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God in 1 Nephi 19

God of Abraham • God of Isaac • God of Israel

God of Jacob • God of nature • God of our fathers

Holy One of Israel • Lord • Lord God

Lord their Redeemer • Spirit of God

1 Nephi 19:12

The God of nature suffers

The Book of Mormon shows

that God gives signs to many people to eventually bring them to faith

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.

Again, we can see fulfillment of the first part of this verse’s prophecy in 3 Nephi.  However, I do not know how this prophecy was more widely fulfilled.  When we have a more complete history of the world, particularly the ancient non-IndoEuropean/Middle Eastern world, we will no doubt know.

1 Nephi 19:13

They reject signs and wonders, and the power and glory of God

The Book of Mormon teaches

that Jerusalem would be scourged because of the people’s unbelief

And as for those who are at Jerusalem, saith the prophet,

they shall be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel,

and turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders,

and the power and glory of the God of Israel.

Throughout history the Jews have been hated because they crucified the Son of God.  It does no good to try hating the Romans; their empire was totally destroyed, replaced by the Christian nation of Italy.  This sort of prophecy should not be used to justify hatred and persecution of the Jewish people; it is a prophecy of what would be, and we know that it came to pass.  It is not a commandment of God’s will.  

Nephi does not stop at the crucifixion, horrendous as was that act.  He goes on to condemn the Jews for turning aside their hearts and rejecting the signs and wonders that they received.  They rejected the power and glory of the God of Israel.

In our day, our culture has also rejected the signs and wonders of the Restoration.  When they do not make a mock of them, they treat them as trivialities.

Our society, our world today, also rejects the power and glory of God.  It rejects the voice of the Holy Ghost, calling it “emotion.”  On the one hand we hear, “You cannot trust your emotions,” and on the other “Each person decides for himself what his values are, what is right and wrong for him.”  There are even so-called scientific studies purporting to identify which areas of the brain are engaged, during “spiritual” episodes, reducing the Holy Ghost merely to a brain-state to be entered at will by following various practices.  But the Holy Ghost is like the wind, which bloweth where it listeth, and it is unlikely that He ever chose to be present in such “scientific” studies.

Our world rejects the power and glory of Jesus Christ.  The gift of the resurrection of our bodies is universally disdained as people believe that the higher plain of existence is without a body.  The gift of atonement and forgiveness of sins is rejected as people believe that whatever they do is right for them, as long as they obey the current laws of the government.

The world despises the power and glory of the Father, who invites all to join His family through the sealing power available in the holy temples.  Marriage and family, God’s first commandment to people in this life, was viewed as the only relationship in which to express intimacy, the anchor of a family, a secure and committed institution into which to bring children, the foundation of civil society.  The world now relegates to marriage a place in the corner, a sentimental relic of the past, but not necessary or even advisable for most people.  Worse, marriage has become a sordid legal arrangement attempting to give validity to lewd behavior.

Before we castigate the Jews for crucifying the mortal Jesus, we might ask where our hearts are. Are they turned aside in any way?  Are we rejecting signs and wonders in favor of the mundane and current?  Do we accept and rejoice in the power and glory of God?

1 Nephi 19:14

They despised the Holy One of Israel

The Book of Mormon prophesies

of the great tribulation the Jews would suffer through the ages

And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet,

and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh,

and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations.

The literal fulfillment of this prophecy, written well-before the Holocaust, is probably one of the few facts of history that everyone agrees on.

Considered more symbolically and universally, we can see that our own society, originally a Christian nation, which has turned its heart aside and now despises the Holy One of Israel, is wandering aimlessly.  We may still have some inertia from our founding direction, but we are blown hither and thither wherever the gods of opinion, the authority which issues from Hollywood, the ever-changing and ever-degrading edicts of the media outlets direct.

1 Nephi 19:15

He will remember the covenants which He made to their fathers

The Book of Mormon teaches that the day will come

when the house of Israel will no more turn their hearts against their God

Nevertheless, when that day cometh, saith the prophet,

that they no more turn aside their hearts against the Holy One of Israel,

then will he remember the covenants which he made to their fathers.

