The Lord is Able to Do All Things According to His Will

After the brothers returned to their father’s camp with the Brass Plates, Lehi, their father, received additional revelation that the young men were to go to Jerusalem once again and bring back the family of a man named Ishmael. The brothers are successful in convincing Ishmael and his family to join the divinely mandated exodus to a new land but on the way back to Lehi’s camp Laman, Lemuel, and some of Ishmael’s family had second thoughts and wanted to return to Jerusalem.

As part of his effort to keep them from doubting and rebelling against specific direction given by God to leave Jerusalem, Nephi asks the following:

“…How is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him?” (1 Nephi 7:12)

Questions:

-How can you know God’s will?

-How do you know when your will and God’s will are aligned?

-Is there any limit to what God can provide by way of help and guidance when your will is aligned with His?

-How important is faith as a catalyst for allowing God’s strength into your life?

Mighty Even unto the Power of Deliverance

Another of the earliest direct messages in the Book of Mormon comes from the writings of Nephi. This Nephi was raised in Jerusalem at the heart of the Jewish nation. His father, Lehi, was one who earnestly sought the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (who the people of the Jewish nation professed to worship).

In the act of solemn prayer, seeking for the welfare of his people, he received revelation from God, which included a warning of the impending destruction of Jerusalem. In hopes that they would repent and be spared, Lehi began communicating what he had seen to the inhabitants of his city and soon received further revelation to leave Jerusalem because some in the city, unhappy with Lehi’s warnings, were plotting to take his life. Lehi and his family did as they were directed and (in 600 B.C.) were led by God away from the darkening prospects of Jerusalem across long stretches of land and sea to the Americas.

After witnessing and participating in this extraordinary deliverance, Nephi declares the following truths for those who would later read his account:

“…the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” (1 Nephi 1:20)

Questions:

-Who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? (see quote from Ezra Taft Benson below)

-What is revelation? How and when does God reveal himself to those living on the earth?

-How important is it to have the power of deliverance in your life and your family members’ lives?

-Is physical deliverance or spiritual deliverance more important? How, if at all, are both types of deliverance related?

-Are the tender mercies of the Lord extended to everyone on the earth? Or, just to those whom He has chosen because of their faith?

-What is faith? And, what kind and intensity of faith do you need to be made mighty through God’s direct participation in your life?

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…

“The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. …

“… The Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness and obedience enable us to receive these important gifts and, frequently, the Lord’s timing helps us to recognize them.

“We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies” (David A. Bednar, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 99–100).

“We must keep in mind who Jesus was before He was born. He was the Creator of all things, the great Jehovah, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was and is the Holy One of Israel” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Dec. 2001, 10).

They Will Not Search Knowledge, Nor Understand Great Knowledge, When It Is Given unto Them in Plainness

After teaching about the first principles and ordinances of the gospel—including faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end—Nephi laments the tendency in many to “look past” or ignore the greatest and most basic truths.

“…I am left to mourn because of the unbelief and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” (2 Nephi 32:7)

Questions:

-How many lack spiritual knowledge because of unbelief, wickedness, and prideful stubbornness?

-Why do we often make things more complicated than they need to be when it comes to our spiritual welfare?

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).


 

The Lord Covenanteth with None Save it be with Them That Repent and Believe in His Son

After prophesying about some of the beliefs and misconceptions that would keep many of the Gentiles from accepting the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and also the blessings that would come to the house of Israel in the last days, Nephi warns his people that no one receives salvation by birthright. Covenant blessings can only be made fully alive through repentance, obedience to God’s commandments, and faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

“And now behold, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you; for I, Nephi, would not suffer that ye should suppose that ye are more righteous than the Gentiles shall be. For behold, except ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall all likewise perish; and because of the words which have been spoken ye need not suppose that the Gentiles are utterly destroyed. For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 30:1-2)

Questions:

-Do the verses above imply that most of the Gentiles will repent and become part of the Lord’s covenant people in the last days? Or, do they imply that it will be a relatively small proportion that will do so? (see The Gentiles Shall Deny Me)

I Am a God of Miracles

The Lord inspired Nephi to include messages in his writing on the Gold Plates that He knew would, in turn, help inspire and direct Joseph Smith as the prophet of the Restoration. Speaking in the first person, the Lord states the following:

“For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.” (2 Nephi 27:23)

The Lord then—through the prophet Nephi—directs Joseph Smith to a specific portion of Isaiah’s writings (comparable to the translation of Isaiah 29:13-24 in the King James Version of the Bible) and restates them directly as a message to Joseph. These words undoubtedly helped the prophet Joseph to understand the scope and meaning of the work the Lord was initiating through him.

“…The Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him: Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men—Therefore, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, yea, a marvelous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid.” (2 Nephi 27:24-26)

“And wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord! And their works are in the dark; and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us? And they also say: Surely, your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay. But behold, I will show unto them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I know all their works. For shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, he had no understanding?” (2 Nephi 27:27)

“And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. And the meek also shall increase, and their joy shall be in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For assuredly as the Lord liveth they shall see that the terrible one is brought to naught, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off; and they that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of naught.” (2 Nephi 27:29-32)

“Therefore, thus saith the Lord who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob; Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face wax pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.” (2 Nephi 27:33-35)

Questions:

-How and why will the wisdom and understanding of those who are not aligned with God’s marvelous work fail?

