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)?

How Great the Importance to Make These Things Known unto the Inhabitants of the Earth

Lehi continues to teach his son, Jacob, about Christ’s Atonement and all of mankind’s need for it:

“…He offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah…” (2 Nephi 2:7-8)

Questions:

-What does Lehi mean when he states that only those with a broken heart and a contrite spirit can receive Christ’s redemption from sin?

-Does “heart” in this passage refer to our personal will versus God’s will? Is it good to break down our will to make way for God’s will in our lives?

-Can one have anything but a “broken heart” when he or she truly keeps in remembrance the price paid by Christ to redeem those who choose to follow and obey Him?

-How is being prideful (which is the opposite of having a broken heart and a contrite spirit) a false state of being?

-Who among the inhabitants of the earth has God’s law? Who, if any, does not have the law?

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

“I believe that none of us can conceive the full import of what Christ did for us in Gethsemane, but I am grateful every day of my life for His atoning sacrifice in our behalf.

“At the last moment, He could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things. In doing so, He gave us life beyond this mortal existence. He reclaimed us from the Fall of Adam.

“To the depths of my very soul, I am grateful to Him. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. He secured our salvation” (Thomas S. Monson, “At Parting,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 114).

Teachings of the Seventy

“What are a broken heart and a contrite spirit? … The Savior’s perfect submission to the Eternal Father is the very essence of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Christ’s example teaches us that a broken heart is an eternal attribute of godliness. When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master.

“A broken heart and a contrite spirit are also preconditions to repentance [see 2 Nephi 2:6–7]. … When we sin and desire forgiveness, a broken heart and a contrite spirit mean to experience ‘godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance’ (2 Corinthians 7:10). This comes when our desire to be cleansed from sin is so consuming that our hearts ache with sorrow and we yearn to feel at peace with our Father in Heaven. Those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit are willing to do anything and everything that God asks of them, without resistance or resentment. We cease doing things our way and learn to do them God’s way instead. In such a condition of submissiveness, the Atonement can take effect and true repentance can occur” (Bruce D. Porter, “A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 32).

Video from Book of Mormon Central:

By the Law No Flesh is Justified…Wherefore, Redemption Cometh in and through the Holy Messiah

Lehi continues to teach his son, Jacob, about Christ’s Atonement and all of mankind’s need for it:

“…Men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.” (2 Nephi 2:5-6)

-Is there a God-given conscience that all have to some degree?

-How is the light of Christ tied to conscience?

-What is the law that cuts all men off from God (because they fail to follow it perfectly)?

-What is the distinction Lehi is making between the temporal law and the spiritual law?

-Is there any way to be reconciled to the law, and return to God, other than through the redemption that Jesus Christ offers?

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)?

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).

Reconcile Yourselves to the Will of God

Jacob, speaking as the Lord’s prophet, teaches that the will of God and the will of the devil are active in the pursuit of all human souls.

“…Cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. Wherefore…reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.” (2 Nephi 10:23-24)

Questions:

-According to the passage above, what are the results of reconciling yourself to the will of God? On the other hand, what are the results of reconciling yourself to the will of the devil (and the flesh)?

-Is the pull of the two wills strong enough that each individual is either moving toward living in accordance with one will or the other at any given time?

-How can one be reconciled to the will of God?

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

“[Satan] promotes conduct and choices that limit our freedom to choose by replacing the influence of the Holy Spirit with his own domination (see D&C 29:40; 93:38–39). Yielding to his temptations leads to a narrower and narrower range of choices until none remains and to addictions that leave us powerless to resist” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 49).

The Descendants of the Lehi Will Become a Righteous Branch of the House of Israel

Jacob reiterates God’s promise, also given to his brother Nephi, that his father’s descendants in the Americas will again receive the peace and strength of the restored Gospel (after a time of apostasy, great trials, and destruction).

“…Behold how great the covenants of the Lord, and how great his condescensions unto the children of men; and because of his greatness and his grace and mercy, he has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them; and in future generations they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel.” (2 Nephi 9:53)

Questions:

-Do you believe that God cares deeply enough about the righteous desires of his children on earth, that He would promise to fulfill them (as He did in the case of Lehi’s family and others in ancient times regarding their descendants)?

-Can you enter into a covenant relationship with God wherein He promises to care for and bless your posterity (to the degree they will let Him)? What about a covenant relationship related to other righteous desires of your heart?

-How would you know God had accepted the covenant? How would you know what God’s specific promises are and what your specific obligations are?

-Is there a church now in existence through which God makes such covenant relationships and makes the related blessings and obligations clear? If so, how did God give the priesthood of this church the authority to officiate the covenant relationships in His name?

-Are the descendants of Lehi becoming a righteous branch of Israel now? Are they largely awake to the covenant blessings that have been established for them? Or, is the awakening still in its early stages?

They Must be Judged According to the Holy Judgment of God

Jacob recounts how the Resurrection occurs prior to the Final Judgment and how these two events solidify each soul’s status in relation to God for eternity.

