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!

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The Faithful Group – 1 Nephi 8:30, 33

Here is today’s reading:

“But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:30

…AND… 

“And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.” – 1 Nephi 8:33

I know that you just read this, but I find that I really learn better when I take a second to really summarize what is happening.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi’s Dream, continued.
  • Lehi sees other multitudes pressing forward.
  • This group catches hold of the iron rod and presses forward continually holding fast.
  • This group finally makes it to the tree of life, and they partake of the fruit.
  • Though this group was also being mocked by the people in the great and spacious building, they don’t give any heed to the jeers.

Dragon Fruit

The Faithful Group

So – we are reading about the final group of people in Lehi’s dream. Those who partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and they remain faithful and loyal to it.

Often, I find myself comparing this group with the group of people that partook of the tree of life and then were ashamed.

And then I wonder why and how? I mean, they both start on the path to the tree of life. Neither of them are like the multitudes that ignore the tree of life altogether. They seem to have so much in common for so long. Both groups even succeed! They both partake of the fruit! Yet the success is short lived with one and enduring with the other.

Even though they both seem to have so much in common, there are a few nuanced differences.

Continually Holding Fast

Okay, so I just utilized my favorite scripture study resource (other than the scriptures)…the dictionary. Here is what we read about fast. Note – this is the first entry for the word fast

Fast – Adjective
a : firmly fixed

  • roots fast in the ground
b : tightly shut

  • the drawers were fast
c : adhering firmly

  • The boards were fast a few hours after being glued together.
d : not easily freed : stuck 

  • a ball fast in the mouth of the cannon
e : stable 

  • movable items were made fast to the deck

Firmly fixed, tightly shut, adhering firmly. This is how the final group of people we read about are described. They aren’t clinging to the rod, they are fixed to the rod.

What a difference this connotation makes!

The group that rejects the fruit were using the rod, but there was a hint of fear in how they proceeded. This faithful group, however, held fast. They adhered firmly, and were fixated on their goal rather than the world around them.

This group pressed their way forward in faith, rather than fear. In my mind, when we move forward with faith, it is closely related to creation. They had the vision in their minds – the fruit of the tree of life, then faithfully they moved forward. They wanted to create a future for themselves based on the vision they had.

I know that in my life, if I have a vision and it is based on faith – of who I want to be or accomplish, then I have more tenacity to accomplish it. Not only that, but the experience – both on the path and then the accomplishment –  is more enjoyable. It is an act of creation that was based in faith. Rather than a set of reactions based on fear.

We are agents to act, rather than be acted upon. When we have faith, when we are holding fast to the rod and pressing forward, then we are creating our lives and using our agency to create the best life possible.

One last thing, because I know that I probably need to flesh this out more, and I’m not going to do that now…They didn’t create this on their own. They created while holding fast to the Iron Rod. They understood their interdependence on the Lord. They trusted in him despite mists of darkness and the loud yells of those in the great and spacious building.

And they reap eternal joy.

We Heeded Them Not

This is the other difference between the two groups. This faithful group didn’t listen to the people in the great and spacious building. And why would they?!

I think that it goes back to this ability for them to exercise agency. They lived in a faithful, rather than reactive, state. Instead of hearing the scoffing and mocking of those in the great and spacious building, and responding with fear, this group is unemotional and capable of making a smart decision.

Think about it. What do the people in the great and spacious building know about the fruit? Nothing! Why would they mock it? Why do they care so much? If the great and spacious building is so great and spacious, why are they making a point to spend their time deriding others? Go in and enjoy your building, people!

The faithful who had partaken of the fruit were exposed to the jeers. They heard the mocking. But they didn’t listen. They didn’t “heed.” They faithfully endured so much to partake of the fruit of the tree. When they finally made it to the tree of life, they fell down. It wasn’t easy. But they were filled with joy, and they were confident in their choices and abilities. The jeers didn’t mean anything to them because they knew better.

