2 Nephi 4-B God in the Book of Mormon

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God in 2 Nephi 4


Everlasting God • God • My God  • [Him] in whom I have trusted

Lord  • Lord God   • Rock of my Righteousness

Rock of my Salvation • His Spirit • Spirit of the Lord



2 Nephi 4:23


He hath heard my cry by day

The Book of Mormon teaches us to pray night and day,

and God will surely respond


Behold, he hath heard my cry by day,

and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the nighttime.


This simple couplet expresses a cause-and-effect relationship, a key to receiving information from God:  first the person prays to God, and then God gives the answer.  Not immediately.  But as we involve Him in the business and busyness of our daily lives, then He will respond to us in the quiet of the night.


2 Nephi 4:24


My voice have I sent up on high

The Book of Mormon presents a good example of faithful prayer answered


And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him;

yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.


Again Nephi is describing an experience I haven’t had: the visitation of angels.  Well, no wonder.  Have I ever waxed bold in mighty prayer?  Yes, and when I have, the prayer has been answered.

This verse is an enhancement of the previous relationship, with the added emphasis that there is a quantitative element: great prayer yields great answers.  This is a truth in much of life:  much effort is rewarded with good results, and there is a positive correlation between the effort put into something and the end result which obtains.

While my own prayer efforts may have been weak, I am grateful that there are those who have qualified themselves for great direction from God by their diligence, and that they share those results with the rest of us.  We have Nephi’s stories, other scriptures, and insight from true leaders at General Conference.

Nevertheless, this verse is an invitation to draw near to the Lord through more significant prayer.  “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)  Let us send mighty prayers to our Heavenly Father, not just hastily scribbled notes.


2 Nephi 4:25


Upon the wings of His Spirit

The Book of Mormon includes a detailed description of a magnificent vision

given to a boy prophet


And upon the wings of his Spirit

hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains.

And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man;

therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.


Nephi has reached yet another level.  He shared much information that he learned from the Spirit and in visions, but there is more.  God gave him information and experiences that he was not to share.  Jesus told the recipients of His miracles not to spread the news abroad, but they often disregarded this request.  He told Moroni to seal most of the gold plates, so there is much more information available when we are ready for it.  

Today, many people experience miracles and share them, but there are other sacred circumstances which people do not spread abroad.  In fact, much of the strength of the Church is a deep, unseen current driven by the Spirit, and unknown and unknowable to the outside world.


2 Nephi 4:26


The Lord in his condescension unto the children of men

The Book of Mormon indicates that, in spite of miracles and blessings,

we sometimes fall into malaise and melancholy


O then, if I have seen so great things,

if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men

hath visited men in so much mercy,

why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow,

and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?


How expressively Nephi writes about how badly he feels when he thinks bad things!  He knows he shouldn’t feel this way, and that it’s caused because he has a bad attitude about something.     

Everyone has down days, and everyone at some time or other feels negative feelings towards others.  But Nephi is a big step ahead of many people.  Rather than excuse himself, he points out a significant reason why he shouldn’t feel this way: God has been good to him.  He goes beyond that personal observation, and notes that God is good and merciful to all people.  Many people look at the world, at the evil in the world, and conclude that God is not, or that God does not care, or that God is not love.  They focus on the evil, and ignore the love and mercy that is available to all.  Nephi sees God’s mercy over all the world, and the evil in his own heart, and knows that his heart should respond to that mercy.   He knows that wallowing in self-pity and resentment is a choice.  Why, indeed, would one choose to be miserable?


2 Nephi 4:30


Rejoice, O my heart

The Book of Mormon affirms that praising the Lord

is a good remedy for depression


Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.


Nephi spends three verses, no longer contemplating and wondering at his state, but commanding himself to get over it.  He gives himself eight commands, four positive and four negative, to help himself overcome the emotional turmoil he is experiencing.  He does what he can by himself, and then, in this verse, he commands himself to turn to God.

He commands himself to pray, and he commands himself what kind of prayer to pray.  He is to begin his prayer with praise and rejoicing, or we might say thanksgiving.  He will not jump right in complaining or asking for help.   

