1 Nephi 22 God in the Book of Mormon

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God in 1 Nephi 22


Father of Heaven • God • Holy One of Israel

the Lord • Lord God • Lord your God

Mighty One of Israel • Prophet • Redeemer

Savior • Shepherd • the Spirit



1 Nephi 22:2


By the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Spirit of God reveals the future to prophets


And I, Nephi, said unto them:

Behold they were manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit;

for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets,

which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh.


Laman and Lemuel, facing Isaiah without inspiration, are confused.  Is it spiritual or temporal?  Is it literal or figurative?  We all ask these questions.  Nephi, who has seen the vision and been instructed personally by the Spirit, first points them to the true source of understanding the scriptures:  the Spirit.  

The Spirit reveals.  The Spirit explains.  The Spirit brings things to our remembrance.  The Spirit teaches the things of God.  It’s futile to try to understand the scriptures without the guidance of the Spirit, or at least inviting the Spirit to contribute to one’s understanding.  But that’s what Laman and Lemuel (and maybe we sometimes, too) continue to do.

People sometimes demand that the prophets today produce the kind of vision revelations that we read about in the scriptures.  Nephi points to the Spirit as the source of revelation.  The Spirit may choose to manifest truth through dreams or visions, literal or allegorical, but it is His choice.  If He chooses to manifest as a Still Small Voice, we should not depreciate that.  The Spirit is a member of the Godhead, and when we have a message from the Spirit, it is as sacred as any other message from God.

1 Nephi 22:5


These things have been prophesied concerning them

The Book of Mormon teaches that God’s people were scattered and confounded because they hardened their hearts against Him


And since they have been led away,

these things have been prophesied concerning them,

and also concerning all those who shall hereafter be scattered and be confounded, because of the Holy One of Israel; for against him will they harden their hearts; wherefore, they shall be scattered among all nations and shall be hated of all men.


Lehi’s colony understands that they are of the House of Israel, and they are officially “scattered” to another land, the Promised Land.  They clearly know their identity, and cannot imagine their people losing that identity. Laman and Lemuel may imagine pockets of Israelites scattered throughout the world, living independently as children of Israel.  

But Nephi adds another dimension to the scattering: “confounded.”  One definition of “confound” is “mix up (something) with something else so that the individual elements become difficult to distinguish.”  That is particularly meaningful in the context of the scattering of Israel.  They will become so mixed in with the other “nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples” of the earth that they will no longer know who they are.  And when they do know who they are, they will be “defeated, overthrown.”

This will happen to them because they reject the Holy One of Israel, the Lord.  Nephi is speaking to people who themselves are on the path to reject Him, and whose seed will be scattered, confounded, and hated, without even knowing their identity as children of Israel.


1 Nephi 22:6


The Lord will lift up His hand upon the Gentiles

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the Gentiles will be blessed to help the House of Israel


Nevertheless, after they shall be nursed by the Gentiles,

and the Lord has lifted up his hand upon the Gentiles

and set them up for a standard,

and their children have been carried in their arms,

and their daughters have been carried upon their shoulders,

behold these things of which are spoken are temporal;

for thus are the covenants of the Lord with our fathers;

and it meaneth us in the days to come,

and also all our brethren who are of the house of Israel.

This verse is interesting, because Nephi quotes Isaiah, who so often speaks in symbolic language, and says these things are temporal: they will happen in this life. He does not say they are literal.  Nursing a baby is a specific, literal act, but in this scripture it is symbolic.  The Lord has literal hands, but in this verse His hand is symbolic.  In some cultures and ages certain people have been carried by other people, but in this verse it is symbolic.

This is not an easy verse to parse.  Nephi has begun at the end of the Isaiah section that he just read, and says that something important, the crucial point of the scripture, will come after that, thus confirming the idea that the previous verses were included in a chiasm, and were not in a strictly chronological listing.

 However, if this is what Nephi is saying, he loses his train of thought halfway through the verse.  He doesn’t ever say what comes after these Gentile and house of Israel blessings.

We might consider that the “after” phrase is a connecting phrase from the previous verse, and that it might better be rendered “afterward.”  They shall be scattered, and afterward they shall be nursed, etc.  The succeeding past participle verbs are awkward with this interpretation.

This verse is more of an introductory paragraph, to be expounded on in the following verses.  In verses 3-5 Nephi explains the scattering of Israel.  He now introduces the gathering, not with that word, but using the words of Isaiah 49.


1 Nephi 22:7


The Lord God will raise up a mighty nation upon the face of this land

The Book of Mormon prophesied

that the American colonists would scatter the native Americans


And it meaneth that the time cometh

that after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded,

that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles,

yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered.