-Will miracles, leading up to the return of Jesus Christ, make it clear that many of mankind’s concepts of truth are deeply flawed (because they did not take into account God’s direct and miraculous interventions in response to true faith among His children on earth).

-How jolting will it be for some as God’s miraculous power begins to be more and more evident for all to see? Will some respond by “working in darkness” to discredit and undermine God’s work?

-Who will be more receptive to God’s miraculous work? Will it be those who are well-established in life through existing systems of wealth and power? Or, will it be the poor who are largely outside of these systems of wealth and power?

-How will the gathering of scattered Israel be part of God’s miraculous work?

Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God

Nephi reemphasizes that his record (and the records of the Nephite prophets who would follow him) is intended to be a testament of Jesus Christ to both Jew and Gentile, wherever they might live across the entire earth.

“…As I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.” (2 Nephi 26:12-13)

Questions:

-How does Christ work with the Holy Ghost to manifest Himself to those who believe in him?

-Does the passage above suggest that the effort to believe needs to be exercised before the witness of the Holy Ghost will come?

-Are mighty miracles, signs, and wonders occurring among those who have steadfast faith in Christ?

It Is by Grace That We Are Saved After All We Can Do

Nephi taught his people that reconciliation with God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ was more important than anything else. He understood that no matter how close he (or anyone else) came to living God’s law perfectly, salvation would always depend on Christ’s merciful intervention.

“…We labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

 Questions:

-While establishing faith in Christ that allows us to be reconciled with God is absolutely foundational, how important is what we do to build on that foundation going forward in our lives?

-Once one understands that Heavenly Father will, because of repentance available through Christ’s Atonement, choose the better part of a mortal life by treasuring up and eternally magnifying all the good that person does, is it likely that living by God’s law and doing good works will become more important or less important to that person?

-What can God make of “all we can do” with Christ on our side?

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

“I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret the phrase ‘after all we can do.’ We must understand that ‘after’ does not equal ‘because.’

“We are not saved ‘because’ of all that we can do. Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we’ve expended every effort before He will intervene in our lives with His saving grace?” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Gift of Grace,” 110).

“We do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Free Forever, to Act for Themselves,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 19).

Let Your Hearts Rejoice

Jacob provides keys to true joy.

“…Remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice.” (2 Nephi 9:52)

-Can prayer establish a connection with God and, thereby, help a person live in the joy and peace of His Spirit?

-Does the joy and peace that comes from the Spirit testify of God’s power to lift and save one’s soul?

-Does having that testimony from the Spirit help one to exercise faith in Jesus Christ day by day?

-In light of the above questions, how are prayer and gratitude related to both joy in this life and salvation in the eternities?

-What is keeping your heart from rejoicing?

-Is it freeing to know that according to God’s word we should let our hearts rejoice in the beautiful hope and truth of which the Spirit testifies?

He Commandeth All Men That They Must Repent and Be Baptized in His Name

Jacob teaches about God’s law concerning faith, repentance, baptism, and staying true to the end.

“…He commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.” (2 Nephi 9:23-24)

Questions:

-What does it mean to be damned (click on the link above for the definition)?

-Why does God require outward signs (such as baptism by water) that, when undertaken, don’t necessarily mean a person is truly committed inwardly?

-How popular is the idea of repentance?

-Who is the righteous and perfect Exemplar that we can repent towards and in whose name we are baptized?

-Is it possible to have perfect faith without the help of the Holy Ghost (who gives a perfect witness of Christ’s divinity and God the Father’s divinity)? Is it necessary to renew the power of the Spirit in our lives from time to time in order to obtain or regain that perfect faith?

-Is it possible to obtain an eternal realm of glory in the life to come but still be damned (i.e. be limited in one’s eternal progression)?

-Do some Christian faiths emphasize the initial witness of Christ’s power to save without emphasizing the importance of staying true to that witness—through continual repentance towards Christ’s example—during all the remainder of one’s life?

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

“From the moment those first parents stepped out of the Garden of Eden, the God and Father of us all, anticipating Adam and Eve’s decision, dispatched the very angels of heaven to declare to them—and down through time to us—that this entire sequence was designed for our eternal happiness. It was part of His divine plan, which provided for a Savior, the very Son of God Himself—another ‘Adam,’ the Apostle Paul would call Him [see 1 Corinthians 15:45]—who would come in the meridian of time to atone for the first Adam’s transgression. That Atonement would achieve complete victory over physical death, unconditionally granting resurrection to every person who has been born or ever will be born into this world. Mercifully it would also provide forgiveness for the personal sins of all, from Adam to the end of the world, conditioned upon repentance and obedience to divine commandments” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 105–6).