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God in 2 Nephi 2

God • Great Mediator • He Who Knoweth All  Things

Holy Messiah • Holy One • Holy Spirit • Lord God

Messiah • Redeemer • Spirit

2 Nephi 2:2

Thou knowest the greatness of God

The Book of Mormon teaches that God uses our afflictions for our gain

[And behold, 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.

Lehi introduces us to his son Jacob using wording similar to Nephi’s self-introduction in 1 Nephi 1:1.  Nephi has seen many afflictions, and Jacob has suffered afflictions, which will be for his gain.  Nephi knows the goodness and mysteries of God, and Jacob knows the greatness of God.  Although Nephi’s account begins in his adolescent years, it was a mature Nephi who compiled and wrote his final history on the small plates.  Lehi is speaking to Jacob as a young person.

Even in this introduction Lehi is laying out the motif for his whole presentation to this “first-born in the wilderness” son:  opposition, contrast, choice, which he will encapsulate in the memorable verse 11.  The joy of Jacob’s birth tempered the privations of the wilderness sojourn; the rudeness of his brothers is overcome by the greatness of God; afflictions will result in gain.

This verse is a microcosm for our goal for earth-life, whether we are in our youth like Jacob or looking back on many years like Nephi.  The details differ, but we all have had afflictions which have plagued us.  The solution is to turn to God and acknowledge His greatness.  When we truly “know” the greatness of God, we know that the Savior descended below all things.  We know that He “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Mosiah 14:4). The other half of the greatness of God is “Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes . . . the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.”  We look to God, trusting that through His greatness we will overcome those tribulations and afflictions.

2 Nephi 2:3

The righteousness of thy Redeemer

The Book of Mormon teaches that

we are redeemed through Christ’s righteousness

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.

Lehi lays out Jacob’s life before him:  He is not to have leadership, which belongs to Laman, but which he must earn, and which will probably end up with Nephi.  He is to serve God in the ministry.  Lehi and Nephi may have both preferred for Laman to take his rightful place as the leader of the family group, and let Nephi be the spiritual leader.  As we know, that was not to be.  While the great Nephi took both responsibilities during his lifetime, his posterity did not continue in the prophetic role; that fell to Jacob, as Lehi had hinted.

Lehi says “Thou hast beheld.”  We don’t know what sort of visions Jacob enjoyed.  Although he did write his own book, following Nephi’s instructions, he did not write of his own vision or visions.  We do know that he saw his Redeemer, so he was able to testify as prophets do.

2 Nephi 2:4

Thou has beheld his glory

The Book of Mormon teaches that

God prepared the way of salvation from the very beginning

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.

Lehi moves quickly in this speech to establish it on a very different basis.  His whole speech to Laman and Lemuel was one of persuasion, admonition, and warning.  Really it was all about them.

In this verse, Lehi continues discussing Jacob’s own experiences, but then introduces the topic that he will share with this son, a discussion of the plan of salvation.  There is a lot of movement and broadening in this verse:

2 Nephi 2:6

Redemption cometh through the Holy Messiah

The Book of Mormon teaches that Christ redeems us through his grace and truth

[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.]

Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah;

for he is full of grace and truth.

The preceding verse is interesting in that it is written in such a way as to deliberately leave out any mention of God, though we know He undergirds it all.  God provides instruction for humankind, but the scripture merely says, in the passive tense, “they are instructed.”  God administers the law, but Lehi says “the law is given.”  God has stepped aside to describe our miserable situation, and we find ourselves painted into a corner.  

Therefore when Lehi says that the Holy Messiah brings redemption, by extension we know that He is the solution to the quandary in which we find ourselves.  Without further explanation, we know that He will somehow bring us back from being cut off temporally and spiritually.

The statement that He is full of grace and truth does not stand alone, though it could.  We can admire the Lord in a vacuum for these qualities which He possesses and has developed.  But in the context of Lehi’s dissertation, it may mean that because of His grace and truth He is able to act as the Messiah and bring redemption. Or it may mean because of His grace and truth He is willing to do so.

2 Nephi 2:7

He offereth Himself

The Book of Mormon teaches that only those who have

a broken heart and contrite spirit can access the power of Christ’s sacrifice

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.

“To answer the ends of the law” is a phrase relating to the Savior and salvation found only in the Book of Mormon. Somehow that phrase, coupled with the idea that if the ends of the law are not answered, we will be “cut off,” suggests a visual image of some sort.  Something like a person out on a branch, sawing off the branch so that he falls down with the branch.  Or a person’s works being like a holey, Swiss cheese board, unable to support one, so he falls through the crumbling substance.  He needs the Savior to fill in all the cracks and holes and make it whole.

Those with a broken heart and contrite spirit recognize the inadequacy of their own works and their need for completion and personal restoration, and so they are candidates for His grace.  Others admire the variety and diversity of the holes, so that is their reward.  Those with a broken heart and contrite spirit recognize the enormity of the Savior’s contribution, and respecting that, they do all they can on their side.  Others blame God for their own actions (“He made me this way”) or expect to be saved without any effort on their part.

2 Nephi 2:8

How great the importance to make these things known!

The Book of Mormon teaches that

all the world must be told of Christ’s great work of atonement

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.

