The “Isaiah Chapters” in 2 Nephi Are All About Christ – 2 Nephi 11

Several chapters in the book of 2 Nephi are actually direct quotes from the Book of Isaiah. These chapters have the reputation of being difficult to understand. In 2 Nephi 11, we get some insight on why Nephi included the following chapters in his record. Understanding why he included them will help us to understand them – we will know what to look for!

Why Nephi Includes Isaiah’s Prophecies – The Principle of Multiple Witnesses

In 2 Nephi, we read:

“And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.

3 And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words.” – 2 Nephi 11:2-3

Why is Nephi including the words of Isaiah? Bottom line – because Isaiah is another witness of Jesus Christ. And, as Nephi brings up – the Lord will establish his word by the words of three. So, we have Jacob’s witness of Christ, Nephi’s witness of Christ, and now Isaiah’s witness of Christ.

If we keep this in mind – that the words of Isaiah which were included by Nephi will witness of Christ – then it will help us as we read the following chapters. Keep that in mind – How does this witness of Christ?! It’s like a puzzle. If you are handed 500 puzzle pieces and the person giving them to you says, “complete this puzzle,” but you have no guide, no picture, no clue as to what it will make – then the puzzle is pretty hard.

Isaiah’s words can be puzzling, but we have a guide. We have a picture that we can look at to help us understand how to put the puzzle together.

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It’s all about the Savior.

Putting the Puzzle Together – Hint One – The Coming of Christ

Nephi writes:

“Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.” – 2 Nephi 11:4

The first reason that Nephi spent so much time quoting Isaiah is because he loves to prove to the truth of the coming of Christ. Isaiah’s writings are filled with prophecies concerning the Lord’s coming.

In fact, as Nephi explains, the entire law of Moses was given to prepare the people for the coming of the Savior. Everything that God has given, since the beginning of the world, typify of Christ.

Now, Nephi wrote this chapter somewhere between 559-545 BC. Isaiah wrote his prophecies somewhere between 739 and 681 BC. The point is – these prophecies were written centuries before Christ came. We have hindsight. We know that the Savior came as prophesied. And we know that He will come again.

So – when we read the prophecies of Isaiah we can look for the prophecies that indicate His coming(s). We can also keep in mind that this is what Nephi was doing when he chose the writings that he included. (Nephi didn’t copy down the whole book of Isaiah, he only picked a handful of chapters, so I think that it is okay to assume he picked these chapters for a reason).

Oh – one more thing, anything that is included in these chapters that references the Law of Moses – we can remember is also typifying of Christ.

Hint Two – The Covenants of the Lord

Nephi explains his next reason for including these chapters:

“And also my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers;…”  – 2 Nephi 11:5

Nephi loves the covenants of the Lord. Nephi is a covenant person and a covenant keeper. He understands the purpose of the covenants that we make with the Lord – that they are essential for our deliverance from death and hell. He also understands that God didn’t need to covenant with us; He doesn’t need us, we need Him.

Nephi loves these covenants so much, we can guess that he loves the scriptures that taught him about these covenants – which is another thing we can look for in the “Isaiah chapters.”

Hint Three – His Grace, Justice and Power, and Mercy

Now, we read of another thing that Nephi delights in, and it can help us with understanding the “Isaiah chapters.”

“…yea, my soul delighteth in his grace, and in his justice, and power, and mercy in the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death.” –  2 Nephi 11:5

It is important not to disconnect the covenants from the One who gave us the covenant. Think of them – Jesus Christ and the Covenants we make with Him – together in the same breath. Jesus Christ is a major part of these covenants. In fact, they wouldn’t even be available to us without Him. The very fact that He has given us covenants we can make with Him tell us so much about His love and grace that He has for us.

By understanding our covenants, we will better understand our Savior. As we better understand our Savior, we will better understand our covenants. It’s this cycle that reinforces itself – for good. An upward spiral.

In the chapters of Isaiah, if we will look, then we will learn about the covenants that the Lord made to our fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And we will learn the difference these covenants make in our lives.

Hint Four – Save Christ Should Come, All Men Must Perish

And women, too. Nephi writes:

“And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish.

7 For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time.” – 2 Nephi 11:6-7

Finally, Nephi is including the words of Isaiah so that we will understand the importance of 1) Christ’s coming, 2) the Covenants of the Lord = without Him and without His covenants, all men and women must perish!

Whether we believe it or not, Christ is central to our lives, the plan of salvation, and our very existence. And if we will choose to learn more about the Savior and His covenants, then we will be able to understand that our lives depend on Him.

These are three major things that we can learn as we read the Isaiah chapters. If we keep an open mind, and remember these three hints, we will be able to put together the “Isaiah Chapters” puzzle. We will be able to “lift up [our] hearts and rejoice.”

 

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An Invitation – 2 Nephi 9:50-51

First of all, 2 Nephi 9 is another absolutely amazing chapter in The Book of Mormon. Jacob explains the Atonement in this chapter.

We know that Jacob had a personal witness of the Savior.

Additionally, we know that Jacob had a great teacher – Lehi. 2 Nephi 2 is the chapter where Lehi teaches Jacob one final time before his death. Lehi taught about the need for opposition, the fall, and the benefits and blessings of the fall. Lehi taught about agency. He lays the groundwork for really understanding the need for an Atonement.

We can guess that chapter 9 is happening quite some time later – Lehi passed away, Laman and Lemuel had threatened Nephi, Nephi and his people fled from Laman and Lemuel, Nephi and his people built their own civilization. So, I’m sure some time has passed. Chapter 9 of 2 Nephi says that it happened anywhere between 559-545 BC: a span of about 14 years. Jacob has probably learned a lot since the time that his father taught him.

So – this chapter is awesome, and Jacob’s understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is amazing. We are so blessed to have his teachings. Read all of 2 Nephi 9.

Today, I want to focus in on an invitation that Jacob gave:

“Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.

51 Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.” – 2 Nephi 9:50-51

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Come Every One that Thirsteth

Who thirsts? Everyone! There is not a soul who can survive this world without water. There is true on both a physical and spiritual level.

So Jacob’s invitation is to everyone – all of us. None of us are turned away.

Come to the Waters

Jacob has identified his audience: all that thirst. By the way, Jacob is saying this by way of commandment. It isn’t merely Jacob’s invitation. It is the Lord’s invitation. So- we will refer to it as the Lord’s invitation from this point on.

What does the Lord offer to those that thirst (all of us): water.

I often tell myself and say to others: Our Lord is not Lucy. You know Lucy, from Charlie Brown. She sets Charlie Brown up – with the football. He runs to kick it, then she snatches it away, and he ends up flat on his back.

The Lord is not like that.

To those that thirst, He offers:

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into ceverlasting life.” – John 4:14

***

I have to admit that I take this for granted. I live in the U.S. I’ve lived a privileged life. I’ve been thirsty, sure. But water has never been hard to come by for me. I haven’t had to dig a well. I haven’t had to search for a spring or brook. If I’m thirsty, I can usually just get up and go right to the tap where clean water is ready for consumption. If I go for a hike, I have the ability to fill up a water bottle, bladder, or canteen with fresh water. I can’t imagine being in a situation where water simply is not available to me.

That being said, I’ve been thirsty before (obviously), and there is nothing quite like a refreshing glass of water when you really thirst.

