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In Our Ward: Lesson 10: “He Inviteth All to Come Unto Him”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 18, 2012

Lesson 10: “He Inviteth All to Come unto Him”

2 Nephi 25-30

Purpose: To help class members understand that through the Restoration of the gospel and the teachings of the Book of Mormon, the Lord will cause truth to triumph over evil.

Introduction

Elder Kendrick discussed last week some of the passages from Isaiah that Nephi included in his record – the set of plates, remember, where he had vowed to record only “the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them” (1 Nephi 19:3). He had us identify which prophecies of Isaiah concerned Nephi’s past (e.g., the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews), and which concerned Nephi’s future (e.g., the coming of the Messiah, and some details of his ministry).

Today we pick up with 2 Nephi 25. where Nephi has completed copying those long passages from Isaiah, and reading them to his people, and where he now begins to explain why he has taught them about Isaiah.

2 Nephi 25:1

1 Now I, Nephi, do speak somewhat concerning the words which I have written, which have been spoken by the mouth of Isaiah. for behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews.

That’s a perspective we can all appreciate: we have difficulty understanding Isaiah, because, like Nephi’s people, “we know not” the “manner of prophesying among the Jews.” We have to study those prophecies using the tools Elder Kendrick mentioned: remembering that Isaiah spoke poetically; learning the symbols he used; and seeking the spirit of prophecy ourselves.

We might feel justified in finding Isaiah difficult because the distance we live from the time those prophecies were given, and “the manner of prophesying among the Jews.” Does it surprise you, though, that Nephi’s people – only a generation or two removed from Isaiah and Jerusalem – found those prophecies difficult?

Why might this have been the case?

Take a look at verses 2 and also 6 – what do you see in those verses that explains the difficulty for Nephi’s own people?

2 For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews …

6 But behold, I, Nephi, have not taught my children after the manner of the Jews …

From everything we know of Nephi’s life and character, from all the evidence in his writings, we have to believe that Nephi did teach his children the law and prophecies of the Jews. What does he mean by “the manner of the Jews” that he has not taught?

Nephi explains that his “manner” differs from Isaiah and the other Jewish prophets, and explains why he has adopted that manner, in verse 7:

7 But behold, I proceed with mine own prophecy, according to my plainness, in the which I know that no man can err; nevertheless, in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass.

So, if Nephi is successful in his plainness, there will be no misunderstanding among us as to the meaning of the prophecies Nephi proceeds to record here. Nor will there be any doubt, he says, that the people he addresses will recognize the fulfillment of the prophecies he has just quoted from Isaiah.

Nephi then prophecies what will happen among the Jews of the old word – their scattering, their gathering, and the ministry of the Savior among them, all of which was foretold by Isaiah. Then, beginning with Chapter 26, Nephi shifts the scenes of his prophecy to his own people, in the New World.

Scripture Discussion

[1. Nephi prophesies of the Savior’s ministry among the Nephites.
2. Nephi testifies of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
3. Nephi prophesies that Satan will spread false doctrines in the last days.
4. Nephi teaches about the importance of the Book of Mormon.
[5] “A great division among the people” (2 Nephi 30:10)]

2 Nephi 26:1

1 And after Christ shall have risen from the dead he shall show himself unto you, my children, and my beloved brethren; and the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law which ye shall do.

What law were the Jews at Jerusalem, and the Nephites in the New World, living under? Why might Nephi have given this instruction so clearly, more than 500 years before “[his] children and [his] beloved brethren would hear the words of Christ? (When the Messiah appeared to the Jews of the Old World, how many of them heard the words which he spoke, and accepted them as a new law?)

This is not the first time Nephi has told his people that the Messiah would come to the Nephites (1 Nephi 12:6), and much of what will follow in this sermon should have been familiar to his people from the time Nephi received his vision of the Lamb of God soon after the family had left Jerusalem. Nephi has had 30 years or more at this point to reflect on that vision, and to put it in perspective of what Nephi read from the brass plates of the prophecies of Isaiah and others, as well as whatever further instruction he had received from the Lord. We should read it, therefore, not as a fresh, new revelation, an excited telling of something Nephi has just seen, but as the culmination of his lifetime as a prophet. We can assume that Nephi has thought long and hard, that he has prayed for understanding of anything that was obscure, and that he is emphasizing what is most important for his people to remember.

2 For behold, I say unto you that I have beheld that many generations shall pass away, and there shall be great wars and contentions among my people.

