1 Nephi Chapter 10
1 Nephi 10:19 He that diligently seeketh shall find and the mysteries of God shall be opened unto him.
Chapters 10 and 11 of 1 Nephi plus a few other references in the Book of Mormon (see the commentary for Mosiah 15:5-7) contain important specific prophetic revelations concerning Jesus. Those Book of Mormon peoples who believed these teachings and looked forward in faith to Christ's coming were literally Christians. Thus their record, the Book of Mormon, is indeed "Another Testament of Jesus Christ."
1 And now I, Nephi, proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings, and my reign and ministry; wherefore, to proceed with mine account, I must speak somewhat of the things of my father, and also of my brethren.
verse 1 As previously stated, chapter 10 begins the actual account of Nephi. Up to now Nephi has been summarizing the record of his father Lehi. Chapter 9 was simply Nephi's editorial comment placed between the record of his father Lehi and his own record.
Actually most of chapter 10 includes more of Nephi's recollections of what his father Lehi prophesied and taught. In this chapter and in several of the remaining chapters in the books of 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi, Nephi will continue to use his father's record for source material and will even quote from it on occasion. Nephi's brother Jacob will also quote from his father's record.
2 For behold, it came to pass after my father had made an end of speaking the words of his dream, and also of exhorting them to all diligence, he spake unto them concerning the Jews-
verse 2 The "thems" in this verse obviously refer to Nephi's brothers.
3 That after they should be destroyed, even that great city Jerusalem, and many be carried away captive into Babylon, according to the own due time of the Lord, they should return again, yea, even be brought back out of captivity; and after they should be brought back out of captivity they should possess again the land of their inheritance.
verse 3 "the own due time of the Lord" The meaning of the concept of "the Lord's own due time" is intuitively clear. We would define it as "when the Lord sees fit." This particular rendering of that expression, however, seems a bit unusual. The phrase "own due time" seems to fit more smoothly with modifiers other than "the," such as "mine own due time" (2 Nephi 27:21; 3 Nephi 20:29), "my own due time" (Ether 3:24), and "his own due time" (Enos 1:16; 3 Nephi 5:25; Mormon 5:12; Ether 3:27). This same expression-"the own due time" -is also found in 1 Nephi 14:26 and 2 Nephi 27:10 but is found in no other places in the four standard works.
The destruction of the Jews prophesied in this verse is one of the major "scatterings" of Israel, while the "return again" represents one of the significant "gatherings." For a summary of the concepts of scattering and gathering of Israel, see the introductory commentary for 1 Nephi 20.
In the Book of Mormon, much attention is given to the fate of the kingdom of Judah and the Jews. This is likely because the pattern of the scattering and gathering of the Jews forms a paradigm or model of scattering and gathering which will apply to the entire house of Israel. Lehi prophesies here of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem following their captivity. In 538 BC, just less than fifty years following the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem in 586 BC, Cyrus the Persian captured Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem (see Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1).
4 Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews-even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.
verse 4 There are actually several references in the Book of Mormon that contain prophecies or historical statements stating that Jesus will be born "six hundred years" from the time Lehi left Jerusalem. See also 1 Nephi 19:8, 2 Nephi 25:19, and 3 Nephi 1:1; 3 Nephi 1:13. Is this time span "six hundred years" intended to be general and approximate or literal and specific? Some are comfortable with the idea that an approximate time period is intended.
Those who have insisted on a literal interpretation have done some agonizing over the issue since it is difficult to make the numbers add up exactly. Consider for example the following: Biblical scholars date the first year of the reign of Zedekiah to about 597 BC. If this is indeed the year that Lehi's family left Jerusalem, then Jesus would have had to be born in about AD 3. This latter date is not satisfactory since biblical scholars have dated the death of Herod the Great at 4 BC. The Savior must have been born before Herod's death since Herod played a major role in the story of the Christ child's early life. If Lehi and his family left Jerusalem some years after 597 BC, which is probable (see the supplemental article Jerusalem at the Time of Lehi), then the mathematical problem is even more difficult.
Randall P. Spackman in his helpful article "Introduction to Book of Mormon Chronology: The Principal Prophecies, Calendars, and Dates," (a FARMS reprint) has provided us with a compelling solution of the problem. The principal time-keeping system throughout the Middle East in the sixth century BC was a twelve-moon lunar calendar. By this calendar a year lasted 354.367 days. The principle of the solar calendar was also understood in which a year lasted 365.24 days, but the twelve-moon lunar calendar continued in use as the principal Babylonian, Egyptian, and Jewish religious calendar throughout ancient history. These religious calendars appear to have been based on direct observation of the moon by the priests to determine the times of religious festivals. "The priests also recognized that the solar year . . . was about eleven days longer than the twelve-moon calendar. For purposes of seasonal or agricultural rituals, the priests probably added or intercalated a 13th moon every two or three years. This was not an exact process in the time of Lehi, but it was an ancient one. Accurate intercalation schedules for adding the 13th moon were not worked out in Babylonia until the fifth century BC. In Lehi's day, a 13th moon was added to the year when it became clear that the religious festivals were starting to occur too early in the agricultural or seasonal cycle" (Spackman, 15).
