Nephi left us Latter-day Saints a pretty awesome prophetic warning in 2nd Nephi. It comes from a chapter gently nestled between the infamously difficult “Isaiah chapters” and Jacob’s allegory of the olive tree (probably why I’ve never noticed it before). If anything is likely to slip through the cracks, it’d be there. Anyway, without further ado …
2nd Nephi 30:1-2
And now behold, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you; for I, Nephi, would not suffer that ye should suppose that ye are more righteous than the Gentiles shall be. For behold, except ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall all likewise perish; and because of the words which have been spoken ye need not suppose that the Gentiles are utterly destroyed.
For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.
In these verses, Nephi is talking to his people about their Jewish ancestry and status as God’s “covenant people” (that’s what this whole chapter in 2nd Nephi is about). But the principles he’s teaching are just as true for us today as they were for the ancient Nephites back in 550 B.C. If Nephi were alive in our time, I don’t think he’d have any problem with us likening the scriptures unto ourselves as follows:
And now behold, my beloved [members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints], I would speak unto you; for I, Nephi, would not suffer that ye should suppose that ye are more righteous than the [non-Mormons] shall be. For behold, except ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall all likewise perish; and because of the words which have been spoken ye need not suppose that [non-Mormons] are utterly destroyed.
For behold, I say unto you that as many of the [non-Mormons] as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the [Mormons] as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.
Being a Latter-day Saint ≠ being more righteous than others
Let’s revisit those verses in 2nd Nephi: “I, Nephi, would not suffer that ye should suppose that ye [Latter-day Saints] are more righteous than [non-Latter-day Saints] shall be.”
This is important. Nephi directly addresses his people’s pride (and our pride) by making it very clear that just because we may call ourselves “a covenant people” does not mean we are more righteous than those outside our faith.
There are no knowing winks attached to that statement. We’re not just trying to feign humility here. It isn’t a condescending facade (and if it is, it shouldn’t be). It’s a simple fact. If we think that our affiliation with the Church automatically makes us more righteous than anyone else, we’re wrong.
Being non-Latter-day Saint ≠ damnation
Yes, we should feel extremely blessed to have the restored gospel in our lives right now. We have access to complete doctrine, Priesthood authority, and saving ordinances. But let’s not forget the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.
To God, it doesn’t matter whether we receive those saving ordinances in the first hour or the eleventh hour, at the end of the day the reward is the same. And to be clear, the vineyard in this parable is not the Church, it’s the kingdom of God.
Let us not judge others because the hireman found you before someone else. There is still plenty of time in the day.
Is the Church important? Definitely! But it’s the vehicle, not the destination. That’s what churches are. Lutheranism is a vehicle, Catholicism is a vehicle, Presbyterianism is a vehicle. The only difference is that we believe our vehicle is a restored vintage circa 0034 A.D. model originally built by Christ Himself. The other cars are missing a few essential pieces that are going to make the journey a bit more difficult.
Thankfully, the Lord has provisions in His plan to help those people in cars on different paths: Vicarious ordinances, missionary work to the living and the dead, the Millennium. All of these elements are meant to work together to help us ALL arrive at the gates of heaven—LDS, non-LDS, male, female, bond, free, black, white, and everything in between.
It’s not over until it’s over. There is still time for all of us, LDS or not, to repent and believe in Christ. The final judgment hasn’t happened just yet. Let’s get to work and do the best we can to be ready for when it does.