The Spirit Speaketh of Things as They Really Are, and of Things as They Really Will Be

The Spirit has always testified of Jesus Christ. Before His birth, the Spirit testified of Him as Jehovah and as the coming Messiah and Savior. After His birth the Spirit now testifies of Him as the Savior who has worked out the Atonement in all of mankind’s behalf. Those who earnestly sought and obtained God’s Spirit before Christ’s coming—including the Nephite prophet Jacob—received a clear witness and understanding of who He would be and what He would do.

Writing about Christ sometime around 500 B.C., Jacob recorded the following about the power of the Spirit:

“…Beloved, marvel not that I tell you these things; for why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him…He that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old.” (Jacob 4:12-13)

Questions:

-Do you believe that true prophets (and their followers) who lived centuries before Christ had a clear understanding of who He would be and what He would do?

-Do you believe that you can have a clear understanding of who Christ is and what He has done through the Spirit?

All the Holy Prophets Had a Hope of Christ’s Glory Before His Coming

The Nephite prophets, including Jacob, had a clear understanding of Christ’s central role in the Father’s plan hundreds of years before Christ came to earth. Jacob explains that this was true of all true prophets who lived before Christ.

“…We knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us. Behold they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name and also we worship the Father in his name.” (Jacob 4:4-5)

Questions:

-If all of mankind’s hopes rest on Christ’s redemptive power, how likely would it be that the Holy Spirit testified of Christ to all the true prophets who came before Christ?

Whoredoms Are an Abomination Before Me

Jacob is given revelation from the Lord that the Nephites are beginning to rationalize sexual misconduct based on the actions of David and Solomon.

For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord. (2 Jacob 2:23-24)

Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes. For, if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (2 Jacob 2:27-30)

Questions:

-Is a society always cursed when the lure of unbounded sexuality is succumbed to and leads to a multiplicity of crass encounters that harm the souls of the participants?

-Were the men who are being called to repentance in the above verses letting their sexual desires overcome their basic decency toward many of the women around them? And, were they using the practice of plural marriage in their culture’s past as a cover for doing so?

-Are there others in the past, besides David and Solomon, who have practiced plural marriage without God’s sanction?

-When has God sanctioned plural marriage? What does the passage above suggest about why He would do so?

-Do you believe God sanctioned plural marriage as practiced by modern-day prophets such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young? Or, do you believe they were acting on their own motivations against God’s will? What do you have for reference in judging their motivations?

Feast upon the Words of Christ

Nephi teaches that angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost and mortals who receive the Holy Ghost can speak by the same power.

“Do you not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:2-3)

Questions:

-Who is speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost today?

-Where can one go to feast upon the words of Christ?

Has the Lord called prophets in our time to teach us and guide us?

-If you had the opportunity to hear someone speak with the tongue of an angel, to what lengths would you go to take advantage of that opportunity?

-Can only a prophet speak by the power of the Holy Ghost? What qualifies one to speak by the power of the Holy Ghost?

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

“To feast means more than to taste. To feast means to savor. We savor the scriptures by studying them in a spirit of delightful discovery and faithful obedience. When we feast upon the words of Christ, they are embedded ‘in fleshy tables of the heart’ [2 Corinthians 3:3]. They become an integral part of our nature” (Russell M. Nelson, “Living by Scriptural Guidance,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 17).

“If you and I are to feast upon the words of Christ, we must study the scriptures and absorb His words through pondering them and making them a part of every thought and action” (Robert D. Hales, “Healing Soul and Body,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 15).

They Have Closed Their Eyes and They Have Rejected the Prophets

The Book of Mormon testifies that the Lord is actively overseeing His creation and always reaching out to His children on earth to encourage good choices (righteous living in obedience to His commandments). God perceives all that is real and true and guides His children on earth accordingly through His Spirit, his prophets, the scriptures, and other means. In the verses below, the prophet Nephi sees the state of those who reject the Lord’s prophets and His Spirit in the last days.

“…All ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye shall cry out, and cry; yea ye shall be drunken but not with wine, ye shall stagger but not with strong drink. For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, you have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.” (2 Nephi 27:4-5)

Questions:

-How is the impaired state that comes with being drunk, similar to the spiritual state of those who have cut themselves off from the ultimate light and truth only God can offer?