Here’s a dumb example, but it might illustrate my point
I know someone who hates guacamole. (Impossible, I know). I don’t think that this person, we’ll call her Guaca has ever tried guacamole. It would be one thing if it didn’t agree with her. I would understand if she had given it a fair chance, and then decided Nah…It’s not for me.

But that’s not the case. She doesn’t like it, and she loves to mock it at any opportunity. “Yuckamole!” Is what she calls it.

Do you know my response?

Oh well. Who cares. MORE FOR ME!!!!!!!!! HAHA. I guess the “more for me” response is probably not Christlike. But it doesn’t matter to me that she won’t eat. I shrug my shoulders like, “Wow. You’re missing out.” But I’m not shamed into giving up that green goodness. No way. Not one single iota.

Now – this example (I know that some of you reading this will be familiar with this personal example) is harmless. I know that the guacamole hater is a good person, sincere, and kind. I know that the guacamole hater would never want to keep me from that which gives me joy in my life. So, maybe I shouldn’t even use the example.

I just want to illustrate what might have been the process for those who had partaken of the fruit. The mocking, the jeers, the opinions didn’t faze them because they had actually eaten the fruit and they knew better.

Of course, all of this is a display of their choice to live in a faith-model rather than fear-model. No amount of external pressure would sway them from the truth – that the tree of life was the most desirable, sweet, joyful fruit that they had ever eaten.

I feel like there is a lot of rambling in this post. I’m sorry.

Personal Application

Eat more guacamole. hahaha. Just kidding.

In seriousness, I know that there are times when I let my fears get the best of me. I am afraid of looking stupid, hurting people, failing, being wrong. When I let these fears into my heart, they start to control me. I might tend to “cling” to the rod rather than press forward.

If, instead, I choose to have faith and trust in God, that it doesn’t matter what other people say or think – it only matters what God says or thinks, then I will be able to partake of that fruit. It will be sweet. I will have the discernment to recognize it’s sweetness and desirability, and I will not heed those who try to sway me from my decision.

They Had a Choice – 1 Nephi 7:13-15

You can read 1 Nephi 7:13-16 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi and his brothers are in the wilderness – with Ishmael’s family – on their way back to Lehi and Sariah.
  • Laman and Lemuel want to go back to Jerusalem. They rebel, along with a few of Ishmael’s children, and start to stir things up. Nephi asks them how it is possible for them to be so rebellious.
  • Nephi testifies that if they are faithful, then they will obtain a land of promise.
  • Jerusalem will be destroyed as foretold by the prophets – because the people of Jerusalem have become wicked. The Spirit of God won’t strive with them. They have rejected the prophets.
  • If Laman and Lemuel return to Jerusalem, they, too, will perish.
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Life is Full of Choices

They [Laman and Lemuel] Had a Choice

Sometimes I think it might be easy to get the wrong impression about Nephi. He is this younger brother – constantly compelled by the Spirit to correct his brothers. I really do not envy him or the assignment that he had. It is hard to be put in the position to correct anyone – especially a sibling.

I have to admit that sometimes I even forget how this played out – how Nephi wasn’t just trying to be some kind of know-it-all; that Nephi wasn’t ever trying to force Laman and Lemuel to do the right thing. They were his brothers. They were on the same team. He is coaxing them to be righteous because he loves them and they need one another.

I forget this sometimes, but then I will come across something like this in the scriptures:

“Now behold, I say unto you that if ye will return unto Jerusalem ye shall also perish with them. And now, if ye have choice, go up to the land, and remember the words which I speak unto you, that if ye go ye will also perish; for thus the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me that I should speak.” – 1 Nephi 7:15

Nephi reminded them and warned them – if they return to Jerusalem, they will perish. This isn’t some kind of controlling thing said by a know-it-all brother. Nephi is warning them. If he didn’t care about them, he wouldn’t have cared if they went back to Jerusalem and perished or not.

Nephi cares about them, but he will not force them, and the Lord won’t either. Notice the phrase: “And now, if ye have choice, go up to the land, and remember the words which I speak unto you, that if ye go ye will also perish;…”

Laman and Lemuel have a choice! They don’t have to stay in the wilderness with Lehi and Sariah. They don’t have to inherit a promised land. They can stay in Jerusalem. They have a the choice to make.

