness and spiritual blindness?

-How many people care about their relationship with God? How many believe in God to begin with? Have many been convinced, in our times, that searching for God is a fruitless endeavor? What is the cost of trying to hear God’s voice compared to the cost of having less joy throughout the eternities because the attempt to know and understand God was never made?

-Can you see the messages of the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and other inspired scripture as a call to hear God’s voice?

-How can a person know that his or her heart is right before God?

-What is the difference between a person who lies and then repents of the sin and a person who makes lying a regular part of his or her character and does not repent? Which person do you think Jacob is talking about in the passage above?

-What would be the greater punishment for a person who deliberately commits murder? Being executed physically or the pain of dying spiritually. Will the murderer or the person that was murdered end up experiencing greater pain in the end?

-What are whoredoms? Why does God care deeply about the way each person handles his or her sexuality? How powerful is sexuality spiritually (for good or for evil)?

-Why does the devil delight in idol worship? What kind of idols do most people worship in our times?

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).