Nephi recognizes the Lord as the Rock of his salvation, and he’s going to focus there.  The afflictions and enemies are temporary weeds on the surface of his life, but the Rock is his permanent foundation.  It remains when all the other things wither away, or are cleared away with his diligence in owning his own heart.   

Our earthly afflictions are as guaranteed as weeds in the garden, but they are not the end of the story.  Christ’s salvation is the end of the journey, where all the thorns will be removed from our feet, and they healed, where all the road dust will be washed off, and where we will finally see as we are seen, and know as we are known.

During our dark times of affliction here below, sometimes that is the only hope we have.  But often we have His tender mercies with us here and now.  Focusing on those is also recognizing the Rock of our salvation, and we may rejoice for the work we see Him doing in our lives and in His kingdom.


2 Nephi 4:31


O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul?

The Book of Mormon shows how we can go to God for help in our troubles


O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?


Nephi now makes three requests of the Lord.  Much of the phraseology of the Book of Mormon is in triplets.  Sometimes there is a crescendo of ideas and/or feelings, but in this case it seems to be more a chain-or-consciousness prayer.  

First, the deep-down foundational desire of every believer is to be saved.  Nephi was definitely a believer:  He knew that the Lord saves, so his request is simply, “Save me.”  Save me in the kingdom of heaven, in the next life.

But that’s a long time from now, and Nephi must deal with this life, so now to the problem at hand:  Save me now from my enemies, who happen to be my brothers.  He has prayed for this before, and the Lord has answered his prayer:  The Lord sent an angel, the Lord sent power to shake the brothers, the Lord sent a storm, etc.  Nephi has confidence that the Lord can save him from this current crisis, just as He has come through at all other times, and just as He will save Nephi eternally.

And speaking of his (here) unnamed brothers and how the Lord has saved Nephi from them from time to time, Nephi remembers how God shook them in the ship-building incident.  (1 Nephi 17:54)  Maybe he also remembers how they were shaken on another occasion in the Valley of Lemuel, when they were literally shaken by the power of Lehi’s words.  (1 Nephi 2:14) In both cases the shaking came after their murmuring, after their demonstrating lack of faith and willingness to do wrong.

Nephi here shows his great humility by asking the Lord to do the same thing to him that He did to his brothers: shake him when he gets out of line.  He can see the terrible results of sin and rebellion.  But he doesn’t stand aloof and think himself immune, above all that.  He begs the Lord to help him overcome his own tendencies to do wrong.


2 Nephi 4:32


The gates of thy righteousness

The Book of Mormon points to humility as a key to accessing the power of God


May the gates of hell be shut continually before me,

because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!

O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me,

that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!


Nephi continues with the theme of humility.  He speaks of the Gates of Hell and the Gates of God’s Righteousness not at eternal destinies but as daily lifestyle choices.  Those who are proud in their hearts, whose heart is not broken and spirit not contrite, who want to walk on the high road where they can be admired, walk through the Gates of Hell.  Those who humble themselves are ready to pass through and enjoy the Gates of God’s Righteousness.

In the context of the problem that initiated this chapter, Nephi is begging God to help him to not be proud of his own righteousness in comparison to his brothers’ wickedness.  We approach the Gates of Hell or the Gates of God’s Righteousness based on our own humility and desires, and not on our ranking in comparison to someone else.


2 Nephi 4:33


Wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!

The Book of Mormon shows how God is a constant friend during troubles


O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!

O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies!

Wilt thou make my path straight before me!

Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way --

but that thou wouldst clear my way before me,

and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.


Nephi speaks with great faith and through great frustration.  At this point in the ongoing and long-standing conflict between him and his brothers he has exhausted his abilities to heal the situation.  The more distant a relationship, the simpler it is to define, and to define boundaries.  But in this family, where Nephi also has a spiritual leadership responsibility, and where there begins to be government actions, what one ought to do in the face of conflict at any given moment is complicated.

Nephi has exercised patience, but when does patience become complicity and enabling?  He has forgiven seventy times seven, but what exactly does it mean to forgive when the enemy continues doing harm?  How does one forgive while one is defending oneself?  Where is the line between protection and revenge?  He has quoted every scripture in the book at them, but he is tired of them mocking the holy words and ideas which he loves so well.

