BMGD #6: 2 Nephi 1-2

I like to begin this lesson with this story from Elder Holland:

President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and himself a master teacher, has a question he often asks when we have made a presentation or given some sort of exhortation to one another in the Twelve. He looks up as if to say, “Are you through?” and then says to the speaker (and, by implication, to the rest of the group), “Therefore, what?”  . . . You and I know that too many people have not made the connection between what they say they believe and how they actually live their lives.  Citation

. . . and invite the class to think about the “therefore, what” today.  We’ll be studying 2 Nephi 2, which is Lehi’s final words to Jacob (but really all of his sons).  This chapter is doctrinal and abstract, and so, I think, more meaningful if we keep asking ourselves “therefore, what?” as we study.  I will probably explicitly ask the “therefore, what”? question–looking for real-life applications–for each verse as we conclude our discussion of it.  So if this lesson seems a little short on practical application questions, that’s why.

2 Nephi 1
1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of teaching my brethren, our father, Lehi, also spake many things unto them, and rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.

What do you make of the fact that Nephi was teaching before Lehi spoke?  Why are Lehi’s words recorded but Nephi’s are not?

NB that a choice is made here–a choice to focus on the good things that the Lord did in bringing them out as opposed to the hard things they faced as a part of that process.

2 And he spake unto them concerning their rebellions upon the waters, and the mercies of God in sparing their lives, that they were not swallowed up in the sea.

3 And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained—how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem.

What is the land of promise–all of the all of the Americas, or a small portion of it where this group actually lived, or something in between?  (I think how you answer this question makes a big difference in how you interpret the rest of this chapter [see v5, for example], and perhaps how you view the US.)

How does the part of the verse after the dash relate to the part before it?

4 For, behold, said he, I have seen a vision, in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed; and had we remained in Jerusalem we should also have perished.

This is a very interesting vision in that it shows them contemporaneous, contrafactual events in another part of the world. (I’m having a hard time thinking of any similar visions . . .)   It is also interesting in that it showed them perishing in Jerusalem, when many people were either taken into captivity (but survived) or continued to live in Jerusalem (under foreign rule).

5 But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.

Do you read “above all other lands” as the kind of hyperbole one sometimes encounters in scriptural writings (cf. Matthew 3:5) or more literally?

The original manuscript has “consecrated” instead of the second instance of “covenanted” here.

6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.

(In what ways) does this verse apply to Africans brought to the New World in slavery?

While I would never, ever, ever ask a question like this while teaching, I think it might be worthwhile to consider how this verse could shape how we might think about US immigration policy and foreign affairs (if you think “the promised land” includes the US).

7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.

Cursed “for their” sakes is an interesting concept and is reminiscent of Genesis 3:17 (“cursed is the ground for thy sake”).  Does this verse teach you anything about the cursing of the ground in Genesis, or does the Genesis story teach you anything about the cursing of the land here?

What does it mean for land to be consecrated?  (Especially since it is conditional.)  What is the link between consecration and liberty?

8 And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.

One way to read this verse is that the power of the Lord is not such that the land could have been consecrated to these people had too many others arrived.  Is that accurate?  If so, what does it teach you about the Lord, the land, the promises, etc.?

9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.

I think the tendency is to read v6-9 as applying to modern America, but then v10-11 seem to suggest that v6-9 applies to pre-Columbian America.  Which do you think it is?

According to this verse, is it possible that, had the Lamanites been more righteous, Europeans would not have been allowed to settle in the New World? (But cf. the use of the word ‘when’ in the beginning of the next verse.) If so, what does this suggest about European settlement of the Americas, the Lord’s justice, Native Americans, etc.?

10 But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them.

Verse 9 made promises predicated on their righteousness; v10 begins with “when” they break those promises.  What happened to their free agency?

Why the focus on “unbelief” and not “unrighteousness”?  (By comparison, there is virtually nothing in the OT about “unbelief” relative to the amount of concern about wrong actions.)

Why so many titles for Jesus here?

What work does the phrase “him that is just” do in this verse?

Some readers see v10 as highly analogous to modern LDS temple worship.  If you find those similarities here, what do you make of them?

What do you make of the shift from “when” in the beginning of the verse to “if” at the end?

11 Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten.

This verse is even more clear in suggesting that European colonization of the Americas is an instrument of the Lord’s punishment for covenant breaking.  What do you make of this reading?  What does it teach you about history?

12 Yea, as one generation passeth to another there shall be bloodsheds, and great visitations among them; wherefore, my sons, I would that ye would remember; yea, I would that ye would hearken unto my words.

13 O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.

What is the link between this verse (which seems to be very personal) and the previous verses (which seem to be more historical/political)?  Given the personal situation as described in this verse, why do you think Lehi spent so much time in the previous verses talking about future/historical/political matters?

I’m struck by the contrast between the chains that currently are holding them captive and the liberty that they have been promised above.

Marvin J. Ashton:

Lehi warned his sons to “shake off the chains” because he knew that chains restrict our mobility, growth, and happiness.  . . . Samuel Johnson wisely shared, “The chains of habit are too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken” (International Dictionary of Thoughts, Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Co., 1969, p. 348).  Oct 1986 GC

Spencer W. Kimball:

[There] are Church members who are steeped in lethargy. They neither drink nor commit the sexual sins. They do not gamble nor rob nor kill. They are good citizens and splendid neighbors, but spiritually speaking they seem to be in a long, deep sleep.
They are doing nothing seriously wrong except in their failures to do the right things… To such people as this, the words of Lehi might well apply… (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p149)

This goes back to my theme of L&L and not being really evil, but more like modern-day slackers.

Why is sleep a good metaphor for sin?

“Deep sleep” is evocative; is it related to :
–Genesis 2:21 (“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs”)?
–Genesis 15:12 (“And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. “)?
–Isaiah 29:10 (“For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. “)?
–Acts 20:9  (“And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.”)?

On chains:
–Alma 12:11:  “And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.”
–Moses 7 :26:  “And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced.”

Why are chains a good image here?

14 Awake! and arise from the dust, and hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth.

Is this dust related to the dust from which Adam was created?  That might be a tenuous link, but combined with the “deep sleep” of v13, and the idea of Lehi dying as everyone must (and as he specifically mentions) and therefore returning to the dust/grave, I think there might be a link.  If so, what work is it doing?

What did Lehi want to suggest by “trembling”?

Why “limbs”?  (Why not all of him?  Why focus on the limbs?)  (“Limb” does not appear in the KJV.)

This verse seems awfully poetic compared to the rest of Lehi’s speech–any sense as to why that might be so?

