Come, Follow Me: February 3 — 9
1 and 2 Nephi contain so much information to study and learn from that we could spend a year on each book. Yet, many of us have read and re-read these books without seeing how rich they are, deserving of a very deep dive. It would be good if we decided to revere them as we study them this year and pray for insights we haven’t received in the past regarding these two books. If 1 and 2 Nephi were the only writings we received from the Nephite civiization, what gifts would we still have from these books of scripture?
Lehi petitions his sons before his death (2 Nephi 1):
As Lehi knows his days on earth are growing short, he recounts to his family the story of their deliverance from doomed Jerusalem and the many ways that God has blessed them. In verse 5, Lehi expresses his gratitude for the land of promise to which the Lord has led them. This is one of many verses about American exceptionalism—it is a chosen land to be a resort for those who long to be free. God will guarantee freedom to all who dwell here…as long as they are righteous and remember Him. In verse 6, Lehi says “…come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.” In verse 8, Lehi says that knowledge of the land would be kept from most people so they couldn’t overrun it.
In verse 9, Lehi talks about all those the Lord should “bring out of the land of Jerusalem.” This would include the Mulekites, who would arrive unbenownst to the Nephites. These did dwindle in unbelief and even lost the ability to speak their former language. A close reading of the Old Testament shows that King Zedekiah was only 32 when he was taken by the Babylonians. His sons were killed before his eyes with only Mulek escaping. But how old was Mulek? With a 32-year-old father, he had to be only a child and was saved most likely by his mother and her attendants at court. She may not have been Jewish, but a wife taken in a political alliance, with Hebrew not her native language, and little or no knowledge of the scriptures. It’s food for thought.
In verses 10 and 11 Lehi prophesies: “…
…I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is shall rest upon them.
Yea, he will bringunto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be and smitten.
This prophecy came true hundreds years later when white Europeans flowed into the Americas and ravaged the native populations. Ninety percent or more of American Indians died of European diseases without having ever seen one of these immigrants before any of the wars between them.
In verses 13 and 14, and in several following verses, Lehi calls on his descendants to awake and arise! Joseph Smith received the gold plates from Moroni on the Jewish high holy day of Rosh HaShanah, the Feast of Trumpets, whose message is to awake, arise, and gather, for the evil are being separated from the righteous for the final harvest and judgment. This is not a coincidence. The Book of Mormon is the sign and the means for this to happen. How many places in the scriptures can you find where God calls us to awake and arise?
In verse 23, Lehi makes the same plea but also urges his sons to “put on the armor of righteousness.” Do a scripture chase with your family or group and find all the places where putting on the armor of God is discussed.
Lehi ends his pleas with petitioning his sons and Zoram to honor Nephi and to submit to his leadership. Lehi is truly afraid that they will rebel and that Nephi will be endangered because of it.
The gift of moral agency (2 Nephi 2):
Lehi begins by speaking to Jacob in 2 Nephi 2. Jacob has been righteous enough that he has seen the Savior while still in his youth (verse 4). Jacob is to spend his life in God’s service. He has suffered tribulation at the hands of his rebellious brothers.
In verse 4, Lehi says, “…for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, andis .” What does it mean that salvation is free? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the most inclusive doctrine of salvation of any Christian belief. Yet, it can be complicated to explain because of our doctrine of exaltation in addition to salvation. Virtually every person you meet will be saved to some kingdom of glory in heaven (See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76), but we are focused on exaltation into the very presence of God.
In verse 5, Lehi begins to expound on agency and accountability. In the family Come, Follow Me manual, four conditions are given that have to exist for moral agency to be in effect:
A knowledge of good and evil (2 Nephi 2:5)
A law given to mankind (2 Nephi 2:5)
Opposing, enticing choices (2 Nephi 2:11)
Power to act (2 Nephi 2:16)
What happens to people who die without knowing the laws of God? What happens to adults who do not have the mental capacity to judge between good and evil? How do opposing, enticing choices make mortality difficult? Do we always have the power to act? Even under authoritarian rulers or if we are imprisoned?
