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?

Inasmuch as Ye Shall Not Keep My Commandments Ye Shall be Cut Off from My Presence

Shortly before passing away, Lehi took the time to speak to the children of his two (rebellious) older sons. He teaches them that obedience to God’s counsel and direction is the only way toward lasting physical and spiritual prosperity.

“…The Lord God has said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” (2 Nephi 4:4)

-Even though the power of God’s grace cannot be overstated in its power to lift, heal, save, and exalt…Is it possible to undermine grace in our lives if we do not strive to live according to this foundational principle related to the commandments God has established?

-No matter how much God loves His children, would He ever make compromises in upholding the laws and consequences He has established for mortality (and we agreed to in the pre-mortal realm)?

Look to the Great Mediator and Choose Eternal Life According to the Will of His Holy Spirit

Lehi, in counseling his sons to choose Christ, also teaches about the most important choices all must make.

“…I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit; and not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.” (2 Nephi 2:28-29)

-How can a person look to Jesus Christ in his or her day to day life?

-What does it mean to be faithful to His words?

-How is keeping God’s commandments a path to greater freedom away from captivity?

-What is the will of the Holy Spirit? Can one’s will become one with the Holy Spirit’s will?

The Lord God Gave Commandment that All Men Must Repent

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about the meaning of mortal life and the vital importance of repentance:

“…Adam and Eve…brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth. And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent.” (2 Nephi 2:19-21)

Questions:

-How do you feel about your life being a time to show who you really are?

-If repentance means turning to God, how can this be accomplished in a person’s life?

-How many people in the world have a sense of the need of repentance? How many know how to turn to God? If they never are taught these things during mortal life, will they have an opportunity to receive this knowledge in the post-mortal spirit world (before the Resurrection and Final Judgment)?

-Is there any way to repent except through the atoning sacrifice of Christ?

-Are there any sins too heinous or evil toward which the healing power of Christ’s Atonement is ineffective?

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

“Repentance means striving to change. It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part. Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts (see 2 Nephi 25:23). Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome. Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving” (“The Divine Gift of Repentance,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 39).

Teachings of the Seventy:

“Since the fifth century, Christianity taught that Adam and Eve’s Fall was a tragic mistake. … That view is wrong. … The Fall was not a disaster. It wasn’t a mistake or an accident. It was a deliberate part of the plan of salvation” (“The Atonement: All for All,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 97).

God Gave unto Man that He Should Act for Himself

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about how God structured mortal life so we would be free to choose between the good and the evil.

“…There is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon. And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” (2 Nephi 2:14-16)

Questions:

-Do you believe there is a God? If so, why?

-Is there is a Spirit that testifies to the heart and soul that God exists? If so, when and how does this occur?

-Do you have a worldview that allows for good and evil? If so, are those categories of good and evil defined by you or by God?

-Do books such as the Bible and the Book of Mormon help define God’s standards of right and wrong through the commandments and teachings found in them?

-If God has defined good and evil, what happens if men and women create their own separate definitions of what belongs in these categories?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“The simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death … without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 105).

“Four great principles must be in force if there is to be agency: 1. Laws must exist … which can be obeyed or disobeyed; 2. Opposites must exist—good and evil, virtue and vice, right and wrong—that is, there must be an opposition, one force pulling one way and another pulling the other; 3. A knowledge of good and evil must be had by those who are to enjoy the agency, that is, they must know the differences between the opposites; and 4. An unfettered power of choice must prevail” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 26).

“Without the existence of choices, without our freedom to choose and without opposition, there would be no real existence. … It is a fact that we can neither grow spiritually nor thereby be truly happy unless and until we make wise use of our moral agency” (Neal A. Maxwell, One More Strain of Praise [1999], 80).

“Adam and Eve [through the Fall] became mortal. Happily for us, they could also beget children and fulfill the purposes for which the world was created. … Other blessings came to us through the Fall. It activated two closely coupled additional gifts from God, nearly as precious as life itself—agency and accountability” (Russell M. Nelson, “Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 34, italics added).

