The Bible is of Great Worth

As Nephi continues to have future events unfolded to him in vision, the angel describes the meaning of what Nephi is seeing. One portion of the vision focuses on the Bible coming to the Americas with the Europeans (Gentiles) who began emigrating from the 16th and 17th century onward.

“…And I beheld a book…carried forth among them. And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book? And I said unto him: I know not. And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel…wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.” (1 Nephi 13:20-23)

Questions

Why did the angel emphasize the covenants made to the house of Israel as being a central aspect of the Bible’s value to the Gentiles? Could this emphasis be based on the fact that the Gentiles would be among (and mix with) many of the house of Israel in the Americas – including Lehi’s descendants – and that the two groups’ spiritual and physical prosperity (or lack thereof) would be closely tied together as the Lord fulfilled his covenants with the house of Israel?

What portion of the Bible, if any, was spoken or recorded by a non-Jew or non-Israelite? Are the most important passages, spoken directly by Jesus Christ himself, also from the mouth of a Man with a Jewish mother?

Does the new covenant which Jesus Christ established with His earthly ministry dissolve the covenants made to those who came before Him in any way (such as the covenants made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)? Or, does the new covenant add to, and strengthen all the covenants that came before?

The House of Israel Should Come to a Knowledge of Their Redeemer

Another message from the Book of Mormon comes as Lehi continues to prophesy to his family. He explains that it was part of God’s plan to scatter the people of Israel throughout the earth (including leading Lehi’s family to the Americas) but He would later work to gather them again — physically and spiritually. Lehi foresaw that after the death of Christ a portion of His Gospel would survive among some of the nations of the Gentiles (nations in Europe, portions of northern Africa, and western Asia, for example, whose majority religion became Christian and whose emigrants later established nation states in the Americas). Lehi prophesied to his family that when the fullness of the gospel was again restored to the Gentiles, the regathering of the house of Israel — including Lehi’s descendants in the Americas — would begin.

And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel…the remnants of the house of Israel should…come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.” (1 Nephi 10:14)

Questions:

-Is there evidence of the people of Israel being gathered spiritually and physically in our time as God has promised they would be?

-If only a portion of Christ’s gospel survived among the Christian nations, has the fullness of that Gospel been restored in our time?

-Is there a church established on the earth today that claims to be carrying out such a restoration and gathering of Israel based on direct authority and instruction from God?

-If, as the scriptures testify, God always keeps His promises, how important is it to be a part of His work in fulfilling promises made to those who went before us? Is it likely a church which does not align itself with the impetus of such powerful promises, as a key element of its teachings and practice, contains the fullness of the Gospel?

Condemn Not the Things of God

The very first messages of the Book of Mormon come from an introduction likely written by a prophet named Moroni who lived in the Americas around 400 A.D. To introduce the record his father Mormon had put together and abridged, Moroni declares the following truths about its purpose and meaning:

  • “It is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi
  • “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile
  • “Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophesy and of revelation
  • “Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they [the metal plates on which the record was kept] might not be destroyed”
  • “To come forth by the gift and power of God
  • “To come forth in due time by way of the Gentile…the interpretation thereof by the gift of God”
  • “To show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers…that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever”
  • “To…convinc[e] Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations”
  • “If there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgement-seat of Christ” (For full text see Title Page of the Book of Mormon)

Questions:

-How important would it be to make meaningful use of a gift, readily available to you in the form of a book, that was brought into being by the power of God?

-If God made covenants with those who lived before our time — who sought His help and guidance in their lives – is there any doubt that He would follow through with the promises He made to them? Could our relationship to God in the present have important ties to those promises He made in the past and is now fulfilling?

 Prophets, Seers, and Revelators…

“The title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the … book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, … and … said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or of any other man who has lived or does live in this generation” (Joseph Smith quoted in History of the Church, 1:71)

“The major mission of the Book of Mormon, as recorded on its title page, is ‘to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.’ The honest seeker after truth can gain the testimony that Jesus is the Christ as he prayerfully ponders the inspired words of the Book of Mormon. Over one-half of all the verses in the Book of Mormon refer to our Lord. Some form of Christ’s name is mentioned more frequently per verse in the Book of Mormon than even in the New Testament. He is given over one hundred different names in the Book of Mormon. Those names have a particular significance in describing His divine nature” (Ezra Taft Benson from “Come unto Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 83).

Video from Book of Mormon Central:

And Then Cometh the New Jerusalem

Moroni records the prophecies of the Jaredite prophet, Ether, regarding the establishment of New Jerusalem in the Americas and the reestablishment of Jerusalem in the Levant. The complete fulfillment of this prophecy will not occur until after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, though the spiritual foundations for these events are already starting to develop.

“…The [promised land in the Americas] became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof; And that it [is] the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holysanctuary of the Lord…Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old; and they shall no more be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away. And there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new. And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel. And then also cometh the Jerusalem of old; and the inhabitants thereof, blessed are they, for they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries, and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham.” (Ether 13:2-3,8-11)

Questions:

-How will the application of a great deal of technology be integrated into life in the New Jerusalem?

-Will the unfettered power of God (compared with other time periods in the Earth’s history) during this Millennial era reduce the need for technological buildup? Or, will additional technological advance be part of the way God continues to teach his children “line by line?”