Christ offers this to us. It is such a comfort and blessing. And He offers it to us consistently – like a tap that always has good, cool, clean water.

He that Hath no Money, Come Buy and Eat

The Lord not only offers us water, but he also says:

“…yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” –

The Lord offers us not only necessities, but also the abundances of wine and milk – without money or price. We simply have to come.

As I write this, I realize the water, the milk, and the wine – they aren’t free. He paid for them.

Do Not Spend Money for That Which is No Worth, Nor Labor for that Which Cannot Satisfy

Always good advice. And I can’t say that I always heed it. Why are we so much like raccoons? Could Jacob even imagine what these modern days would be like – how rich we would be, yet how empty so many of us feel because we are spending money on that which is of no worth???

I don’t want to write too much on this subject because I do spend money on what some might say is not of worth. I don’t want to pontificate on this subject because I don’t think that the Lord is telling us to be minimalists.

I really think that He is just saying that we will find happiness from Him, not from the things that we buy or other things that we chase after – thinking that they are important – in this life.

(Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t suggest we throw out the baby with the bathwater. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with “stuff.” It’s just that we should remember the role that “stuff” plays in our lives. Stuff is just stuff. We do need some stuff. And some stuff can make life a little nicer and more comfortable.  We simply need to remember it’s role and importance in our lives and not get confused – thinking that “stuff” is what will make us happy.)

Come Unto the Holy One of Israel

Come unto Christ! This is what we should focus on! Even as we do other things in life, we still need the Savior to be at the center of what we do. The Savior is what will bring us peace, joy, and life. He is the Living Water. He is the Bread of Life.

Feast Upon that Which Perisheth Not

Christ is everlasting. His gospel is everlasting. Feasting on His word will bring us the same kind of everlasting life and joy.

The Savior taught:

“6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.” – 3 Nephi 12:6 (See also Matthew 5:6)

When we feast on what He has to offer, we will experience satisfaction.

Let Your Soul Delight in Fatness

I really hope that you have made it this far in this blog post, because this is my favorite!

LET YOUR SOUL DELIGHT IN FATNESS!!!!!

How often do we get to hear something like this? Eat, eat, eat! Feasting too much on Christ and His good word? Impossible! Our spiritual fitness=fatness! Delight in it! Delight in the Savior, eat, drink and find joy in what He offers to us.

What an invitation.

This is a party I want to go to! There won’t be judgment. He’s not telling us to dress in black tie. We won’t be judging others – on their cars or clothing because as a part of the invitation, we have been advised not to spend money or labor on worthless things. Some people may show up to the party in a Range Rover, others may show up on foot. No big deal. We can trust that each person did what they needed to do, personally, to get there.

We don’t need to worry about what we are wearing. If we are wearing an expensive brand or clothes or something we got at Wal-Mart, it doesn’t matter. We just need to show up!

We just need to come. The Savior paid the price for each of us to come. He paid our entry fees. He had all of our names listed on the invite list. And now He invites us to come unto Him and participate fully, freely, and frequently. He wants us to be happy.

We can trust Him. He is not Lucy. If we will come unto Christ – through covenanting with Him and then keeping those covenants, then we will be able to let our souls delight in fatness.

The Lord Will Fulfill His Covenants – 2 Nephi 6:12

A concept about the Savior is standing out to me today. I will list the scriptures and then try to figure out what they really mean.

“…for the Lord God will fulfil his covenants which he has made unto his children;…” – 2 Nephi 6:12

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“But thus saith the Lord: Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people. For thus saith the Lord: I will contend with them that contendeth with thee—” – 2 Nephi 6:17

Okay, so the themes that are standing out to me right now are:

  • The Lord will fulfill the Covenants He has made unto His children.
  • The Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people.
  • The Lord will contend with them that contendeth with thee.

Interestingly enough, when Jacob gave this speech, his people had recently escaped from the Lamanites who wanted to kill Nephi and those who supported Nephi.

After traveling for a while, Nephi and his people settled in a new place (the land of Nephi). They started building temples, making swords to protect themselves, and building up their city. In 2 Nephi 5, we read:

“And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.” – 2 Nephi 5:27

Jacob was speaking to the people after they had experienced these themes of the Lord.

The covenants that the Lord made with their fathers (Lehi and Nephi) had been fulfilled. They were living in the promised land, after a manner of happiness. Additionally, they were prospered, which was also the fulfillment of a promise that the Lord made directly with Lehi.

The Mighty God did deliver his covenant people. They had been delivered from Jerusalem, from Laban, from the afflictions of the wilderness, from the raging sea, and from the Lamanites. They knew, intimately and experientially, that the Lord was mighty and would deliver His people.

Finally, Jacob taught that the Lord would “contend with them that contendeth with thee.” I’m not sure how much of that they had seen (in comparison to the first two points/experiences). I mean, they didn’t contend with the Lamanites. They fled, and the Lord delivered them. However, because they knew the validity of the first two statements about the Lord, I’m sure they were comforted by this. They knew that there were threats to their peace. They knew that they could trust the Lord.

I guess that’s what all of this is about today. We can trust the Lord.

In fact, I think that is one of the main themes of both 1 and 2 Nephi. We can trust the Lord. Do we really believe that???

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Do We Really Believe the Savior?

Now, it’s kind of easy to think that these scriptures that we read are more general. That this is about the Lord’s covenant people – Israel – as a whole. That the Lord will remember this covenant on a giant-macro-level. And it is true. These revelations are about the Savior’s work on a large scale level.

But it doesn’t end there.

Christ’s work is infinite and eternal. Remember, infinite means really big – expanding… space can expand forever.

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Outer Space

But infinite also means really small…and we can also get infinitely smaller…

(By the way, that’s not as small as it gets. Those are pollen particles. You can find a photo of a single atom here. And remember – the atom isn’t even the smallest particle you can find!!!)

Gosh, I’m going on a tangent. The point I’m trying to make is that usually, when I think of “infinite” I think bigger and bigger and bigger. I think more and more and more. I think of the Lord’s infinite ability, and I think that it means all of the House of Israel, or all of the people of the world. And it does.

But it ALSO means smaller and smaller and smaller – down to single units. Down to single creations. Down to you and down to me. I mean the Savior Himself proclaimed:

” Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” – Matthew 10:29-30

So – when we look at these points:

  • The Lord will fulfill the Covenants He has made unto His children.
  • The Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people.
  • The Lord will contend with them that contendeth with thee.

Not only are they applicable to the House of Israel at large, but they are applicable to you and me. We can liken these scriptures unto ourselves because they do apply to each of us.

I feel so comforted when I can remember that the Lord will fulfill the covenants that He has made with each of us. On a personal level, those covenants have been proclaimed to us in personal experiences – perhaps through promptings, through Priesthood blessings, or in our Patriarchal blessing. But we can rest assured that the Lord will fulfill His covenants if we will keep up our end of the covenant, too!

I feel comforted to know that we will be delivered by a Mighty God. I will be delivered in the end – from death and hell, and that is incredibly comforting to know. However, I can also be delivered in the meantime – as in right now – from the suffering and challenges and afflictions that I face now. The Lord delivers. I have experienced this in my life. Yes, we all go through affliction, suffering, and trial. But if we will put our hope and trust in the Lord, He will deliver us.