15 But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.

Nice inversion between the chains that make you captive and the arms here.

It is interesting to think of someone as righteous as Lehi being redeemed from hell.  What might we learn from that?

I thought it was very interesting that this appears to be one of a few (or, perhaps, the only) scripture cited by more female speakers at General Conference than it is by men.  (This would be particularly significant given the ratio of female to male speakers!)  Now, I can’t say that I have checked every single scripture verse for gender ratio in its use (although I’ve checked a lot), and part of the disparity is probably due to the fact that “encircled in the arms of his love” was a Relief Society theme in 2006, but still.

Bonnie D. Parkin:

Do we frequently reject the Lord’s love that He pours out upon us in much more abundance than we are willing to receive? Do we think we have to be perfect in order to deserve His love…? This is a gospel of eternal progress, and we must remember to appreciate the journey. Eternal means ‘without beginning or end,’ so the encircling of His love is there for us every day. Nov 06 GC

Why is being eternally embraced by the Lord a good metaphor?

In the OT, ‘arm’ is usually a metaphor for power/strength.  Is that the case here?

16 And I desire that ye should remember to observe the statutes and the judgments of the Lord; behold, this hath been the anxiety of my soul from the beginning.

17 My heart hath been weighed down with sorrow from time to time, for I have feared, lest for the hardness of your hearts the Lord your God should come out in the fulness of his wrath upon you, that ye be cut off and destroyed forever;

18 Or, that a cursing should come upon you for the space of many generations; and ye are visited by sword, and by famine, and are hated, and are led according to the will and captivity of the devil.

19 O my sons, that these things might not come upon you, but that ye might be a choice and a favored people of the Lord. But behold, his will be done; for his ways are righteousness forever.

Do you see anything in v16-19 that you would or would not want to model as a parent?  How effective do you think this is as a call to repentance?

20 And he hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.

The original manuscript has “his” before commandments and prosper instead of “my.”

Note the parallel in this verse:
keep commandments -> prosper in the land
not keep commandments -> cut off from presence

Does this suggest anything about what “prosper” means?  “Cut off” is frequently used in covenant contexts in the OT with great debate about its meaning (does it mean excommunicated, killed, denied posterity, denied God’s presence after life, etc.)–what do you think it means here?  What do you make of the link between the land and the presence of the Lord?

21 And now that my soul might have joy in you, and that my heart might leave this world with gladness because of you, that I might not be brought down with grief and sorrow to the grave, arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity;

No mental health professional today would approve of what Lehi is doing here–namely, couching their righteousness as a condition of his happiness, or telling them to be righteous for his sake.  This verse drips with guilt, particularly given its ‘deathbed’ setting.  Do you approve of what Lehi is doing here?  Is he doing the best possible thing here?  (We often assume that ‘if a good guy in the scriptures does something, we should model it,’ but it is not clear to me that that is always the case.)

Does ‘arise from the dust’ allude to the creation of Adam?

I’m curious about the emphasis on unity here, since Lehi, Nephi, visions, angels, etc., have described divisions between the brothers.

D. Todd Christofferson:

The prophet Lehi pled with his rebellious sons, saying, “Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men” (2 Nephi 1:21; emphasis added). By age, Laman and Lemuel were men, but in terms of character and spiritual maturity they were still as children. They murmured and complained if asked to do anything hard. They didn’t accept anyone’s authority to correct them. They didn’t value spiritual things. They easily resorted to violence, and they were good at playing the victim.  Oct 06 GC

I’m fascinated by how the BoM constructs masculinity, and this verse (particularly with the kind of comments on it that are traditional, such as Elder Christofferson’s) might be Exhibit A for that endeavor.  What does this verse suggest about what it means to be a Real Man?  Or is no gendered message implied here?

22 That ye may not be cursed with a sore cursing; and also, that ye may not incur the displeasure of a just God upon you, unto the destruction, yea, the eternal destruction of both soul and body.

Are “cursed with a sore cursing” and “incurring the displeasure of God” two ways of saying the same thing or two different things?

How do you understand a phrase like “the destruction, yea, the eternal destruction”:  is this emphasis or the correction of an error when you can’t erase?  Or something else?

Is Lehi saying that souls can be destroyed?

23 Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.

Does this verse allude to Isaiah 29:18 (“And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.”)?  Cf. 2 Ne 27:29.

Why is “arise from the dust” the phrase that Lehi keeps returning to?  Is it a reference to Adam as a creation of the dust?  Is the point that they should exercise their agency as Adam did?

Does “the armor of righteousness” suggest that righteous living is a battle?

24 Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness; nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you.

This verse is the only scriptural combo of views/glorious.  I’m fascinating by that phrase–it strikes my ear as very unusual–but I’m not sure what to make of it.

This is one of those moments where I think we suspect that the record might read just a touch differently if someone other than Nephi had been writing it.  ;)    Am I being overly cynical in my approach to this verse?

I’ve always been oddly fascinated by the phrase “instrument in the hands of God”  (See all scripture refs here; NB that it is only used in the BoM, not the Bible), but perhaps that is to be expected from someone whose conversion involved A Prayer for Owen Meany.

25 And I exceedingly fear and tremble because of you, lest he shall suffer again; for behold, ye have accused him that he sought power and authority over you; but I know that he hath not sought for power nor authority over you, but he hath sought the glory of God, and your own eternal welfare.

26 And ye have murmured because he hath been plain unto you. Ye say that he hath used sharpness; ye say that he hath been angry with you; but behold, his sharpness was the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him; and that which ye call anger was the truth, according to that which is in God, which he could not restrain, manifesting boldly concerning your iniquities.

Skousen reads “constrain” instead of “restrain” here.

Do you agree with Lehi that Nephi’s plainness was the cause of the murmuring?  (I’m not convinced.)

Was Nephi sharp and angry with them?  Does Lehi here justify those things?  Is anger justified if it is true?  (‘Cuz I could have a lot of fun with that . . .)

Does sharpness relate to D& C 12143 (“Reproving betimes with sharpness”)?

W1828 ‘sharpness’:

1. Keenness of an edge or point; as the sharpness of a razor or a dart.

2. Not obtuseness.

3. Pungency; acidity; as the sharpness of vinegar.

4. Pungency of pain; keenness; severity of pain or affliction; as the sharpness of pain, grief or anguish.

5. Painfulness; afflictiveness; as the sharpness or calamity.

And the best quarrels in the heat are curst

6. Severity of language; pungency; satirical sarcasm; as the sharpness of a satire or rebuke.

7. Acuteness of intellect; the power of nice discernment; quickness of understanding; ingenuity; as sharpness of wit or understanding.

