That Great Pit Which Has Been Dug for the Destruction of Men Shall Be Filled by Those Who Dug It

Nephi continues to be taught, by an angel of the Lord, about events leading up to Christ’s second coming. He learns that the Gentiles in the Americas, and throughout the entire world, who receive Christ’s latter-day revelations and directions will inherit the covenant blessings of the house of Israel along with those who are tied to the house of Israel by ancestry (see A Promised Land for All Who Serve the Lamb of God).

On the other hand, Nephi also learns that those who fight against Christ’s words and actions in the last days — when He is gathering the house of Israel according to the covenants made with them — will shut themselves outside the covenant blessings and, thus, will be vulnerable to the destructive pitfalls laid by Satan to capture souls in our time. The snares laid to fight against Christ and His followers will turn to the detriment and destruction of those who laid the snares.

“…That great pit, which hath been digged…by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell—yea, that great pit which has been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God…For behold, this is according to the captivity of the devil, and also according to the justice of God, upon all those who will work wickedness and abomination before him.” (1 Nephi 14:3-4)

Questions:

-When a person or group has ill will toward another person or group, who does it usually hurt the most in the long run? Is it the person or group with the malice? Or, the person or group toward which the malice is directed? How long will a group or society focused on fault finding and entrapment of others function before turning on its own members?

-What is the nature of the figurative pit mentioned in this prophecy? How will it be dug by those who wish to trap others within it?

-How difficult will it be to escape the pit? As Christ manifests Himself in word, power, and deed to restore the fulness of His gospel and gather the house of Israel (see 1 Nephi 14:2 and A Promised Land for All Who Serve the Lamb of God) will it be possible to stay neutral? Or, will “sitting on the fence” be more difficult than ever as a clear separation develops between those who recognize Christ’s work as real and those who deny it and fight against its progress? (See Christ’s parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:25-30.)

Then Will Ye Longer Deny the Christ?

The prophet Moroni pleads with those who reject Jesus Christ to repent:

“And now, I speak also concerning those who do not believe in Christ. Behold, will ye believe in the day of your visitation—behold, when the Lord shall come, yea, even that great day when the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, yea, in that great day when ye shall be brought to stand before the Lamb of God—then will ye say that there is no God? Then will ye longer deny the Christ, or can ye behold the Lamb of God? Do you suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws? Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell. For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.” (Mormon 9:1-5)

“O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day.” (Mormon 9:6)

Questions:

-Is the above only applicable to those who have received a direct testimony of Jesus Christ, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and then rejected it? Or, are all accountable adult humans given the light of Christ to one degree or another such that they know Christ’s law to some extent even without ever hearing His name?

Out of the Earth Shall They Come, by the Hand of the Lord, and None Can Stay It

The Nephite prophet who buried the Gold Plates (knowing that a portion would be translated by the power of God at a later date as the Book of Mormon) offers a warning to those who are tempted to set themselves against God’s work and His word.

“…I am the same who hideth up this record unto the Lord [and] the record…is of great worth; and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless. For none can have power to bring it to light save it be given him of God; for God wills that it shall be done with an eye single to his glory, or the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord. And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God. And if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire. And he that saith: Show unto me, or ye shall be smitten—let him beware lest he commandeth that which is forbidden of the Lord. For behold, the same that judgeth rashly shall be judged rashly again; for according to his works shall his wages be; therefore, he that smiteth shall be smitten again, of the Lord. Behold what the scripture says—man shall not smite, neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay.” (Mormon 8:14-20)

“And he that shall breathe out wrath and strifes against the work of the Lord, and against the covenant people of the Lord who are the house of Israel, and shall say: We will destroy the work of the Lord, and the Lord will not remember his covenant which he hath made unto the house of Israel—the same is in danger to be hewn down and cast into the fire. For the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled. Search the prophecies of Isaiah. Behold, I cannot write them. Yea, behold I say unto you, that those saints who have gone before me, who have possessed this land, shall cry, yea, even from the dust will they cry unto the Lord; and as the Lord liveth he will remember the covenant which he hath made with them…And no one need say that these things shall not come, for they surely shall, for the Lord hath spoken it; for out of the earth shall they come, by the hand of the Lord, and none can stay it; and it shall come in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away; and it shall come even as if one should speak from the dead.” (Mormon 8:21-23; 26)

Questions:

-Do you believe that giving God glory is always tied (to one degree or another) to pursuing the welfare of His ancient covenant people and their descendants (physical and spiritual)?

Whosoever Looketh on a Woman, to Lust after Her, Hath Committed Adultery Already in His Heart

Jesus Christ taught the descendants of Lehi in the Americas (who were of the house of Israel) many of the same gospel principles He taught to His Jewish disciples in the Old World. The teachings as recorded in the book of Matthew, found in the New Testament, known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) were again taught by the Savior when he visited Lehi’s descendants.

The passages below show the words from verses 27 and 30 of the King James version of Matthew and the comparable verses from 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

“Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that they whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30)

Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery; But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart. Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart; For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.” (3 Nephi 12:27-30)

Questions:

-Why did Christ not mention dismemberment to the descendants of Lehi when teaching of the evils of adultery (as he did when teaching the Jews in the Old World)?

