The Lord Knoweth All Things from the Beginning

When Nephi wrote the events of his life he divided it into two distinct records. One was devoted to the things of God in the form of teaching, instruction, and prophesy. The other focused more on historical events. He took this dual approach to record keeping based on a commandment received from the Lord but Nephi didn’t know exactly what the Lord’s purpose was in giving him this direction. What he did know, as he expresses below, made him confident to proceed as directed.

“…The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.” (1 Nephi 9:6)

Questions:

-If there are no unforeseen developments from God’s perspective and He has all power to fulfill His work, how confident can you be in Him and His promises?

-If you know, or came to know, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, how valuable would it be to have the promises of God and the knowledge of His work that is contained within it?

-How can you know whether the Book of Mormon is a work of God or isn’t? (see Moroni 10:3-5) 

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…

“Sometimes when we are asked to be obedient, we do not know why, except the Lord has commanded. … Nephi followed instructions even though he didn’t fully understand the wise purpose. His obedience resulted in blessings to mankind all over the world” (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, “Who Will Forfeit the Harvest?” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 51).

“Without the knowledge of all things God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men that God had all knowledge it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him.” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith [1985], 51–52).

 

The Lord Slayeth the Wicked

The third attempt to obtain the Brass Plates was carried out alone by Nephi while his brothers waited outside the city. He wasn’t sure how he would succeed, but he went forward trusting that the Lord would prepare the way. After entering the city, he found Laban (the man who had the Plates and had attempted to kill him and his brothers) drunk on the ground.

After taking the sword from Laban’s sheath Nephi experienced the following internal struggle:

“And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him. And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.

And…the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord has delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” (1 Nephi 4:10-13)

-How often is the spiritual fate of an entire future nation so closely tied to the actions of one man (such as Laban)?

-If you believe God gave us life, do you also believe He has the power and authority to take it away based on His higher wisdom and timing?

-Do you think the adversary attempted to make Nephi feel guilty about what he had done in this very exceptional circumstance (even though he did do what was right)?

He is Mightier than All the Earth

After two unsuccessful attempts at obtaining the Brass Plates (see previous post The Lord Prepares the Way) from a man named Laban, Laman and LemuelNephi’s two older brothers — were ready to give up. They were afraid of confronting Laban because of the strength he had as an individual and the power he had, as a leader in Jerusalem, to command a small army. After the second attempt to obtain the plates, Laban had attempted to kill the brothers.

Nephi addressed their concerns as follows:

Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands? (1 Nephi 4:1)

-How meaningful would it be to have an Ally who is mightier than all the earth?

-In His higher wisdom, God will not always intervene in a life — or in events on the earth more broadly — the way we may want Him to. So, how can you know if God, the mightiest of allies, will or will not answer your prayers for specific blessings in your life?

-If the Book of Mormon is what Moroni declares it is in his introduction (see Condemn Not the Things of God) and was brought to us by the gift and power of God: How could understanding and living by the commandments contained in the Book of Mormon increase the power of God in your life?

-Was Nephi in a position where he hoped God would assist him? Or, was hope replaced by trust because he knew he was fulfilling a commandment? Can your relationship with God graduate from hope to trust when your will and actions are aligned with God’s commandments?

-Is it possible to trust someone you don’t know?  Is it possible to know God and, therefore, trust Him? Would you say Nephi’s knowledge of God was based more on theological studies or more on actual experience?

 

The Lord Prepares the Way

Another direct teaching comes from Nephi while giving the account of his family’s journey to the Americas. After leaving Jerusalem, Lehi (Nephi’s father) receives direction from God to have Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem and obtain a historical record contained on brass plates. Two of Nephi’s brothers complained and resisted, but Nephi declared his willingness to go and do what was required. In his record, as contained in third chapter of the Book of Mormon, he shares the principle of truth on which his willingness was based:

“…I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)

Questions:

-Have you received commandments from God? If so, what commandments have you received? Are you conscientious about following through based on any direction you have received?

-Are God’s commandments applicable to everyone? Where can these commandments be found?

-Are some commandments more foundational or important than others? (see Mark 12:30-31)

-How sure can you be, based on Nephi’s statement, that it is possible to accomplish what you have been commanded to do?

Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…

“Obedience is the first law of heaven. All progression, all perfection, all salvation, all godliness, all that is right and just and true, all good things come to those who live the laws of Him who is Eternal. There is nothing in all eternity more important than to keep the commandments of God” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 126).

Do the Things Which I Have Told You I Have Seen That Your Lord and Your Redeemer Should Do

After teaching about the baptism of Christ and the importance of baptism for all of God’s children, Nephi teaches about how a person should move forward after being baptized.

“Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and of the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.” (2 Nephi 31:17-18)

“And now my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” (2 Nephi 31:19-20)

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” (2 Nephi 31:21)

Questions:

-How many knew about the necessity of baptism before Christ came to the earth?

-Did others, besides the Nephites, who were of the house of Israel practice baptism before the ministry of John the Baptist?

-Was the idea of baptism completely new to the Jewish people when John the Baptist began his ministry?

-Is there any reason to doubt Christ’s power to save your soul in the kingdom of God if you press forward after baptism as described in the verses above?

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

“Sins are remitted not in the waters of baptism, as we say in speaking figuratively, but when we receive the Holy Ghost. … We become clean when we actually receive the fellowship and companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is then that sin and dross and evil are burned out of our souls as though by fire. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 290).