8. Quickness of sense or perception; as the sharpness of sight.

9. Keenness; severity as the sharpness of the air or weather.

Which one fits best here?

27 And it must needs be that the power of God must be with him, even unto his commanding you that ye must obey. But behold, it was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it.

What happened to their moral agency here?  It sounds as if it is trumped by the Spirit acting in Nephi.

Do you read the last sentence as literally true or hyperbolic?

28 And now my son, Laman, and also Lemuel and Sam, and also my sons who are the sons of Ishmael, behold, if ye will hearken unto the voice of Nephi ye shall not perish. And if ye will hearken unto him I leave unto you a blessing, yea, even my first blessing.

Are you surprised to see Sam mentioned here?

What does ‘first blessing’ mean here?

29 But if ye will not hearken unto him I take away my first blessing, yea, even my blessing, and it shall rest upon him.

Am I right that there is no record of a blessing from Lehi to Nephi?  If so, what to make of that omission?  Is it because *this* is the blessing that Nephi gets?  (If so, that would have put Nephi in the somewhat odd position of hoping that his brothers fail, else Nephi would be left with no blessing.)

What exactly is the content of the blessing?  Why isn’t it specified?

30 And now, Zoram, I speak unto you: Behold, thou art the servant of Laban; nevertheless, thou hast been brought out of the land of Jerusalem, and I know that thou art a true friend unto my son, Nephi, forever.

Why is Zoram separated, especially from the sons of Ishmael?

Why does he refer to him as the servant of Laban in the present tense?  Why say it at all–everyone knows that anyway?

Friendship is not a well-developed theme in the Bible, save maybe the David and Jonathan story.  Is that alluded to here?

Given their initial interaction (which, let us remember, involved death, deception, threats, etc.), how did Zoram end up being “a true friend” to Nephi?  Is he supposed to be a foil to L&L here–he has every reason to despise Nephi, but does just the opposite?  (OK, I’ll just say it:  Is Zoram suffering from Stockholm Syndrome?)

31 Wherefore, because thou hast been faithful thy seed shall be blessed with his seed, that they dwell in prosperity long upon the face of this land; and nothing, save it shall be iniquity among them, shall harm or disturb their prosperity upon the face of this land forever.

The content of Zoram’s blessing is, I think, identical to that articulated above to L&L, but the tone is sure different–much more positive.  What do you make of this?

32 Wherefore, if ye shall keep the commandments of the Lord, the Lord hath consecrated this land for the security of thy seed with the seed of my son.

Chapter 2
1 And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.

Why does Jacob get such a long speech directed to him, when Zoram got just a brief mention and Sam got lumped in with L&L and the sons of Ishmael?

Brant Gardner:

The discourse is directed to Jacob, but it is a convenience. It is a way Lehi can continue to teach his wayward sons important spiritual information without spending too much obvious time lecturing them, a tactic that while it might have been the real desire of father Lehi’s heart, would have been too difficult for Laman and Lemuel to bear. They would have ceased listening (perhaps) had the lesson been directed to them, but might (just possibly) hear what was said to their brother, and learn from that.  Citation

Jacob is Lehi’s fifth son and the word “Jacob” means “supplanter.”  What’s going on here when Lehi calls him “his first-born son”?  (I realize the phrase is modified by “in the wilderness,” but still.  It would never occur to me to call my second child “my first-born son in Texas.”)

Feast wiki:  “What does Lehi mean by wilderness? Is it important that his tribulations occur in a wilderness? How are Lehi’s “days of tribulation in the wilderness” separated from or related to his pre-existent days in Jerusalem or his later days in the paradise of the promised land? Does Lehi somehow see his whole journey as a type of our premortal, mortal, and post-mortal existence?”

John Tvedtnes:

The use of the term firstborn implies that Lehi may have considered Jacob to be a replacement for his eldest son, Laman, with his younger son Joseph being a replacement for the second son, Lemuel.  We have a parallel to this situation in Genesis 48:5, 16, where Jacob adopted Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim in place of Reuben and Simeon, who had sinned (see Genesis 34:30; 35:22; 49:3–5). In consequence of Reuben’s sins, he was replaced as firstborn by Joseph (see 1 Chronicles 5:1–2).  . . . The name Jacob is explained as “supplanter” in the King James Bible of Genesis 27:36 (compare 25:23–26), but could just as easily be read “successor” or “replacement,” since Jacob replaced Esau as firstborn and received the birthright and the blessing (see Genesis 25:29–34; 27:22–40). Esau was unfit to serve as firstborn. Citation

Would he have suffered without the rudeness of his brothers?  In other words, wouldn’t the journey have caused suffering anyway?  So why do you think Lehi focuses on the brothers’ actions here?

W1828 “rudeness”:

1. A rough broken state; unevenness; wildness; as the rudeness of a mountain, country or landscape.

2. Coarseness of manners; incivility; rusticity; vulgarity.

3. Ignorance; unskillfulness.

4. Artlessness; coarseness; inelegance; as the rudeness of a painting or piece of sculpture.

5. Violence; impetuosity; as the rudeness of an attack or shock.

6. Violence; storminess; as the rudeness of winds or of the season.

1 Ne 18:9 is only other scriptural use of rudeness; there, it focuses on what they said.

John Tvedtnes:

Though “rude” has come to mean “impolite” in twentieth-century English, at the time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon it meant “wild” or “savage.”  Citation

2 Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.

What effect does the repetition of “first-born in the wilderness” from the previous verse have on the reader?

Joseph Smith’s famous quote, which might help us think about what consecrated affliction looks like:

I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priest-craft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women-all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty, who will give me dominion over all and every one of them, when their refuge of lies shall fail, and their hiding place shall be destroyed, while these smooth-polished stones with which I come in contact become marred. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 304)

Is there a link between knowing the greatness of God and having afflictions consecrated?

Feast wiki:  “What is happening here as Lehi moves from the past (hast suffered) to the present (knowest) to the future (shall consecrate)? How does knowing “the greatness of God” in the present influence our past and future?”

Consecrate means “to make sacred.”  So this verse is saying that your afflictions can be made sacred.  What might that look like?  Does it imply that not all afflictions are consecrated?

Any personal experiences with having your afflictions consecrated for your gain?

Dallin H. Oaks:

I love the musical and motion picture Fiddler on the Roof. There a wonderful Jewish father sings “If I Were a Rich Man.” His memorable prayer concludes with this pleading question:

Lord, who made the lion and the lamb,

You decreed I should be what I am;

Would it spoil some vast eternal plan,

If I were a wealthy man?

(Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick [1964])

Yes, Tevye, it might. Let us give thanks for what we are and for the circumstances God has given us for our personal journey through mortality. In ancient times the prophet Lehi taught this truth to his son Jacob: “In thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain” My mother loved that scripture and lived its principle. The greatest affliction of her life was the death of her husband, our father, after only 11 years of marriage. This changed her life and imposed great hardships as she proceeded to earn a living and raise her three little children alone. Nevertheless, I often heard her say that the Lord consecrated that affliction for her gain because her husband’s death compelled her to develop her talents and serve and become something that she could never have become without that seeming tragedy.  Apr 03 GC

3 Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.

Is “soul” significant here (not body, seed, etc.)?

On what basis does Lehi know that Jacob is redeemed?  Is it curious that he can know this (1) 600 years before the redeeming act has been performed and (2) while Jacob is still quite young and still has choices to make?

NB *why* he is redeemed–it is because of the Redeemer, not because of anything he did.

I like the link between service and redemption here.  I also think this verse is probably saying that being able to spend your days in service is a blessing; that is not how our culture usually views it.  Thoughts on this?  Experiences with this?

Is Lehi alluding to a revelatory experience (“thou hast beheld”) that Jacob had that we don’t know about?

We usually refer to the present dispensation as “the fulness of time,” but here it appears to be a reference to the time of Jesus’ mortality.  Here is W1828 on fulness:

1. The state of being filled, so as to leave no part vacant.

2. The state of abounding or being in great plenty; abundance.

3. Completeness; the state of a thing in which nothing is wanted; perfection.

What does Lehi mean by referring to “the fulness of time”?

Feast wiki:  “Of curious interest in this verse is Lehi’s blessing upon Jacob of being dedicated to “the service of thy God.” The word “service” in the Old Testament is almost universally used in reference to the work of the temple priests. That Jacob clearly goes on to be associated quite closely with the temple (see 2 Nephi 6-10, and of course Jacob 1-3) perhaps suggests that this is precisely what is at work here: Lehi sets Jacob the task of becoming a temple priest. If this is the case, then the whole of this chapter might be re-read according to temple themes: Lehi discusses the creation, the fall, and the atonement. Moreover, this perhaps clarifies the consecration Lehi promises in verse 2: Jacob’s negative experiences will somehow work to his benefit as a temple priest.”

4 And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.

Again, does this verse suggest that Jacob had a vision?

W1828 free.  Which of those definitions fit here?  Is it the same for v26?

Jim F.:  “The ideas in this verse move from “you have seen Christ in his glory” to “your experience is the same as that of those who will know him when he comes to earth” to “the Spirit is the same at every time” to “the way for salvation has been prepared from the beginning and salvation is free.” It is not difficult to see the connection of the first three ideas, but how is the fourth idea connected to the three that precede it?”

Why is the Spirit being the same related to the similarity of blessings?

Could “the way” here have the semi-technical meaning that it has in the NT as a reference to Xianity?

What does ‘free’ mean in this verse?

5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.

Is the first sentence true of all people everywhere?  If not, why does Lehi say it?  If so, then why do we need proxy baptism, etc.?  Is Moroni 7:15-16 helpful here (meaning, is this referring to the light of Christ, which is given to all people)?

Does “sufficiently instructed” perhaps just refer to the Fall (meaning:  Adam and Eve knew the consequences of their actions)? (I am thinking that the “they” in this verse is Adam and Eve.)  If so, what to make of how they could know “good from evil” before they had eaten of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil”?

What is meant by temporal law and spiritual law?  Does it refer to the two “conflicting commandments” in Eden?  If so, which was which?

Perhaps the instruction here is a reference to the premortal life;  Robert D. Hales:

He taught that “men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.” This sacred instruction began in the heavens.  Apr 06 GC

Think about the relationship between the first two sentences:  What is the relationship between the law (of Moses) and knowing good from evil?

Do we get a distinction between the temporal law and the spiritual law in the OT?  If not, where does Lehi get it from?  What does it mean?

What is the point of the Lord giving a law that cannot be kept?  What does this practice suggest about the Lord?  (A hostile view would be something like this:  The Lord gave them a law they had no way of keeping to make them miserable.)

6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

The “in and through” makes me think that particular attention is being paid to the propositions in this verse.  With that in mind, what work are “in and through” doing here?

Why call him “Messiah” here instead of “Redeemer”?

“Messiah” is a Hebrew word that means ‘anointed.’  “Christ” is a Greek word that means ‘anointed.’  Why do you think the text here reads “Messiah” instead of “Christ” or “anointed”?

Why is Jesus’ being full of grace and truth relevant here?

7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

W1828 contrite:  “Literally, worn or bruised. Hence, broken-hearted for sin; deeply affected with grief and sorrow for having offended God; humble; penitent; as a contrite sinner.”  What would be a good modern translation for ‘broken heart and contrite spirit”?  Is it two ways of saying one thing, or two different things?

Richard G. Scott:

This absolute requisite of “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” prescribes the need to be submissive, compliant, humble (that is, teachable), and willingly obedient. Apr 97 GC

Ezra Taft Benson:

Godly sorrow is defined as a sorrow that leads us to repentance. Godly sorrow is a gift of the Spirit. It is a deep realization that our actions have offended our Father and our God. It is the sharp and keen awareness that our behavior caused the Savior, He who knew no sin, even the greatest of all, to endure agony and suffering. Our sins caused Him to bleed at every pore. This very real mental and spiritual anguish is what the scriptures refer to as having “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Such a spirit is the absolute prerequisite for true repentance.  Oct 89 GC

Richard G. Scott, referring to v6-7:

That scripture indicates that for the proud and haughty, it is as though there never were an Atonement made.  Apr 2010 GC

Why “the ends of”?  How would the verse be different without those words?  (Ends of usually means ‘purpose of.’)  What are the ends/purposes of the law?  Does knowing that the purpose of the law can’t be fulfilled without (1) Jesus offering himself as a sacrifice and (2) people with broken heart and contrite spirits teach you something about the purposes of the law?

8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

What does “according to the flesh” mean in this verse?  Does it relate to “no flesh can dwell” earlier in the verse?  Why the emphasis on flesh?

Jim F.:  “What does the phrase “merits, and mercy, and grace” mean? Should we understand each of those three terms separately, or should we understand the phrase as a unit? To think about what is being said here, ask yourself what it means to rely only on the merit of the Messiah. Then ask yourself what it means only to rely on his mercy. And then on his grace.”

Does the idea of doing “missionary work” imply that Lehi knew that Jacob would encounter other people in the promised land?

9 Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.

Why is firstfruits relevant here?