Finally, I feel so comforted to know that the Lord will help me to fight my battles. This comes in so many ways, but they are always tailored to each of us personally, if we will let Him into our lives.

For example, as I write right now, I realize that one way the Lord helps us to “fight our battles” is through the prophet. Recently, President Nelson gave the women of the church a set of challenges to complete. One of those challenges was a social media/negative media fast. I made a choice to do as he instructed, even though I was basically addicted to Instagram…

As I obeyed this simple commandment, I found more peace in my life. Some of my “enemies” of anxiety and being overwhelmed were mitigated during that period of time. It was fairly obvious to me that often the things I must contend with happen in between my ears, and that social media was a weakness for me.

Through listening to the Prophet, I started to identify how I could overcome some of the things I’ve been contending with for years (ever since I started up on social media! no coincidence!). I have adjusted my Social media practices, and I feel like I’m finally overcoming and winning this battle in my brain!

What a comfort to know that the Lord will contend with those that contend with us. He does this in various ways, but we can rest assured that He will.

Anyway – long tangent, but I know that the Lord helps us individually. I know that these things that Jacob teaches us about Our Savior are not only applicable on a big scale, but on an individual scale. I know that the Lord fulfills His covenants, delivers His people, and will fight our battles. I’m so grateful to believe in a God who is loving, powerful, and mindful of each and every one of us.

Nephi Praises the Lord – 2 Nephi 4:20-25

In 2 Nephi 4, Nephi praises the Lord. We can learn a lot about the Savior from the praises that he gives.

We read:

“My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.

24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.” – 2 Nephi 4:20-25

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Jesus Christ in White Robes, by Grant Romney Clawson

What we Learn about the Savior from Nephi’s Psalm

  • Christ supports us.
  • The Savior will lead us through the wilderness of our affliction.
  • Christ will preserves us.
  • The Savior will fill us with His love.
  • The Savior will confound our enemies.
  • Jesus listens to our prayers.
  • The Lord will give us knowledge and reveal to us.
  • The Lord will send angels to minister to us.
  • The Savior will bless us with His Spirit.

***

I don’t have much time to write right now, which is kind of a shame because this is one of my favorite chapters in the scriptures. Read all of 2 Nephi 4 it is really beautiful.

There is one other idea that I find striking. As you read in the above passage, Nephi isn’t just listing qualities of the Savior, but he is listing qualities of the Savior that he has experienced.

2 Nephi 4 begins with the death of Lehi. After Lehi dies, Nephi is the prophet and leader of the people, and he is constrained by the Spirit to speak to Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael. Of course, they don’t like the message that Nephi has to share. They aren’t interested in the admonitions of the Lord or in keeping His commandments. They become angry with Nephi, and Nephi loses his patience with them, too.

The loss of patience Nephi experiences with his brothers, though most likely justifiable, still drove the Spirit away, and for this reason, Nephi laments.

This chapter is one of the most intimate chapters we have from Nephi. In a way, we see how he is able to go from being in a frustrated, angry, and afflicted state to a renewed vigor and commitment to put his trust in the Lord.

He does this by remembering and praising the Savior.

It’s really interesting. It doesn’t seem like the most intuitive thing to do – to go to the Lord and praise Him in the moment of our affliction, suffering, and loss of peace. I mean, think about Nephi – the whole reason his brothers were so angry with him is because of what he said to them. And Nephi didn’t just go up to his brothers and tell them of the “admonition of the Lord” because he is a know it all.

Nephi was the prophet and patriarch of the family. He had been commanded by the Lord to speak to his brothers. We know Nephi was obedient. He was no Jonah – refusing to teach people that he believed wouldn’t receive his message. Nephi obeyed.

It would be easy to see why Nephi would then be angry with his brothers. They most likely threatened his life (in fact, in the next chapter, Nephi will be prompted to take his people and leave Laman and Lemuel for good). It would would be easy for Nephi to even be a little frustrated with the Lord.

And I don’t know exactly what Nephi’s thoughts were, but we do know that he was angry. And we do know that this resulted in his loss of the Spirit.

And, instead of moping about it – Nephi praised God.

It certainly isn’t an intuitive action, but it yields great results.

***

I think that we can apply this into our own lives. I think that we probably know more about Christ than we realize. When is the last time you sat down and pondered and wrote about the Savior? When is the last time you praised Him? I am not sure that I do it enough. We can follow Nephi’s example. Remember your experiences with Him. Look for Him in your life. Recognize His tender mercies. And then, maybe take a few moments to write what you feel.

Nephi said:

“…For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.” – 2 Nephi 4:15

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Tender Mercies Surround Us

Yes, we can learn about the Savior through reading the scriptures. We can learn more about the Savior in our church services. However, we might have more experiential knowledge of our Savior than we realize. Making an effort to praise Him will help us to recognize the influence He has in our lives and it will teach us more about our Savior.

Choosing Christ and Liberty – 2 Nephi 2

All of the scriptures that we have are pretty amazing. I love The Book of Mormon, The Bible, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. I love everything we learn in the scriptures.

But then, there are some scriptures and chapters that are absolutely amazing. 2 Nephi 2 is one of those chapters. It’s a doctrinal powerhouse where we learn about how we got here – on earth – and why we’re here. it teaches us how we can be happy. It addresses one of the problems we all face: opposition, and why that is actually a blessing. It teaches us about agency and liberty. All of these teachings hinge around the Savior.

There is so much to say, so I guess I’ll just write about one of the scriptures and concepts that is standing out to me a lot today.

There Is a God, and He Created Everything

Lehi teaches:

“And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for 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.

15 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.

16 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

First of all, we learn:

  • There is a God.
  • He created all things – in the heavens and on the earth.
  • The things that God created include those things that act and those that are acted upon.

This last point – things to act and things to be acted upon – I have always loved this concept. When we consider the things that God created, some of them are inanimate. They don’t really “act” much. Then there are other things that do act. They are agents. As Elder Bednar explained:

“In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon. As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of agency—the capacity and power of independent action. Endowed with agency, we are agents, and we primarily are to act and not only to be acted upon—especially as we seek to obtain and apply spiritual knowledge.” – David A. Bednar

The Savior created us, and we have brains, spirits, bodies, wills. Above all, we have agency – the ability to act for ourselves. Of course, this is also in the context of opposition. We wouldn’t be able to “act” much if there were no choices.

Why? Why Come Here to Be Exposed to Opposition and Agency?

Why? The Lord wants us to be happy. But let’s think about that for a second.

Of course, when we think of opposition and agency, it can get a little overwhelming. Opposition is hard. The dilemmas and problems we face in life can be painful. Additionally, because we have the opportunity to be agents in our lives, this means others do, too. Often the actions of others have implications that bring us pain and suffering.

Sometimes it feels like agency is too painful to be worth the possible happiness. Sometimes it can be a temptation to go down the line of thinking that John Lennon preached – to imagine there’s no heaven. No hell. No countries. Nothing to kill or die for. No religion. No possessions. Nothing. I know that the song is popular, but it has always rubbed me the wrong way. (Note: I really love the Beatles and I liked John Lennon, but this song…just can’t do it). Here’s why – No religion. Nothing to die for. No heaven. No hope. No passion. Nothing.

It’s just bleak.

Not only that, but truly takes imagining because this scenario is imaginary. It is impossible. I’m not saying that because we aren’t capable of being loving beings. I’m saying that because It is a basic FACT of this world that there IS opposition. We might as well accept truth. There is day and night. There is high tide and low tide. There is good and evil.