Just a few hundred years after the Meridian of Time, when Jesus lived, taught, and atoned, all the house of Israel had been scattered and confounded.  Jerusalem was destroyed and Israel ceased to exist as a nation in 70 A.D.  The Book of Mormon concludes in 420 with no one left alive who knew Christ. No believing Jews survived into the period of the medieval Christian Church, and even the believing Gentiles who we may assume were adopted into the house of Israel through their faith had only a dim understanding of the glory of God and His plans for mankind.

Nephi supports our assertion that chapter 21 is about the Promised Land.  Of course we easily recognize the United States of America as the mighty nation raised up by God.  The faith of the original pilgrims for several generations, and the miracles that accompanied America’s victory in their War for Independence against a vastly superior empire are evidence that God raised up that nation.  We also easily recognize that the new Americans in burgeoning numbers, both before and after their national founding, scattered the native Americans in their constant push for more land.


1 Nephi 22:8


The Lord God would do a marvelous work among the Gentiles

The Book of Mormon prophesied

that the restoration of the gospel would bless the native Americans


And after our seed is scattered

the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles,

which shall be of great worth unto our seed;

wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles

and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.


The marvelous work has long been recognized by Latter-day Saints as the restoration of the fulness of the gospel, including its introduction, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

The conquest of the Native Americans by the new Americans continued up through 1924.  However, the last action east of the Mississippi (and not in the South) was during the War of 1812, just before the introduction to the Restoration.

This marvelous work is particularly of great worth to the children of Lehi, because it gives them a knowledge of their first parents, and of their heritage as children of Israel, a chosen people in a choice land, and points them to Christ.  (see Jacob 4:2-5)


1 Nephi 22:9


The covenants of the Father of heaven

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the restored gospel makes known God’s covenants


And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles;

and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel,

unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.


Nephi lists two other groups who will be blessed by this marvelous work:  Gentiles and all the house of Israel.  As I read this, I feel like a person whose eyes function independently.  One eye sees myself as a Gentile in the Gentile nation.  The other eye sees myself as an Ephraimite who worships among other Ephraimites, with a sprinkling of the other tribes.  It is through the marvelous work that I can consider myself an Ephraimite.  In fact, when faced with the ubiquitous question, “What is your race or ethnicity?” I identify more with being of Ephraim than any of the other choices  (but I don’t write it 😊).  

Whatever race, ethnicity, nation, kingdom, tongue, people or kindreds one descends through or identifies with, the blessings of the restoration of the gospel are fully offered to him.

Nephi calls God “the Father of heaven.”  Then he mentions the covenants given to Abraham.  Through the marvelous work or the restored gospel we receive the covenants that God has designed to bring us to Him.  We enter the covenant of baptism, promising to follow Jesus Christ and to serve and become members of His Church and Kingdom.  Men receive the oath and covenant of the priesthood.  We receive the endowment covenants to direct us in purifying our lives.  And finally we receive the sealing ordinance which points directly to God as our Father, and through which we all become of one kindred, the children of Adam and Eve.


1 Nephi 22:10


He shall make bare His arm


And I would, my brethren,

that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed

unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations.


I’ve never really figured out what “make bare his arm” means.  I suppose that it means that He steps in and changes the course of events to favor His people and plans.  It also seems to harbor a threat of some sort, even in the accompanying language.  Nephi is describing God doing something wonderful, and people being blessed.  Then he says that the only way this can be accomplished is for God to make bare his arm.  It’s like telling the children, “We will go to the zoo!  But first we have to clean the house.”  First we are given the vision of future bliss, then our attention is directed to some sort of unpleasantness on the road we must pass through before we get there.


1 Nephi 22:11


Bringing about his covenants and his gospel

The Book of Mormon teaches

that God will do what is needed to bring people His covenants and His gospel


Wherefore,

the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations,

in bringing about his covenants and his gospel

unto those who are of the house of Israel.


Whatever it specifically means to make bare His arm, it will result in people being able to receive the gospel, including the covenants.  Perhaps this has to do with breaking down political barriers to teaching the gospel.  Perhaps it has to do with the technological advances that have allowed genealogical and temple work to flourish and blossom exponentially.


1 Nephi 22:12


They shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the Mighty One of Israel will gather His people to lands of inheritance


Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity,

and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance;

and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness;

and they shall know that

the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.


This verse is an example of an alternate parallel structure (ABAB).  Recognizing the literary structure allows the reader to better appreciate the relationships of the topics discussed.

A. He will bring them out of captivity

   B.  They shall be gathered to their lands

A. He will bring them out of darkness and obscurity

   B.  They will know Him as their Savior and Redeemer

Specifically, Nephi says He will bring them again out of captivity.  This is a brief allusion to his vision as recorded in 1 Nephi 13:13, where European people found refuge in the New World, and began to establish a society of freedom.  The Promised Land will again become a land of refuge during the latter-day worldwide persecutions and tribulations.  God will bring them out from the lands of oppression and into a land of inheritance.

