They Will Not Search Knowledge, Nor Understand Great Knowledge, When It Is Given unto Them in Plainness

After teaching about the first principles and ordinances of the gospel—including faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end—Nephi laments the tendency in many to “look past” or ignore the greatest and most basic truths.

“…I am left to mourn because of the unbelief and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” (2 Nephi 32:7)

Questions:

-How many lack spiritual knowledge because of unbelief, wickedness, and prideful stubbornness?

-Why do we often make things more complicated than they need to be when it comes to our spiritual welfare?

Wo Be unto Them That Revile Against That Which Is Good and Say That It Is of No Worth

The prophet Nephi warns of serious consequences for those who do not humble themselves before God and His commandments in the last days.

“O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell! Wo be unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth! For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they that are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish.” (2 Nephi 28:15-16)

Questions:

-How many understand (or believe) that humility toward God is necessary for spiritual survival?

-Why would those who are steeped in the beliefs of elite intellectual circles and those that are wealthy be more likely to be prideful and “revile against that which is good?”

-How many would intentionally teach false doctrine? How many would resist the Holy Ghost in what they taught if it allowed them to stay in good standing with their intellectual peers?

-How many are willing to see sexual sin in terms of how God defines it (rather than how most of our contemporary societies define it)?

-How much of the suffering, evil, and depravity in the world is due to the perverting of the “right way of the Lord?”

-Are the groups that revile against that which is good further consolidating themselves (through the social “echo chamber” effect) into a state where they are fully ripe in iniquity?

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).

The Gentiles Preach up unto Themselves Their Own Wisdom and Their Own Learning

Seeing our time, the prophet Nephi touches on some of the spiritual and organizational characteristics troubling the people (Gentiles) who would largely displace the remnants of his and his father Lehi’s descendants.

“…The Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor. And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice. And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things…” (2 Nephi 26:20-22)

Questions:

-When seeing the weaknesses of the Gentiles, is Nephi focused more on the people of the United States and Canada? Does his critique also refer to the Latin American countries south of the United States? Is there also some reference to all nations throughout this fallen world?

-Are the churches Nephi is referring to Christian places of worship? Or, is his meaning more generalized to refer to all organizations that developed from the Christian churches and the related Enlightenment culture of Europe?

-What stumbling block is Nephi referring to in this passage? And, why does he refer to it as a great stumbling block? Is this a reference to the absence of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (because of apostasy) as these organizations formed?

-What are the organizations that have been “built up” to have the most power and influence in the United States in our time? Have similar organizations been built up in other countries in the Americas and throughout the world?

-Do these organizations focus on the power and miracles of God? Or, do they put greater emphasis on — and give greater credit to — what they perceive to be human power and human wisdom? Do many of these organizations take advantage of the poor?

-Are their many institutions and organizations that (inadvertently or intentionally) cause envying and strife?

-What are secret combinations? What are the consequences of having oath-bound groups in our society that do evil for their own worldly gain?

The Spirit of the Lord Will Not Always Strive with Man

Nephi sees (through a prophetic vision given to him from the Lord) that, after falling into deep wickedness, many of his people in the Americas would be destroyed at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection (around A.D. 33-34). After being visited by Christ in person, three generations would pass away in peace and righteousness before wickedness and destruction would again afflict his people. Nephi identifies the loss of the Spirit as the reason for his people’s fall.

“…The Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness. And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell. For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction…” (2 Nephi 26:9-11)

Questions:

-Why do individuals choose darkness rather than light? Why do whole societies, such as the Nephites did, fall into a general pattern of prideful behavior and sin?

-How and when do things get to the point where the Spirit completely withdraws from a distinct group of people?

-Is it possible for a group or society that hasn’t received the fullness of God’s law to reach such a state where they reap destruction based on their rejection of God’s Spirit?

-Is it ever too late to turn back to God as an individual (even within a society that is headed the opposite direction)?

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)

Their Treasure Shall Perish with Them

Jacob teaches how having worldly riches can lead to a loss of the characteristics that are most important to God:

“…Wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.” (2 Nephi 9:30)

Questions:

-Is it wrong to obtain riches if one’s heart is not set on them? (see Jacob 2:18-19)

-Does it make sense to envy the rich when riches can so easily lead to soul-cankering pride and loss of spiritual perspective?

