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).

“‘After all we can do’ includes extending our best effort. It includes living his commandments.

“‘After all we can do’ includes loving our fellow men and praying for those who regard us as their adversary. It means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and giving ‘succor [to] those that stand in need of [our] succor’ (Mosiah 4:16)—remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God’s children, we do unto him.

“‘After all we can do’ means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings and treating others the way we would want to be treated” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Redemption through Christ after All We Can Do,” Liahona, Dec. 1988, 5).

“As a Church, we are in accord with Nephi, who said, ‘It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ (2 Nephi 25:23.) …

“By grace, the Savior accomplished his atoning sacrifice so that all mankind will attain immortality.

“By his grace, and by our faith in his atonement and repentance of our sins, we receive the strength to do the works necessary that we otherwise could not do by our own power.

“By his grace we receive an endowment of blessing and spiritual strength that may eventually lead us to eternal life if we endure to the end.

“By his grace we become more like his divine personality” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Redemption through Christ after All We Can Do,” 4–5).

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? (See link above.)

-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:

“[Adam and Eve] transgressed a commandment of God which required that they leave their garden setting but which allowed them to have children before facing physical death. To add further sorrow and complexity to their circumstance, their transgression had spiritual consequences as well, cutting them off from the presence of God forever. Because we were then born into that fallen world and because we too would transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced. …

“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).

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?

God Shall Consecrate Thine Afflictions for Thy Gain

By the time he and his family reached the Americas, Lehi had grown old. Before passing away, he took the opportunity to instruct his family. While speaking to Jacob (Nephi’s younger brother), Lehi touches on the meaning of adversity when it is endured with faith.

“[I]n thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren. Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” (2 Nephi 2:2)

Questions:

-How precious is faithfulness in distress to God?

-How much easier is it to bear your burdens, knowing that God will consecrate them to your gain (if you endure faithfully)?

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).

All People Shall Dwell Safely in the Holy One of Israel If It So Be That They Will Repent

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?

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

“Why have our Father and His Son commanded us to repent? Because they love us. They know all of us will violate eternal laws. Whether they be small or large, justice requires that every broken law be satisfied to retain the promise of joy in this life and the privilege of returning to Father in Heaven. If not satisfied, in the Day of Judgment justice will cause that we be cast out of the presence of God to be under the control of Satan [see 2 Nephi 9:8–10; 2 Nephi 2:5].

“It is our Master and His redeeming act that make it possible for us to avoid such condemnation. It is done through faith in Jesus Christ, obedience to His commandments, and enduring in righteousness to the end.

“Are you taking full advantage of the redeeming power of repentance in your life so that you can have greater peace and joy? Feelings of turmoil and despondency often signal a need for repentance. Also the lack of the spiritual direction you seek in your life could result from broken laws. If needed, full repentance will put your life together. It will solve all of the complex spiritual pains that come from transgression. But in this life it cannot remedy some of the physical consequences that can occur from serious sin. Be wise and consistently live well within the boundaries of righteousness defined by the Lord” (Richard G. Scott, “The Path to Peace and Joy,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 25).

Ask Me in Faith

After receiving revelation regarding his father’s dream and many future events, Nephi returns to his father’s camp and finds his brothers arguing about what their father had taught the family. Another powerful and clear message of the Book of Mormon unfolds as Nephi reminds his brothers that they should seek out the ultimate source of truth and knowledge (rather than simply relying on their own understandings) to obtain clarity about the matters they are disputing about:

Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Nephi 15:11)

Questions:

-What are the essential elements of receiving guidance from God as described in the verse above?

-Is it always easy to maintain a soft heart when seeking answers from God?

-Do we sometimes ask in doubt (rather than in faith) and still expect an answer?

-Why is diligent keeping of the commandments an important aspect of receiving revelation from God? Is the strength of the Spirit in our lives tied to our ability to receive divine instruction? And, is the strength of the Spirit in our lives a constant? Or, does it wax and wane depending on a person’s actions in relation to God’s commandments?

-Is it easy to have preconceptions about how God will give us answers and how quickly the answers will come? Does having true faith that you will receive an answer part of having the patience necessary to help overcome these preconceptions?

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?