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)?

All That Fight Against Zion Shall Be Destroyed

In interpreting Isaiah chapters 48 and 49 for his brothers, Nephi again teaches about the fate of those who fight against the people of the Lord in the last days.

“…[T]he blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood. And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.” (1 Nephi 22:13-14) 

Questions:

-Would the people of the Lord (true followers of Jesus Christ who receive His Spirit) ever be filled with the kind of anger and ill-will that leads to widespread violence and war?

-How quickly, on the other hand, would a group or society that is animated by such ill-will and anger start to turn upon itself and any of its neighbors who are under the influence of the same dark spirit?

-What role will anger toward the truth and light of Zion play in separating the wicked from the righteous in the last days?

-Are there growing signs of hatred toward the Lord’s people (who will not bow to the deteriorating status quos of the societies around them)?

-How easy will it be for those with good-will toward all—and high standards of conduct based on the truths of revealed scripture—to stay separated from each other in the midst of those who have fallen prey to contagious hatred born of ill-will and anger? Will the good in heart from all faiths be gathered together in solidarity, of necessity, as the great and abominable church (described in the passage above) begins to destroy itself?

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)

The People of the House of Israel Will I Gather in from the Four Corners of the Earth

Nephi, drawing on the scriptural prophecies his family had in the Brass Plates, describes events that would occur after the crucifixion of Christ.

“And as for those who are at Jerusalem, saith the prophet, they shall be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel, and turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders, and the power and glory of the God of Israel. And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations. Nevertheless, when that day cometh, saith the prophet, that they no more turn aside their hearts against the Holy One of Israel, then will he remember the covenants which he made to their fathers. Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, according to the words of the prophet Zenos, from the four quarters of the earth. Yea, and all the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord, saith the prophet; every nation, kindred, tongue and people shall be blessed.” (1 Nephi 19:15-17)

Questions:

-How is the dispersal and eventual gathering of the house of Israel tied to every nation and people being blessed in the last days?

-How is turning to the true Messiah, Jesus Christ, a key to receiving the covenant blessings made to  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

-Does it please a loving God to see the trials and hardships of those who reject His Son? Are those who cause tribulations for those who have rejected Christ any less responsible for their actions than anyone else? Would true followers of Jesus Christ ever despise and persecute a people who did not share their beliefs?

-Has the Lord begun to gather Israel in our time? What role does the Book of Mormon play in gathering children of Israel?

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

“Why was Israel scattered? The answer is clear; it is plain; of it there is no doubt. Our Israelite forebears were scattered because they rejected the gospel, defiled the priesthood, forsook the church, and departed from the kingdom. …

“What, then, is involved in the gathering of Israel? 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” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 515).

By the Power of His Almighty Word He Can Cause the Earth that It Shall Pass Away

Nephi’s older brothers (Laman and Lemuel) frequently rebelled against their father’s divinely mandated mission to settle in a new land. They doubted, complained, and even considered killing Lehi and Nephi to gain control of the traveling family’s destiny. In calling his older brothers to repentance, Nephi compares their actions to those of the children of Israel during the Exodus. He reminds them that they, like the Israelites during the Exodus, had experienced great manifestations of God’s power and His willingness to intervene to guide them. Yet, despite these manifestations, the older brothers – like the Israelites – rebelled time and again. Nephi also reminds his brothers of God’s power over the earth and then asks them why they did not let Him have sway in their hearts:

“…He did straiten [the Israelites] in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity…[T]hey did revile against Moses, and also against God; nevertheless ye know that they were led forth by his matchless power into the land of promise.” (1 Nephi 17:41-42)

“Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder. And ye also know that by the power of his almighty word he can cause the earth that it shall pass away; yea, and ye know that by his word he can make the rough places to be made smooth, and the smooth places shall be broken up. O, then, why is it, that ye can be so hard in your hearts?” (1 Nephi 17:45-46)

Questions:

-Would some in today’s world act like Laman and Lemuel if God were to speak to them with an audible voice? Would a voice like thunder, or the still small voice that Nephi speaks of, have greater power to break up hard hearts?

-Is there anyone to which God does not speak with a still small voice? Is it possible to always have that Guide with you?

-Would you rather experience God’s power manifest in the outside world or in your heart? Which type of manifestation is more important? What are the keys to letting God into your heart?

-Is the miracle experienced by those who have let God into their hearts any less powerful to them than the miracle of seeing God’s mighty power manifest in the outside world?

Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“We hear the words of the Lord most often by a feeling. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Seek the Spirit of the Lord,” Ensign, Apr. 1988, 4).

“So it is with divine communication. … We often put ourselves in spiritual dead spots—places and situations that block out divine messages. Some of these dead spots include anger, pornography, transgression, selfishness, and other situations that offend the Spirit” (James E. Faust, “Did You Get the Right Message?” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 67).


“A … requirement for frequent companionship and direction from the Holy Ghost is to be clean. The Spirit must withdraw from those who are not clean. …

“… If you have difficulty in feeling the Holy Ghost, you might wisely ponder whether there is anything for which you need to repent and receive forgiveness.

“If you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost today, you may take it as evidence that the Atonement is working in your life. For that reason and many others, you would do well to put yourself in places and in tasks that invite the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost works both ways: the Holy Ghost only dwells in a clean temple, and the reception of the Holy Ghost cleanses us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. You can pray with faith to know what to do to be cleansed and thus qualified for the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the service of the Lord. And with that companionship you will be strengthened against temptation and empowered to detect deception” (Henry B. Eyring, “Gifts of the Spirit for Hard Times,” Ensign, June 2007, 23).

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?