God waits patiently.  He does not force people to have faith in Him, because that would not be faith.  He does not force people to respect His way, because that is not His way.  But He also does not give up or hold grudges.  His covenants are ready and waiting for when people are ready to receive them.

1 Nephi 19:16

“All the people of the house of Israel will I gather in”

The Book of Mormon teaches

that God anticipated the time when He would effect the great gathering

Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea,

and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, according to the words of the prophet Zenos, from the four quarters of the earth.

Zenos, and Nephi, are describing a 3-tier dispensation plan of bringing the gospel to the officially identified Jews, the rest of the house of Israel scattered abroad, and the rest of mankind.  The first dispensation described is in the Meridian of Time, when Jesus walked among the Jews at Jerusalem, and then, after His resurrection, visited the isles of the sea, and all the house of Israel.

The second dispensation described, “when the day cometh,” the Jews of Jerusalem will again receive the covenants of the Lord.  The isles of the sea and all the house of Israel will also be gathered in to the covenants, from all over the world.

1 Nephi 19:17

All the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches

that God will bless every nation, kindred, tongue, and people

Yea, and all the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord, saith the prophet;

every nation, kindred, tongue and people shall be blessed.

Thus is the glorious culmination of Zenos’s vision, and Nephi’s teachings in this chapter.  It has moved through the rejection, suffering, and death of the Holy One of Israel by the Jews and “the world,” to His mercy and longsuffering in continuing to offer His covenants to them, to the day when they accept and appreciate that offer.

1 Nephi 19:18

Remember the Lord their Redeemer

The Book of Mormon writers

wanted to persuade all who read to remember the Lord

And I, Nephi, have written these things unto my people, that perhaps I might persuade them that they would remember the Lord their Redeemer.

Nephi began this chapter explaining why he is making these plates and writing this record – to keep the commandments of God and to testify of sacred things.  He has taken his readers through hell and heaven.  We have seen the greatest evil in men, and we have seen God continue to extend His hand of mercy to these same sinners, always inviting them to repent and come.  No matter where a person may be in this spectrum, he may find a place in God’s kingdom and God’s salvation.  This is Nephi’s power of persuasion.

Nephi does not labor under the delusion that his children will always be faithful, that they will build on his faith and foundation and improve with every generation.  We see this in science and technology, but we rarely if ever now see it in families. Nephi knows that his own posterity are just like the rest of humankind, and they need persuasion to come back to the Lord their Redeemer.  

1 Nephi 19:20

The Lord was merciful

The Book of Mormon teaches that God mercifully separates the righteous

from the consequences the wicked receive

For behold, I have workings in the spirit,

which doth weary me even that all my joints are weak,

for those who are at Jerusalem; for had not the Lord been merciful,

to show unto me concerning them, even as he had prophets of old,

I should have perished also.

This is a strange verse.  First it looks like Nephi is expressing deep compassion for the distressed of Jerusalem.  But he switches from concern for them to thankfulness that he is not sharing their fate.  Furthermore, it’s strange that Nephi says the Lord showed him concerning Jerusalem.  In the record so far, the Lord didn’t show Nephi, He showed Lehi.  Nephi believed Lehi, but in his own subsequent vision the immediate fate of Jerusalem is not mentioned (though of course it could have been part of the vision that Nephi did not detail for us).  But it was the visions and revelations of Lehi that brought the family out of Jerusalem, that saved them from perishing likewise.  Nephi is never reticent in speaking of his own feelings and accomplishments, and he also gives us a view of his weaknesses in 2 Nephi 4.  So in this verse, either he is getting carried away taking credit to himself for what Lehi did, or he was copying something from the Book of Lehi, and it kind of got mixed up in his own message.

