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)

The Things Which Shall Be Written out of the Book Shall Be of Great Worth

The Lord gave the prophet Nephi insight into how the translated record of his people (the Book of Mormon) would bless the world as it came forth:

“…The things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men, and especially unto our seed, which is a remnant of the house of Israel.” (2 Nephi 28:2)

In the context of the great worth of the Book of Mormon, Nephi goes on to describe the fallacies, error, and sin that the Book of Mormon will testify against and help remedy in the last days:

  • “Churches…will contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.” (2 Nephi 28:3-4)
  • “…They deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men. Behold, hearken unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.” (2 Nephi 28:5-6)
  • “…There shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us. And there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (2 Nephi 28:7-8)
  • “And there shall be many that shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hid their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark. And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them.” (2 Nephi 28:9-10)
  • Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. (2 Nephi 28:11-12)
  • They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.” (2 Nephi 28:13)
  • They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Nephi 28:14)

Questions:

-What does it mean to teach with one’s learning rather than by the power of the Holy Ghost?

-Is teaching that God no longer intervenes through miracles similar in many ways to teaching that there is no God?

-Do the “eat, drink, and be merry” attitudes Nephi describes lead one to earnestly seek mercy through Jesus Christ? Or, do they breed an attitude of complacency about one’s status before God?

-Is Nephi specifically describing the state of Christianity in North America and Europe that would exist at the time of the Restoration (early 1800s)? Or, is Nephi’s description more generally about the state of most churches (and church-like organizations) that would come into being over the centuries leading up to Christ’s Second Coming?

-Is it possible to be prideful and be a true servant of Jesus Christ?

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“The Book of Mormon was written for us today. God is the author of the book. It is a record of a fallen people, compiled by inspired men for our blessing. Those people never had the book—it was meant for us. Mormon, the ancient prophet after whom the book is named, abridged centuries of records. God, who knows the end from the beginning, told him what to include in his abridgment that we would need for our day” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 3).

“If they saw our day, and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?’” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 6).

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?

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)

Feast upon That Which Perisheth Not

Continuing with the theme of how important it is to turn to the true and living God, Jacob quotes Isaiah chapter 55 verse 1 before stating the following:

“…Remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.” (2 Nephi 9:51)

-Are the most important things eternal or temporal?

-How important is it to decide what you are going to “invest” in with your time and efforts during mortality? Will laying up treasure in heaven or pursuing worldly attainments be the priority for you?

-Where will the deepest joy come from (even in mortality)?

-Do you believe Jacob’s message that making the eternal and spiritual the priority is the best investment?

-Is remembering Jesus Christ’s prefect love and His saving power a primary source of spiritual strength and delight?

The Righteous Love the Truth and Are Not Shaken

Jacob realizes his teachings about…

…are going to be hard for some to hear.

This being the case, he pleads with those who hear these messages not to rebel against the truth but to reconcile themselves with God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

“…Give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if you do ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken. O then my beloved [brothers and sisters] come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” (2 Nephi 9:40-41)

Questions:

-How easy is it for most people to perceive and accept the greatness God, and His righteous standards, in relation to their shortcomings and sins?

-Do many feel it is easier to avoid facing the unclean aspects of their lives in relation to God than it is to square up to the truth of the situation and ask God for help to become clean through His power?

-Are many of the ideas and philosophies of the world popular because they help people avoid facing God and the uncomfortable aspects of seeking forgiveness?

-Is being willing to face one’s uncleanness, and work with God to remedy the situation, one of the main aspects of what Jacob calls righteousness? Would a person who continually strives to recognize their weaknesses, and do this work of repentance, be prone to judge others harshly who have similar mortal frailties? Is it impossible to be righteous and self-righteous at the same time?

-Will anyone be able to hide from the reality of his or her relationship with God at the time of the Resurrection and 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 (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?

Their Joy Shall Be Full Forever

After teaching about the power of Christ’s Atonement to bring about the Resurrection and a Last Judgment that will be both merciful and just (see They Must be Judged According to the Holy Judgment of God, O How Great the Plan of Our God!, and It Must Needs Be an Infinite Atonement), Jacob describes those who will inherit the kingdom of God.

“But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.” (2 Nephi 9:18)

Questions:

-Who is the Holy One of Israel? (see Jesus Christ)

-What does it mean to be a saint of the Holy One of Israel?

-How is belief in the Holy One of Israel expressed in everyday life?

-What does it mean to endure the crosses of the world and despise the shame of the world?

-What does it mean to inherit the kingdom of God?

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?

-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?