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)
-What does it mean to prosper in the land? And, how is it the opposite of being cut off from God?
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)
-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?
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)
-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?
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)
-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?
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?
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)
-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)
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)
-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?
Nephi continues to interpret and expand on Isaiah’s prophecies of the last days around the time of Christ’s Second Coming. After emphasizing that all who fight against Zion will be destroyed, he provides additional detail about why this destruction will occur.
“…[T]he time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned. For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous. Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved even if it so be as by fire.” (1 Nephi 22:15-17)
-Do these verses only refer to cleansing of the earth at the time of Christ’s Second Coming? Or, is it an expression of a more general principle by which the Lord will operate as the wheat is gathered from the tares (See Matthew 13:24–30; D&C 86:1–7) leading up to the Second Coming?
-Why is pride such a powerful indicator of not being on the side of the righteous? What are some other indicators of being an enemy of righteousness? (see These are Those Who Must Be Consumed as Stubble)
In interpreting Isaiah chapters 48 and 49 for his brothers, Nephi again teaches about the fate of those who fight against the people of the Lord in the last days.
“…[T]he blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood. And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.” (1 Nephi 22:13-14)
-Would the people of the Lord (true followers of Jesus Christ who receive His Spirit) ever be filled with the kind of anger and ill-will that leads to widespread violence and war?
-How quickly, on the other hand, would a group or society that is animated by such ill-will and anger start to turn upon itself and any of its neighbors who are under the influence of the same dark spirit?
-What role will anger toward the truth and light of Zion play in separating the wicked from the righteous in the last days?
-Are there growing signs of hatred toward the Lord’s people (who will not bow to the deteriorating status quos of the societies around them)?
-How easy will it be for those with good-will toward all—and high standards of conduct based on the truths of revealed scripture—to stay separated from each other in the midst of those who have fallen prey to contagious hatred born of ill-will and anger? Will the good in heart from all faiths be gathered together in solidarity, of necessity, as the great and abominable church (described in the passage above) begins to destroy itself?
Nephi continues to teach his brothers about the meaning of a portion of Isaiah’s prophecies found in the Brass Plates (comparable to Isaiah chapters 48 and 49 in the Old Testament). In interpreting the words of Isaiah, he again touches on the work the Lord will do through and for the children of Israel in the last days.
“Wherefore, he will bring [the house of Israel] again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (1 Nephi 22:12)
-Why did Jesus Christ focus his earthly ministry on the house of Israel? What is the principle by which He still focuses on, and operates through, the house of Israel to bless others throughout the world? How are the covenants He made to such men as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — who sought Him out and found Him thousands of years ago — tied to this principle of blessing the earth through the house of Israel?
-If someone who is of the house of Israel receives greater spiritual opportunities and does not magnify these opportunities to bless others, is his or her standing before God in greater peril compared with someone who never had such opportunities? Are those of the house of Israel held to a higher standard by God, given their calling to bless others though the blessings they have received? Will they either prosper greatly or be deeply confounded based on their decisions to either love God and keep His commandments or to reject Him and His counsel? Is there greater potential for wickedness and evil among those who are part of a covenant people and then fail to live by those covenants?
-Who in the world currently has a covenant relationship with God? How were those covenants established? Were they initiated directly and clearly by God? Or, was the source of the covenants of less distinct origin? Does it matter, once true covenants are entered into with God, whether the person is a literal descendant of the Israelites or not?
-What kind of captivity, obscurity, and darkness will the Lord bring the house of Israel out of as Isaiah’s prophecies are fulfilled in our time?