The Arms of Mercy Were Extended Towards Them and They Would Not

In teaching (and warning) King Noah and his priests, the prophet Abinadi reemphasizes what other prophets had taught before him: The Resurrection and the Judgment are closely tied and, together, define the eternal state of each soul.

“…This mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil—If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation—Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent.” (Mosiah 16:10-12)

Questions:

-Does God make sure that we are given every chance in mortality (and even in the spirit world) to turn to Him?

-By the time of the Resurrection will everyone’s true desires be expressed through the actions they took leading to that culminating event?

They Are One God, Yea the Very Eternal Father of Heaven and of Earth

The prophet Abinadi teaches how God the Father and Jesus Christ are one God in the sense that Christ never did anything but the Father’s will despite taking on the temptations of mortality.

“I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—And they are one God, yea the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.” (Mosiah 15:1-5)

Questions:

-Is Heavenly Father and Christ being in perfect harmony, in terms of purpose, the same as their somehow being one in form?

-When God asks us to be one (see Doctrine and Covenants 38:27), is He asking us to somehow be the same person? Or, is He asking us to be one in righteous purpose?

-Who are the children of Christ?

There is None Other Salvation Save This

King Benjamin declares the conditions for salvation for those who have received knowledge of the gospel and God’s goodness:

“If the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—I say, that this is the man [or woman] who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world. And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.” (Mosiah 4:5-8)

Questions:

-Is there anyway to know the goodness of God and the power of Christ’s Atonement without a witness from the Holy Ghost?

Harden Not Your Hearts

Jacob addresses the urgency of turning to God and embracing His will now, during mortality, rather than letting the precious opportunity pass by and fade away.

“…My beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of day, harden not your hearts. Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die?” (Jacob 6:5-6)

Questions:

-Why does Jacob compare our present condition (mortality) to the light of day?

-How is God holding fast, in loyalty and love, to His children on the earth (even when they are not reciprocating)?

-Why do some harden their hearts against God’s outstretched hands?

Feast upon That Which Perisheth Not

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

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

-Are the most important things eternal or temporal?

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

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

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

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

Christ’s Atonement Satisfieth the Demands of God’s Justice upon All Those Who Have Not the Law Given to Them

Jacob teaches that, because of Christ’s merciful Atonement, those who do not have God’s law will not be condemned by it.

“…He has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him. For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 9:25-26)

Those who do have God’s law, on the other hand, will be held accountable for their actions in relation to it (unless they continually draw on the power of Christ’s Atonement and repent towards doing better in relation to it):

“But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God…and that transgresseth them, and wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!” (2 Nephi 9:27)

Questions:

-Who on the earth currently is without God’s law? Are there whole nations and people that are largely free from the demands of this law because they have had little or none of it given to them?

-Is the light of Christ that touches the hearts of all living people part of the law? Does this innate sense of conscience and right and wrong bring all to the law to some degree?

-What do these truths Jacob teaches about the law say about the mercy God extends to those that have severe mental disabilities to the point where they cannot comprehend the law clearly?

-What are the benefits of having God’s law if it has the potential to condemn us once we understand it?

-Is the combination of having God’s law, and having an understanding of the redeeming power of Christ’s Atonement for those who repent, a way to obtain greater opportunities to serve others? Through that increased opportunity to serve and bless, are some given the precious opportunity to grow closer to Christ during mortality?

They Must be Judged According to the Holy Judgment of God

Jacob recounts how the Resurrection occurs prior to the Final Judgment and how these two events solidify each soul’s status in relation to God for eternity.

“…When all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God. And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end. O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled.” (2 Nephi 9:15-17)

Questions:

-How generous and loving will Christ be as our Eternal Judge? How willing will He be to extend mercy in whatever ways He can based on the choices we made in relation to God’s law? Could those who never had a chance to receive God’s law during their time in mortality be judged by that law?

-How fortunate will we be to have Christ both as our Judge and our Mediator? (See quote by Jeffrey Holland below.)

-Do “the devil and his angels” that Jacob refers to in the passage above include not only those spirits who followed Satan in the premortal life but also those who, after initially following God’s plan by coming to earth to receive a mortal body, then stubbornly reject the mercy He has extended to them—even after receiving a sure witness from the Holy Ghost of what Christ has done for them in appeasing the law of eternal justice (see sons of Perdition)? Will everyone else—those who are not rebellious and receive Christ’s mercy as they come to understand it—receive at least some Degree of Glory?