3 And after the Messiah shall come there shall be signs given unto my people of his birth, and also of his death and resurrection; and great and terrible shall that day be unto the wicked, for they shall perish; and they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground against them.

Nephi is telling the people about his own descendants – their own descendants, too. How easy do you suppose it was for Nephi to put that knowledge into words? How do you suppose his listeners felt, hearing them?

7 O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people! For I, Nephi, have seen it, and it well nigh consumeth me before the presence of the Lord; but I must cry unto my God: Thy ways are just.

It seems unlikely that there was anything anyone listening to Nephi could have done to change the course of their descendants’ behavior more than five centuries in the future – so why do you think Nephi might have emphasized this aspect of his vision? (Perhaps we can paraphrase 2 Nephi 25:7 here: “In the days that the prophecies of [Nephi] shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass.”)

There is one ray of light through all of this sorrow:

9 But the Son of righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away, and many of the fourth generation shall have passed away in righteousness.

And what is to follow that relatively short reign of peace and healing?

10 And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell.

And lest we take too much comfort in noting that these prophecies apply to some other people, not us, Nephi concludes this part of his sermon with a warning that applies very much to each of us in this room:

11 For the spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul.

When “the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man,” is it because the Spirit grows weary of trying to convert us? [Prompt responders into a discussion of this point, not just a “yes” or “no.” – How long will the Lord work with us if we are trying? What limits our receptiveness to the Spirit?]

Nephi summarizes what you all have just contributed, by noting:

2 Nephi 26:13

13 … that he [Jesus Christ] manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.

Now I want to ask some questions with the intent of having each one of us examine our belief in that statement – our faith in their faith, if you will.

Do we really believe that people who are not members of our Church can truly believe in Jesus Christ?
Do we really believe that Jesus manifests himself to such people according to their faith?
Do we really believe that the Spirit has worked “mighty miracles, signs, and wonders” among believers in, say, the Middle Ages or other times when the priesthood was not upon the earth?
Do we really believe that Jesus Christ loves and blesses believers in places like, say, China, or in Egypt (where the Coptic Christians lost their leader just yesterday)?
Do we really believe that God rewarded the faith of, say, black men and women who lived before 1978?

If Jesus Christ loves and manifests himself to all these people, working miracles among them according to their faith, then why is there any need for membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

[Discuss ideas as they are suggested, including the following:]

In 2 Nephi 26:14, Nephi makes a transition between talking about the fate of his people at and just after the time of the Savior, and a more distant time he calls “the last days”:

14 But behold, I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men.

What does he mean by “these things”? Is it just the Book of Mormon? Is it just a knowledge of the Nephites? Or is it a correct knowledge of Jesus as the Christ?

16 For those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit; for the Lord God will give unto him power, that he may whisper concerning them, even as it were out of the ground; and their speech shall whisper out of the dust.

I’m intrigued by those words “low out of the dust” and “whisper” – does that suggest anything to you about your own reception of the Book of Mormon? [Guide discussion to acknowledge that if all we were to hear was *that* a voice was whispering, we wouldn’t have any of the advantage of the Book of Mormon. Just as we would have to listen carefully to distinguish the words spoken by such a voice, we have to study carefully the Book of Mormon – it isn’t enough just to acknowledge that it’s there.]

Nephi refers to the Gentiles during the last days. “Gentiles” is an interesting word, which sometimes carries one meaning and sometimes another. It always refers to “those who are not” something – those who are not Jews, those who are not of the House of Israel. But in Nephi’s prophesies, he is distinguishing between his people – his descendants – and those who are not part of that group. It is important to remember than even though we recognize ourselves as among the House of Israel, in these chapters of Second Nephi we are among those people who are not Nephi’s descendants – when we read his words about the Gentiles, we need to recognize he is including us in that term.

20 And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that ;they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.

21 And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice.

It would be easy – even a relief – to distance ourselves from these verses. We haven’t built up many churches – we have built up only one, as directed by the Lord. Are there any parts of these verses, though, that you can see as descriptive of us – Latter-day Saints living in Salt Lake City – who may need to keep a close watch on our temptations and tendencies? In what ways might our pride as Gentiles, even our pride in membership in the Church, be a stumbling block? And to whom?