This Is My Doctrine

Jesus Christ declares the core of His doctrine:

“…This is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me. And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. Verily, verily I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.” (3 Nephi 11:32-36)

“And again, I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Verily, verily I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.” (3 Nephi 11:37-41)

Questions:

-What is the significance of Christ using the word “verily” twice to emphasize the truth of what He was teaching?

The Devil Will Not Support His Children

Mormon, the prophet who compiled and abridged the record of the Nephites (which was translated as the Book of Mormon), pauses to teach an important truth about Satan.

“…The devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.” (Alma 30:60)

Questions:

-Is it possible to gain power and gratify the lusts of the flesh in this life by being a child of the devil (e.g. rejecting God’s commandments and applying selfish, calloused, and ungodly means to obtain one’s desires)?

*Does Satan goad souls to take this route because he enjoys seeing the selfish pleasure they obtain for a season?

*Or, does he do so because he relishes the awful depths of eternal remorse and pain that they will sink into when, after being brought into God’s presence for judgment, they come to a full and agonizing realization of the consequences of what they have done.

He That Will Not Harden His Heart, to Him is Given the Greater Portion of the Word

Alma teaches about the potential for spiritual growth versus the consequences of spiritual atrophy.

“It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:9-11)

Questions:

-Based on the above verses, how important is it soften one’s heart in relation to God and His Spirit?

-Why do some harden their hearts against God and reject His word and His Spirit?

Wo Be unto Him That Is at Ease in Zion

The prophet Nephi describes some of the methods the devil will use in the last days to lull souls into a state of spiritually destructive complacency.

“…Others will he pacify and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment. Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion.” (2 Nephi 28:21-24)

Questions:

-Why is spiritual complacency equivalent to spiritual death?

-What forces make it next to impossible to stand still in terms of spiritual growth versus spiritual atrophy?

Messages of the Presiding Bishopric:

“Every act, good or bad, has a consequence. Every good act improves our ability to do good and more firmly stand against sin or failure. Every transgression, regardless of how minor, makes us more susceptible to Satan’s influence the next time he tempts us. Satan takes us an inch at a time, deceiving us as to the consequences of so-called minor sins until he captures us in major transgressions. Nephi describes this technique as one of pacifying, lulling, and flattering us away until Satan ‘grasps [us] with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance’ (2 Ne. 28:22; see also v. 21)” (Richard C. Edgley, “That Thy Confidence Wax Strong,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 40).

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)?

Ye May Liken Them unto You and unto All Men

Before recording many of the words of Isaiah onto the Gold Plates (from which the Book of Mormon was translated), Nephi testifies that Isaiah’s teachings and prophecies have such a sweeping spiritual vision that they are applicable to all people.

“And now I write some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men.” (2 Nephi 11:8)

Below is a sampling of the writings of Isaiah as recorded by Nephi:

“…Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” (2 Nephi 12:3Map of the Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

“O ye wicked ones, enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for the fear of the Lord and the glory of his majesty shall smite thee. And it shall come to pass that the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of Hosts soon cometh upon all nations, yea, upon every one; yea, upon the proud and lofty and upon every one who is lifted up, and he shall be brought low.” (2 Nephi 12:10-12Second Coming)

“…The idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the glory of his majesty shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which he hath made for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for the fear of the Lord shall come upon them and the majesty of his glory shall smite them, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” (2 Nephi 12:18-21Second Coming)

“Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (2 Nephi 12:22Worldliness)

“Say unto the righteous that is it well with them; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Wo unto the wicked for they shall perish; for the reward of their hands shall be upon them!” (2 Nephi 13:10-11All Men Come unto God to Be Judged of Him)

“In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the earth excellent and comely to them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, they that are left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem shall be called holy, every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem…” (2 Nephi 14:2-3Millennium)

“…They regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hnds. Therefore, my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge…Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure; and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it” (2 Nephi 15:12-14Cursed is He Who Putteth His Trust in Man)

“Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope.” (2 Nephi 15:18Sin)

“Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (2 Nephi 15:20Deception)

“Wo unto the wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight!” (2 Nephi 15:21Pride)

“Wo unto the mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink.” (2 Nephi 15:22Word of Wisdom)

“…As the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, their root shall be rottenness, and their blossoms shall go up as dust; because they have cast away the law of the Lord of Hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 15:24The Wisdom and Praise of the World is Foolishness before God)

“…His hand is stretched out still.” (2 Nephi 15:25Mercy)

“Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (2 Nephi 18:13Fear)

“Wo be unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn away the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless.” (2 Nephi 20:1-2 —  Unrighteousness)

“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (2 Nephi 21:9Millennium)

“The Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy of Ephraim also shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.” (2 Nephi 21:11-13Gathering of Israel)

Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things…” (2 Nephi 22:5Sing)

“…Mine anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness.” (2 Nephi 23:3Worship)

“And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall give thee rest, from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve.” (2 Nephi 24:3MillenniumHouse of Israel)