Hear Ye the Words of the Prophet Isaiah

Nephi taught his family from the scriptures found in the Brass Plates and placed special emphasis on the words of Isaiah.

“…That I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord  their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah…Wherefore I spake unto them saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom you have been broken off.” (1 Nephi 19:23-24)

Following are some of the messages from Isaiah’s writings that Nephi refers to after emphasizing the importance of the prophet’s words to those who are of the house of Israel:

…I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (1 Nephi 20:10)

Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called, for I am he; I am the first, and I am also the last.” (1 Nephi 20:12)

Come ye near unto me…” (1 Nephi 20:16)

O that thou hadst harkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” (1 Nephi 20:18)

…There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.” (1 Nephi 20:22)

…I will not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers; and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.” (1 Nephi 21:15-17)

…thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” (1 Nephi 21:23)

…I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (1 Nephi 21:25-26)

Questions:

-Is the house of Israel hearing these messages from the book of Isaiah, which are also reemphasized in the Book of Mormon? How important are these messages from the Lord (through Isaiah) seeing that they are included in two different scriptural testaments?

-Is it possible to become part of the house of Israel, in the eyes of God, even if you are not part of an Israelite lineage?  (See The Lord Esteemeth All Flesh in One)

The Lord Esteemeth All Flesh in One and Loveth Those Who Will Have Him to Be Their God

Nephi, in an attempt to help his rebellious older brothers understand the importance of their family’s journey away from Jerusalem, refers them to the experience of the Israelites who left Egypt and were led by the Lord to the land of Canaan (the Israelite’s promised land). He explains to his brothers that the Israelites living in and around Jerusalem – at the time he was speaking to Laman and Lemuel around 590 B.C. — had reached such a state of sin and rebellion that the Lord would allow these Israelites to be destroyed by another nation (similar to how the depraved Canaanites were displaced by the Israelites centuries before). In this context Nephi shares a number of general truths about how God sees and works with his children on earth:

“…The Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God.” (1 Nephi 17:35)

“…The Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it. And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked. And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them for their sakes. He ruleth high in the heavens, for it is his throne, and this earth is his footstool. And he loveth those who will have him to be their God.” (1 Nephi 17:36-40)

Questions:

-Are there any groups or individuals toward which God shows favoritism? Is there any unfairness in how he works with his earthly children? How is the favor spoken of in this passage different from favoritism?

-If righteousness is the key to receiving God’s favor, how does a group (or individual) become righteous?

-What role do God’s commandments, covenants, and grace play in helping a group (or individual) live in righteousness?

-Should every instance of human destruction be viewed as a case of God bringing His judgments upon the wicked? If a person dies of old age — which is the destruction of the body – does that mean the person is wicked? Is widespread destruction (affecting a whole society or nation of people) more likely to indicate the loss of God’s favor? Is it easy to fall into the trap of seeing the misfortune of others as God’s judgment when misfortune, separate from God’s actions, is an inevitable part of this mortal life for all who come to this fallen world?

-Does God ever do anything that isn’t what is best for His children on earth? Are there times when God allows the destruction of individuals and nations for the eternal benefit of those who experience the destruction (as well as for those who inhabit the earth after them)?

-What is the difference between the love God feels for all of His children and the increased care He is able to provide to those who will have Him to be their God (i.e., those who strive to know Him and worship Him through obedience to His commandments)?

The Guilty Take the Truth to be Hard

When Nephi teaches his older brothers about the justice of God, they are offended. Because of the way they had lived their lives up to that point, it appears their consciences were troubled by what Nephi — in the power of the Spirit — had to say about the fate of the wicked. In teaching his brothers about why they were offended, Nephi expresses a general truth about how the guilty respond when reminded of the precarious spiritual state they are in:

“…After I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold they said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear. And…I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth…and the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center. And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.” (1 Nephi 16:1-3)

Questions: 

-Is it possible for a person to be wicked (in the way Nephi uses the word above) if that person doesn’t know what God expects of them? Did Laman and Lemuel — Nephi’s two older brothers – know what God expected of them? Had their father taught them well (see 1 Nephi 1:1)? Had they seen an angel of God (see 1 Nephi 3:28-29)?