Jim F.:  “Lehi tells us that Christ is the firstfruits inasmuch as, or because, he intercedes. How does his intercession make him the firstfruits?”

What does this verse have to say about the interplay of faith and works?

10 And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement—

Does the “him” in “which is in him” refer to the person brought before God or to Christ?

How/why is happiness affixed to the law when we just heard that it was impossible to keep the whole law?

What does “to answer the ends of the atonement” mean?

11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born 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.

Why exactly does there need to be opposition in all things?

“all things must needs be a compound”–Is this a contrafactual (meaning:  if there wasn’t opposition, then all things would be compound)  If it is, then what do we learn about opposition if we take its, um, opposite to be “compound in one”?

Interesting thoughts on this verse here.

Webster 1828:  opposition:

1. Situation so as to front something else; a standing over against; as the opposition of two mountains or buildings.

2. The act of opposing; attempt to check, restrain or defeat. he makes opposition to the measure; the bill passed without opposition. Will any opposition be made to the suit, to the claim or demand?

3. Obstacle. the river meets with no opposition in its course to the ocean.

4. Resistance; as the opposition of enemies. Virtue will break through all opposition.

5. Contrariety; repugnance in principle; as the opposition of the heart to the laws of God.

6. Contrariety of interests, measures on designs. The two parties are in opposition to each other.

7. Contrariety or diversity of meaning; as one term used in opposition to another.

8. Contradiction; inconsistency.

9. The collective body of opposers; in England, the party in Parliament which opposed the ministry; in America, the party that opposed the existing administration.

10. In astronomy, the situation of two heavenly bodies, when distant from each other 180 degrees.

Do you think that there will be opposition in the post-mortal life?  If not, then how can there be righteousness?  If so, does that imply a continuation of earthly tests?  (It would, I think, also radically change our notion of ‘heaven.’)

What work does the (repetitive, unnecessary) reference to “my firstborn in the wilderness” do here?

Are holiness and misery opposites?

Jim F.:  “In the ancient Mediterranean Basin and Near East, many religions understood the world as a continuum: ultimately there is no difference between the lowest insect and the highest god; there is a unity of all-in-all, a state that could be described as “compound in one.” Some religions today hold similar beliefs. Perhaps Lehi has such religions in mind here. If so, why would he think it important to teach Jacob that they are false? If there must be opposition in all things for there to be good, why are those who oppose God’s law punished? What does “opposition” mean, “contrariety” or “difference”? My dictionary says that in the nineteenth century one of the meanings of “opposition” was “contrast.” Could that be the meaning here? Does that change our understanding of the verse? Does it follow from what Lehi says here that there must be evil acts?”

Are righteousness/wickedness and holiness/misery and good/bad three different things or three different ways of saying the same thing?  And how do these pairs relate to the pairs (life/death, corruption/incorruption, happiness/misery, sense/insensibility) later in the verse?

One of these things is not like the other:  how does the sense/insensibility (which has to do with the ability to perceive reality) relate to all of the other inverse pairs in this verse (which have to do with moral issues)?

Why is “all things compounded in one” a “therefore” statement?  How does it relate to the material that comes before it?

What does “if it should be one body” mean?

Dallin H. Oaks:

Brigham Young gave us some practical advice on how to do this. “The difference between God and the Devil,” he said, “is that God creates and organizes, while the whole study of the Devil is to destroy” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 69). In that contrast we have an important example of the reality of “opposition in all things.”  Apr 08 Liahona

Howard W. Hunter:

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” I have taken great comfort over the years in this explanation of some of life’s pain and disappointment. I take even greater comfort that the greatest of men and women, including the Son of God, have faced such opposition in order to better understand the contrast between righteousness and wickedness, holiness and misery, good and bad. From out of the dark, damp confinement of Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned that if we are called to pass through tribulation, it is for our growth and experience and will ultimately be counted for our good.  Nov 1987 Ensign

Neal A. Maxwell:

The plan [of salvation] always points the way, but does not always smooth the way, since individual development requires an “opposition in all things.” Apr 84 GC

A general thought about moral agency:  my belief in it took an enormous hit a few years ago when, in quick succession I had the following two experiences.  First, I read a book about life in North Korea.  I was left with the distinct impression that given the omnipresent disinformation to which North Koreans had been exposed, there was no meaningful sense in which they could be accountable for their beliefs and subsequent decisions.  Second, we had a 9mo foster baby.  Based on what I knew of his history and likely future, based on the behavior I saw in his 3yo brother, I would have bet any sum of money that the baby would serve time in jail at some point.  I was holding this innocent, precious, new baby when this thought came to me, and I was stunned.  In what sense does that child have agency?

Feast wiki:  “Does it follow from what Lehi says here that there must be evil acts?”

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.

I realize that it is just a counterfactual hypothetical, but I’m kind of fascinated that Lehi would even verbalize the possibility that God “messed up” by having the creation be for nothing.

What does this verse teach you about the purpose of creation?

To what does “this thing” refer?  (By which I mean:  what would destroy the wisdom of God?)

I think it is easier to understand why the wisdom and purpose of God would be for naught, but how does the power/mercy/justice fit in?

Remember that our initiating factor from the previous verse is opposition in all things.  This verse tells us that without opposition, God’s purpose and wisdom would be destroyed.  And, God’s power, mercy, and justice would be for nothing.  This is, to put it mildly, unusual doctrine.  To state it simply, God’s power would not exist without opposition.  God’s mercy would not exist without opposition.  It almost turns opposition into the prime mover.  What exactly is this opposition–is it simply Satan?  Or something else?  (See v15 for more on what the opposition is/was.)

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.

NB the “ye” here.  Do you think Jacob had toyed with the idea that there is no law, or is this merely a hypothetical?

Let me restate the propositions in this verse:

Law is required for sin.
Sin is required for righteousness.
Righteousness is required for happiness.
Righteousness and happiness are required for punishment and misery.
All of the above are required for God.
God is required for us and the earth.

Some of those statements are pretty well-accepted (Righteousness is required for happiness and God is required for us and the earth.); others, I think, are pretty surprising (Righteousness and happiness are required for punishment and misery and All of the above are required for God.)  What do you make of these statements?

This verse (and, to some extent, the surrounding material) reads almost like something out of an Intro to Logic textbook, something very unusual in the scriptures.  Why do you think Lehi spoke this way?

Why does Lehi divide the world into “things to act” and “things to be acted upon”?  What kinds of things would fit into each category?

I think the best reading of v13 is that it shows the necessity of the law by showing the results of its absence.  However, why would Lehi feel the need to raise a defense of the concept of law here?  (Grant Hardy points out that L&L are -not- violators of the law.  And to this point, the main issue separating L&L from Nephi has been (1) right to rule and (2) scripture interpretation, not law per se.)