-Why will those who are eternally filthy experience torment that is like a “lake of fire and brimstone?”

-Is the Final Judgment also a “Final Chance” to receive Christ’s mercy before all who reject Him are sent away eternally? How important is it to seek Christ’s mercy through repentance now rather than denying the power of His grace until the Final Judgment?

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

“As ‘Wonderful Counselor,’ he will be our mediator, our intercessor, defending our cause in the courts of heaven. …

“Of course, as noted by Isaiah, Christ is not only a mediator but also a judge [see Mosiah 3:10; Moroni 10:34; Moses 6:57]. It is in that role of judge that we may find even greater meaning in Abinadi’s repeated expression that ‘God himself’ will come down to redeem his people [Mosiah 13:28; see also Mosiah 13:34; 15:1; Alma 42:15]. It is as if the judge in that great courtroom in heaven, unwilling to ask anyone but himself to bear the burdens of the guilty people standing in the dock, takes off his judicial robes and comes down to earth to bear their stripes personally. Christ as merciful judge is as beautiful and wonderful a concept as that of Christ as counselor, mediator, and advocate.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, 80–81)

Cursed is He That Putteth His Trust in Man

After expressing his complete trust in the Lord, Nephi expresses the very compelling reason why he doesn’t place a similar level of trust in his or others’ mortal powers:

O Lord, I have trusted in thee and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (2 Nephi 4:34)

Questions:

-Is it possible to function in mortality without putting some trust in yourself and other people?

-Is there a difference between lending trust to others who deserve it and the type of ultimate trust that can be put in God?

-Do many end up worshipping the human brain when the human spirit and the influence of God’s Spirit are disregarded?

Inasmuch as Ye Shall Not Keep My Commandments Ye Shall be Cut Off from My Presence

Shortly before passing away, Lehi took the time to speak to the children of his two (rebellious) older sons. He teaches them that obedience to God’s counsel and direction is the only way toward lasting physical and spiritual prosperity.

“…The Lord God has said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” (2 Nephi 4:4)

-Even though the power of God’s grace cannot be overstated in its power to lift, heal, save, and exalt…Is it possible to undermine grace in our lives if we do not strive to live according to this foundational principle related to the commandments God has established?

-No matter how much God loves His children, would He ever make compromises in upholding the laws and consequences He has established for mortality (and we agreed to in the pre-mortal realm)?

All Things Have Been Done in the Wisdom of Him Who Knoweth All Things

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, that God was not taken off guard or thwarted in any way by Satan’s successful effort to get Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

“…If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And [Adam and Eve] would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:22-24)

Questions:

-Why were Adam and Eve unable to have children until after their fall?

-Will the difficulties of mortality help God’s sons and daughters truly appreciate the eternal blessings He has prepared for those who choose the path of joy?

-Can great joy be achieved during mortality as well?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators

“Did [Adam and Eve] come out in direct opposition to God and to his government? No. But they transgressed a command of the Lord, and through that transgression sin came into the world. The Lord knew they would do this, and he had designed that they should” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 103).

“The most important events that ever have or will occur in all eternity … are the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement.

“Before we can even begin to understand the temporal creation of all things, we must know how and in what manner these three eternal verities—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement—are inseparably woven together to form one plan of salvation. No one of them stands alone; each of them ties into the other two; and without a knowledge of all of them, it is not possible to know the truth about any one of them. …

“… Be it remembered, the Atonement came because of the Fall. Christ paid the ransom for Adam’s transgression. If there had been no Fall, there would be no Atonement with its consequent immortality and eternal life. Thus, just as surely as salvation comes because of the Atonement, so also salvation comes because of the Fall” (Bruce R. McConkie, “Christ and the Creation,” Ensign, June 1982, 9).

“Just why the Lord would say to Adam that he forbade him to partake of the fruit of that tree is not made clear in the Bible account [see Genesis 2:17], but in the original as it comes to us in the Book of Moses [see Moses 3:17] it is made definitely clear. It is that the Lord said to Adam that if he wished to remain as he was in the garden, then he was not to eat the fruit, but if he desired to eat it and partake of death he was at liberty to do so” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. [1963], 4:81).

“God’s premortal children could not become like him and enjoy his breadth of blessings unless they obtained both a physical body and temporal experience in an arena where both good and evil were present. …

“… We wanted the chance to become like our heavenly parents, to face suffering and overcome it, to endure sorrow and still live rejoicingly, to confront good and evil and be strong enough to choose the good” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 200, 204).