“The ‘doctrine of Christ’ as taught by Nephi in his grand, summational discourse focuses on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. It does not, in this declaration, attempt to cover the entire plan of salvation, all the virtues of a Christian life, or the rewards that await us in differing degrees of heavenly glory. It does not, in this declaration, deal with the offices of the priesthood, the ordinances of the temple, or many other true doctrines. All these are important, but as used in the Book of Mormon, ‘the doctrine of Christ’ is simple and direct. It focuses on the first principles of the gospel exclusively, including an expression of encouragement to endure, to persist, to press on. Indeed, it is in the clarity and simplicity of ‘the doctrine of Christ’ that its impact is found. Nephi knew it would be so. He wrote, ‘I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying’ [2 Nephi 31:2]” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 49–50).

“The Holy Ghost provides personal revelation to help us make major life decisions about such things as education, missions, careers, marriage, children, where we will live with our families, and so on. …

“… As the scriptures attest, the Holy Ghost also testifies of the Savior and God the Father [see John 15:26; Romans 8:16]. He teaches us ‘the peaceable things of the kingdom’ [D&C 39:6] and causes us to ‘abound in hope’ [Romans 15:13]. He ‘leadeth [us] to do good … [and] to judge righteously’ [D&C 11:12]. He gives ‘to every man [and woman] … a [spiritual] gift … that all may be profited thereby’ [D&C 46:11–12; see also Moroni 10:8–17; D&C 13–16]. He ‘giveth [us] knowledge’ [Alma 18:35] and ‘bring[s] all things to [our] remembrance’ [John 14:26]. Through the Holy Ghost, we ‘may be sanctified’ [3 Nephi 27:20] and receive ‘a remission of [our] sins’ [2 Nephi 31:17]. He is the ‘Comforter,’ the same who was ‘promised unto [the Savior’s] disciples’ [D&C 88:3]” (Robert D. Hales, “The Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 105).


 

He That Endureth to the End, the Same Shall Be Saved

The prophet Nephi shares the revelation he received regarding the importance of remaining faithful (in thought and deed) in this life after entering the baptismal covenant and receiving the Holy Ghost.

“…Thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, ye, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me. And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” (2 Nephi 31:14-15)

“And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.” (2 Nephi 31:16)

Questions:

-What does it mean to endure to the end?

-Why do some fail to finish what they started after entering the baptismal covenant and receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost?

-How easy is it to question the witness of the Holy Ghost received early on, when later one does not have the same level of the Spirit’s purifying influence in his or her life?

-What can cause the influence of the Spirit to diminish over time?

-How quickly can one regain the full influence of the Spirit after repenting and recommitting to follow Jesus Christ? Is the amount of time needed to regain the Spirit’s strong influence connected to how far from the Spirit a person has drifted?

-Does any of the above apply to those who are baptized by someone who does not have God’s authority to do so?

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

“Enduring to the end is the doctrine of continuing on the path leading to eternal life after one has entered into the path through faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Enduring to the end requires our whole heart or, as the Book of Mormon prophet Amaleki teaches, we must ‘come unto him, and offer [our] whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth [we] will be saved’ [Omni 1:26].

“Enduring to the end means that we have planted our lives firmly on gospel soil, staying in the mainstream of the Church, humbly serving our fellow men, living Christlike lives, and keeping our covenants. Those who endure are balanced, consistent, humble, constantly improving, and without guile. Their testimony is not based on worldly reasons—it is based on truth, knowledge, experience, and the Spirit” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Press On,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 101).

Wo Be unto Them That Revile Against That Which Is Good and Say That It Is of No Worth

The prophet Nephi warns of serious consequences for those who do not humble themselves before God and His commandments in the last days.

“O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell! Wo be unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth! For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they that are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish.” (2 Nephi 28:15-16)

Questions:

-How many understand (or believe) that humility toward God is necessary for spiritual survival?

-Why would those who are steeped in the beliefs of elite intellectual circles and those that are wealthy be more likely to be prideful and “revile against that which is good?”

-How many would intentionally teach false doctrine? How many would resist the Holy Ghost in what they taught if it allowed them to stay in good standing with their intellectual peers?

-How many are willing to see sexual sin in terms of how God defines it (rather than how most of our contemporary societies define it)?

-How much of the suffering, evil, and depravity in the world is due to the perverting of the “right way of the Lord?”

-Are the groups that revile against that which is good further consolidating themselves (through the social “echo chamber” effect) into a state where they are fully ripe in iniquity?

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?

Christ’s Atonement Satisfieth the Demands of God’s Justice upon All Those Who Have Not the Law Given to Them

Jacob teaches that, because of Christ’s merciful Atonement, those who do not have God’s law will not be condemned by it.

“…He has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him. For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 9:25-26)

Those who do have God’s law, on the other hand, will be held accountable for their actions in relation to it (unless they continually draw on the power of Christ’s Atonement and repent towards doing better in relation to it):

“But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God…and that transgresseth them, and wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!” (2 Nephi 9:27)

Questions:

-Who on the earth currently is without God’s law? Are there whole nations and people that are largely free from the demands of this law because they have had little or none of it given to them?

-Is the light of Christ that touches the hearts of all living people part of the law? Does this innate sense of conscience and right and wrong bring all to the law to some degree?

-What do these truths Jacob teaches about the law say about the mercy God extends to those that have severe mental disabilities to the point where they cannot comprehend the law clearly?

-What are the benefits of having God’s law if it has the potential to condemn us once we understand it?

-Is the combination of having God’s law, and having an understanding of the redeeming power of Christ’s Atonement for those who repent, a way to obtain greater opportunities to serve others? Through that increased opportunity to serve and bless, are some given the precious opportunity to grow closer to Christ during mortality?