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.
The Coming of Christ
“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
“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
“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.
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.