James E. Faust:

I wish that I better understood all of the divine purposes in having to contend with so many painful irritants in this life. Lehi explained one reason: that we will appreciate and savor the goodness and loveliness of the world.   Apr 91 GC

14 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.

Why does he switch here to sons (plural)?

Is profit the same as learning?

David A. Bednar:

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation. Oct 06 GC

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.

Which fruit was bitter?  Which was sweet?  How do you know?  I think the assumption is that the forbidden fruit is bitter, but you’ve been to the temple, think about how Eve describes the fruit after eating it.  What do you make of that?

Harold B. Lee quoted v15 and then said:

In other words, he set the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in opposition to the tree of life. The fruit of the one which was “bitter” was the tree of life, and the forbidden fruit was the one which was “sweet to the taste.” Apr 56 GC

I thought I was crazy for thinking that the fruit of the tree of life was bitter!  But apparently no moreso than Pres. Lee!  Why would we characterize the fruit of the tree of life as bitter?

Why does Lehi call it “the forbidden fruit” as opposed to “the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”?  Is the phrasing a hint to his theology?

In what ways were the forbidden fruit “in opposition” to the tree of life? (I believe that most people think that Adam and Eve were able to eat of the tree of life *until* they ate of the fruit of the tree of k of g and e.  So before the Fall, were they really opposed?) Does the fact that it is “in opposition” make it good (see above, re the importance of opposition).

While the serpent encourages the consumption of the forbidden fruit, we are not told where the forbidden fruit comes from.  (Did the serpent create it?  Did God create it?  Is it eternal?  Something else?)  What does this teach us about opposition?

Just a reminder:  I think you can construe this passage to say that if the opposition inherent in the choice between the forbidden fruit and the fruit of the tree of life hadn’t existed, then God wouldn’t exist.  That is pretty trippy!

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.

Really?  Can we not choose without being enticed?

More thoughts about the enticement process:  What does it involve?  Who does it involve?

I assume that “man” is used generically here, but it is worth mentioning that the first man to chose was a woman.  If you read this verse and think about Eve, what would you conclude?  Is the message about gender?  If so, why isn’t Eve mentioned here?

Is it fair to say that this verse teaches that choice is something God gave humans and not inherent?

17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.

What work does “I, Lehi” do given that we already know who is speaking?

“According . . . written” is very interesting–why is that included?  Does “must needs suppose” combined with “I read it” serve as qualifiers–like he isn’t too sure about this?  Why would Lehi want Jacob (and us!) to know that he was working off of written texts and not direct revelation here?

I’m thinking that the reading reference points to the brass plates, but what in our OT might he have been reading?

Why “a” devil and not “the” devil here?

How does the fall of the angel relate to the fall of man?

I’m curious about the process to become a devil . . . is it the same as falling from heaven, or something different?

“Having sought that which was evil” is a great way of NOT telling us exactly what he sought.  Why isn’t Lehi more specific here about what exactly was done that was evil?

Matt Evans, commenting on Jim F’s notes:  “In verse 17, Lehi says an angel became the devil because he “sought that which was evil before God.” Does “before” in this instance means “in the presence of” or “instead of”.If the former, then the passage sheds some light on the reason we needed to be tested on earth, outside the presence of God, using faith: those spirits who didn’t become devils, and came to earth, were already proven in God’s presence. We were those spirits who would not choose evil if we had a perfect knowledge of God. To make this second probationary state significant, we needed a setting removed from God, dependent on faith. The Sons of Perdition are those who regress, choosing evil with perfect knowledge, failing the standard of the first estate and thereby becoming devils.”

18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.

Why would you seek other people’s misery?  What things do I do that cause other people to be miserable?

Brant Gardner:

Twice in that verse Lehi uses misery as an opposite, first for holiness and second for happiness. In the context of Lehi’s concerns, holiness and happiness must be seen as transcendental states, and happiness would be more than an ephemeral earthly feeling. For Lehi, these are parts of the eternal realm promised to us. When he contrasts that with misery, once again he refers to more than a temporary unhappiness. Satan is miserable not because he is unhappy, but because he is contrary to righteousness, contrary to holiness. He is miserable in contrast to the happiness and joy that are denied him. Citation

Robert D. Hales:

I once had an opportunity to accompany President Spencer W. Kimball to a distant land. We were given a tour of the various sites in the area, including underground catacombs—burial grounds for people who had been persecuted by Christian zealots. As we came up the dark, narrow stairs of that place, President Kimball taught me an unforgettable lesson. He pulled my coattail and said, “It has always troubled me what the adversary does using the name of our Savior.” He then said, “Robert, the adversary can never have joy unless you and I sin.”  Apr 06 GC

I am interested in the fact that Pres. Kimball brought the idea of Satan’s joy into this conversation . . .

Why introduce the idea of “serpent” here?

Isn’t it good to know good and evil?  Compare verse 5.

Following the logic of this verse, is what he said to Eve a lie?

Bruce Pritchett:

[Psalm 82:7, Job 31:33, and Ezekiel 28:11—19 . . . mention the fall of Adam in close connection with the fall of Satan.  Citation

And these are some of the very few OT references to the Fall.  Lehi also mentioned the Fall of humans in connection with the Fall of Satan.  I don’t think we usually link these two concepts together.  What is gained from thinking about them together?

Why “father” in this verse?

19 And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth.

This verse strikes me as a more traditional reading of the Fall as a big oops, and not the modern LDS reading.  What do you think is going on here?

Why do you think he elides the interaction between Adam and Eve (and the gender distinctions that we draw from that) here?

The focus on “drive out of garden” and “to till” puts the emphasis on the consequences that have to do with their relationship with the Earth, not so much with God or with each other.  Why do you think Lehi chose to emphasize that here?

20 And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth.

Interesting that in v19 “they” till and here “they” have children–no gender distinctions.

Why bother mentioning this at all if he isn’t going to elaborate on it?

21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.

What does prolonged mean?  Does it refer to the lengthy (but perhaps not literal?) lifespans in Genesis?  Why were prolonged days necessary for repentance?  Or does prolonged mean that they did not instantly die from eating the fruit (which is perhaps what Eve thought would happen before Satan tricked her, but then . . . does this mean he was right?)

How does “lost because of the transgression of their parents” relate to LDS rejection of original sin?

Feast wiki:  “Prolonged seems to be a reference to the fact that though God told Adam “in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” Adam does not die right away but is given time to repent. Note though that the subject here is not Adam but “the children of men.” Since for Lehi here Adam represents all of us, this change is natural.”

