How Great the Inequality of Man

During a large war between the Nephites and Lamanites, many souls departed from mortal life. In the context of these events, Mormon (the prophet-historian who abridged the Nephite record that was translated as the Book of Mormon), teaches about the great spiritual variance that exists when souls pass through the veil into the eternities.

“…Many thousand are mourning for the loss of their kindred, because they have reason to fear, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are consigned to a state of endless wo. While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness. And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.” (Alma 28:11-13)

Questions:

-How important is it to repent and reconcile oneself with God (through the Atonement of Jesus Christ) before passing into the eternities?

-How heavily will the unalterable justice, which God upholds, weigh on those in the afterlife who chose not to be reconciled with God through Christ’s merciful intervention during mortality?

-What is Paradise?

-What is Spirit Prison?

-Will those who never had God’s law in mortality be led to Paradise if they choose to follow Christ in the afterlife?

All Are Alike unto God

The prophet Nephi provides additional insight into God’s perfect and just way of working with His children.

“…The Lord…doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Nephi 26:33)

Questions:

-Do you believe a just God would ever show favoritism toward any of his children on earth?

-What is the difference between His showing favoritism, and the favor He shows those who repent and seek to follow the portion of His commandments they have?

-Would He judge those who do not have His law (those who Nephi refers to as the heathens) by His law?

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

“The Book of Mormon promises that all who receive and act upon the Lord’s invitation to ‘repent and believe in his Son’ become ‘the covenant people of the Lord’ (2 Nephi 30:2). This is a potent reminder that neither riches nor lineage nor any other privileges of birth should cause us to believe that we are ‘better one than another’ (Alma 5:54; see also Jacob 3:9). Indeed, the Book of Mormon commands, ‘Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another’ (Mosiah 23:7)” (Dallin H. Oaks, “All Men Everywhere,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 79).

“All men and women have not only a physical lineage leading back to Adam and Eve, their first earthly parents, but also a spiritual heritage leading back to God the Eternal Father. Thus, all persons on earth are literally brothers and sisters in the family of God.

“It is in understanding and accepting this universal fatherhood of God that all human beings can best appreciate God’s concern for them and their relationship to each other. This is a message of life and love that strikes squarely against all stifling traditions based on race, language, economic or political standing, educational rank, or cultural background, for we are all of the same spiritual descent” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter [2015], 123–24).

The Spirit of the Lord Will Not Always Strive with Man

Nephi sees (through a prophetic vision given to him from the Lord) that, after falling into deep wickedness, many of his people in the Americas would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection (around A.D. 33-34). After being visited by Christ in person, three generations would pass away in peace and righteousness before wickedness and destruction would again afflict his people. Nephi identifies the loss of the Spirit as the reason for his people’s fall.

“…The Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness. And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell. For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction…” (2 Nephi 26:9-11)

Questions:

-Why do individuals choose darkness rather than light? Why do whole societies, such as the Nephites did, fall into a general pattern of prideful behavior and sin?

-How and when do things get to the point where the Spirit completely withdraws from a distinct group of people?

-Is it possible for a group or society that hasn’t received the fullness of God’s law to reach such a state where they reap destruction based on their rejection of God’s Spirit?

-Is it ever too late to turn back to God as an individual (even within a society that is headed the opposite direction)?

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).

Come unto That God Who Is the Rock of Your Salvation

Knowing his people had a clear knowledge of God’s law, Jacob pleads with them to not be entangled in sin but to turn with a repentant heart toward the true God.

“…Turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation. Prepare your souls for that glorious day when justice shall be administered unto the righteous, even the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear; that ye may not remember your awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty–but I know my guilt; I have transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am prey to his awful misery.” (2 Nephi 9:45-46)

Questions:

-Are you actively preparing your soul for the Day of Judgment?

-Who must you rely on to be prepared?

-To prevent being bound by the chains of sin, does a reliance on Christ need to be a constant daily endeavor? Is participating in this daily endeavor the difference between being spiritually-minded and being carnally-minded?

-Why will any remaining guilt be remembered with perfectness at the Day of Judgment?

-How can all guilt be washed away before the Day of Judgment?

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?

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).

If There Be No Righteousness There Be No Happiness

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about the power of God’s law to create meaning through consequence and how all things witness there is a God.

“…If ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” (2 Nephi 2:13)

-Do you believe sin is real?

How meaningful would life be without consequences?

-Do the most lasting consequences occur in this life? Or, do they occur when each individual is brought back to God’s presence to be judged?

-How is righteousness tied to happiness?

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

“Happiness comes of righteousness. ‘Wickedness never was happiness.’ (Alma 41:10.) Sin never was happiness. Selfishness never was happiness. Greed never was happiness. Happiness lies in living the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Gordon B. Hinckley, in “Fast-Paced Schedule for the Prophet: Meets with Young Adults, Youth in Three Meetings in Colorado,” Church News, Apr. 20, 1996, 3).

All Are Alike unto God

The prophet Nephi provides additional insight into God’s perfect and just way of working with His children.

“…The Lord…doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” (2 Nephi 26:33)

Questions:

-Do you believe a just God would ever show favoritism toward any of his children on earth?

-What is the difference between His showing favoritism, and the favor He shows those who repent and seek to follow the portion of His commandments they have?

-Would He judge those who do not have His law (those who Nephi refers to as the heathens) by His law?

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

“The Book of Mormon promises that all who receive and act upon the Lord’s invitation to ‘repent and believe in his Son’ become ‘the covenant people of the Lord’ (2 Nephi 30:2). This is a potent reminder that neither riches nor lineage nor any other privileges of birth should cause us to believe that we are ‘better one than another’ (Alma 5:54; see also Jacob 3:9). Indeed, the Book of Mormon commands, ‘Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another’ (Mosiah 23:7)” (Dallin H. Oaks, “All Men Everywhere,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 79).

“All men and women have not only a physical lineage leading back to Adam and Eve, their first earthly parents, but also a spiritual heritage leading back to God the Eternal Father. Thus, all persons on earth are literally brothers and sisters in the family of God.

“It is in understanding and accepting this universal fatherhood of God that all human beings can best appreciate God’s concern for them and their relationship to each other. This is a message of life and love that strikes squarely against all stifling traditions based on race, language, economic or political standing, educational rank, or cultural background, for we are all of the same spiritual descent” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter [2015], 123–24).

The Spirit of the Lord Will Not Always Strive with Man

Nephi sees (through a prophetic vision given to him from the Lord) that, after falling into deep wickedness, many of his people in the Americas would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection (around A.D. 33-34). After being visited by Christ in person, three generations would pass away in peace and righteousness before wickedness and destruction would again afflict his people. Nephi identifies the loss of the Spirit as the reason for his people’s fall.

“…The Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness. And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell. For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction…” (2 Nephi 26:9-11)

Questions:

-Why do individuals choose darkness rather than light? Why do whole societies, such as the Nephites did, fall into a general pattern of prideful behavior and sin?

-How and when do things get to the point where the Spirit completely withdraws from a distinct group of people?

-Is it possible for a group or society that hasn’t received the fullness of God’s law to reach such a state where they reap destruction based on their rejection of God’s Spirit?

-Is it ever too late to turn back to God as an individual (even within a society that is headed the opposite direction)?