Perhaps this verse is an example for us.  We can see in our world today people happily living their lives without God, or going through the motions.  We feel an urgency to tell them to repent, but generally they’re not interested.  So we may feel “workings in the spirit.”  We may feel all our joints weak.  Nephi seems to tell us, “Move on quickly from those feelings.  Move on to gratitude to the Lord for His mercy, for whatever knowledge and testimony you have.  And remember that my knowledge and testimony was not operational until we got up and followed the Lord’s commands for our lives.”

1 Nephi 19:21

He did show unto prophets of old

The Book of Mormon teaches

that God reveals much to prophets through the ages

And he surely did show unto the prophets of old all things concerning them;

and also he did show unto many concerning us;

wherefore, it must needs be that we know concerning them

for they are written upon the plates of brass.

Nephi has described a triangle, with the prophets of old at one apex, the Jews of Jerusalem at another, and the Lehi group at the third.  Nephi recognizes that the prophets of old are no more, but they are part of the conversation because of their writings.  His group has diverged from those at Jerusalem, so they will never have current news concerning them.   But the prophets of old, in their writings, have made their unseen history and future accessible.

The words of prophets, whether of old or contemporary, are more useful than the words of other commentators.  Other commentators may describe a culture, but the prophets always direct the attention to God’s culture, encouraging any people to use that as a guide and goal, and as a standard of comparison.

1 Nephi 19:22

The doings of the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches that

we should value and read all the scriptural records concerning different peoples

Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, did teach my brethren these things;

and it came to pass that I did read many things to them,

which were engraven upon the plates of brass,

that they might know concerning the doings of the Lord in other lands,

among people of old.

This is obviously an interpolation by Nephi, interrupting the flow of his historical rendering, and speaking from the time when he is making the 2nd set of plates, namely, many years after their arrival in the New World.  From that perspective he can say they read of the doings of the Lord in many lands, because they are no longer in the land of Jerusalem.  Did the brass plates record “many” lands, or just the land of Israel, as our current Old Testament does?

How blessed we are in these days to be the recipients of so many records from people of old – Nephi’s 1000-year history, the Jaredites’ history, the Biblical history, more information on Moses and Abraham and Enoch, and even our own Latter-day Saint history.  We can know so much of the doings of the Lord among people!

1 Nephi 19:23

Believe in the Lord their Redeemer

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the words of Isaiah are of particular worth in building faith and knowledge

And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer

I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah;

for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.

Most of our Old Testament stories come from the book of Moses.  Children know all these stories.  Few of us are conversant with Isaiah.  The Isaiah passages that we are familiar with have been extracted from their surroundings and given a certain interpretation.  

Nephi first says that the words of Isaiah testify more fully of the Lord our Redeemer than other parts of the Old Testament.  That is probably true, but now it is hard to understand why we might prefer to read these words of Isaiah over words from the New Testament or 3 Nephi, which describe so plainly His words and works, and which we have available to us, which were not available to Nephi.

Second, Nephi says he likens all scriptures to himself or his group.  I can see that that might have been justified, because they were obviously a branch of the house of Israel broken off, and there are many scriptures that discuss this situation. But I have a hard time likening Isaiah-type scriptures unto myself, because I don’t know that every historical scenario Isaiah talks about applies to every people.

Nephi concludes by saying that likening scriptures unto himself, or reading the words of Isaiah, was for their profit and learning.  Actually, there is a lot of power in likening scriptures unto oneself, even if it isn’t justified historically.  That’s the current focus of Latter-day Saint adult Sunday school lessons.  “How can I do like this good example, or how can I avoid doing like this bad example, or how have I been blessed by following the principle described here” dominates the discussion topics.

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God in 1 Nephi 19 by the Numbers

24 verses

God is mentioned by name:  17 verses = 71%

God is mentioned by pronoun:  3 verses = 12%

Verses about God:  20 verses = 83%

God of Abraham: 1

God of Isaac: 1

God of Israel: 3

God of Jacob: 1

God of nature: 1

God of our fathers: 1

Holy One of Israel: 2

Lord: 8

Lord God: 1

Lord their Redeemer: 2

Spirit of God: 1