He Stretches Forth His Hands unto Them All the Day Long

Jacob testifies of the merciful and persistent manner in which God works with the house of Israel.

“…How merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (Jacob 6:4)

Questions:

-Does God only stretch forth his hands towards the “House of Israel all the day long”? Or, does He reach out continually to all His children on earth?

-If God blesses the earth through the house of Israel, does He reach out to them first and in the most direct manner?

-Why would He focus on specific groups of people in order to bless the inhabitants of the earth in general?

Do the Things Which I Have Told You I Have Seen That Your Lord and Your Redeemer Should Do

After teaching about the baptism of Christ and the importance of baptism for all of God’s children, Nephi teaches about how a person should move forward after being baptized.

“Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and of the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.” (2 Nephi 31:17-18)

“And now my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” (2 Nephi 31:19-20)

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.” (2 Nephi 31:21)

Questions:

-How many knew about the necessity of baptism before Christ came to the earth?

-Did others, besides the Nephites, who were of the house of Israel practice baptism before the ministry of John the Baptist?

-Was the idea of baptism completely new to the Jewish people when John the Baptist began his ministry?

-Is there any reason to doubt Christ’s power to save your soul in the kingdom of God if you press forward after baptism as described in the verses above?

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

“Sins are remitted not in the waters of baptism, as we say in speaking figuratively, but when we receive the Holy Ghost. … We become clean when we actually receive the fellowship and companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is then that sin and dross and evil are burned out of our souls as though by fire. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 290).

“The ‘doctrine of Christ’ as taught by Nephi in his grand, summational discourse focuses on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. It does not, in this declaration, attempt to cover the entire plan of salvation, all the virtues of a Christian life, or the rewards that await us in differing degrees of heavenly glory. It does not, in this declaration, deal with the offices of the priesthood, the ordinances of the temple, or many other true doctrines. All these are important, but as used in the Book of Mormon, ‘the doctrine of Christ’ is simple and direct. It focuses on the first principles of the gospel exclusively, including an expression of encouragement to endure, to persist, to press on. Indeed, it is in the clarity and simplicity of ‘the doctrine of Christ’ that its impact is found. Nephi knew it would be so. He wrote, ‘I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying’ [2 Nephi 31:2]” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 49–50).

“The Holy Ghost provides personal revelation to help us make major life decisions about such things as education, missions, careers, marriage, children, where we will live with our families, and so on. …

“… As the scriptures attest, the Holy Ghost also testifies of the Savior and God the Father [see John 15:26; Romans 8:16]. He teaches us ‘the peaceable things of the kingdom’ [D&C 39:6] and causes us to ‘abound in hope’ [Romans 15:13]. He ‘leadeth [us] to do good … [and] to judge righteously’ [D&C 11:12]. He gives ‘to every man [and woman] … a [spiritual] gift … that all may be profited thereby’ [D&C 46:11–12; see also Moroni 10:8–17; D&C 13–16]. He ‘giveth [us] knowledge’ [Alma 18:35] and ‘bring[s] all things to [our] remembrance’ [John 14:26]. Through the Holy Ghost, we ‘may be sanctified’ [3 Nephi 27:20] and receive ‘a remission of [our] sins’ [2 Nephi 31:17]. He is the ‘Comforter,’ the same who was ‘promised unto [the Savior’s] disciples’ [D&C 88:3]” (Robert D. Hales, “The Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 105).


 

The Lord God Shall Cause a Great Division among the People

Nephi prophesies about the great division that will occur among the inhabitants of the earth as the Lord gathers the house of Israel out of all lands and peoples during the last days.

“…It shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth. And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire.”  (2 Nephi 30:8-10)

Questions:

-Who are the Lord’s people?

-According to these versus, what kind of person will the Lord help and protect as wickedness grows around the world?

-Will the kind of people the Lord will protect and gather during the last days take joy in seeing the wicked suffer? Are those who are humble and meek likely to have ill will towards others and have a vengeful spirit?

-Would God destroy the wicked other than to spare His people?

-Does God reprove anyone who is willing to repent and come to his Son, Jesus Christ (regardless of whether they are of the house of Israel or not)?

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

“I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested. God’s wrath will soon shake the nations of the earth and will be poured out on the wicked without measure. (See JS—H 1:45; D&C 1:9.)” (Ezra Taft Benson, “I Testify,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 87).

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)

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

“We need a strong faith in Christ to be able to repent” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf,“Point of Safe Return,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 100).

My Word Shall be Gathered in One

As the Lord gathers the house of Israel in the last days, He will also gather all His revelation they have received (and written down).

Wherefore, because ye have a Bible ye need not suppose it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written. For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it. (2 Nephi 29:10-12)

“…It shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews. And it shall come to pass that my people which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.” (2 Nephi 29:13-14)

Questions:

-What level of spiritual strength and light will result when this prophecy is fulfilled as God gathers His previously dispersed revelations into one?

