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.

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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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A Joyful Society (4 Nephi 1:15-17)

After Christ’s Visit to the Americas, the people were changed. They covenanted with Him. They kept their covenants and the commandments. And what followed is nothing short of amazing.

” And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-18

This society – it was heaven on earth. It was Zion.

How was it possible? The love of God which dwelled in the hearts of the people.

So, I know that I could write at least 10 pages on this subject – the love of God that dwells in the hearts of people. For now, though, just understand that this isn’t some kind of amalgam concept of “love” that we seem to have now. They had the very specific love of God – the pure love of Christ – the love what doesn’t fail. This love comes as a result of discipline and covenant keeping.

Through covenant keeping and discipline, we develop God-like love, or charity, and then we can experience the following:

  • joy in the success of others – (lack of envy)
  • Peace – (no strife)
  • Virtue – (no whoredoms)
  • Sanctity of Life and safety – (no murder)
  • Healthy Family life – (no manner of lasciviousness)
  • Happiness
  • Safe Property – (No robbers)
  • Safe Life – (No murderers)
  • A United Class – (No Racism or class)
  • Blessings
  • Heir to the Kingdom of God
  • Prosperity
  • The Abundant Life

Often, I think that we have a backward approach on this. We think that if we will just work at joy, peace, safety then we’ll have it. Or we think we make laws to prevent murder, robbery, and rape, and then experience the kind of society described in 4 Nephi. We think that we can “eradicate” class through governmental control.

We often try to approach this ideal society backwards – looking at the corollaries, rather than the cause.

The way to be the kind of society like these Nephites after Christ’s visit is through humbly covenanting with God. It is through Righteousness and devotion to the commandments that will enable us to become the kind of people who have hearts filled with the love of God.

I find this message to be especially hopeful. It’s possible! Christ will make us perfect. He will complete us and enable us to live joy – even while in this mortal state. If we will just turn to Him. He will teach us how it is possible, and empower us by filling our hearts with His love.

A Chilling Warning (Alma 45:8-10)

It’s time for more commentary from Mormon (who abridged this historical record of his people).

“Thus we see how quick the children of men do forget the Lord their God, yea, how quick to do iniquity, and to be led away by the evil one.

Yea, and we also see the great wickedness one very wicked man can cause to take place among the children of men.

Yea, we see that Amalickiah, because he was a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land for the righteous’ sake. – Alma 46:8-10

This is a chilling warning for our own day. It’s crazy to see how the people who were subjected to war – who fought and rejoiced for their liberty when they won the war – would quickly forget this blessing of liberty.

It is indicative of a very ignorant and naive people. However, this attitude is more than mere naïveté. It is also insidious at its most extreme. Okay. and depending on the person who rejoices in his/her liberty but then wants to limit it – this attitude is also hypocritical.

I feel pretty safe in saying that we all want liberty. We all want to be free. But then there are people who feel like liberty shouldn’t be extended to all. (Not that they want their liberty limited. They want the liberty of others to bear the limitation).

This is the same hypocrisy of the war in heaven. Satan wanted to have agency while simultaneously crushing ours. You can’t have it both ways, though.

Trusting those who have the desire to have liberty while limiting others’ liberty is pride, ignorance, and maybe even complete stupidity. We ought to fight for liberty the way that we fight for life. The loss of liberties and privileges always has a terrible, miserable, and painful outcome. Often, we can’t regain this loss without a serious and bloody revolution.

We are at a political crossroads right now – it is election year, and this year seems to be particularly depressing. I would never tell you how to vote, but I do think that we need pay attention to our liberties and how each candidate respects the liberty of every person in this country. Once we give up our liberties, the cost to get them back may seem too high.