-If you believe in God, do you know what He expects of you? Would a just God ever reject those who did not have the opportunity to learn what He expects from them? Are the eternal stakes higher when we do know what God expects of us? Is it valuable to always be striving to learn more about what God expects of us?

-Does everyone have some sense of what is right and wrong by God’s true and perfect standard? Is Western culture, in general, currently open to the idea of there being a perfect standard of right and wrong — upheld by a perfect God – by which all will be judged? How likely will those who are not open to this perfect standard be to seek mercy through Jesus Christ’s Atonement?

Teachings of Latter-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators  

“When the prophet points out the sins of the world, the worldly either want to close the mouth of the prophet, or else act as if the prophet didn’t exist, rather than repent of their sins. Popularity is never a test of truth. … As we come closer to the Lord’s second coming you can expect that as the people of the world become more wicked, the prophet will be less popular with them” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson [2014], 152).

They Must Stand before God to Be Judged of Their Works

As he answers his brothers’ questions about their father’s dream, Nephi emphasizes a bright fire-like light — representing the justice of God — that divided the wicked and the righteous in the dream. Nephi teaches his brothers that they, like all who have lived on the earth, will account for their lives at the day of judgement.

“I said unto them that our father also saw that the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever and hath no end…For the day should come that they must be judged of their works…and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also. But…the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy. And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.” (1 Nephi 15:30,32-35)

Questions:

-If the justice of God is unalterable and eternal, as Nephi describes it above, what place does mercy have in God’s plan?

-What does the sum of one’s actions during a lifetime say about his or her true desires? Can a season of wickedness in one’s life be followed by a season of righteousness without any eternal ramifications based on the time when unrighteous choices were made?

-How can anyone be saved in the kingdom of God when everyone makes mistakes and sins?

-Is a sense of God’s justice a concept that has gained ground or lost ground in Western culture in the last century?

-Is it possible to sense the true need for Jesus Christ as our Savior without also opening oneself up to the reality and unwavering clarity of God’s justice?

No Unclean Thing Can Dwell with God

After describing God’s perfect and caring consistency in his relationship to mankind (and every individual who ever was and is a part of it), Nephi concludes his message on a cautionary note.

“…For all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment. Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.” (1 Nephi 10:20-21)

Questions:

-What does it mean to seek after wickedness? Why does participating in wickedness make a person unclean?

-Why is it that nothing unclean (including an unclean soul) can stay in the presence of God?

-What is the difference between being clean and being perfect? Does this passage say that a soul needs to be perfect to enter God’s kingdom?

-Since all of us have been tainted — to some degree or another — by the wickedness of this world, how can we be made clean again and return to live with God? (See: Rely on This Redeemer; Repentance; Atonement)

-Why does Nephi refer to mortality as a time of probation?

-Is there a point where all who are unclean will remain so forever?

-If you believe there will be a day of judgment, how does it affect the way you live your life day to day? If a day of judgment is in the future, how important is it to know this and to be prepared?

-Would a perfect God provide anything less than a perfect judgment? Would a God who loves perfectly offer everything He possibly could in terms of eternal blessings?

When Ye See These Things, Ye Shall Know That the Time is at Hand

The Lord declares that He is prepared to give greater light and knowledge to those who will hear His voice and come unto Him. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon text is a sign that the apocalyptic events as seen in John’s revelation (found in the second half of the book of Revelation in the New Testament) are at hand.  

“Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the great things, the knowledge that is hid up because of unbelief. Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how greater things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief. Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel. And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed. Therefore, when ye shall receive this record ye may know that the work of the Father has commenced upon all the face of the land. Therefore, repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name; for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned; and signs shall follow them that believe in my name. And blessed is he that is found faithful unto my name at the last day, for he shall be lifted up to dwell in the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world. And behold it is I that hath spoken it.” (Ether 4:13-19)

Questions:

-How many are in a place spiritually where they are willing to call upon the Father, in the name of Christ, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit?

-Will the numbers who are prepared to humbly seek God increase as the events described in John’s Apocalypse begin to unfold?

