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, receipt of 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?

The Lord God Shall Cause a Great Division among the People

Nephi prophesies about the great division that will occur among the inhabitants of the earth as the Lord gathers the house of Israel out of all lands and peoples during the last days.

“…It shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth. And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire.”  (2 Nephi 30:8-10)

Questions:

-Who are the Lord’s people?

-According to these versus, what kind of person will the Lord help and protect as wickedness grows around the world?

-Will the kind of people the Lord will protect and gather during the last days take joy is seeing the wicked suffer? Are those who are humble and meek likely to have ill will towards others and have a vengeful spirit?

-Would God destroy the wicked other than to spare His people?

-Does God reprove anyone who is willing to repent and come to his Son, Jesus Christ (regardless of whether they are of the house of Israel or not)?

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

“I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested. God’s wrath will soon shake the nations of the earth and will be poured out on the wicked without measure. (See JS—H 1:45; D&C 1:9.)” (Ezra Taft Benson, “I Testify,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 87).

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. … It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 3).

“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).

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)?

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?

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?

There Must Be Opposition in All Things

Lehi teaches his son, Jacob, about how life’s difficulties signify and create meaning in human choice:

“…It must be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” (2 Nephi 2:11)

-Is it accurate to say that life can be deeply difficult and deeply rewarding?

-Do you believe God has given us a deeply meaningful challenge in giving us mortal life?

-Is it possible to view earthly trials as a means to greater refinement, rather than as arbitrary setbacks?

If Iniquity Shall Abound Cursed Shall Be the Land for Their Sakes…But unto the Righteous It Shall Be Blessed Forever

Lehi, the Book of Mormon prophet, speaks of some of the special characteristics of the promised land as established by God in the Americas.

“[T]his land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.” (2 Nephi 1:7)

Questions:

-Is there any land where God does not bless the obedient and withdraw blessings from the wicked?

-Has God established certain lands — such as the promised land of the Americas — where this dynamic of blessing and cursing is swifter and more pronounced? Why would He do so?

-Does iniquity abound in America (or areas within the Americas)? If so, are there signs of God withdrawing His favor from these peoples and places? Are their signs of liberty being lost?

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)

-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)

All That Fight Against Zion Shall Be Destroyed

In interpreting Isaiah chapters 48 and 49 for his brothers, Nephi again teaches about the fate of those who fight against the people of the Lord in the last days.

“…[T]he blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood. And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.” (1 Nephi 22:13-14) 

Questions:

-Would the people of the Lord (true followers of Jesus Christ who receive His Spirit) ever be filled with the kind of anger and ill-will that leads to widespread violence and war?

-How quickly, on the other hand, would a group or society that is animated by such ill-will and anger start to turn upon itself and any of its neighbors who are under the influence of the same dark spirit?

-What role will anger toward the truth and light of Zion play in separating the wicked from the righteous in the last days?

-Are there growing signs of hatred toward the Lord’s people (who will not bow to the deteriorating status quos of the societies around them)?

-How easy will it be for those with good-will toward all—and high standards of conduct based on the truths of revealed scripture—to stay separated from each other in the midst of those who have fallen prey to contagious hatred born of ill-will and anger? Will the good in heart from all faiths be gathered together in solidarity, of necessity, as the great and abominable church (described in the passage above) begins to destroy itself?