Yes, the opposition that exists in this world can bring the possibility of some pretty terrible monsters. But it is also the only way to have good.

Lehi teaches what this world would be like if we had no opposition:

” For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, 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 as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” – 2 Nephi 2:11-13

No opposition? No war? No death? No hell? No religion? Nothing to die for?

Well, then that would also mean No peace. No life. No heaven. No Hope. Nothing to live for. As Lehi said, “all things must have vanished away.”

Truly, the Lord’s plan is a great one – better than what we could have come up with! And in this plan, we are exposed to opposition with the option to exercise our agency.

God Had a Plan

Now, before we talk about happiness, we have to address what happened to get us to where we are.

Lehi teaches Jacob in 2 Nephi 2, that the Lord created the world and then set Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Prior to all of this, there was an angel in Heaven who rebelled against God and His plan (Lucifer, Satan). He came down to influence Adam and Eve.

The Lord allowed for this. As mentioned earlier, we wouldn’t be able to act for ourselves unless we were enticed by either good or evil. So, the Lord allowed for Satan to be His opposition.

Of course, we know that Eve was beguiled by Satan, she chose to eat the fruit, and then Adam followed suit. They were driven out of the Garden.

But remember – God had a plan! He lengthened the days of men and women on earth and gave them time to repent. The fall enabled Adam and Eve to have children (which was a command given by God!). Not only that, but because of the fall, there was a very miraculous result:

“…wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” – 2 Nephi 2:23

If Adam and Eve had not partaken of the fruit, it is true that they would have remained innocent and “blissful.” However, the result of the fall and even the incidental pain and suffering it introduced was also the ability to feel joy and to do good.

Instead of a world full of “nothing,” instead of “all things vanishing away,” Adam and Eve, their fall, and the death and hell that was introduced into the world gave way to purpose and joy.

Where’s the Happiness?

Lehi taught:

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:25

But how? How would they have joy? They had fallen. They had become susceptible to death. As other scriptures put it, they had become “carnal, sensual, and devilish.” Where is the joy in the fall?

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Well, Lehi continues:

“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” – 2 Nephi 2:26-27

Where is the Joy??? It is through the Messiah. The Lord, as we mentioned earlier, had a plan. He didn’t just send Adam and Eve, and you and I, to this earth to fail because of the weakness of our flesh. He offered up His son to redeem us from the ill effects of the fall, while still enjoying the benefits of it.

Because of Christ, we can experience life, we can be agents to act, and we can have hope for joy. Because of Christ, we become free forever. Instead of being innocent but ignorant beings living in a world void of opposition and opportunity, we learn how to exercise our agency that results in peace, satisfaction and joy – and this is all through the redemption of Christ.

The Redemption is Conditional

Notice in 2 Nephi 2:27, we are free to choose. It is up to us. We must make the choice – to choose Christ and His accompanying liberty and life or we can choose Satan and his captivity and death.

We must make a choice. Even “not making a choice,” choosing to be acted upon rather than to act, is a choice! If we don’t actively choose Christ, then we are actively choosing death and captivity. It’s pretty obvious – choose Christ! Choose life! Choose Joy! Choose Liberty! And it is such a comfort to know that this choice is on the table. It is a comfort to know that life, joy, and liberty are options – even in a world full of strife – all because of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

***

Lehi’s teachings in 2 Nephi 2 can point us in the right direction. It teaches us why we might want to choose Christ – because He offers us liberty and joy. His teachings teach us the very laws that govern this universe – such as the need for opposition and the need for a Savior. His teachings can motivate us to seek the Savior, to covenant with Him, and to keep His commandments.

As we continue to read the Book of Mormon, we will learn more about how to use our agency to access the life and liberty that Christ offers. But this chapter sets the groundwork that helps to motivate us to do so.

I love the Book of Mormon!

Nephi’s Witness of Christ – 1 Nephi 19:8-12

In 1 Nephi 19, Nephi has received a new commandment from God. This is after his arrival to the Promised Land with his family. He has been given the commandment to make another set of plates – another record.

He was already keeping one record – and it contained all of the history of his life and people. It was an exhaustive record of what was going on with him and his family.

Despite this record, the Lord commanded Nephi to make a second, smaller record – this a record of the ministry of his people. The Lord didn’t really want Nephi to spend much time on a historical record in this set of plates. Instead, the Lord wanted a really plain and pure record of the gospel, Nephi’s testimony, and other spiritual experiences of his and of the people’s.

So – this is kind of an interlude-ish chapter, where Nephi tells us that this record he is keeping will be of great worth to some, and it will be meaningless to others – depending on how we feel about the Savior.

And in this chapter, we get a beautiful prophecy of Christ from Nephi.

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The Coming of Christ

Nephi writes:

“And behold he cometh, according to the words of the angel, in six hundred years from the time my father left Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 19:8

Nephi and his people knew that the Lord would come. Not only that, but they knew approximately when the Lord would come. And the Lord did come about 600 years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem.

The Lord reveals His secret unto His servants, the prophets. They knew when the Savior would come to the earth. They had time to prepare for His coming.

Christ is Long-Suffering

Nephi continues:

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 19:9

This is kind of sad, but it is just one of the facts of Christ’s coming to this earth. Because of the iniquity of the people, Christ – their promised Messiah was overlooked. He was scourged, smitten, and spit upon. The people were completely ignorant of the fact that they were doing this to their God.

I think of the concept that President Nelson has brought up from time to time – they are like goldfish completely unaware of who feeds them. And then maybe it is even worse. They are like a goldfish killing the very hand that feeds them.

Nephi puts this beautifully, though. Christ suffers their judgement, their scourging, their smiting, their spitting and reviling. Why does He do this? Because He loves us.

What does that even mean?

Well – I guess it means that because the Savior has so much love for us, He voluntarily came to this earth, lived a perfect life, ministered to the people, taught His Gospel, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, brought people to life, took on the sins of the world in the garden of Gethsemane, hung on the cross and died for the sins of the world, stayed in the spirit world for three days, was resurrected – He did all of this for us. He did all of this because we need Him. He did all of this for the reason given by Paul:

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” – 1 Corinthians 15:22

He suffered these silly ignorant judgments and subjected Himself to death so that He could overcome death and offer us salvation.

Christ was Crucified

We read more of Nephi’s record:

“And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.” – 1 Nephi 19:10

There is so much to say about this single verse!

First of all – notice – Nephi is quoting prophets we aren’t particularly familiar with: Zenock, Neum, and Zenos. This was from the writings of a prophet included in the Plates of Brass but it has been lost from modern-day records in the Bible.

Second of all – Nephi makes sure to let us know that he is talking about the Messiah, JEHOVAH. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is important for us to understand that He is God – and that HE yielded himself up into the hands of wicked man to be crucified. The wicked pharisees and Jews of Jerusalem didn’t catch a man in sin. They didn’t punish and put to death a powerless human being. Christ allowed himself to be judged and scourged. He did this because it was His work. As Matthew recorded:

“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” – Matthew 16:21

Even the apostles didn’t quite understand. Peter responded:

“Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” – Matthew 16:22-23

The Lord knew what His work was. Though Peter loved Him and didn’t want to see His Master die, Peter misunderstood. This was the very mission, role, and work of the Messiah. If Christ saved His own life, then everything in His Father’s plan would have been frustrated.