For a free copy of the Book of Mormon go to https://www.ComeUntoChrist.org/site/book-of-mormon

There Are None Save A Few Only Who Do Not Lift Themselves up in the Pride of Their Hearts

Moroni (writing around 400-421 AD) prophesies about the environment in which the Book of Mormon message will spread in the last days. He warns of the spiritual devastation that will be reaped by those who are unscrupulous about their behavior and build up churches/organizations focused on material gain rather than service to the true and living God.

The Book of Mormon “shall come in a day when the blood of saints shall cry unto the Lord, because of secret combinations and the works of darkness. Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands; And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.” (Mormon 8:27-31)

“And it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins. O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves for gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God; for behold, the time cometh at that day when all these things must be fulfilled. Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.” (Mormon 8:32-36)

“For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world? Why do you adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not? Yea, why do ye build up your secret combinations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads? Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.” (Mormon 8:37-41)

Questions:

-Was the blood of the Saints spilled in the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

-Are we entering a time when anger toward the Church will lead to violent persecution again?

These Things are Written unto the Remnant of the House of Jacob

The Book of Mormon was recorded on metal plates and translated by the power of God as a message to scattered Israel in the latter days before the return of Jesus Christ. The record that would become the Book of Mormon was written according to God’s will when the prophet Moroni hid the plates in the ground about 421 A.D., and it was translated, faithfully, according to His will by an unsophisticated young man (Joseph Smith) who was called and prepared by the Lord for this purpose in the early 1800’s. To stand as a second witness of Jesus Christ, avoiding the intellectually and spiritually corrupted systems of the world, God saw fit that the Book of Mormon would come forth in this miraculous manner. The Book of Mormon is an invitation to “more fully believe” the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“…These things are written unto the remnant of the house of Jacob; and they are written after this manner, because it is known of God that wickedness will not bring them forth unto them; and they are to be hid up unto the Lord that they may come forth in his own due time. And this is the commandment which I have received; and behold, they shall come forth according to the commandment of the Lord, when he shall see fit, in his wisdom. And behold, they shall go unto the unbelieving of the Jews; and for this intent shall they go—that they be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that the Father may bring about, through his most Beloved, the great and eternal purpose, in restoring the Jews, or all the house of Israel, to the land of their inheritance, which the Lord their God hath given them, unto the fulfilling of his covenant. And also that [the descendants of Lehi] may more fully believe his gospel, which shall go forth unto them from the Gentiles…” (Mormon 5:12-15)

Questions:

-How sure are God’s promises to His covenant people, including the Jews and all the descendants of Israel?

-Are His promises any less sure for those who are not descendants of Jacob but have taken upon themselves the covenants of the Restored Gospel and, thereby, joined themselves with Israel?

It Is by the Wicked That the Wicked are Punished

The prophet Mormon notes that the judgments of God are allowed to fall upon wicked people through the undeterred actions other wicked people.

“…Behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed.” (Mormon 4:5)

Questions:

-How do the ungodly and spiritually compromised fall prey to one another in the vicious cycles that form in this fallen world?

The Sword of My Justice Shall Hang over All the Nations of the Gentiles

Christ Himself prophesies that – as a people who were given this land by GodLehi’s descendants will be a means of breaking down the decayed and spiritually-corrupt social structures of the wicked Gentiles in the Americas in preparation for the establishment of the New Jerusalem. In a broader context “all the nations of the Gentiles” (beyond the Americas) will also be destroyed if they do not repent and come unto Christ who is the beginning and end of all creation.

“…Then shall the remnants [of the house of Israel], which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them. And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance. And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off. And I will gather my people together as a man gathereth his sheaves into the floor. For I will make my people with whom the Father hath covenanted, yea, I will make thy horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass. And thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth. And behold, I am he who doeth it. And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles. And it shall come to pass that I will establish my people, O house of Israel. And behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your Father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.” (3 Nephi 20:13-22)

Questions:

-In our day, are the Gentiles in the Americas (in general) repenting toward the gospel of Jesus Christ and His covenants? Or, are they moving the opposite direction and squandering the blessing that has been offered them via the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ?

-Should the above prophecy be interpreted as mainly a spiritual phenomenon or as a physical phenomenon? Will the fulfillment of the prophecy have both elements?

-Would the true followers of Christ among the descendants of Lehi ever resort to violence other than in a posture of patient self-defense?