Second, He will bring them out of spiritual darkness and obscurity.  They do not even know who they are; they believe they are part of the billions of insignificant people on this planet.*  But they will come to know God as their Savior and Redeemer.  They will know how precious they are in His sight, and that His infinite atonement, grace, and love reach to them personally.  They will know and accept His covenants, and recognize that they are and always have been His chosen and covenant people.  He will bring them in to His fold.

The Promised land is just dirt and rocks and trees and rivers.  But it has always been called to host God’s exiles, and to provide the location where they may flourish and know Him.  Thus it can be called His servant, and placed in a parallel with the Lord.


*[God does not believe in the “insignificant people” concept.  It is a short-sighted human construct.  He offers each of his children on this planet the opportunity to be part of this group of righteous people, children of Abraham through their faith.]  


1 Nephi 22:14


They shall fall into the pit which they digged

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the wicked people and organizations will destroy themselves


And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel,

shall be turned one against another,

and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord.  And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed,

and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord,

yea, that great and abominable church,

shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.


Nephi now turns from the blessed state of the righteous in the Promised Land to the wretched end of the wicked in the rest of the world.  Significantly, God is not in the previous verse, but the emphasis is that the great and abominable church will destroy itself, by its “own heads,” “own hands,” “own blood.”  

Verse 14 says that the wicked nations will be one against the other, implying that they are members of the umbrella organization of the great and abominable. This organization purports to do good, but it is a perversion of God’s way.

What pit have the wicked dug to ensnare the people of God, that they themselves can fall into it?

Although this is a prophecy of the future, we can see it as a warning to ourselves.  It is a severe warning to those who threaten to destroy Zion, and to those who pervert the right ways of the Lord.  Therefore we will want to firmly reject any such philosophy and plant ourselves securely in the midst of Zion, with the Zion mindset of loving our neighbors.  Our reaction to hate, rejection, and ridicule must not be a reciprocity of the evil, but a reflection of the love of Christ.

1 Nephi 22:16


He will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous

The Book of Mormon teaches that no matter how dire world conditions appear, God’s plan will save those who follow His way


For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God

shall be poured out upon all the children of men;

for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.

 

Nephi uses the phrase “wrath of God.”  He has previously used this phrase to describe four discrete historical events:

1.  The wrath of God was upon the native Americans in the Promised Land, when they were scattered by the immigrating European colonists.  The natives lost their land, and the colonists, who at that time worshipped God according to their abilities and knowledge, gained it.  (1 Nephi 13:11-14)

2.  The wrath of God was upon the English empire, when they exercised dominion against the American colonists.  They lost their hold in the new world, and a new nation, based upon individual liberty, was born.  (1 Nephi 13:18)

3.  In the latter days, the wrath of God will be upon the great and abominable church, resulting in wars and rumors of wars.  This must be done that the “work of the Father” can commence, in fulfilling His covenants to his people.  The wicked suffer so that the righteous can obtain blessings. (1 Nephi 14:15-17)

4.  Nephi explained to his brothers that the wrath of God was upon the heathen people who inhabited the Promised Land of Palestine, so that the land was cursed to them, but blessed to the more righteous Israelites, so that they obtained possession of it. (1 Nephi 17:35)

The Old Testament describes some miracles that facilitated the Israelite conquest of their Promised Land, such as when Joshua and Caleb held up Moses’s hands, so that their armies prevailed, or the fall of the walls of Jericho.  But in our American history courses, as taught in our public schools, any recognition of God’s hand or miraculous occurrences is left out.  Fortunately, more open-minded historians have filled in the gap.  Historian and author Thomas Fleming wrote in an essay titled “13 Ways America Could Have Lost the American Revolution:”

When a historian ponders the what-ifs of the American Revolution, chills run up and down and around the cerebellum. There were almost too many moments when the Patriot cause teetered on the brink of disaster, to be retrieved by the most unlikely accidents or coincidences or choices made by harried men in the heat of conflict.


Those who look can see God’s hand in the freeing of this Land from overseas dominion.

Nephi’s use of “the wrath of God” means something more than, or other than, mere anger at wickedness.  It is much more specific than the generalized idea of the wrath of God against the wicked found in the Old Testament.  In each of Nephi’s references (so far) a group of God’s people need a home, or they need help to not be destroyed.  The wicked are occupying a land, or they have “legitimate government authority” to oppress the righteous.  God intervenes in behalf of His people, with the result that the wicked lose their land and/or their authority, so that the righteous may have it.  His wrath is always purposeful, always a necessary step in achieving His objectives in behalf of the righteous.  He allows all His children their agency, but when one group becomes so powerful that they threaten the earthly experience of agency among those who are choosing the right, He steps in to correct the balance.

Verse 16 is consistent with Nephi’s previous use of the phrase.  God’s wrath will be poured out because His people are threatened by the wicked.  (This fifth use of the “wrath of God” event is probably the same as #3 above.)


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