Contrasting the true gospel of Jesus Christ against any of these ideas or attitudes or behaviors, Nephi asserts in various ways that Jesus “manifests himself” to all who believe. As we read these verses, please examine your own conscience and consider whether you’re fully aligned with the Savior on these points, or whether you harbor any hesitation:

2 Nephi 24-33:

24 He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.

25 Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.

26 Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.

27 Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.

28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.

29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.

30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.

31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.

32 And again, the Lord God hath commanded that men should not murder; that they should not lie; that they should not steal; that they should not take the name of the Lord their God in vain; that they should not envy; that they should not have malice; that they should not contend one with another; that they should not commit whoredoms; and that they should do none of these things; for whoso doeth them shall perish.

33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

I think there can be few clearer and more important statements in all of scripture to guide our conduct with each other and with the rest of the world: “He inviteth them all to come unto him … and he denieth none that come unto him … and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God.”

From time to time – and I think this election season is one such time – we seem more concerned with other people denying us a place at the table, and the right to wear the label of Christian, than we are with ensuring that we recognize the love God and Jesus Christ have for everyone in the world. He invites all to come – and apparently he continues to love even when people don’t come, because “he remembereth the heathen.”

If we truly share the position of Jesus Christ that “all are alike unto God,” how might that temper our reaction to people who are different from us? You may think that my asking these questions is the same as advocating for a particular governmental policy. I assure you, they do not. I struggle with some of these issues the same as everyone else does, in finding the right balance for enforcing law and managing limited resources and creating the kind of environment we want for our families. But if the teachings of the gospel are to have any real effect in our lives, we have to at least consider how Nephi’s words affect our actual behavior in these last days:

If we believed that “all are alike unto God,” would we use racial epithets, even in private, even among friends? While we defend our own understanding of marriage, would we tolerate verbal and physical abuse of people who don’t share that understanding? If we believe that “he denieth none that come unto him, black and white,” would we perpetuate the false speculations and the misreadings of scripture that pretend that God cursed an entire race and punished them for Cain’s transgression? Would we insist on the strictest possible reading of immigration law, regardless of individual circumstances, welcoming people to come unto Christ as long as they don’t come unto us?

[Allow discussion, but carefully focus on how to incorporate the gospel into our decision making, rather than allowing anyone to make a speech on his views of racism or immigration or politics.]

Conclusion

If the Book of Mormon is of any value to us individually, we can each thank the people of Nephi for writing and preserving that record. The only reason we have it is because the Spirit taught the Nephites that “all are alike unto God” – even people who would live thousands of years in the future, who would speak an unknown language, whose daily life was unimaginable to the Nephites. We benefit from the Nephite invitation to come unto Christ. We owe it to others to extend the same benefit by “inviting all to come unto him.” [Testimony]



4 Comments »

  1. Great lesson, Ardis. I especially like your discussion questions regarding 2 Nephi 26:13. Surely, those of us who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not the only people in the world who see visions and work miracles, signs and wonders. Others, through their great faith in Christ, do the same and have greater humility as they do so. Surely, we do not have a monopoly on faith, righteousness, or the gifts of the spirit.

    Comment by Chris — March 18, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

  2. Thank you, Chris. I was pleased with how the lesson went, with the generosity of spirit of class members in recognizing that we don’t have a monopoly on the Lord’s love, that he invites all to come unto him and rewards all according to their faith.

    This point is not complete, though, without recognizing that, if we do not have a monopoly on faith or good works or the love of the Lord, we do, as a Church, have a monopoly on some things: ordinances necessary for salvation, the gift of the constant (contingent on our righteousness), awareness of the additional light and knowledge available through our additional scriptures, access to the ongoing instruction of prophets, seers and revelators, and other benefits of church membership — all of which are available to all people who who are willing to add that to the faith they have now.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 18, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

  3. I don’t have anything to add, profound or otherwise, just a note that it’s nice to read your thoughts on this part of 2nd Nephi.

    Comment by Amy T — March 18, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

  4. Thanks for this, Ardis. Lots of good food for thought.

    I loved this insight:

    W”e should read it, therefore, not as a fresh, new revelation, an excited telling of something Nephi has just seen, but as the culmination of his lifetime as a prophet. We can assume that Nephi has thought long and hard, that he has prayed for understanding of anything that was obscure, and that he is emphasizing what is most important for his people to remember.”

    I’m amazed at what a prophet Nephi was, not just for his time, but for ours. For us. For his people. For Jew and Gentile alike. Really powerful stuff.

    Comment by michelle — March 18, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

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