If You Believe the Bible Ye Will Also Believe the Book of Mormon

A message to the descendants of Lehi:

“And now, behold, I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared, if it so be that God may give unto them my words, that they may know of the things of their fathers; yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel; and these are the words which I speak: Know ye that ye are of the house of Israel. Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved. Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you. Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.” (Mormon 7:1-5)

“And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment-seat. And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end. Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you. For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if ye believe that ye will believe this also; and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them. And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ and are baptized, first with water then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen.” (Mormon 7:6-10)

Questions:

-Will this message from the prophet Mormon resonate, according to the power and truth of the Holy Ghost, in the hearts of those to whom it is directed?

-Will it also resonate with those to whom it was not directly written but are humble seekers of God’s truth?

The Sword of My Justice Shall Hang over All the Nations of the Gentiles

Christ Himself prophesies that – as a people who were given this land by GodLehi’s descendants will be a means of breaking down the decayed and spiritually-corrupt social structures of the wicked Gentiles in the Americas in preparation for the establishment of the New Jerusalem. In a broader context “all the nations of the Gentiles” (beyond the Americas) will also be destroyed if they do not repent and come unto Christ who is the beginning and end of all creation.

“…Then shall the remnants [of the house of Israel], which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them. And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance. And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off. And I will gather my people together as a man gathereth his sheaves into the floor. For I will make my people with whom the Father hath covenanted, yea, I will make thy horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass. And thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth. And behold, I am he who doeth it. And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles. And it shall come to pass that I will establish my people, O house of Israel. And behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your Father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.” (3 Nephi 20:13-22)

Questions:

-In our day, are the Gentiles in the Americas (in general) repenting toward the gospel of Jesus Christ and His covenants? Or, are they moving the opposite direction and squandering the blessing that has been offered them via the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ?

-Should the above prophecy be interpreted as mainly a spiritual phenomenon or as a physical phenomenon? Will the fulfillment of the prophecy have both elements?

-Would the true followers of Christ among the descendants of Lehi ever resort to violence other than in a posture of patient self-defense?

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit Who Come unto Me

Jesus Christ taught the descendants of Lehi in the Americas (who were of the house of Israel) many of the same 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 Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) were again taught by the Savior when he visited Lehi’s descendants.

Below is the first of the Beatitudes, as recorded in the King James version of Matthew, and the comparable teaching as found in 3 Nephi of the Book of Mormon.  

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)

Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (3 Nephi 12:3)

Questions:

-Why would God inspire Joseph Smith to interpret the Beatitudes – as taught by Christ to Lehi’s descendants in the Americas — in language very similar to the King James version of the Bible?

-Do you feel the phrase, “who come unto me,” is an inspired addition to what is found in Matthew.

-What does it mean to be poor in spirit?

-Is it possible to truly come unto Christ if one is not poor in spirit?

I Speak unto You as the Voice of One Crying from the Dust

As the prophet Nephi records his final words he testifies in no uncertain terms that he has been commanded by God to write all that he has written.

“And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come. And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day. For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen.” (2 Nephi 33:13-15)

Questions:

-What does it mean to partake of the goodness of God?

-What would prevent a person from partaking of the goodness of God?

-What does it mean to respect the words of the Jews, Nephi’s words, and the words of the Lamb of God?

-How many in the world have had a prolonged enough exposure to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and other scripture to make a meaningful decision about the respect they have for them?

-Is the condemnation Nephi refers to reserved for those who have a witness from the Holy Ghost that these scriptures are of God and then still reject them?

There is None Other Name Given under Heaven Whereby Man Can Be Saved

Nephi declares God’s interventions to save the Israelite people during the Exodus to be a foreshadowing of the ultimate intervention Christ would make to offer salvation to all mankind.

“As the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved.” (2 Nephi 25:20)

Questions:

-In the late centuries B.C., how many people—besides Nephi and his followers—had a clear understanding of who Christ would be and what He would do for mankind? Could Nephi have obtained such a clear understanding without receiving revelation from God’s Spirit?

-By that same Spirit, is it possible for those living today to know who Jesus is and what He has done?

-Can any intellectual or theological formulation effectively replace this witness of the Spirit when it comes to understanding who Christ is and what He did for us? Is there any personal revelation more import to receive from the Spirit than the witness of Christ’s divinity and mission?

When That Day Shall Come That They Shall Believe in Christ…It Must Needs Be Expedient That They Should Believe These Things

Nephi prophesies that the Jewish people will be scattered through the centuries until the time comes that they begin to believe in Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement. Those who come to worship the Father in Christ’s name, with pure intent and good works, will believe the writings of the Nephite prophets (as found in the Book of Mormon).

“The Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations. And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation, until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.” (2 Nephi 25:15-16)

Questions:

-Why will it be “expedient” for the Jewish people who believe in Christ, and strive with sincerity to live righteously, to also believe in the writings of the Nephite prophets as found in the Book of Mormon?

-Did Nephi know that these Jewish people, as part of the house of Israel, would be naturally receptive to the spirit and message of Nephi’s and his descendants’ writings (which focus on Christ as the Savior)?