Lehi goes on to explain how no one is justified under the law. We can never attain the cleanliness and purity required for the Celestial Kingdom. It is God’s mercy through the atonement that justifies us and that requires repentance. If we refuse to repent, it’s as if no atonement was made for us. How is the ability to repent in the spirit world a gift of mercy from God?
The doctrine of Christ’s atonement is so familiar with us, and we have the New Testament before us. But this was just after 600 B.C. Lehi received all this understand through direct revelation. In verse 17, Lehi begins to talk about Satan. How is Satan viewed in society today? Do people believe he exists? Do you see the results of his actions? What are some of his methods?
No other Christian denomination understands that the Fall was part of God’s plan. Why was it necessary? Why was it fair that Adam and Eve faced opposition immediately? What is the difference between their transgression and what we call sin? Why are we not tainted by what Christian orthodoxy calls “original sin.” On the other hand, what is it like to live in a fallen world? Discuss Lehi’s profound statement, “that men might be; and men , that they might have .” How do we choose eternal life?
The prophecies of Joseph who was sold into Egypt (2 Nephi 3):
Joseph was a great prophet whose writings we do not have. Why don’t we have them? Lehi speaks to his youngest son Joseph and tells him that Joseph of old saw Lehi’s day. Joseph of old was promised that a branch of his seed would be broken off and protected. And that was Lehi and his descendants.
Then he was promised that a choice seer would come from his loins. This prophecy was fulfilled in Joseph Smith. The Lord promised Joseph of old that the writings of his descendants would combine with the writings of the Jews to confound false doctrine and lead people to Christ. Lehi was strengthened in his belief that this would come true because Joseph of old also prophesied of Moses and Lehi knew that prophecy had come true. Joseph of old also saw that Moses had a spokesman (Aaron) and that Joseph Smith would also have a spokesman. Who was it?
Joseph of old had some things to say about the character and calling of Joseph Smith. What are those things and how do you see them fulfilled in studying Joseph Smith’s life? In verses 19 and 20 why does Lehi say the words of the Book of Mormon would be as if they were crying “from the dust”?
After quoting from the prophecies of Joseph who was sold into Egypt, Lehi tells his own son Joseph the following: “Wherefore, because of this covenant thou art blessed; for thy seed shall not be destroyed, for they shall hearken unto the words of the book.” What does this mean?
Lehi continues speaking to his son Joseph in verse 24: “And there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren.” Joseph Smith was not descended from Lehi’s son Joseph. Who could Lehi be talking about?
Lehi blesses his posterity before he dies (2 Nephi 4):
In verse 2, Nephi says, “For behold, he [Joseph who was sold into Egypt] truly prophesied concerning all his seed. And the prophecies which he wrote, there are not many greater. And he prophesied concerning us, and our future generations; and they are written upon the plates of brass.” Again, we don’t have these prophecies.
Lehi calls together his oldest son Laman and his children (and grandchildren) to give them a blessing before he dies. Lehi cannot shake off his worry and concern for the rebellious nature of Laman. Lehi knows and has taught that if his seed is righteous they will be blessed, but if they rebel, they will be cursed. He knows that if his grandchildren are taught well, they would grow up to keep the commandments of God. He promises that if they rebel and are cursed, the responsibility will be on the heads of their fathers (Laman and Lemuel).
Today, we are in the midst of an apostasy similar to the apostasy in Kirtland when 15% of members backed away from the Church over the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society. Many of those leaving the Church today have children. What does that mean for them and the Church?
Lehi leaves the same blessing upon the descendants of Lemuel as he does on the descendants of Laman. Future prophets would pray that their words would be protected to come forth unto the descendants of Laman and Lemuel so far in the future. With the doctrine and practices of saving our dead, generations of their descendants can be redeemed.
Lehi then gave Ishmael’s family a blessing but Nephi doesn’t record what it said. To Sam, Lehi promises an inheritance with Nephi’s family (verse 11).