Do “days prolonged” and “time lengthened” refer to the same thing?

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

The previous verses have been remarkably gender-neutral; why just mention Adam here?

Joseph Fielding Smith:

I am very, very grateful for Mother Eve. If I ever get to see her, I want to thank her for what she did and she did the most wonderful thing that ever happened in this world and that was to place herself where Adam had to do the same thing that she did or they would have been separated forever. Joseph Fielding Smith, Take Heed to Yourselves, 291—92.

This verse seems closer to modern LDS readings of the Fall.

23 And they would have had no children; 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.

Point: children make you miserable.  :)

Jim F.:  “This verse connects having children directly to the necessity of opposition, with being able to have joy and being able to sin. Can you say explicitly what that connection is? Why is it that if Adam and Eve could not have had children they could not have known what joy was (because they wouldn’t know misery) and they couldn’t have done any good (because they wouldn’t know sin)? “

Given that it was the devil’s goal to make people miserable, how do you understand the reference to misery in this verse?

Are all of the consequences listed at the end of this verse specifically the result of having children?

Notice that this verse sets innocence and joy up as being incompatible.  What do you make of that?

Notice that this verse suggests that you can’t do good if you don’t know sin.  Is that accurate?

Notice joy : misery :: good : sin.  What does that relationship suggest?

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

Does this suggest that the Fall was the wisdom of God?  (I think the next verse supports that reading.)  If so, then how do you understand the previous point about the requirement for opposition, particularly as it relates to the trees in the garden, if partaking of the fruit of the tree of k of g and e was wisdom in God?

25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

Is joy really the ultimate purpose of human existence?  If you truly believed that, what might you do differently?

Jim F.:  “Is the word “Adam” being used here of only Father Adam, or is it being used as it is used in Genesis 1:27, “God created man [adam] in his own image, male and female created he them”?”

Dallin H. Oaks:

Joy is more than happiness. Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being. It comes from being complete and in harmony with our Creator and his eternal laws. Oct 1991 GC

How would you apply this verse to someone struggling with a great trial?

Howard W. Hunter:

Religion is often regarded as opposed to pleasure, but God’s reason for creating man is that he might have joy. “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” There is no reason why joy should be turned out-of-doors before religion can come in. Many people think of a religious person as one with a sad countenance and draped in black, but this is not so. When the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Savior, he said: “. . . Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” “. . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” Joy existed in the pre-existence before the foundations of the earth were laid, “. . . and all the sons of God shouted for joy” Peter, in his epistle, speaking of the appearance of Jesus Christ, said: “. . . though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” There is nothing sad or gloomy about a person who accepts the truths of the gospel and incorporates these principles in his daily living. God wants all of his children to be joyous and glad, and we can have this blessing if we are willing to keep his commandments and live by his word in all that we do. Thus living one’s religion must apply to temporal affairs as much as it does to those things which we think of as spiritual.
Oct 1961 GC

26 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.

How does this verse relate to the last verse?

Does this verse imply that knowing good from evil makes you free forever?

Jim F.:  “Lehi seems to equate three things, being free, knowing good and evil, and acting for oneself rather than being acted upon. How are those the same? What understanding of free agency does Lehi seem to have here?”

This verse suggests that the purpose of the redeemer is to redeem men from the fall.  The last verse suggests that the fall happened so that humans could exist and have joy.  How do you reconcile these two verses?

In what sense are we “free forever”?

Given that “the punishment of the law” is given here as an example of “being acted upon,” what does that suggest to you about what Lehi means when he makes this distinction of things that act versus things that are acted upon?

This verse suggests that redemption from the fall makes us know good and evil; I think a more traditional reading is that the fall itself makes us know good from evil.  How do you reconcile these two ideas?  (I’m sorry, I know this is crazy, but I can’t stay away from the idea that the serpent might represent Christ in the Genesis account.)

What do you make of “to act for themselves and not to be acted upon” as a result of the redemption?  Isn’t the redemption the ultimate in “being acted upon” since it is something that we couldn’t do for ourselves?

Jennifer Clark Lane:

In addition to identifying Yahweh, the Redeemer of Israel, with Jesus Christ, the writers of the Book of Mormon give another important insight into spiritual redemption by making a distinction between redemption from spiritual death and redemption from physical death. Lehi explains that the universal redemption from physical death is possible because “the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall” (2 Nephi 2:26). This physical redemption of the children of men is not complete redemption. It only makes men “free according to the flesh” and able “to choose liberty and eternal life” or to choose “captivity and death” (2 Nephi 2:27). In addition to this redemption from death brought about by the resurrection of Christ (Mormon 9:13), Christ’s suffering and atonement provide a redemption from hell, or spiritual bondage. Both Lehi and Nephi explicitly declare that the Lord “hath redeemed my soul from hell” (2 Nephi 1:15; 33:6).  Citation

Robert D. Hales:

In these latter days, as in the times of old, we must avoid being acted upon by acting for ourselves to avoid evil. The Holy Ghost will prompt us. Joseph was told to flee from Potiphar’s wife. Abraham obeyed the commandment to flee out of the land of Ur. Lehi was instructed to flee Jerusalem before it was destroyed. And to protect the Savior’s life, Mary and Joseph were prompted to flee into Egypt.  . . . But if we ignore those promptings, the light of the Spirit will fade. Our agency will be limited or lost, and we will lose the confidence and ability to act. Apr 06 GC

I like what he is adding to the idea of acting and acted upon . . .

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.

What does “according to the flesh” mean in this sentence?

In what sense are “all things” which are expedient given to people?  (Not everyone has enough food, access to the Gospel, peace, etc.)

Why the title mediator here, when redeemer and messiah were used previously?

What does the choice between liberty/eternal life and captivity/death suggest to you about the choices we make?

The opposition set up in this verse is between “through the Mediator” and “according to the captivity.”  What do you learn if you set mediation and captivity opposite each other?

Howard W. Hunter:

To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess. He wants to help us and pleads for the chance to assist us, but he will not do so in violation of our agency. He loves us too much to do that, and doing so would run counter to his divine character. Oct 1989 GC

28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;

Is “hearken/commandments” and “faithful/words” two different things or two ways of saying the same thing?

So when Lehi sets the choice out like this, it seems patently obvious what you should chose and why.  So why isn’t it obvious in real life?

29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.

NB that this verse sets the will of the flesh in opposition to the will of the Spirit in v28.  Does flesh refer to Satan or to human flesh?  (Perhaps Spirit should not be capitalized here, and it refers to human spirit.)  In either case, what does it mean to refer to the evil that is in the flesh?  Is this consonant with modern LDS views of the body?