The Savior yielded Himself because He loves His Father and He loves us. He yielded to wicked men and rebuked Peter because He understood His work and that the entire world would have been wasted if Christ didn’t yield Himself up.

Nephi understood this thanks to the scriptures. These prophets testified of the death and burial of Christ and of the physical signs that would accompany this historical event.

Christ Would Visit All of His People

We read in Nephi’s record:

“For thus spake the prophet: The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.” – 1 Nephi 19:11

Not only did Nephi know that the Lord would be crucified and buried in a sepulcher for three days, but he also knew because of the prophecies contained in the Plates of Brass that the Lord would visit all of the House of Israel when these events occurred.

Nephi adds his own witness to these prophecies – that the Lord would “visit” the scattered tribes of Israel with his voice, tempests, fires, darkness, earthquake, and other natural disasters. Because we have the Book of Mormon, we know that these prophecies were fulfilled on the American continent. They were all signs of the Savior’s death.

The God of Nature

Nephi writes:

“And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim: The God of nature suffers.” – 1 Nephi 19:12

Even though the people on “the isles of the sea” wouldn’t interact with Christ during His life, they would have signs of both His birth and His death. When the signs of His death came, they would understand through the Spirit of God that the God of nature suffered.

For some reason I love this idea. That our God is also the God of nature. I’m reminded of a scripture in Alma:

“…and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” – Alma 30:44

We don’t have to rely on only the witness of the prophets. (Although, those are some very great and valid witnesses!) But everything around us witnesses of the Savior. He created this earth, and the earth witnesses of Him. We can, if we will look, if we will not be like ignorant goldfish unaware of the one that feeds them, we will see God in the beauty of the world around us.

Creosote

Creosote

Fall Flowers

Fall Flowers in the Mountains

Mountain Stream

Mountain Stream

Oahu

The Pacific Ocean from Malaekahana

Phoenix at Night Date Palm

Date Palm on a Phoenix Night

Plumeria

Plumeria

Snowy Day

Snowy Day in the Mountains

The Grand Canyon

Rainbow over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

I can’t help but think about the experiences I had while taking these pictures – overwhelmed at the majesty of a mountain or the intricacy of a flower. I can feel the ocean breeze on my face, the heat of the desert, and the cool sting of snow. I can smell the pine forests, the desert creosote after rain, and the fragrant plumeria. I can hear the roar of the ocean, the yelps of a coyote, and the birdsong of finches, jays, and chickadees.

Our God, the God of nature, created this earth in all of its beauty, and it testifies of Him.

And when I think of these creations, I am more committed. I don’t want to cause the God of nature, my God, my Savior, Jesus Christ to suffer. I want to keep His commandments and partake of the Atonement He has offered to us – because of His long-suffering and loving-kindness. I want to be a better mother, daughter, wife, woman.

***

I’m so grateful for the Book of Mormon. I’m thankful that it turns my thoughts to the Savior every time I open its pages. It has taught me so many truths about both His gospel and the World. It has given me hope, peace, correction, and clarity. I know that the Book of Mormon is a witness of Christ.

I love this selection today because we see that Nephi’s witness of Christ didn’t only come through the amazing prophetic experiences that he had (like when he saw the vision of the tree of life), but Nephi’s witness of the Savior came through his own study of the scriptures. He knew Christ the same way we can come to know Christ: through personal experience , through the witnesses of others including His prophets, and through the world around us.

 

The Lord Wants to Answer Our Prayers – 1 Nephi 15:11

Right now, as I read The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I’m reading roughly six pages a day so that I can finish it by the end of the year.

As I read, I’m also looking for mentions of Jesus Christ – by that name or any of his other titles. I’m looking for things He says, and things that we learn about Him.

You learn a lot about the Savior in six whole pages of the Book of Mormon – too much for me to really write about and ponder in one sitting. So, I just pick one thing that really stands out to me and study it.

Today, I’m really interested in something that Nephi teaches us about how the Savior works in our lives.

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Sermon on the Mount, by Harry Anderson

First, though a bit of background…Nephi had just finished having the vision where he learned the interpretation of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. He learned about Christ’s birth, life, and death. He learned about the scattering and gathering of Israel. He saw the rise and then the fall of his own civilization in the promised land.

After this amazing vision, he went to the tent of his father, where his brothers were all arguing with each other.

Nephi was kind of stressed out because of some of the things that he saw in his vision (the complete collapse of his people). He finally asks his brothers what they are arguing about. And we read:

“And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.” – 1 Nephi 15:7

Nephi asks them the obvious thing – Had they inquired of the Lord. Of course they hadn’t. Nephi asks them a few questions…How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of God? and How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

Okay. And then we get to the point of today’s post. As Nephi speaks to his brothers, we learn about the Savior. We read:

“Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” – 1 Nephi 15:11

This isn’t just Nephi’s opinion of the matter. This isn’t Nephi asking his brothers “how is it that…” This is Nephi reminding his brothers of what the Lord, Himself had taught and promised.

The Lord Wants to Answer Our Prayers

Let’s look at this in reverse. At the end, Nephi states, “surely these things shall be made known unto you.”

The result is that they will know.

There are loads of other scriptures offering this same promise. Here is what the Savior said when He gave the Sermon on the Mount:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8

Again, let’s look at the result:

  • it shall be given you
  • ye shall find
  • it shall be opened
  • everyone that asketh receiveth
  • he that seeketh findeth
  • to him that knocketh it shall be opened

It sounds like a good deal here. Before we even approach the Lord, we can rest assured that the Lord wants to answer our prayers. So – now let’s see what we need to do in order to qualify for such a blessing.

Harden Not Your Hearts

First, we have to have a soft heart. What does this mean? Well, let’s check the dictionary.

Hard hearted: Lacking in sympathetic understanding, unfeeling, pitiless – Merriam-Webster

Stubbornness. That could also be a way to describe what hard heartedness is.

All I know is, the Lord can help us with our heart condition. He doesn’t expect us to simply soften it ourselves. We soften it by turning our hearts to Him, and then He does the softening. We read in 1 Nephi:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” – 1 Nephi 2:16, emphasis added

Nephi turned to the Lord, and the Lord helped to make Nephi’s heart soft, pliable ground – fertile for faith.

This is how we must go to the Lord – willing, more than anything else. He will soften our heart. And a soft heart is essential if we want to have answers to our prayers – if we want to understand more of the will and mysteries of God in our lives.

Ask Me In Faith

Asking in faith is more than asking. Asking in faith means we believe – we believe in God’s power. We believe in His ability to answer our prayers. And, I think most importantly of all, we believe and accept the answers that we receive.

I used to think that If I had enough faith then I would just get whatever it is what I wanted. Slowly, I’m learning that faith is indeed moving forward as a creator in my own life, and then if I don’t get exactly what I want, believing and trusting in God – that what I have received is actually what will best answer my prayers and put me on a course headed to Him and the happiness He offers each of us.

So – We must not harden our hearts, and we must develop faith. Then we are led to the next point:

Believing that Ye Shall Receive

What is the point of asking if we don’t believe it will happen anyway? What kind of faith are we expressing if we don’t believe we will receive?

This is obvious, and we might not all be that skeptical.