-If the words of the Jews is the Bible and the words of the Nephites is the Book of Mormon, what divinely inspired book (or books) will come from the lost tribes of Israel?

Have Ye Obtained A Bible Save It Were by the Jews?

Through the writings of the prophet Nephi (in about 559-545 B.C.), the Lord addresses those who would fight against the additional scripture He would bring forth in the last days. He addresses the Gentiles hardened view of what He would or wouldn’t do in terms of additional scripture and contrasts their sense of possession towards the Bible against their lack of appreciation towards, and general mistreatment of, the Jewish people whose ancestors brought it to them.

“…My words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel; And, because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?” (2 Nephi 29:2-4)

“O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people. Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?” (2 Nephi 29:5-6)

Questions:

-Is much of the full meaning and message of the Bible lost if there is not a deep appreciation and love for the people through which the Lord brought the Bible into being and an understanding of the eternal covenants He made with them regarding their descendants?

-Is a religion that does not give proper attention and nourishment to its roots truly living and viable? Is it fully alive if the same power of continuing revelation that created the roots does not animate the branches?

-Do you believe the words above are the Lord’s and that a large portion of Christianity needed a strong wakeup call, through the Book of Mormon and other Restoration scriptures, regarding their relationship with — and actions towards — the Jews and the house of Israel more generally? Is the Lord’s use of the word “fool” indicative of the depth of the folly He was addressing?

-How much of the tragedy that unfolded during the first half of the 20th Century in Europe could have been avoided if the Lord’s voice would have been respected and heard when these verses were published as part of the Book of Mormon in the early part of the 19th Century?

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

“We, the members of the Church, and particularly the missionaries, have to be the ‘hissers,’ or the tellers and testifiers, of the Book of Mormon unto the ends of the earth” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, May 1975, 65).

The Gentiles Will Deny Me

Nephi prophesies that, as the house of Israel is gathered out of the Gentile nations in the last days, many (if not most) of the Gentiles will deny Christ’s work because they will trust their own thought systems and the security of their social networks more than the witness and power of the Holy Ghost.

Cursed is he who putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (2 Nephi 28:31-32)

Questions:

-How tempting is it to trust the power of mankind (that works on a mortal and temporal scale) more than God (who works on an eternal scale)?

-Can mortal and temporal power seem like the only power that matters if one does not receive the Holy Ghost’s witness of eternal power?

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).

The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson [2014], 132).

“The philosophy of ritual prodigalism is ‘eat, drink, and be merry, … [and] God will beat us with a few stripes.’ This is a cynical and shallow view of God, of self, and of life. God never can justify us ‘in committing a little sin.’ (2 Ne. 28:8.) He is the God of the universe, not some night-court judge with whom we can haggle and plea bargain!

“Of course God is forgiving! But He knows the intents of our hearts. He also knows what good we might have done while AWOL [absent without leave]. In any case, what others do is no excuse for the disciple from whom much is required. (See Alma 39:4.) Besides, on the straight and narrow path, there are simply no corners to be cut. (See D&C 82:3.)” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Answer Me,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 33).

“How easy it is for us to say, ‘We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent.’ (A of F 1:13.) But how difficult for so many to resist the temptation to lie a little, cheat a little, steal a little, bear false witness in speaking in gossipy words about others. Rise above it. … Be strong in the simple virtue of honesty” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Building Your Tabernacle,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 52).

“[One deception] is what some erroneously call ‘premeditated repentance.’ There is no such doctrine in this Church. This may sound subtly appealing, but it is in fact pernicious and a false concept. Its objective is to persuade us that we can consciously and deliberately transgress with the forethought that quick repentance will permit us to enjoy the full blessings of the gospel, such as temple blessings or a mission. True repentance can be a long, painful process. This foolish doctrine was foreseen by Nephi:

“‘And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; … 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 28:8].

“… All of our covenants must not only be received through ordinances but to be eternal must also be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. This divine stamp of approval is placed upon our ordinances and covenants only through faithfulness. The false idea of so-called premeditated repentance involves an element of deception, but the Holy Spirit of Promise cannot be deceived” (James E. Faust, “The Enemy Within,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 46).

“We cannot allow ourselves to be confused by popular messages that are easily accepted by the world and that contradict the doctrine and true principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of these worldly messages represent nothing more than an attempt of our society to justify sin” (Ulisses Soares,“Yes, We Can and Will Win!” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 75).

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?

Their Speech Shall Whisper out of the Dust

Nephi prophesies that—after his father’s descendants have been displaced by settlers (Gentiles) from the Old World—the voices of the Nephite and Lamanite prophets would whisper out of the ground to their descendants and to the entire world.

“…I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men…The prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten. For those who have been destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit…and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.” (2 Nephi 26:14-16)

Questions:

-Does the Book of Mormon have a familiar spirit to many of those with Native American heritage?

-Does it have a familiar spirit to many others around the world who also have ancestry linked to the house of Israel?

-On the broadest scale, does the Spirit whisper to the heart of every earnest truth seeker that the Book of Mormon is God’s word to the entire world?