Does the devil have a spirit?  What is Lehi talking about here?

W1828 ‘captivate’:

1. To take prisoner; to seize by force; as an enemy in war.

2. To subdue; to bring into bondage.

3. To overpower and gain with excellence or beauty; to charm; to engage the affections; to bind in love.

4. To enslave; with to; as, captivated to error.

30 I have spoken these few words unto you all, my sons, in the last days of my probation; and I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet. And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls. Amen.

He started talking to Jacob (v1) and ends up talking to his “sons.”  Is this deliberate for some reason and, if so, why?

Luke 10:28 is only other use of chosen/good/part.  Is that related here?  Does Lehi’s use suggest that Jesus and Lehi were quoting an otherwise-unknown proverb?

Who is “the prophet”?  Why isn’t the prophet named?

General thoughts:

(1) Chapter 1 is very similar to what we would expect from a farewell discourse (of which there are many in the Bible, and it would make a great study to compare them), but ch2 is not so much because of its focus on doctrine.  Why do you think Lehi departed from the standard format (which I think he would have been familiar with) to teach doctrine here?  Why is the longest blessing given to Jacob?

Robert D. Hales:

If we could leave one lesson of greatest importance for our children and grandchildren, what would it be? Of all the glorious principles of the gospel, Lehi chose to teach his son about the plan of salvation—and the gift of agency.  Apr 06 GC

(2) What is Lehi’s theology of the Fall?  Do you agree with this statement:

Bruce M. Pritchett:

Lehi taught that Adam’s fall did not directly transmit sin but rather created circumstances within the world such as death, opposition, temptation, and choice, which all humanity inherited (2 Nephi 2:11—16; see also Alma 42:9, 16—17). In other words, Lehi saw Adam’s fall as a transition from immortality to mortality, from an immortal realm to a mortal one.  Citation

Why is there so little about the Fall in the OT?  Conversely, why was the Fall important enough to Lehi to get such attention during such an important address?

Fortunate and negative consequences of the Fall–What does Lehi identify?  How are we to weigh the morality of an action with positive and negative consequences?

Jim F.:  “Why is the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden such an important scriptural story, so important that it is repeated for us more often than any other if we attend the temple regularly? If we think in types, how does their story give us a type for understanding our own lives?”

(3) Lehi as a Moses figure:

Noel B. Reynolds:

He led his people out of a wicked land because of commands received in visions from God, through the wilderness, across the sea, and to a promised land. And then he died, leaving it to others to establish the covenant people in the promised land.  . . . It was hard for [L&L] to believe that the kingdom of Judah was the wicked and soon-to-be-destroyed place their father described from his visions. The analogy between a thriving and prosperous Jerusalem and an oppressive Egypt of old was not easy for them to assimilate (see 1 Nephi 17:21–22). So in his final words to them, Lehi invokes the very phrases and concepts used by Moses in his farewell address to the Israelites, as recorded in Deuteronomy. In so doing, Lehi casts himself in a role similar to that of Moses, the great prophet revered by all Israel, in an eloquent attempt to bring his mur muring sons to accept and obey the successor leader the Lord had chosen. Citation  (If you are interested in this theme, read the entire article.)

Additional Resources:

Lehi’s Theology of the Fall in Its Preexilic/Exilic Context

Sunday School Lesson 6” (No one will be surprised that an LDS philosophy professor has some marvelous thoughts and insightful questions about 2 Nephi 2.)

Lehi As Moses”

To Act for Ourselves:  The Gift and Blessings of Agency

Lots of interesting comments here.


8 comments for “BMGD #6: 2 Nephi 1-2

  1. Thanks, Julie. Regarding 1:4, while I like the idea of a counterfactual vision, I think the counterfactual phrase about Lehi’s family being destroyed is more likely Lehi’s own conclusion resulting from his vision of Jerusalem’s destruction. I think the lack of a second “that” after the “and” suggests that the semicolon is the right punctuation here.

  2. Julie: The citation that is attributed to me was actually made by Brant Gardner it appears. I know that I didn’t say and your citation links to a commentary by Brant.

    However, I believe that the reason there is opposition in all things, that there are enticing alternatives calling to us, focuses on the necessity of lives options of choice for there to be morally significant choices. It fits in with the emphasis on acting for one’s self and not being merely acted upon. God made Adam and Eve free by giving them a choice to make and letting them choose for themselves which it would be.

    However, they would be unable to choose unless they were redeemed from the Fall in the sense that they can choose either good or evil, either life or death, and their very power to choose is made possible by the atonement — which in this context is not limited to Christ’s one-time sacrifice in his mortal life but the entirety of God’s plan for our growth and salvation from the devil and death.

  3. Satan has deceived the whole world Rev 12:9 until a woman delivers the true word to the world Rev 12:5, Rev 12:13 from the wilderness Rev 12:6. The true word proves by the word of God that not one child of God will be put in a hell fire no matter what their sins. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5. I invite you to hear the truth.

  4. Blake: Well said.

    Being “encircled about in the arms of his love” is the basic image of the Atonement that echoes through the scriptures, especially as I read it, the Book of Mormon. It is the image of the refugee fleeing his enemies across the wilderness and being embraced by a desert chieftain and given shelter andf protection in his tent, as he lays the corner of his robe over the shoulder of the supplicant. It is the welcome given to the prodigal son and to the lost prince in the Hymn of the Pearl, and the image that is the culmination of the temple endowment. More than anything else, it seems to me that this image is one of the best arguments for the embodiment of the Father, since he teaches us to expect his embrace.

  5. I just want to echo Blake’s final paragraph in #2. We quote verse 25 all the time, but I believe we don’t quote verse 26 nearly enough.

    John 8:32 says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” I read verse 26 as saying that it is the redemption that constitutes the truth that makes us free – that “justifies” the Fall (our separation from God) and gives us the insight to know good from evil. Iow, I don’t believe we know good from evil because we were removed from God’s presence (“fell”); I believe we know good from evil because a God agreed to redeem us from that separation and allowed us to be taught “truth”.

    What truth?

    That we actually are children of God who actually can become heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ. That simple “good news” makes us free to act upon hopes we can’t see (faith), act to change our very nature (repent), act to be cleansed symbolically (baptism) and act in an attempt to know God’s will (Holy Ghost). It’s an acceptance of the Atonement / redemption in all its marvelous glory (not “denying the power thereof”) that constitutes the truth that makes us free to act and not be acted upon.

    Verse 26 says all of that, imo – and I continually am blown away by how concisely it does so.

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