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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 4:4

Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Promised Land is blessed

for those who keep the commandments of God.

For the Lord God hath said that:

Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land;

and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.

Lehi has already spoken to Laman and Lemuel in chapter 1.  Now he bypasses them and speaks directly to their children.  He has spoken persuasively and passionately to his sons, exhorting them to keep the commandments and be faithful to the Lord.  But in speaking to this next generation he pares down the message to the bare bones, giving them the words of the Lord Himself.

This is the message of the Book of Mormon to all generations who possess the Promised Land.  This theme of 1 Nephi continues on in Lehi’s family, and it continues to speak to us and warn us today.  

2 Nephi 4:7

He will be merciful unto you

The Book of Mormon shows that God's mercy extends through the generations

Wherefore, because of my blessing the Lord God will not suffer that ye shall perish; wherefore, he will be merciful unto you and unto your seed forever.

This is a curious section.  Lehi has asserted that he knows that if these grandchildren, the offspring of Laman and Lemuel, were brought up in the way they should go, they would not depart from it, doubtless quoting from Proverbs.  What does that say about Laman and Lemuel?  Were they brought up in the way they should go?  Laman and Lemuel had a choice, and many chances and exhortations to choose the right.  Lehi seems to assume that these grandchildren are incapable of choosing the right, because they won’t be taught properly.  How does he know that they would choose the right?  Can anyone, even a prophet, know another’s heart?

Whatever sense we can make of this philosophically, Lehi knows that God will honor his blessing and preserve the seed of Laman and Lemuel.  We know that the Lamanites are those who survived the great battle at the end of the Book of Mormon.  However, we don’t know that the “Lamanites” of that day were genetically more the children of Lehi, or that they are the people who first rebelled after the period of peace following the Savior’s visit.  Nephi’s grief at seeing the destruction of “his” people suggests that the later separation was truly on racial grounds.

This blessing is reminiscent of the previous chapter.  God knew that the children of Joseph would reject Him, as would Laman and Lemuel and their children.  He patiently watched over this family, as well as the Laman/Lemuel subset of it, and planned for the time when they would humble themselves and choose His way.

2 Nephi 4:12

According to the feelings of his heart and the Spirit of the Lord which was in him

The Book of Mormon shows how faith blends the feelings of the heart

with direction from the Spirit of the Lord

And it came to pass after my father, Lehi, had spoken unto all his household,

according to the feelings of his heart and the Spirit of the Lord which was in him,

he waxed old. And it came to pass that he died, and was buried.

The life of a person of faith is like a beautiful dance whirling through mortality, with a continual exchange of leadership:  The person exercises his initiative in “studying it out,” and doing good in various ways, all the while listening to be able to respond when the Spirit of the Lord directs his efforts.  We are not automatons submitting like puppets to God’s will.  We align our will with His.  We keep the feelings of our hearts as we serve His children.

2 Nephi 4:13

The admonitions of the Lord

The Book of Mormon points out that those who reject God's counsel

are often angry with those who follow the Lord

And it came to pass that not many days after his death,

Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me

because of the admonitions of the Lord.

And speaking of feelings, it is very interesting to see the manifestations of the feelings of the hearts of those who reject God.  Unbelievers can’t seem to be able to co-exist with God.  They often show anger, both at God and at those who follow and believe in Him.  They have agency, of course, but they not only reject the Message, but want it squashed.  They don’t want to be told that what they are doing is wrong.  

We see many today in our society who are angry because of the admonitions of the Lord.  There are a few current issues which fuel their anger, but the anger is perennial, regardless of the issues.  They’re angry because God dares to tell them to do something.  They lash out in anger against Him and whoever is delivering the message, pointing out perceived faults of both the Christian and God Himself.

Logic and reason do not work with these unhappy people, as Nephi doubtless discovered.  In fact, he will find no solution but to separate himself from them.  Jesus instructed, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.”  This is a hard doctrine to practice in our relationships, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.  More difficulty arises when the whole culture is angry with the admonitions of the Lord.  There can be respite in the homes of Zion, in the holy temple, and in gathering with the saints on the sabbath day.

2 Nephi 4:14

I was constrained to speak unto them

The Book of Mormon prophets did not hesitate to speak bluntly and clearly

when it was necessary

For I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them, according to his word;

for I had spoken many things unto them, and also my father, before his death;

many of which sayings are written upon mine other plates;

for a more history part are written upon mine other plates.

