The Lord God will Bring the House of Israel Out of Captivity, Obscurity, and Darkness

Nephi continues to teach his brothers about the meaning of a portion of Isaiah’s prophecies found in the Brass Plates (comparable to Isaiah chapters 48 and 49 in the Old Testament). In interpreting the words of Isaiah, he again touches on the work the Lord will do through and for the children of Israel in the last days.

“Wherefore, he will bring [the house of Israel] again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.” (1 Nephi 22:12)

-Why did Jesus Christ focus his earthly ministry on the house of Israel? What is the principle by which He still focuses on, and operates through, the house of Israel to bless others throughout the world? How are the covenants He made to such men as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — who sought Him out and found Him thousands of years ago — tied to this principle of blessing the earth through the house of Israel?

-If someone who is of the house of Israel receives greater spiritual opportunities and does not magnify these opportunities to bless others, is his or her standing before God in greater peril compared with someone who never had such opportunities? Are those of the house of Israel held to a higher standard by God, given their calling to bless others though the blessings they have received? Will they either prosper greatly or be deeply confounded based on their decisions to either love God and keep His commandments or to reject Him and His counsel? Is there greater potential for wickedness and evil among those who are part of a covenant people and then fail to live by those covenants?

-Who in the world currently has a covenant relationship with God? How were those covenants established? Were they initiated directly and clearly by God? Or, was the source of the covenants of less distinct origin?  Does it matter, once true covenants are entered into with God, whether the person is a literal descendant of the Israelites or not?

-What kind of captivity, obscurity, and darkness will the Lord bring the house of Israel out of as Isaiah’s prophecies are fulfilled in our time?

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“The gathering of Israel consists in believing and accepting and living in harmony with all that the Lord once offered his ancient chosen people. … It consists of believing the gospel, joining the Church, and coming into the kingdom. … It may also consist of assembling to an appointed place or land of worship” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 515).

God Shall Make Bare His Arm in the Eyes of the Nations

Nephi continues to teach his brothers about the meaning of Isaiah’s prophecies. Nephi and his family had Isaiah’s words as recorded in the Brass Plates that were being carried by the family during their journey to the Americas. They viewed Isaiah’s writings as particularly valuable given the prophet’s focus on the house of Israel (of which the family was a part). After sharing the words of Isaiah comparable to Isaiah chapters 48 and 49 in the Old Testament, Nephi provides the following interpretation for his brothers:

“…[T]he time cometh that after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded, that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles…and by them shall our seed be scattered. And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders. And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles [and] unto the entire house of Israel, unto making known the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. And…all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations. Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel.” (1 Nephi 22:7-11)

Questions:

-Have Lehi’s descendants been scattered by the Gentiles?

-Has a mighty nation been established in the Western Hemisphere?

-Has the Lord God begun a marvelous work among the Gentiles? Is there a church that has grown up within the mightiest nation in the Western Hemisphere that has priesthood authority restored directly from God? Is there a church that is spreading quickly throughout the world (outward from the mighty Gentile nation) with news of this restored priesthood and the saving ordinances it can perform? Is there a church that is actively re-gathering the house of Israel as one of the main tenants of its faith? Is there a church building beautiful temples all over the earth as a testament to God’s power and restored priesthood?

-If the Book of Mormon is the word of God, as millions now testify it is, would it not qualify as a marvelous work in and of itself?

-What will it mean for God to bare his arm before all nations? Does the wording of this prophecy sound like there will be much ambiguity or subtlety in its fulfillment?

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

“That glorious day dawned in the year 1820, when a boy, earnest and with faith, walked into a grove of trees and lifted his voice in prayer, seeking that wisdom which he felt he so much needed.

“There came in response a glorious manifestation. God the Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared and spoke with him. The curtains which had been closed for much of two millennia were parted to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times. There followed the restoration of the holy priesthood, first the Aaronic, and then the Melchizedek, under the hands of those who had held it anciently. Another testament, speaking as a voice from the dust, came forth as a second witness to the reality and the divinity of the Son of God, the great Redeemer of the world.

“Keys of divine authority were restored, including those keys which were necessary to bind together families for time and eternity in a covenant which death could not destroy.

“The stone was small in the beginning. It was hardly noticeable. But it has grown steadily and is rolling forth to fill the earth” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “At the Summit of the Ages,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 74).

“Ours is the responsibility to help fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. Ours is the seed foreordained and prepared to bless all people of the world. … After some 4,000 years of anticipation and preparation, this is the appointed day when the gospel is to be taken to the kindreds of the earth. This is the time of the promised gathering of Israel. And we get to participate! Isn’t that exciting? The Lord is counting on us and our sons—and He is profoundly grateful for our daughters—who worthily serve as missionaries in this great time of the gathering of Israel” (Russell M. Nelson, “Covenants,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 88).

Hear Ye the Words of the Prophet Isaiah

Nephi taught his family from the scriptures found in the Brass Plates and placed special emphasis on the words of Isaiah.

“…That I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord  their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah…Wherefore I spake unto them saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom you have been broken off.” (1 Nephi 19:23-24)

Following are some of the messages from Isaiah’s writings that Nephi refers to after emphasizing the importance of the prophet’s words to those who are of the house of Israel:

…I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (1 Nephi 20:10)

Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called, for I am he; I am the first, and I am also the last.” (1 Nephi 20:12)

Come ye near unto me…” (1 Nephi 20:16)

O that thou hadst harkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” (1 Nephi 20:18)

…There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” (1 Nephi 20:22)

…I will not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers; and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.” (1 Nephi 21:15-17)

…thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” (1 Nephi 21:23)

…I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (1 Nephi 21:25-26)

Questions:

-Is the house of Israel hearing these messages from the book of Isaiah, which are also reemphasized in the Book of Mormon? How important are these messages from the Lord (through Isaiah) seeing that they are included in two different scriptural testaments?

-Is it possible to become part of the house of Israel, in the eyes of God, even if you are not part of an Israelite lineage?  (See The Lord Esteemeth All Flesh in One)

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)?

There is Nothing Which is Secret Save It Shall be Revealed

After quoting a passage from Isaiah’s writings (comparable to those found in the King James Version of Isaiah 11:5-9) describing the peace that will reign during the Millennium, Nephi expands on the meaning of Isaiah’s words found in verse 9 of chapter 11:

“…The things of all nations shall be made known; yea all things shall be made known unto the children of men. There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed; there is no work of darkness save it shall be made manifest in the light; and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed. Wherefore, all things which have been revealed unto the children of men shall at that day be revealed; and Satan shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more for a long time…” (2 Nephi 30:16-18)

Questions:

-Why will all of history be accurately revealed during Christ’s Millennial reign?

-Why will everything that has ever been revealed to mankind be brought together and revealed anew during the Millennium?

-What is the relationship between the people having this knowledge/revelation and Satan being bound?

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

“We talk about Satan being bound. Satan will be bound by the power of God; but he will be bound also by the determination of the people of God not to listen to him, not to be governed by him” (George Q. Cannon, in Conference Report, Oct. 1897, 65).

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?

The Words of Isaiah Are Plain unto All Those That Are Filled with the Spirit of Prophecy

After recording many of the words of Isaiah, Nephi declares that Isaiah’s words are plain to those who have the spirit of prophecy and that Isaiah’s prophecies would be much clearer to all people at the time when they are fulfilled.

“…I write unto my people, unto all those that shall receive hereafter these things which I write, that they may know the judgments of God, that they come upon all nations, according to the word which he hath spoken. Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy. But…in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass. Wherefore they are of worth unto the children of men.” (2 Nephi 25:3-4)

Questions:

-How do God’s judgments come upon all nations? And, how do Isaiah’s prophecies shed light on those judgments?

-How can one reach a state where he or she is filled with the spirit of prophecy?

-Are the non-Hebrew versions of Isaiah even more difficult to understand since he used poetic and literary forms that were easy to distort when the Hebrew was translated into another language?

-How many of Isaiah’s prophecies have been clearly fulfilled as of today?

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)

By the Words of Three I Will Establish My Word

After using the Gold Plates to record Jacob’s, Isaiah’s, and his own testimony of Christ’s gospel, Nephi states the following:

“…By the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.” (2 Nephi 11:3)

Questions:

-Is this principle of three witnesses found in other places in the scriptures?

-Thinking of the Godhead as an example, are the testimonies given by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost from a single source? Or, are these testimonies from three separate Persons who are one in purpose?

-Does each member of the Godhead share His testimony in a unique way? Where in the scriptures do we have the testimony of the Father? Where in the scriptures do we have the testimony of the Son? How does the Holy Ghost share His testimony?

-Did God establish three witnesses to the divine origins of the Book of Mormon? Where can the testimony of those three witnesses by found? (see Testimony of the Three Witnesses)

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

The prophet Joseph Smith expressed his feelings as follows, speaking to his parents, after the Lord revealed the divine origins of the Book of Mormon to three other men: “Father, mother, you do not know how happy I am: the Lord has now caused the plates to be shown to three more besides myself. They have seen an angel, who has testified to them, and they will have to bear witness to the truth of what I have said, for now they know for themselves, that I do not go about to deceive the people, and I feel as if I was relieved of a burden which was almost too heavy for me to bear, and it rejoices my soul, that I am no longer to be entirely alone in the world” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 152).

“…The testimony of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon stands forth in great strength. Each of the three had ample reason and opportunity to renounce his testimony if it had been false, or to equivocate on details if any had been inaccurate. As is well known, because of disagreements or jealousies involving other leaders of the Church, each one of these three witnesses was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by about eight years after the publication of their testimony. All three went their separate ways, with no common interest to support a collusive effort. Yet to the end of their lives—periods ranging from 12 to 50 years after their excommunications—not one of these witnesses deviated from his published testimony or said anything that cast any shadow on its truthfulness.” (Dallen H. Oaks, “The Witness: Martin Harris”, 37)

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 perfect love and His saving power a primary source of spiritual strength and delight?