-How many throughout the world are staggering under the influence of belief systems that are not based on the deepest realities?

-Are some of the most common belief systems (that are not based on God’s revelations to mankind) actually a deep spiritual sleep?

-Are there prophets and seers on the earth today? If so, what are their claims to having authority from God to share His word?

-Are we in as much need of a prophet today as in the times of the Bible? Are our issues and problems more complex or less complex than in past ages?

Thy Ways Are Just

Nephi saw in a prophetic vision that, 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). Though it is a great burden on his soul to have this knowledge, Nephi resolutely testifies that God is just in all that He does.

“…After the Messiah shall come there shall be signs given unto my people of his birth, and also of his death and resurrection; and great and terrible shall that day be unto the wicked, for they shall perish; and they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground against them.” (2 Nephi 26:3)

“And they shall be visited with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and all manner of destructions, for the fire of the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (2 Nephi 26:6)

“O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people! For I, Nephi, have seen it, and it well nigh consumeth me before the presence of the Lord; but I must cry unto God: Thy ways are just.” (2 Nephi 26:7)

Questions:

-Do you believe, as Nephi, that God’s ways are just?

-When God allows the physical destruction of those of his children who have fallen into wickedness as described in the verses above, is He still acting out of concern for their eternal welfare?

-Can only God feel righteous anger and still be justified? Or, is righteous anger possible for mortals as well?

Isaiah Speaks of Things That Are and Things That Are to Come

Jacob, and many other Nephite prophets, had a deep respect for the writings of Isaiah as these prophets knew his words were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“…Behold, I would speak unto you concerning things which are, and which are to come; wherefore, I will read you the words of Isaiah.” (2 Nephi 6:4)

“…They [the words of Isaiah] may be likened unto you, for ye are of the house of Israel.” (2 Nephi 6:5)

Questions:

-Has God established anew the covenant relationship with the house of Israel in our time?

-To whom did He appear personally – as well as sending Moses, Elias, and Elijah – to restore the full covenant relationship? (see Doctrine and Covenants 110)

-Do the words of Isaiah provide a pattern by which God works with the house of Israel?

-How can those who are of the house of Israel liken the words of Isaiah unto themselves?

-How can the words of Isaiah tell of things to come and also tell of things that currently are?

Be Obedient to the Commandments and Endure to the End

Nephi concludes his first book of scripture with a testament to the power of obedience.

“[I]f ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is. Amen.” (1 Nephi 22:31)

Below are some of God’s commandments as found in the first 22 chapters of the Book of Mormon  (the portion of the book that has been covered by this blog so far).

Condemn not the things of God.” (from the ancient Introduction)

“Remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.” (1 Nephi 10:20)

Ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive.” (1 Nephi 15:11)

Hear ye the words of the prophet.” (1 Nephi 19:24)

“Come near unto me.” (1 Nephi 20:16)

Questions:

-How much more meaningful are our efforts to keep the commandments because of Christ and the Atonement He worked out in our behalf?

-Why is enduring to the end important?

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

“Obedience is powerful spiritual medicine. It comes close to being a cure-all” (Boyd K. Packer, “Balm of Gilead,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 18).

“The most important of all the commandments of God is that one that you are having the most difficulty keeping today. … Put that aright and then you start on the next one that is most difficult for you to keep. That’s the way to sanctify yourself by keeping the commandments of God” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], 30).

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).

By the Spirit Are All Things Made Known unto the Prophets

After Nephi reads some of the words of Isaiah (from the Brass Plates) to his family, his brothers approach him with some questions. Among other truths, he teaches them about the source of prophetic knowledge.

“…My brethren came unto me and said unto me: What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh? And I, Nephi, said unto them: Behold they were manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit; for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets, which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh. Wherefore, the things which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual.” (1 Nephi 22:1-3)

Questions:

– Who is the Spirit? And, how does He communicate with God’s children living on earth?

-Are their other spirits influencing those on earth besides the Spirit? (see The Temptations of the Devil Blindeth Eyes and Hardeneth Hearts)

-How can someone know they are receiving direction from the Spirit, who is a member of the Godhead, instead of from another spirit (which spirit will be at best a less than perfect source of knowledge and enlightenment)?

-Can anyone be a prophet if they have a strong connection with the true Spirit? Or, does God only call some to be prophets (based on their experience, priesthood keys, and spiritual gifts)?