Wo unto Him That Rejecteth the Word of God

Nephi prophesies about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the last days.

“…The Lord God hath said that the words of the faithful should speak as it were from the dead. Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to bring forth the words of the book; and in the mouth of as many witnesses as seemeth him good will he establish his word; and wo be unto him that rejecteth the word of God!” (2 Nephi 27:13-14)

Questions:

-How many witnesses are there of the Book of Mormon?

-Is it important for you to be able to witness, one way or the other, as to whether the Book of Mormon is divinely inspired or not? How can you know? (Moroni 10:3-5)

-What are the consequences of rejecting the word of God? Are the consequences the same if one rejects it after superficial exposure to it versus after a prayerfully fair and lengthy reading?

-Would some reject the word of God even after receiving a witness from the Spirit that it is true? If so, what would lead them to do so?

Their Speech Shall Whisper out of the Dust

Nephi prophesies that—after his father’s descendants have been displaced by settlers (Gentiles) from the Old World—the voices of the Nephite and Lamanite prophets would whisper out of the ground to their descendants and to the entire world.

“…I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men…The prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten. For those who have been destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit…and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.” (2 Nephi 26:14-16)

Questions:

-Does the Book of Mormon have a familiar spirit to many of those with Native American heritage?

-Does it have a familiar spirit to many others around the world who also have ancestry linked to the house of Israel?

-On the broadest scale, does the Spirit whisper to the heart of every earnest truth seeker that the Book of Mormon is God’s word to the entire world?

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)?

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?

It Must Needs Be an Infinite Atonement

Jacob teaches his people (at around 559-545 B.C. in the Americas) about the Resurrection being an answer to the Fall.

“…Our flesh must waste away and die; nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God. Yea, I know that…in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him. For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man be reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.” (2 Nephi 9:5-6)

“Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and crumble to its mother earth to rise no more. O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself…” (2 Nephi 9:7-9)

Questions:

-What does Jacob mean when he says that Jesus Christ’s Atonement had to be infinite? (for an excellent exploration of this topic read The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister)

-How is being Resurrected with a physical immortal body part of saving our souls from the powers of hell?

-Would remaining as spirits for the eternities after death allow us to reach our full potential as God’s children? In this scenario, could we achieve the same power of spiritual and physical perfection that our Father and Jesus Christ currently have?

-Will the resurrection to a perfected body permanently seal off further spiritual influence from those who will spend eternity without bodies (i.e. Satan and those who followed him in the pre-mortal world)?

-What does it mean to be a subject of Jesus Christ?

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?

God Gave unto Man that He Should Act for Himself

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about how God structured mortal life so we would be free to choose between the good and the evil.

“…There is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon. And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” (2 Nephi 2:14-16)

-Do you believe there is a God? If so, why?

-Is there is a Spirit that testifies to the heart and soul that God exists? If so, when and how does this occur?

-Do you have a worldview that allows for good and evil? If so, are those categories of good and evil defined by you or by God?

-Do books such as the Bible and the Book of Mormon help define God’s standards of right and wrong through the commandments and teachings found in them?

-If God has defined good and evil, what happens if men and women create their own separate definitions of what belongs in these categories?

The Spirit Is the Same, Yesterday, Today, and Forever

As he recounts (somewhere around 588-570 B.C.) how his son Jacob had come to know Christ, Lehi focuses on the power and consistency of the Spirit, who is the third member of the Godhead, in testifying of Christ.

“…I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men. And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” (2 Nephi 2:3-4)

-Did the Spirit have the power to testify of Christ in ancient times, before He came to the earth? Was the Spirit’s testimony in any way vague or indirect? Or, was it a clear manifestation without ambiguity?

-Did the power of the manifestation depend on the faithfulness and spiritual strength of the individual to whom the witness came?

-Is it possible for us, who live after Christ’s coming, to receive a clear manifestation, without ambiguity, that He was (and is) who He said he was?

The Lord Has Covenanted This Land unto Lehi and His Children Forever

After arriving in the Americas, Nephi recorded more of his father Lehi’s teachings and prophecies. The first recorded prophecy relates to the promised land which they had obtained from the Lord in the Americas…

“[W]e have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord. Wherefore, I, Lehi prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.” (2 Nephi 1:5-6)

Questions:

-Are their Native American groups who are the descendants of Lehi and, thus, have a special God-given privilege to inherit and prosper on certain American lands (much as the Israelites where given a promised land in the Near East by God)?

-Where are these promised lands in the Americas?

-Is all North and South America covenanted to Lehi’s descendants? Or, are their promised lands more localized?

-Can individuals or groups, who live in the areas of the Americas promised to Lehi’s descendants, ultimately prosper and find lasting protection without sustaining and cooperating with the children of Lehi?

-Is there a key to Lehi’s descendants finding their full potential — in peace, prosperity and strength — upon the lands promised to them?

-What do the above scriptural passages suggest about God’s will in relation to Columbus, the Pilgrims, and many others that have come to the Americas?

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)?