In context, this very big-picture mission is a lesson to a future spiritual leader of a small and isolated people.  Jacob will later say that they tried in vain to teach these things to the children of Laman, who had separated from them (Jacob 7:24).  Jacob will also describe a man who “came among the Nephites” with the intent to tear down their faith in the coming Christ (Jacob 7:1).  Were the Nephites a tribe among other indigenous peoples?  Did they share their faith, and was this a reaction to their outreach?  They were essentially an Old Testament part of Israel, and Old Testament Israel did not proselyte; it was all they could do to keep themselves faithful to Jehovah.

But the visionary Lehi, who had seen the future history of the world, knew that teaching redemption through Christ to all the inhabitants of the earth would cause the most good in that history.  We can see that is true, as we consider the difference in the world’s values today, after 2000 years of teaching these things, albeit in a less-than-pure form.  Perhaps he even saw our day, as did Mormon, and, through inspiration, included these words for us.  Whatever Lehi might have known, they are indeed for us.

Latter-day Saints believe that pre-mortally we all dwelled in God’s presence.  People who have chosen to live as saints or sinners, spirits who would later follow Satan and not even be born into mortality – all of us were in His presence.  Now that we have passed through mortality, we have taken on flesh.  This period is a great testing, sifting, and dividing process.  We will never again, as the same group, dwell with Him.  That opportunity has passed, and now we have the opportunity to return only by accessing the power of the Holy Messiah.

Lehi describes the Messiah’s contrasting actions:  He lays down His life, He takes it up again.  According to the flesh – by the power of the Spirit.  Even “resurrection” and “dead” are opposites.  The sweeping generalizations “the inhabitants of the earth” and “no flesh” are balanced by that single life, the “first that should rise.”

Jesus, by whose life was the only one to fulfill all the law of Moses, and always did His Father’s will, earned the merits of perfection.  In His mercy He spent three years of His life leading the way, and teaching all who would listen how to be worthy to return to God.  In an incomprehensible act of submission and grace He gave up His life, so that everyone – even those who reject Him and His message and way – could take up their lives again in the resurrection.  Because of His grace, all those who accept His way and follow it may dwell again in the presence of God.

Redemption through Jesus Christ is the central message of the Book of Mormon.  It’s the central message of the Bible, too, but more obscure.  The Book of Mormon message is plain and simple, clear and shining.  Jesus Christ is the central Personage of our planet’s history, though sagas of conquest and earthly power and religions led by scheming and ambitious men dominate the official histories, so this reality is dimmed in most people’s minds.  Jesus Christ is the head of His restored church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though Christians who know Him only through the Bible vehemently deny this.  Jesus Christ lives in each Latter-day Saint’s life, as they have covenanted to always remember Him, keep His commandments, and take His name upon themselves.

How great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth!     As Latter-day Saints we know that we should participate in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19 – “Go ye therefore and teach all nations”).  But we are moving along hurriedly through our busy lives, and so many other priorities in our forest of duties obscure this chief responsibility to God and to our fellowman.  It is not God’s will that we should be moving swiftly through our lives in our own tight group, while all around us the inhabitants are perishing in unbelief (see Doctrine & Covenants 61:3).

What will it take to induce us to share this message of redemption, including the Book of Mormon which teaches it?  Probably the same qualities that defined Jesus, and who we profess to follow.  We can follow His example by developing greater love for Him and for Heavenly Father.  Then we continue to follow as He descends the mountain and mingles among his fellowman, reaching out in love and sharing His good gifts with them.  Like His apostle of old, Peter, we do not focus on our faults or lacks, but “such as we have” we offer to those in need (See Acts 3:6).

How great the importance!

2 Nephi 2:9

He is the first-fruits unto God

The Book of Mormon teaches that

Jesus makes intercession for those who believe in Him

Wherefore, he is the first-fruits unto God,

inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men;

and they that believe in him shall be saved.

Jacob will later copy a long and detailed chapter about God’s work in His orchard to grow His fruit (Jacob 5).  He will describe how God directs the work, how Jesus is His servant, and how other laborers are called as well to work under this Servant.  (The other laborers are the ones who understand “How great the importance is to make these things known.”)  

With this statement, Lehi planted the seed of the idea in Jacob’s mind.  God’s work and glory is to help His children reach the glory and life that He has, or to become ripe, mature, delicious, sweet fruit.  Jesus Christ, at His resurrection, was the first to do this.  He was the only one qualified to do so on His own merits.  The symbolism stops there, however.  There is nothing in the plant kingdom that can compare with His literal sacrifice, wherein He made intercession for all, so that all could follow Him in resurrection, regardless of the kind of life they choose on earth, or the final state of their living bodies after the resurrection.  They may or may not be God’s fruit.  Those who believe in Christ will continue to follow Him, and like Him also become the fruits of God.

2 Nephi 2:10

They stand in His presence to be judged

The Book of Mormon teaches that all people will be judged of God

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 --

Because of Jesus’s death and atonement, everyone who has lived life on this earth will come to God’s judgment seat.  We will be judged by an absolute standard of truth and holiness (and we’ll all fail).  Those who accept the advocacy of Jesus Christ will have His truth and holiness to complement and complete their efforts, as they have had His truth and holiness to refine and focus their efforts through mortality.

I find the second half of this verse confusing. Grammatically it’s a dependent clause or clauses, without a main verb, which is also indicated by the modern English dash (--).  But I haven’t found where it picks up and concludes the thought.  So for my own understanding I’m changing the connecting words, so that it makes sense as a cohesive, independent statement:

The ends of the law which the Holy One hath given

   will inflict the punishment which is affixed.

        This punishment is the opposite of

    the happiness which is affixed,

thus the ends of the atonement counteracts the ends of the law.


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