But maybe this happens in our lives in a more subtle way. I was thinking of a metaphor recently.

Sometimes life is like making a cake, but we don’t know how to do it. So we go to the Lord, and He instructs us how to make a cake – one step at a time. Each step is a leap of faith – you receive the instruction to cream together butter and sugar, and after this first step (but before you understand how it fits in to the whole cake-making operation), you think – AHHH! This isn’t a cake! And now – look at my butter! It’s ruined.

Of course, it isn’t. You just aren’t finished with the cake.

The cake making endeavor takes a bit of faith – you “ruin” plenty of ingredients – beating eggs, butter, sugar, and flour…and then placing them into the oven hoping that the heat will magically make this mess of batter into something delectable.

You do the work, you wait while it cooks, and then the buzzer dings – time to get out the cake! When it’s a cake, it’s easy to just take it out of the oven and then enjoy it. But sometimes in life, we get to that point where it’s time to take out the cake, and we might think that we don’t deserve it!

I think that I have fallen into this trap – that yes the Lord is capable of blessing me, but that I shouldn’t expect the blessing. I sometime mistakenly think that suffering and being a “martyr” is somehow more saintly than receiving.

In this way, there are times when I subtly ask, but I don’t really believe that I’ll receive.

We stop ourselves short. We might have a soft heart. We might have faith. But we don’t believe that we should receive – what follows? Perhaps self-sabotage, or perhaps a refusal of the blessing that the Lord extends to us.

In any case, we need to believe that we shall receive, and then be ready to receive when the Lord gives us answer to our prayers.

With Diligence in Keeping my Commandments

This is important for so many reasons. Of course, first of all – the diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord is a demonstration of our soft hearts, faith, and belief that we shall receive. So it is important.

I think that diligence in keeping the commandments also helps us to remain worthy for the answer of prayers (having a soft heart, faith, and belief that we will receive aren’t one-time checklist items. It’s a continuous effort).

But…here’s another thing…Two scriptures:

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” – Doctrine and Covenants 82:10

AND

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” – Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21

Another important aspect of commandment keeping is that it might just be how our prayer is answered! There are times, as we seek the Lord diligently, He gives us impressions and promptings – personal commandments. Often, we see these things as a test of our faith, and I suppose in a way they are.

However, they might also be the way to have the blessing we desire. God cannot bless us willy-nilly. He is governed by universal laws, and He has let us know this fact in the Doctrine and Covenants. If we want to be blessed, then we need to keep the law upon which that blessing is predicated.

And, if we do what the Lord says, then He is bound to bless us accordingly.

So – keeping the commandments not only keeps us soft hearted, faithful, and believing that we will receive – keeping the commandments may just be the way that the Lord is able to answer our prayers.

***

Now, I realize that this scripture isn’t really about a specific characteristic of Christ. Instead, it is a promise that the Savior has made to us. But I think that by looking at this promise – that the Lord will answer our prayers – helps us to understand more about the Savior. He wants to empower us. He wants to bless us with knowledge. And He has instructed us how to access more understanding and power in our lives.

Nephi is an example of this. He did just as the Lord instructed. He softened his heart. He asked the Savior in faith. He believed he would receive. He kept the commandments – general and personal – that the Father had given Him…and he received according to his righteous desires.

I’m grateful to know that we have a God who loves us. He isn’t arbitrary or power hungry. He isn’t moody or irrational. He lives according to a set of laws that He has also given to each of us. We can know more of His mysteries and live a better life, if we simply seek Him and ask. In fact, He aches to be able to answer our prayers, which is why He has pled with us to ask, seek, and knock.

Instead of making the assumption that “he taketh no such thing known unto us,” and then not asking in the first place, we can follow this pattern set forth by Nephi to access the influence of the Lord in our lives.

The Love of God – 1 Nephi 11:12-22

You can read 1 Nephi 11:13-22 here.

After hearing his father relate the vision of the tree of life, Nephi had a great desire to really understand what his father’s dream meant. Nephi spent time pondering and praying, and then had his own vision of his father’s dream that helped him to understand it.

Nephi aches to understand what the meaning of the tree of life is. An angel is showing him the meaning of Lehi’s dream, and the first thing that is addressed is the meaning of the tree.

I’m paraphrasing here, but the angel asks what Nephi wants to know. Nephi says he wants to know what the interpretation of the tree of life is. And this is the response:

“And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.

13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.” – 1 Nephi 11:12-13

So – the angel departs from Nephi’s presence, and then Nephi sees a vision. He sees Jerusalem and other cities. He sees Nazareth. In Nazareth, he sees a virgin.

What does this have to do with the Savior or the tree of life? Well, let’s read on.

“And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.” – 1 Nephi 11:14-15

The angel returns again and asks Nephi what he saw. What was it that Nephi saw? Well, he recognized that he saw a virgin who was beautiful and fair. He saw Mary.

I have no idea how Nephi understood that Mary was a virgin. Maybe it was an impression. Maybe it was something based on a cultural understanding that I have no knowledge of. … Okay, so I did a quick internet search, and found this: “How did Nephi know Mary was a virgin? A few verses later, the angel calls her as such, but Mary may have been wearing the veil of a virgin or the double sash, plainly indicating her status to Nephi (See Mary and Elisabeth by S. Kent Brown, 13).” (See here.)

So – he knew that she was a virgin. And he describes this virgin as

  • exceedingly fair and white
  • Most beautiful and fair above all other virgins

By the way – notice what Nephi said about the tree:

“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.” – 1 Nephi 11:8

This tree sounds a lot like Nephi’s description of Mary. The tree is beautiful – exceeding of all beauty. It was whiter than the driven snow. The tree is what bears the fruit and Mary is the woman who bore the Savior.

I’ve never really noticed this before, and I can’t say that I figured this out on my own. I read an article here that clued me into this connection.

Now, I know that this really is about the Savior. And that is what this dream is about, too. After all Lehi partook of the fruit of the tree.

So – in understanding this vision of his father’s the angel of the Lord shows Nephi Mary. Then he asks Nephi a critical question. We read the question and Nephi’s response:

“And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:16-17

Here, the angel is starting to help Nephi understand the meaning of the tree by asking a simple question. The angel asks if Nephi knows the condescension of God.

Nephi admits that he doesn’t, but he prefaces his lack of understanding with something he does know – that God loves his children.

(Side note: I love this. We don’t need to know everything. Nor should we have blind faith. Though Nephi didn’t know everything about God, he knew that God loved him – that God is a trustworthy, loving father).

The angel continues:

“And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.” – 1 Nephi 11:18-20

The angel explains that the virgin Nephi saw was indeed Mary – the mother of our Savior. Nephi didn’t see her for a bit, and then he sees her again – still a virgin – bearing her child in her arms.

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The Nativity, by Ted Henninger

Bearing fruit.

And now, the angel announces:

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!…” – 1 Nephi 11:21

This little baby in the virgin’s arms – is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the World. Nephi saw this and understood it. We read:

“…Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:21-22

Nephi saw this virgin and her son and recognized that He was the fulfillment of the prophecies of his father and other prophets. Though John hadn’t yet written his scripture (See John 3:16), Nephi understood that this baby was the embodiment of the Love that God had for our world. Nephi saw and understood all of this when he saw Mary hold the baby in her arms.