-Do you feel you could keep your priorities straight in the eyes of God under the temptations that come with having worldly wealth? What would be the key to doing so? (see Jacob 2:18-19)

When They are Learned They Think They Are Wise

Jacob teaches that “wisdom” separated from the counsel of God is, in fact, foolishness.

“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Nephi 9:28-29)

-How does the devil use pride to tempt well-educated people into relying on their own knowledge rather than seeking greater knowledge and wisdom from God?

-How does learning (spiritual and secular) give one greater capacity to serve God if he or she remains humble and teachable?

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

“If members of the Church would place more confidence in the word of the Lord, and less confidence in the theories of men, they would be better off. I will give you a key for your guidance. Any doctrine, whether it comes in the name of religion, science, philosophy, or whatever it may be, that is in conflict with the revelations of the Lord that have been accepted by the Church as coming from the Lord will fail. It may appear to be very plausible; it may be put before you in such a way that you cannot answer it, it may appear to be established by evidence that cannot be controverted, but all you need do is bide your time. Time will level all things” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Oct. 1930, 155-156).

How Great the Importance to Make These Things Known unto the Inhabitants of the Earth

Lehi continues to teach his son, Jacob, about Christ’s Atonement and all of mankind’s need for it:

“…He offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah…” (2 Nephi 2:7-8)

Questions:

-What does Lehi mean when he states that only those with a broken heart and a contrite spirit can receive Christ’s redemption from sin?

-Does “heart” in this passage refer to our personal will versus God’s will? Is it good to break down our will to make way for God’s will in our lives?

-Can one have anything but a “broken heart” when he or she truly keeps in remembrance the price paid by Christ to redeem those who choose to follow and obey Him?

-How is being prideful (which is the opposite of having a broken heart and a contrite spirit) a false state of being?

-Who among the inhabitants of the earth has God’s law? Who, if any, does not have the law?

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

“I believe that none of us can conceive the full import of what Christ did for us in Gethsemane, but I am grateful every day of my life for His atoning sacrifice in our behalf.

“At the last moment, He could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things. In doing so, He gave us life beyond this mortal existence. He reclaimed us from the Fall of Adam.

“To the depths of my very soul, I am grateful to Him. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. He secured our salvation” (Thomas S. Monson, “At Parting,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 114).

Teachings of the Seventy

“What are a broken heart and a contrite spirit? … The Savior’s perfect submission to the Eternal Father is the very essence of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Christ’s example teaches us that a broken heart is an eternal attribute of godliness. When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master.

“A broken heart and a contrite spirit are also preconditions to repentance [see 2 Nephi 2:6–7]. … When we sin and desire forgiveness, a broken heart and a contrite spirit mean to experience ‘godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance’ (2 Corinthians 7:10). This comes when our desire to be cleansed from sin is so consuming that our hearts ache with sorrow and we yearn to feel at peace with our Father in Heaven. Those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit are willing to do anything and everything that God asks of them, without resistance or resentment. We cease doing things our way and learn to do them God’s way instead. In such a condition of submissiveness, the Atonement can take effect and true repentance can occur” (Bruce D. Porter, “A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 32).

Video from Book of Mormon Central:

The Righteous Shall Be Saved Even If It So Be by Fire

Nephi continues to interpret and expand on Isaiah’s prophecies of the last days around the time of Christ’s Second Coming. After emphasizing that all who fight against Zion will be destroyed, he provides additional detail about why this destruction will occur.

“…[T]he time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned. For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous. Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved even if it so be as by fire.” (1 Nephi 22:15-17)

Questions:

-Do these verses only refer to cleansing of the earth at the time of Christ’s Second Coming? Or, is it an expression of a more general principle by which the Lord will operate as the wheat is gathered from the tares (See Matthew 13:24–30; D&C 86:1–7) leading up to the Second Coming?

-Why is pride such a powerful indicator of not being on the side of the righteous? What are some other indicators of being an enemy of righteousness? (see These are Those Who Must Be Consumed as Stubble)