“…When all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God. And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end. O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled.” (2 Nephi 9:15-17)

Questions:

-How generous and loving will Christ be as our Eternal Judge? How willing will He be to extend mercy in whatever ways He can based on the choices we made in relation to God’s law? Could those who never had a chance to receive God’s law during their time in mortality be judged by that law?

-How fortunate will we be to have Christ both as our Judge and our Mediator? (See quote by Jeffrey Holland below.)

-Do “the devil and his angels” that Jacob refers to in the passage above include not only those spirits who followed Satan in the premortal life but also those who, after initially following God’s plan by coming to earth to receive a mortal body, then stubbornly reject the mercy He has extended to them—even after receiving a sure witness from the Holy Ghost of what Christ has done for them in appeasing the law of eternal justice (see sons of Perdition)? Will everyone else—those who are not rebellious and receive Christ’s mercy as they come to understand it—receive at least some Degree of Glory?

-Why will those who are eternally filthy experience torment that is like a “lake of fire and brimstone?”

-Is the Final Judgment also a “Final Chance” to receive Christ’s mercy before all who reject Him are sent away eternally? How important is it to seek Christ’s mercy through repentance now rather than denying the power of His grace until the Final Judgment?

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

“As ‘Wonderful Counselor,’ he will be our mediator, our intercessor, defending our cause in the courts of heaven. …

“Of course, as noted by Isaiah, Christ is not only a mediator but also a judge [see Mosiah 3:10; Moroni 10:34; Moses 6:57]. It is in that role of judge that we may find even greater meaning in Abinadi’s repeated expression that ‘God himself’ will come down to redeem his people [Mosiah 13:28; see also Mosiah 13:34; 15:1; Alma 42:15]. It is as if the judge in that great courtroom in heaven, unwilling to ask anyone but himself to bear the burdens of the guilty people standing in the dock, takes off his judicial robes and comes down to earth to bear their stripes personally. Christ as merciful judge is as beautiful and wonderful a concept as that of Christ as counselor, mediator, and advocate.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, 80–81)

It Must Needs Be an Infinite Atonement

Jacob teaches his people (at around 559-545 B.C. in the Americas) about the Resurrection being an answer to the Fall.

“…Our flesh must waste away and die; nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God. Yea, I know that…in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him. For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man be reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.” (2 Nephi 9:5-6)

“Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and crumble to its mother earth to rise no more. O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself…” (2 Nephi 9:7-9)

Questions:

-What does Jacob mean when he says that Jesus Christ’s Atonement had to be infinite? (for an excellent exploration of this topic read The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister)

-How is being Resurrected with a physical immortal body part of saving our souls from the powers of hell?

-Would remaining as spirits for the eternities after death allow us to reach our full potential as God’s children? In this scenario, could we achieve the same power of spiritual and physical perfection that our Father and Jesus Christ currently have?

-Will the resurrection to a perfected body permanently seal off further spiritual influence from those who will spend eternity without bodies (i.e. Satan and those who followed him in the pre-mortal world)?

-What does it mean to be a subject of Jesus Christ?

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

“I wish to speak about the greatest event in all history. That singular event was the incomparable Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. This was the most transcendent act that has ever taken place” (James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 18).

“If our separation from God and our physical death were permanent, moral agency would mean nothing. Yes, we would be free to make choices, but what would be the point? The end result would always be the same no matter what our actions: death with no hope of resurrection and no hope of heaven. As good or as bad as we might choose to be, we would all end up ‘angels to a devil’ [2 Nephi 9:9]” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 50).

“His Atonement is infinite—without an end. [See 2 Nephi 9:7; 25:16; Alma 34:10, 12, 14.] It was also infinite in that all humankind would be saved from never-ending death. It was infinite in terms of His immense suffering. It was infinite in time, putting an end to the preceding prototype of animal sacrifice. It was infinite in scope—it was to be done once for all. [See Hebrews 10:10.] And the mercy of the Atonement extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him. [See D&C 76:24; Moses 1:33.] It was infinite beyond any human scale of measurement or mortal comprehension.

“Jesus was the only one who could offer such an infinite atonement, since He was born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. Because of that unique birthright, Jesus was an infinite Being” (Russell M. Nelson, “The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 35).

“According to eternal law, that atonement required a personal sacrifice by an immortal being not subject to death. Yet He must die and take up His own body again. The Savior was the only one who could accomplish this. From His mother He inherited power to die. From His Father He obtained power over death” (Russell M. Nelson, “Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 34).

“Just as death would doom us and render our agency meaningless but for the redemption of Christ, even so, without His grace, our sins and bad choices would leave us forever lost. There would be no way of fully recovering from our mistakes, and being unclean, we could never live again in the presence of [God].

“… We need a Savior, a Mediator who can overcome the effects of our sins and errors so that they are not necessarily fatal. It is because of the Atonement of Christ that we can recover from bad choices and be justified under the law as if we had not sinned” (D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Agency,” Ensign, June 2009, 50).

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)?