I can’t help but think of another experience recorded in scripture:

“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.” – Luke 2:25-33

Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine – how did Nephi understand that the baby that Mary held was the Savior of the world. I mean, later on, Nephi learns more about the Savior’s life, but he “got it” before seeing all of that. It is only after seeing Mary hold the baby Jesus in his arms that he understands that the tree of life that his father saw was the love of God – the most desirable of all things (and, as the angel mentions, the most joyous to the soul). How did he understand this?

I suppose it is the same way that Simeon understood that the newborn babe in the temple was the consolation of Israel, salvation, light, and glory. It is because the Holy Ghost was upon Him.

Simeon saw the tiny infant Jesus and saw the “fruit of the tree” – most desirable and joyous of all things.

And, Nephi, though in a vision 600 years prior to Simeon’s experience, saw the same thing.

We don’t need to have lists of proofs and experiences to know the Savior. (By the way, they are there). We don’t need to have a rational explanation of the greatest joy and love this world has ever known. We simply need the Holy Ghost to bear witness to us that it is true.

Our world as a whole, and our individual lives, have eternal hope, meaning, and joy – all because a fair, young virgin chose to be the Lord’s handmaid and bore the Savior into this world.

Lehi’s Prophecy of Christ – 1 Nephi 10:4-15

Before really getting into Lehi’s prophecy of Christ, it might be helpful to think about what led up to it:

  • Lehi had been truly converted to the gospel, saw the Lord in vision, and discovered that Jerusalem – because of its wickedness – would be destroyed. As a result of this experience, he began to prophesy in Jerusalem.
  • The people of Jerusalem weren’t particularly receptive to Lehi’s message. They wanted to kill him, so the Lord warned Lehi in a dream to flee Jerusalem.
  • Lehi’s flight was quick. Once a safe distance away, Lehi and his family camped. There, the Lord gave Lehi a command: to have his sons go back to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass – the records kept by the elders of the Jews.
  • Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam return to Jerusalem to get the plates. Once they return back to Lehi, he begins to study them. It seems to me that he started studying them pretty intently.
  • Lehi receives another command – that his sons will return to Jerusalem another time to get Ishmael and his family, too. They do, and they all are now in the wilderness with Lehi. – This probably took months. Who knows how long. One thing that we can guess is that while Lehi’s sons were gone, Lehi probably spent that time in the wilderness studying the scriptures even more.
  • Lehi has the vision of the tree of life.
  • After telling his family about the vision he had, Lehi prophesies.

I bring up all of this background because, I think that maybe what we read in 1 Nephi 10 is a culmination of studying the scriptures. I’m not sure what Lehi was like before the conversion we read about in 1 Nephi 1. I don’t know what he knew about the Savior or the scattering and gathering of Israel. However, it seems like his knowledge and testimony really grew while in the wilderness.

And then, Nephi shares this prophecy that his father gives of the Savior. Lehi prophesies that the Lord will come in six hundred years. He prophesies that this is the Savior of the World and that we need Him. Lehi continues on also prophesying of the Lord’s baptism, death, and the scattering and gathering of Israel.

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Son of Man, J. Kirk Richards

One – 600 Years from the time Lehi Left Jerusalem

Lehi prophesied:

“”Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.” – 1 Nephi 10:4

We have the hindsight to know that this prophecy came true. The Messiah, the Savior of the world was raised up among the Jews. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem nearly 600 years after Lehi left Jerusalem.

Two – Prophets Testify of Christ

We read:

“And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.” – 1 Nephi 10:5

This is what makes me think that Lehi had become more acquainted with the scriptures. He had been studying the brass plates and was now familiar with the many prophecies of the Savior given by the prophets.

This reminds me of another scripture spoken by Lehi’s own son:

“…Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.” – Jacob 7:11

The scriptures, the records of the prophets all spoke and prophesied of Christ – His coming, His life, His mission. Lehi is prophesying of the Savior to his children, and they don’t have to take only his word for it – all of the other prophets have prophesied of this same Messiah and their testimonies have been recorded in the scriptures.

Three – The Reason we Need a Savior

Lehi teaches:

“Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.” – 1 Nephi 10:6

Why prophesy of a Messiah? Why would so many prophets share this exact same message? Because the entire world depends on Him. We need Him. Without the Savior, we have no hope. Without the Savior we remain fallen, lost, and dead.

The Savior is hope. Lehi knew that He would come. We can know that He did come. The prophets tell us about the Savior not only to give us hope, but also so that we can know the way to have this hope take effect in our lives.

Four – The Savior would Be Baptized

It’s interesting to me that one of the key parts of Lehi’s prophecy is that the Lord would be baptized. Lehi said:

“And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—

8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.

9 And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.

10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.” – 1 Nephi 10:7-10

We will learn more about this later, but it is good to note that it is part of Lehi’s prophecy. The Savior of the World would be baptized. And John the Baptist would witness that he had baptized the Lamb of God – who would take away the sins of the world.

Five – The Jews would Kill the Messiah, and then the House of Israel would Dwindle and Be Scattered

A part of understanding the coming of the Savior is what would happen after He came to the earth.

He would be judged and then killed. Then, after being killed by His own covenant people, He would rise from the dead with healing in His wings. He wasn’t merely brought back to life, He was resurrected. He overcame death.

Unfortunately, as a result of their wickedness and killing of their Savior, the House of Israel would become completely apostate. They would then be scattered throughout the world. Some of the scattering of Israel would even happen before the coming of Christ.

Lehi recognizes that his family is a part of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the scattering. He mentions that the House of Israel would be like an Olive tree, and this allegory that was recorded on the plates of brass is quoted at length by Jacob later on.

Six – After the Appointed Time, the Lord would Gather Israel and Bring Back His Covenant

What does the scattering of Israel have to do with the Messiah? Well, I suppose it’s simply a part of His work (on a big scale!). His work is our salvation and exaltation, and the scattering and gathering of Israel is a crucial part of His work – bringing the hope of the Gospel to all people.

The Lord, after the great apostasy would (and did!) bring His gospel to the “Gentiles.” After they had received the gospel, then they would take it back to the other nations of the earth and gather scattered Israel.

As a part of this process, the Gentiles would also covenant with God – thereby creating a way for all of God’s children to be blessed by the Savior: His Atonement and His Covenant.

***

These prophecies are beautiful and exciting. They are the basics of the gospel. The Savior loves us all.

The effects of the fall – we can think of them like gravity – they have a hold on us whether or not we believe or know what it is. You don’t need to know how to explain gravity, you don’t even need to believe in gravity for it to still have effect in your life! You can jump up, and you’ll still come down. You can take a step off the edge of the Grand Canyon, and still…yikes.

The fall is the same way. We are all effected by it. And if we want to overcome the effects of the fall, we can’t just wish it away. We need the Savior. He answers the demands of the fall while extending us mercy and hope.

And His scope is so much more than the group of people anciently known as Israel. His scope is that every single one of us can be saved by His miraculous power and Atonement.

So – he has revealed Himself and His work to the prophets. He came to earth. He fulfilled all righteousness. He chose and covenanted with a group of people. He even allowed them to rebel. And then, He brought his covenant to another group of people, promising that it would eventually go to all – even to those who initially had the covenant and then rebelled against it.