Nephi recorded, in 1 Nephi, several incidents where he was constrained to reprimand his brethren on their journey.  He tells us the words and ideas they had, the words and ideas he used to correct them, their reactions, and how these incidents impacted the whole group’s progress.  But in 2 Nephi all of these details are absent.  This verse tells us that there continued to be incidents, both before Lehi died and afterwards, where Laman and Lemuel’s attitudes were in conflict with righteous living.  All of those unpleasant events are part of what we’re missing by reading only the Small Plates.

Nephi was a prophet who had glorious visions.  He was also a man who struggled through physical and familial challenges of life.  It’s quite likely that most of his time was spent in the challenging and difficult parts, and that they took up a significant portion of his original writings.

When we write in our personal journals, we, too, often focus more on our difficulties than on events that showcase what we see of God’s goodness.  God specifically intervened in Nephi’s writings, instructing him to “do it over again,” and focus on the spiritual aspects.  We likewise have been encouraged to write gratitude journals, to write how we see the hand of the Lord in our lives, to write of the tender mercies of the Lord.  

All events in our lives are not equally worth remembering.  Indeed, we cannot write every event or thought.  The scriptures do not purport to write every incident in the life of prophets or the people they treat.  What is written is carefully chosen to teach about God, and to encourage the reader to follow God.   How much more worthwhile would our journals be if we emulated this pattern.  How much more holy would our thoughts be if we spent time writing about God’s goodness in our lives, rather than petty annoyances.

2 Nephi 4:16

My soul delighteth in the things of the Lord

The Book of Mormon illuminates the holy things of God

that we should delight in pondering

Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord;

and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.

A journal which details conflict is interesting historically.  But as Nephi points out, a journal that records a person’s interactions with God exposes his very soul.  It documents who he is, not what his surroundings are.  

This is one of the reasons the Book of Mormon speaks to us so well today.  We don’t relate to the culture; we don’t even know which culture it was historically.  But, following Nephi’s example, all the writers, while writing of physical events, showed us their souls as they reached up to God to help them through their mortal journey.

The Book of Mormon is a shining jewel which can delight our own souls with the things of the Lord, and upon which we can ponder as it helps us understand our own lives, our own civilization, and our own opportunities.

2 Nephi 4:17

The great goodness of the Lord

The Book of Mormon shows that, in spite of miracles of mercy,

this life on earth is a time to strive to overcome our weaknesses

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord,

in showing me his great and marvelous works,

my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am!

Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

Nephi had seen the panoramic vision of the history of the world rolled out.  Few if any of us have seen such a vision, so we may think we cannot relate to Nephi’s feelings in this verse.  But He has spoken to each of us according to our capacities and our assignments during mortality, so we do recognize the great goodness of the Lord.  We have seen His great and marvelous works, and we would probably see more if we took the time and attention to do so.

But each of us has come up short.  There’s a gap between what we know and what we do.  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

2 Nephi 4:19

I know in whom I have trusted

The Book of Mormon teaches that, even in the midst of great sorrow,

we should turn to God

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins;

nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

Nephi has presented the dilemma and the solution: Knowing the goodness of God makes us recognize our own unworthiness.  And yet it is only God who can fill that gap.  Nephi knows who to trust for help in overcoming his iniquities and sins, as well as his mortal weaknesses.  Even when his heart groans, he turns to God so that he can ultimately rejoice.

2 Nephi 4:20

My God hath been my support

The Book of Mormon shows how God is mindful and supportive of His children

in every circumstance

My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

This section of 2 Nephi is called “The Psalm of Nephi.”  Whether or not it is a proper psalm, it has a poetic quality and lilt.  But where much scripture and poetry are symbolic, in Nephi’s case he describes literal events in literal terms.

Few readers of the Book of Mormon have had the literal experiences described by Nephi.  But we must not assume that we cannot relate.  We can take Nephi’s literal experiences with God and consider how He has helped and guided us through our own wildernesses of affliction, or lonely ocean crossings.  As we faithfully keep the commandments – both the generic commandments that God gives for the blessing of all His children and the specific guidance He gives us in our individual lives – we can say that God hath been my support.