He doesn’t ask for more patience or fortitude.  He tacitly acknowledges that many of his actions may have shown poor judgment, if not been actually “wrong.”  It’s such a mess, and things have progressed so badly that it’s hard to identify any specific thing he might have done to turn the tide, or to slow it, or to placate his brothers.  But there might have been something, or many things.  He simply asks God to cover him in the Savior’s atonement.  His own performance is so lacking, and he knows he needs God’s grace.  Maybe as he contemplates later he will think clearly of what he should have done, or realize that he truly did do all he could.  But right now he is hurting, and he needs what only God can provide, and what He can provide so bounteously.

Then, back to the current danger.  Has Nephi decided to make a break and leave his brothers, or is he speaking metaphorically when he asks for a way to escape his enemies?

Finally, he just wants to see clearly.  To see what, if anything, he can do to help these brothers, and what he can and ought to do to help himself and the rest of the righteous people.


2 Nephi 4:34


O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever.

The Book of Mormon makes clear that we can always trust God


O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever.

I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh;

for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.

Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.


This verse is not very clear to me.  Of course Nephi trusts the Lord, and we trust the Lord. Our intent is to trust Him forever, and we demonstrate that intent through covenants.

But the strong statements of not putting our trust in the arm of flesh sound cynical.  Of course we don’t trust the arm of flesh for salvation.  We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.  We must do all we can.  We put forth our best effort with our own arms in fulfilling our responsibilities and giving service in this life.  We must be trustworthy in our dealings with our fellowman.   Trusting our fellowman is the foundation of a stable society.

Why is Nephi so down on trusting humanity?  Has he heard too many fair promises from his brothers, so now he has lost all confidence in them?  Has he exhausted his own leadership skills in trying to deal with his brothers, so he turns to the Lord, whose wisdom is the only hope?  Is he speaking of his frustration to establish himself as the rightful leader – he who will lead according to God’s wisdom as opposed to Laman, who will trust in his own strength as he has always done?  


2 Nephi 4:35


My God, the Rock of my Righteousness

The Book of Mormon encourages us to pray faithfully to Him who is Faithful


Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh.

Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness.

Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee,

my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.


Nephi finishes his meditation.  He began by saying that he loved to ponder the scriptures, and that God had blessed him exceedingly.  After wandering through a discussion of his problems, he concludes that not only will he ponder what God has revealed, but he will confidently ask for more information from God; he expresses his intent to continue to ask for help and wisdom in the current problem, and throughout his life.

His statement of conviction that God will give liberally to those who ask is more than faith – he has proven God himself.  He knows that he does not have a unique relationship with God – God will give to every person who asks with real intent.

He has a slight caveat – “if I ask not amiss.”

 

James 4:3 says

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

(I know that Nephi did not have James’s epistle, but since they used the same phraseology we may posit that they are talking about the same situation.)

It makes general sense that if we ask for things for selfish reasons, for our own pleasure or lusts, God will not honor such a request.  But if we read all of what James was saying, we discover he is warning against something much more specific.


If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not (GR “do not assume superiority over”), and lie not against the truth.”

James 3:14

(Nephi has probably felt the temptation to feel superior to his wicked brothers.)


This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.”

James 3:15

(This wisdom is found beyond the Gates of Hell.)


For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

James 3:16

(Nephi knows he is called to lead, but he wants to be sure that his desires are pure and not laced with envy.  And how can he avoid the strife?)


But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

From whence come wars and fightings among you?  Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”

            James 3:17,18; 4:1  

(Just what Nephi discussed in verses 27-29.)


Ye lust, and have not; ye kill, and desire to have and cannot obtain; ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

James 4:2,3

Nephi wants a solution to his problem – a solution that does not depend upon the strength of his own arm, upon fighting and envy, but a solution that is founded upon the rock of God’s righteousness, that is peaceable, merciful, and just.  He has absolute confidence that God will show him this solution.


God in 2 Nephi 4 by the Numbers

35 verses

God is mentioned by name: 16 verses = 46%

God is mentioned by pronoun:  5 verses = 14%

Verses about God: 21 = 60%


Everlasting God: 1

God:  1

My God:  4

[Him] in whom I have trusted: 1

Lord:  11

Lord God:  2

Rock of my Righteousness:  1

Rock of my Salvation:  1

His Spirit:  1

Spirit of the Lord:  1


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