“The old saying ‘The Lord is voting for me, and Lucifer is voting against me, but it is my vote that counts’ describes a doctrinal certainty that our agency is more powerful than the adversary’s will. Agency is precious. We can foolishly, blindly give it away, but it cannot be forcibly taken from us.

“There is also an age-old excuse: ‘The devil made me do it.’ Not so! He can deceive you and mislead you, but he does not have the power to force you or anyone else to transgress” (Boyd K. Packer, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 74).

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?

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).

Hear Ye the Words of the Prophet Isaiah

Nephi taught his family from the scriptures found in the Brass Plates and placed special emphasis on the words of Isaiah.

“…That I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord  their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah…Wherefore I spake unto them saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom you have been broken off.” (1 Nephi 19:23-24)

Following are some of the messages from Isaiah’s writings that Nephi refers to after emphasizing the importance of the prophet’s words to those who are of the house of Israel:

…I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (1 Nephi 20:10)

Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called, for I am he; I am the first, and I am also the last.” (1 Nephi 20:12)

Come ye near unto me…” (1 Nephi 20:16)

O that thou hadst harkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” (1 Nephi 20:18)

…There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” (1 Nephi 20:22)

…I will not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers; and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.” (1 Nephi 21:15-17)

…thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” (1 Nephi 21:23)

…I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (1 Nephi 21:25-26)

Questions:

-Is the house of Israel hearing these messages from the book of Isaiah, which are also reemphasized in the Book of Mormon? How important are these messages from the Lord (through Isaiah) seeing that they are included in two different scriptural testaments?

-Is it possible to become part of the house of Israel, in the eyes of God, even if you are not part of an Israelite lineage?  (See The Lord Esteemeth All Flesh in One)

The Lord Esteemeth All Flesh in One and Loveth Those Who Will Have Him to Be Their God

Nephi, in an attempt to help his rebellious older brothers understand the importance of their family’s journey away from Jerusalem, refers them to the experience of the Israelites who left Egypt and were led by the Lord to the land of Canaan (the Israelite’s promised land). He explains to his brothers that the Israelites living in and around Jerusalem – at the time he was speaking to Laman and Lemuel around 590 B.C. — had reached such a state of sin and rebellion that the Lord would allow these Israelites to be destroyed by another nation (similar to how the depraved Canaanites were displaced by the Israelites centuries before). In this context Nephi shares a number of general truths about how God sees and works with his children on earth:

“…The Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God.” (1 Nephi 17:35)

“…The Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it. And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked. And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them for their sakes. He ruleth high in the heavens, for it is his throne, and this earth is his footstool. And he loveth those who will have him to be their God.” (1 Nephi 17:36-40)

Questions:

-Are there any groups or individuals toward which God shows favoritism? Is there any unfairness in how he works with his earthly children? How is the favor spoken of in this passage different from favoritism?

-If righteousness is the key to receiving God’s favor, how does a group (or individual) become righteous?

-What role do God’s commandments, covenants, and grace play in helping a group (or individual) live in righteousness?

-Should every instance of human destruction be viewed as a case of God bringing His judgments upon the wicked? If a person dies of old age — which is the destruction of the body – does that mean the person is wicked? Is widespread destruction (affecting a whole society or nation of people) more likely to indicate the loss of God’s favor? Is it easy to fall into the trap of seeing the misfortune of others as God’s judgment when misfortune, separate from God’s actions, is an inevitable part of this mortal life for all who come to this fallen world?

-Does God ever do anything that isn’t what is best for His children on earth? Are there times when God allows the destruction of individuals and nations for the eternal benefit of those who experience the destruction (as well as for those who inhabit the earth after them)?

-What is the difference between the love God feels for all of His children and the increased care He is able to provide to those who will have Him to be their God (i.e., those who strive to know Him and worship Him through obedience to His commandments)?