2 Nephi 4:21

He hath filled me with His love

The Book of Mormon refers to the supernal gift of knowing God's love

He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

Now this is an experience that many can relate to.  God’s love is manifest throughout the earth, and in countless tiny mercies that people with eyes to see can perceive.  But Nephi is speaking of more than this.  As millions can testify, God, through His Spirit, gives the holy experience of actually knowing His love, or at least a portion of it.  It is a transcendent, life-changing event.  The person so blessed has a new perception of God, a new appreciation for his own life and responsibility, a new compassion for his fellow-mortals.  He is never the same after that, and views the event with profound reverence.

It is such a personal experience that Austin Miles, the hymnist who wrote “In the Garden,” wrote, “And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”  Perhaps not the specifics, but many, may have been in the garden, or on the mountaintop, or in their secret closet, with God.  I prefer to sing that section “And the joy we share as we tarry there, the faithful have ever known.”

People’s reaction to this simple verse shows the great inequality among mankind.  For those who have had this sacred experience of knowing first-hand the love of God, it calls up cherished memories, gratitude, and probably commitments.  For others it is as a tinkling cymbal, heard at the moment, words only, forgotten the next.

The inequality is not caused by God giving His love differentially. But God respects each person’s right to choose his own course, to make his own life.  That’s the purpose of this life – to be self-directed.  When a person is humble enough to seek, God will respond, pouring out His love which has always been there.  Those who never seek will never know.

2 Nephi 4:22

He hath confounded mine enemies

The Book of Mormon shows that at times God steps in to help deal with enemies

He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

Personally, I have never experienced this.  Of course, I don’t think I’ve accumulated many enemies, and if I have any, they haven’t bothered to tell me about it.

Nephi may be referring to ship-building incident, when the Lord shook his rebellious and lazy brothers.  In other instances, however, the Lord saved Nephi from their wrath in different ways, and finally the only thing left to do was escape.  Doubtless other people have experienced this short-term blessing from God.  If it were long-term, the plan of agency would be frustrated.

Voice of the Martyrs May 2018 magazine recounts one such instance:

Born in Turkey, Amed was a proud Kurd who wanted recognition for his people, and he was an active member of a leftist political party.

By his own account, he was rude and abrasive, and many people avoided him.  But then a Christian neighbor started talking to him about Jesus.  As the neighbor persisted, Amed read the Bible and eventually placed his faith in Jesus Christ.

He was immediately changed, and his family responded just as suddenly.  His wife left him, and his conservative Muslim family gave him one year to change his mind.  “Even if I wanted to give up Christianity, I could not because I knew deep within my heart that there was no other way of being saved apart from the cross of Jesus,” he said.

Over the next year, Amed grew in faith but remained an outcast to his family.  Then, toward the end of the year, he was thrilled to receive an invitation to join them for the most important Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice.  Amed arrived at the family home full of hope for reconciliation.  “I was praising the Lord for that opportunity and thinking we would have peace among us,” he said.

“Do you know this will be the best feast celebration ever?” his mother said as she met him at the door.

“Good news!” Amed replied.  “I came for this; thank-you.”

“But it’s not what you are thinking,” she continued.  “The sacrifice is not a lamb; it is you!”

Realizing the invitation was a trap, Amed felt hot and began to tremble.  “I was so nervous, I could just pray a one sentence prayer,” he said.

After four people pulled him inside with all his closest relatives, Amed’s brother-in-law held a handgun to his head.  “Even your God cannot save you from my hands today,” he said.  “Just bow down, fall on your knees and I’ll give you one last chance.  If you repent and come back to Islam you can be saved.”

Amed closed his eyes, believing he was about to be killed.  But suddenly his tongue was loosed and he was no longer afraid.  As Amed stood up, his brother-in-law cocked the gun.  Then, Amed boldly turned to him and shook his finger in his face.  “If my God does not put my life in your hands, you cannot even get one hair from my head,” he said.

The gun fell from his brother-in-law’s hand, and everyone in the room seemed paralyzed.  Amed walked out of the room, passed those standing in the hallway, walked out the front door and pressed the button for the elevator.  Inside the apartment, his mother shouted, “He is leaving and you could not get him?  You are setting him free!”

Amed went into hiding after his frightful experience, but finally gained the courage to share his faith and encourage fellow-believers.

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