I’m so grateful for the Book of Mormon, and how it helps us to understand the work of the Savior. Even though talking about this big huge plan doesn’t feel particularly personal, it does have a personal impact in our lives. And in understanding it, we can better understand our Savior and our covenants with Him.

Sariah’s Testimony of the Lord – 1 Nephi 5:8

I love the scriptures, and if you don’t already know this, I’m a woman. I love and cherish the examples and testimonies of women that we have in the scriptures. In 1 Nephi, we read the testimony given by Sariah:

“And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.” – 1 Nephi 5:8

Not only is it cool to read Sariah’s testimony, we can actually learn a bit about how the Lord works in our lives.

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The Lord Commands, Protects, Delivers, and Empowers

The Lord Commands His People

The first thing that Sariah mentions is that she knows of a surety that the Lord had commanded her husband and family to flee into the wilderness. We learn that the Lord gives his children commandments.

Of course, there are the generic commandments that we can think of (that are of vital importance, by the way) – the ten commandments, the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors.

But if we want to develop a real, living, and vital relationship with our God, then we will find that He gives us commandments, and we need to keep them.

Follow my train of thought for a moment. I hope it makes sense. No idea, so if it is confusing, I apologize in advance.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read:

“4 And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:4

This verse puzzled me in the past, until I started to understand that commandments aren’t just a set of arbitrary rules. Here, we read that the saints would be crowned with blessings from above and with commandments not a few.

It might give you a bit of insight to my personality, but when I read that, I have an inclination to think that a blessing from above would be no more commandments! Not commandments – not a few!

Of course, if we begin to understand that God isn’t just magic, but that He lives a set of universal principles and laws, then we begin to understand that the commandments are based on those principles and laws. Those commandments are the keys to our happiness.

For example, sometimes it seems like it would be liberating to eat cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But our bodies need nutrients in order to keep our hormones, muscles, and brain functioning properly. If we thought ultimate liberty was not to eat veggies, get sleep, and exercise, and instead just to eat cookies and vegetate all day, we wouldn’t be happy. We would put unneeded stress on our bodies systems and hormones. Eventually we might succumb to cancer, a heart attack, or diabetes.

The commandments are the keys that we need in order for us to live a happy life. If the Lord just pretended like there were no universal principles or laws, and if he “allowed” for us to do “whatever we wanted,” he would be a horrible father and a liar. We would eventually succumb to spiritual (and physical!) problems that would eventually kill our soul – both body and spirit.

When we understand that the commandments are loving hints on how to have a better life, then we do rejoice at “commandments not a few.” They may not always be easy to do (cookies for breakfast lunch and dinner sounds great sometimes!), but they will give us a result that more than outweighs the sacrifice.

***

I don’t think that Sariah had a hard time with keeping God’s commandments, in general. It’s easy for most of us to want to keep the commandments. However, where we might have a bit more trouble is learning how to discern and then keep the personal commandments we have been given. Even President Monson struggled with this when he finally learned never to postpone a prompting. (See here.)

When Sariah bore her testimony here, she bore testimony that she knew the Lord commanded them to leave Jerusalem. Though they were only beginning their journey (and she had already been quite tested!) this testimony – that the Lord indeed commanded them to flee Jerusalem would help to sustain her through further adversities.

We can be comforted to know that the Lord commands us. We can be comforted to know that Christ’s commandments aren’t given to puff up his pride or because He is on some kind of power trip. We can be assured that He gives us personal promptings and commandments because He loves us.

The Lord Protects Us

In Sariah’s testimony, she stated, “I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons…”

This is the tender testimony of a mother! Though I haven’t had Sariah’s exact experience, I can relate. Often, we mothers have to let our children go to and experience things that we would rather protect them from.

But the best protection we can give them is to trust in the Lord. He loves them most of all.

This extends to each of us, too. We are His children, and He will protect us from our enemy.

Isn’t this such a comforting testimony?

The Lord Delivers

Not only did the Lord protect her sons, but he actually delivered them out of the hands of Laban. They could have been killed. They were being chased down. But the Lord enabled them to escape. This was a tender mercy – both to Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam – and ALSO for Lehi and Sariah.

I imagine that every day while they were gone, she worried. She knew that their flight out of Jerusalem was because people were seeking to kill Lehi. I can only imagine how worried she would have been.

And then, she finds that they had been in danger, that they had been pursued by a small army, but that the Lord delivered them miraculously. Yes! A testimony-building experience, for sure!!!

Once again, we can apply her testimony to our own lives. The Lord will deliver us. He will not only protect us, but deliver us. He will deliver us from the hands of our enemies – especially that one enemy – Satan. Satan may try to pursue us with His armies, but the Lord will deliver us. There may be times when Satan is allowed to scare us, and chase us down, but if we put our trust in the Lord, then Satan will not be able to overcome us.

The Lord delivers.

The Lord Will Empower Us

Sariah put it this way:

“I also know of a surety that the Lord hath … given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them.” – 1 Nephi 5:8

Currently, I’m just intrigued by and attracted to the idea that our Savior not only Atoned for our sins and protects us, but that He also empowers and enables us.

Think of it this way. I’m a mother. It’s one thing for me to pick up my child and carry him all around. That’s a sacrifice. It is willingness and love. But it’s another thing completely for me to teach my child to walk. That is sacrifice and trust and the gift of liberty.

The Lord does this with us, too. Yes, He can protect us. Yes, He can deliver us. Think of it this way – the Lord was capable of getting those plates. I mean, the Liahona – how did Lehi get it? It was just there, on his doorstep. The Lord could have manifest His power and providence by letting Lehi wake up one day and find a stack of brass plates on the front-step of his tent.

But instead, the Lord gave Lehi and his sons a commandment and an opportunity. Lehi’s sons would go back and get the plates. Lehi would have to put his trust in the Lord and in his sons – he was to stay in the wilderness.

The Lord didn’t expect Nephi and his brothers to accomplish this alone. Simultaneously, he wouldn’t give them play-by-play instructions on how to do it, either. As we read:

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” – Doctrine and Covenants 58:26

Empowerment comes from a divine combination of us using our own creativity and genius, while staying humble and open for direction from the Lord. We feel the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ when we choose to be co-creators with him.

It’s hard to do! It’s hard to make choices! Nephi and his brothers put a lot of thought and effort into the ideas that they had for obtaining the plates. In their experience, the Lord eventually delivered Laban in a pretty direct way, but Nephi and his brothers still had to make real-time decisions and have real-time ideas.

It was a combined effort. If Nephi didn’t make the decision to walk into Jerusalem that night, they wouldn’t have had the plates.

The Lord gives us power to do what He has commanded us. It’s guaranteed success!  Of course, this doesn’t mean that it will be easy. This doesn’t even mean that we won’t experience some collateral damage. But we will be able to do what the Lord has required of us, and we can rest assured that the adversities we experience will be consecrated for our gain.

***

5 Sariah

I love the Book of Mormon. And I love the bold testimony of a strong woman. I know that we see her complain earlier in the chapter. And some people may criticize her for this, but I really can’t imagine being Sariah. She showed so much faith every step of the way. She didn’t have a dream at night to flee Jerusalem; she just trusted her husband.

She chose to find comfort in his words as she waited for her sons to come home. And when her sons came back to the tent of Lehi with the plates of brass in had, she received a powerful witness. I’m so grateful that Nephi included her words in the record. They teach us about the Savior and witness of His love, protection, and power.