Lehi dies and Laman and Lemuel immediately rebel. It’s as if they had only stayed calm for Lehi’s sake, and the moment he was gone they revealed their hidden complaints. Nephi says that both he and his father recorded scriptures and tried to expound them to Laman and Lemuel. Nephi remarks about how much he loves the scriptures. In verse 17, Nephi launches into a lament over his weakness before God. In the meantime, we’re remembering what a great man he was. Why do even courageous prophets lament their weakness? What’s the difference between “weakness” and “weaknesses?” This article can provide some insights.
The Nephites separate from the Lamanites (2 Nephi 5):
The anger of Laman and Lemuel continued to increase against Nephi to the point that they plotted again to kill him. There are some interesting scriptures about the unrighteous increasing in anger. Look at the following scriptures and discuss why there is so much anger against God’s words and work:
Is there anger today against God’s work. How does it manifest itself?
In verse 5 the Lord warns Nephi to flee with those who ally with him. Nephi takes his family, Zoram’s family, the families of Sam, Joseph, and Jacob, his sisters, and any others who want to follow him. They go into the wilderness for “many days” and then find a place to settle. They follow the laws of Moses, enjoy plentiful harvests and healthy livestock, and prosper and multiply. They have brought with them all the records, the Liahona, and the sword of Laban. Nephi uses this sword as a pattern to make others for his people’s defense. They build buildings and work with ores. And they build a temple (verse 10).
In verse 21, Nephi talks about a “sore cursing” the Lord has placed upon Laman and Lemuel and their families. The online Come Follow Me manual says of verses 20 and 21,
“In Nephi’s day the curse of the Lamanites was that they were “cut off from [the Lord’s] presence … because of their iniquity” (2 Nephi 5:20–21). This meant the Spirit of the Lord was withdrawn from their lives. When Lamanites later embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, “the curse of God did no more follow them” (Alma 23:18).
The Book of Mormon also states that a mark of dark skin came upon the Lamanites after the Nephites separated from them. The nature and appearance of this mark are not fully understood. The mark initially distinguished the Lamanites from the Nephites. Later, as both the Nephites and Lamanites each went through periods of wickedness and righteousness, the mark became irrelevant as an indicator of the Lamanites’ standing before God.
Prophets affirm in our day that dark skin is not a sign of divine disfavor or cursing. The Church embraces Nephi’s teaching that the Lord “denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33).
President Russell M. Nelson declared: “The Lord has stressed His essential doctrine of equal opportunity for His children. … Differences in culture, language, gender, race, and nationality fade into insignificance as the faithful enter the covenant path and come unto our beloved Redeemer” (President Nelson Remarks at Worldwide Priesthood Celebration).
There is a discrepancy between the online manual and the printed manual referring to the paragraph interpreting verses 20-21, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, disavowed the printed statement saying,
“One of our recent church manuals includes a paragraph with some outdated commentary about race,” he said. “It was mistakenly included in the printed version of the manual, which had been prepared for print nearly two years ago. When it was brought to the attention of church leaders late last year, they directed that it be immediately removed in our annual online manual, which is used by the great majority of our members. We have also directed that any future printed manuals will reflect this change.
“We’re asking our members to disregard the paragraph in the printed manual,” he added. “Now I’m deeply saddened and hurt by this error and for any pain that it may have caused our members and for others. I would just like to reiterate our position as a church is clear. We do condemn all racism, past and present, in any form, and we disavow any theory advanced that black or dark skin is a sign of a curse.”
In verse 24 Nephi says that they “lived after the manner of happiness.” What does this mean? How can we adjust our lives that we are truly living after the manner of happiness?
At the end of 2 Nephi 5, the Lord commands Nephi to make other plates. Often in the Book of Mormon we see that the prophets who wrote it and abridged it followed the Lord’s instructions not seeing clearly the reasons for them. How does this show their faith and connection to the Spirit?
Here are the Book of Mormon videos connected to this lesson: