The Lord Covenanteth with None Save it be with Them That Repent and Believe in His Son

After prophesying about some of the beliefs and misconceptions that would keep many of the Gentiles from accepting the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, and also the blessings that would come to the house of Israel in the last days, Nephi warns his people that no one receives salvation by birthright. Covenant blessings can only be made fully alive through repentance, obedience to God’s commandments, and faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

“And now behold, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you; for I, Nephi, would not suffer that ye should suppose that ye are more righteous than the Gentiles shall be. For behold, except ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall all likewise perish; and because of the words which have been spoken ye need not suppose that the Gentiles are utterly destroyed. For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.” (2 Nephi 30:1-2)

Questions:

-Do the verses above imply that most of the Gentiles will repent and become part of the Lord’s covenant people in the last days? Or, do they imply that it will be a relatively small proportion that will do so? (see The Gentiles Shall Deny Me)

The Gentiles Will Deny Me

Nephi prophesies that, as the house of Israel is gathered out of the Gentile nations in the last days, many (if not most) of the Gentiles will deny Christ’s work because they will trust their own thought systems and the security of their social networks more than the witness and power of the Holy Ghost.

Cursed is he who putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (2 Nephi 28:31-32)

Questions:

-How tempting is it to trust the power of mankind (that works on a mortal and temporal scale) more than God (who works on an eternal scale)?

-Can mortal and temporal power seem like the only power that matters if one does not receive the Holy Ghost’s witness of eternal power?

At That Day Shall He Rage in the Hearts of the Children of Men

After giving the Lord’s assurance that those who repent will not be destroyed, Nephi extends a warning to those living in the last days (the time in which we now live): Before being destroyed, the devil and his kingdom will grasp desperately at the hearts of all in an attempt to anger them against God’s light and goodness.

“…If the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Hosts. But, behold that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof. For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger and perish; For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Nephi 28:17-19)

Questions:

-What would lead a soul to “anger against that which is good”?

-In a scenario where the light and power of God’s work becomes more and more evident on the earth, will it be possible for those who do not repent to avoid becoming angry?

-Will things reach such an awful state among those who have consolidated against God’s work that a portion of those who have been lulled into the devil’s kingdom will wake to their terrible situation and repent?

He Doeth Not Anything Save It Be for the Benefit of the World

After describing the sin and secret combinations that would exist among the Gentiles in the last days (see previous post), Nephi teaches that Satan has promoted such things from the beginning to bring souls down into captivity. In contrast, Nephi gives insight into how and why the Lord does His work.

“The devil…is…the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he blindeth them with his strong cords forever. (2 Nephi 26:22)

For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness. He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. (2 Nephi 26:23)

Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price. Behold hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation: Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.” (2 Nephi 26:24-28)

Questions:

-Does the devil have anything good to offer? Is there any limit to his hatred and ill-will towards every living soul on the earth?

-Is it even possible to comprehend the extent of the goodness God has to offer? Is there any limit to His love and generosity toward every living soul on the earth?

-How many in the world see repentance as a way to embrace the goodness that God has to offer and reject the destructive aims of Satan?

It Is by Grace That We Are Saved After All We Can Do

Nephi taught his people that reconciliation with God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ was more important than anything else. He understood that no matter how close he (or anyone else) came to living God’s law perfectly, salvation would always depend on Christ’s merciful intervention.

“…We labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

 Questions:

-While establishing faith in Christ that allows us to be reconciled with God is absolutely foundational, how important is what we do to build on that foundation going forward in our lives?

-Once one understands that Heavenly Father will, because of repentance available through Christ’s Atonement, choose the better part of a mortal life by treasuring up and eternally magnifying all the good that person does, is it likely that living by God’s law and doing good works will become more important or less important to that person?

-What can God make of “all we can do” with Christ on our side?

It Must Needs Be That Christ Should Come Among Those Who Are the More Wicked Part of the World

Jacob, around the years 559 to 545 B.C., teaches that Christ would come to earth among the only nation who would kill Him rather than repent.

“It must needs be that Christ…should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God. For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that he be their God. But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.” (2 Nephi 10:3-5)

Questions:

-Is there a phenomenon where those who have truth and light from God and then do no live according to it fall into deeper spiritual darkness than those who never had such truth and light?

-Were there many in the Jewish nation that Christ was born into that had succumbed to such spiritual darkness?

-Were there also many Jews during that time who, despite the wickedness around them, showed exceptional spiritual strength and stayed close to God and His Spirit?

-What is priestcraft? And, why is its practice such a powerful source of evil?

Come unto That God Who Is the Rock of Your Salvation

Knowing his people had a clear knowledge of God’s law, Jacob pleads with them to not be entangled in sin but to turn with a repentant heart toward the true God.

“…Turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation. Prepare your souls for that glorious day when justice shall be administered unto the righteous, even the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear; that ye may not remember your awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty–but I know my guilt; I have transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am prey to his awful misery.” (2 Nephi 9:45-46)

Questions:

-Are you actively preparing your soul for the Day of Judgment?

-Who must you rely on to be prepared?

-To prevent being bound by the chains of sin, does a reliance on Christ need to be a constant daily endeavor? Is participating in this daily endeavor the difference between being spiritually-minded and being carnally-minded?

-Why will any remaining guilt be remembered with perfectness at the Day of Judgment?

-How can all guilt be washed away before the Day of Judgment?

The Righteous Love the Truth and Are Not Shaken

Jacob realizes his teachings about…

…are going to be hard for some to hear.

This being the case, he pleads with those who hear these messages not to rebel against the truth but to reconcile themselves with God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

“…Give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if you do ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken. O then my beloved [brothers and sisters] come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.” (2 Nephi 9:40-41)

Questions:

-How easy is it for most people to perceive and accept the greatness God, and His righteous standards, in relation to their shortcomings and sins?

-Do many feel it is easier to avoid facing the unclean aspects of their lives in relation to God than it is to square up to the truth of the situation and ask God for help to become clean through His power?

-Are many of the ideas and philosophies of the world popular because they help people avoid facing God and the uncomfortable aspects of seeking forgiveness?

-Is being willing to face one’s uncleanness, and work with God to remedy the situation, one of the main aspects of what Jacob calls righteousness? Would a person who continually strives to recognize their weaknesses, and do this work of repentance, be prone to judge others harshly who have similar mortal frailties? Is it impossible to be righteous and self-righteous at the same time?

-Will anyone be able to hide from the reality of his or her relationship with God at the time of the Resurrection and the Day of Judgment?

Wo unto All Those Who Die in Their Sins

Jacob describes some of the spiritual darkness that can enter the lives of men and women and separate their souls from God for eternity.

“…Wo unto the deaf that will not hear; for they shall perish. Wo unto the blind that will not see; for they shall perish also. Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day. Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell. Wo unto the murderer who deliberately killeth, for he shall die. Wo unto them who commit whoredoms, for they shall be thrust down to hell. Yea, wo unto those that worship idols, for the devil of all devils delighteth in them. And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins.” (2 Nephi 9:31-38)

Questions:

-What causes spiritual deafness and spiritual blindness?

-How many people care about their relationship with God? How many believe in God to begin with? Have many been convinced, in our times, that searching for God is a fruitless endeavor? What is the cost of trying to hear God’s voice compared to the cost of having less joy throughout the eternities because the attempt to know and understand God was never made?

-Can you see the messages of the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and other inspired scripture as a call to hear God’s voice?

-How can a person know that his or her heart is right before God?

-What is the difference between a person who lies and then repents of the sin and a person who makes lying a regular part of his or her character and does not repent? Which person do you think Jacob is talking about in the passage above?

-What would be the greater punishment for a person who deliberately commits murder? Being executed physically or the pain of dying spiritually. Will the murderer or the person that was murdered end up experiencing greater pain in the end?

-What are whoredoms? Why does God care deeply about the way each person handles his or her sexuality? How powerful is sexuality spiritually (for good or for evil)?

-Why does the devil delight in idol worship? What kind of idols do most people worship in our times?

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?