And God is so merciful that He will even constrain Nephi to tell them that if they do go back to Jerusalem, they will perish – because Jerusalem will be destroyed (and it was!).

Imagine if the Lord hadn’t warned them. Imagine if they had simply gone back into Jerusalem and then if Jerusalem had been destroyed. Imagine if they didn’t know that was why Lehi left, and that was why they were heading to a promised land. They would have been frustrated! They might have thought, “I would have stayed with my father if I knew that this was happening to Jerusalem!”

Who knows. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is:

    • God loves us enough to let us make a choice.
    • God doesn’t force us to be ignorant about the choices we make. As we learn in Amos:

“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” – Amos 3:7

Heavenly Father did compel Nephi to warn his brothers about the implications of the decision to go to Jerusalem if they should choose to do it.

 

I’m overwhelmed with the idea that the Lord loves us this much – that not only will He help us to understand the consequences of our actions, but that He will also let us choose for ourselves what we should do.

And I wonder about myself – how much do I honor my agency? Did Laman and Lemuel honor and treasure their agency? I think that in a way, we all do. We are all sovereign beings that fought for our agency.

But do they really honor their agency? Have they made any choices? Or are they just going with the flow – letting life happen to them? Do they take accountability for their choices – whether good or bad? Or do they simply try to pretend to be victims of their circumstances? I think that we can answer these questions, and I think that at a later time in the Book of Mormon I might. But for now, I’m going to simply end this blog post.

Laman and Lemuel were not bullied, manipulated, or bossed around by their younger brother. Their younger brother was a conduit of God’s Love toward them. Nephi didn’t want to tell them what to do, but he was also strictly obedient to the Spirit of God. So, Nephi warned them.

And they had a choice.

 

Meditation and Joy

About a year ago, I started meditating. I’ve always believed in prayer, and I know that prayer is basically meditation. However, I also knew that my prayers were lacking. I saw a yoga magazine about meditation and felt that I should purchase it.

As I read through their meditation articles, I had a strong impression to start incorporating some of the yoga-principles into my own meditation (breath, posture, etc).

It has been a transformative experience. My prayers are much better and more meaningful, and I love finding examples of meditation throughout the scriptures.

There is a great example of the power of prayer and meditation found in 2 Nephi 4.

2 Nephi 4 is often considered to be “the psalm of Nephi.” His soul is pained – because of the anger he has towards his brothers. This entire chapter can show us the power of consistent meditation.

For now, I’ll only focus on one part that I find especially significant (today…!)

We read:

“O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.” – 2 Nephi 4:26-30

Nephi’s brothers want to kill him. This is what has driven him to anger. Plus, let’s face it. Nephi has had to deal with his brothers for a lifetime. They haven’t been all that great to him.

I can see why Nephi is angry.

I know that I’ve been frustrated with people in my life (and none of them have have threatened to kill me). I remember a time, for example, when I was a little frustrated with my husband. I prayed about my frustration.

Instead of having the Lord respond, “You’re right! He’s being such a jerk!” I was brought to humility.

As we grow in our meditation, I think that we learn to do this ourselves, and Nephi is an example of this.

Instead of trying to justify his sin, he asks questions of himself. Nephi isn’t focused on how he has been wronged, he is focused on his agency. He doesn’t complain to God that Laman and Lemuel are trying to kill him. Instead, he focuses on his own knowledge, experience, actions, and testimony.

He knows so much. He has had so many blessings in his life. He lives in a promised land. And now, he is reacting to Laman and Lemuel’s antics?! No Way! Nephi shows us that consistent meditation will help us to become agents to act rather than be acted upon.

Instead of retaliating and further pushing this wedge between him and his brothers, he prays about his own reaction. He gives up his pride, he puts his trust in the Lord, and then he is strengthened.

Meditation and prayer will help to strengthen our resolve for our own agency, and this will bring so much more joy in our lives.