Brother Spackman believes it unlikely that Lehi and his people ever tried to intercalate their calendar. Thus their year was slightly over 354 days long. Brother Spackman also makes a compelling argument for the fact that Lehi and his family probably left Jerusalem in January 587 BC according to our present-day Gregorian calendar. Lehi would probably have begun his 600-year count on the first new moon day that followed his departure. The date of that new moon was January 19, 587 BC. He apparently began the count as he camped in the wilderness. Lehi's righteous posterity kept this year count and were taught expressly to look forward to the birth of the Savior in 600 years by this lunar calendar. After 600 years or 7,200 moons, the 601st year of Lehi's prophetic period would have begun with the new moon of March 8, 5 BC. In the "commencement" of this long-awaited year, the sign of the Messiah's birth was seen in the heavens and he was born at Bethlehem probably in the spring of 5 BC.
"a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews" Jesus is the "prophet," indeed the Prophet of prophets. Lehi is actually quoting scripture here. He is quoting Moses's prophecy of the Savior's birth (Deuteronomy 18:15- 19). Obviously the term "Lord God" refers to God the Father or Elohim. Most scriptures that speak of God or the Lord do not necessarily refer specifically to the Father or the Son because it usually doesn't make much difference which God is intended. Critics of the Book of Mormon have suggested that the book speaks of only one God-that it is trinitarian in nature. While Jesus is certainly the central character, a careful reading of the text indicates that God the Father is referred to as well.
5 And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.
verse 5 "he also spake" Lehi also spake.
The very purpose and calling of those prophets who lived before the meridian of time was to prophesy of Jesus Christ. Those who have lived since the meridian of time have existed and will exist to testify of him. Nephi's brother Jacob will later write, "None of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ" (Jacob 7:11).
6 Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.
verse 6 "All mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer." This is a doctrine that is taught repeatedly in the Book of Mormon. For a discussion of the doctrines of the fall of man and the atonement, see chapter 2 in volume 2 of Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, Consequences of the Savior's Atonement. See also the commentary for Mosiah 15:19.
verses 7-10 The four following verses contain an exceedingly explicit and specific prophecy by Lehi concerning John the Baptist. The Baptist is even quoted some six hundred years before he was even born! How could this be? Read on!
7 And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord-
8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.
verse 8 "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight" The use of the word straight (rather than strait) in this verse is appropriate and related to the word straight in Isaiah 40:3. See the supplemental article, Strait and Straight in the Book of Mormon.
9 And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.
verse 9 "he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan" "Beyond Jordan" (Greek Perea) is the name of a region on the east bank of the Jordan River. Bethabara is the place, within Perea, where John baptized. In Hebrew, Bethabara or Beth-avara means "house of the ford" or "place of crossing." Bethabara is near the natural fording place east of Jericho entering Perea. At such an important juncture along a major east-west travel route, John could have taught people traveling from the regions of Judea, Perea, Galilee, Decapolis, and Phoenicia.
verses 8-9 "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight" Doubtless Lehi (or Nephi) borrowed this phrase from the writings of Isaiah on the plates of brass (Isaiah 40:3). The expression "prepare ye the way of the Lord" is a commission to prepare for the coming of the Lord by crying repentance and gathering a people sufficiently prepared by covenant and ordinance to receive him (Malachi 3:1; JST Luke 3:4-10; D&C 84:28).
"and make his paths straight" This phrase means "prepare the way of the Lord," or prepare for the second coming by making the saints' path back to God's presence level or smooth.
In their Doctrine and Covenants commentary, Smith and Sjodahl explain:
Eastern potentates, when traveling from one part of the kingdom to another, would proclaim their coming and order their subjects to prepare the way for them, by building roads where there were none; if necessary by leveling hills and filling up depressions, and straightening out the winding paths. . . . To prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight is to acknowledge his sovereignty and to make all necessary preparations for his reception. He will not come to reign until all necessary preparations for his coming have been made. Joseph Smith said, "Hear this, O earth! The Lord will not come to reign over the righteous in this world . . . until everything for the Bridegroom is ready (HC, 5:291)" (174).Eastern potentates, when traveling from one part of the kingdom to another, would proclaim their coming and order their subjects to prepare the way for them, by building roads where there were none; if necessary by leveling hills and filling up depressions, and straightening out the winding paths. . . . To prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight is to acknowledge his sovereignty and to make all necessary preparations for his reception. He will not come to reign until all necessary preparations for his coming have been made. Joseph Smith said, "Hear this, O earth! The Lord will not come to reign over the righteous in this world . . . until everything for the Bridegroom is ready (HC, 5:291)" (174).
This preparation includes removing all obstacles out of the way so that others can be obedient to the laws and ordinances of the gospel (see also D&C 33:10; D&C 65:1; D&C 45:2). The book of Isaiah renders this same phrase "make straight in the desert a highway for our God." The desert symbolizes the world of sin. The highway here is the "way of holiness" (Isaiah 19:199-25; 35:8).
"there standeth one among you . . . whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose" "he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan" The phrasing of Lehi's prophecy seems to be borrowed from the New Testament, especially John 1:26-29 which states, "there standeth one among you . . . whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose" (see also Matthew 3:3; Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16; and Acts 13:25). Obviously Lehi and Nephi did not have access to any New Testament writings except by revelation. How do we explain, then, the identical wording? There are at least three reasonable explanations.
1. Maybe Joseph Smith, in the process of translation, perceived the meaning of Lehi's prophecy and used the King James Bible to put words to it? There is no historical evidence that Joseph ever actually physically employed the King James Bible in the process of the Book of Mormon translation. But Joseph Smith might have been sufficiently familiar with these phrases in the New Testament that they were in his mind, and he used them to express the ideas he was perceiving.
2. Conceivably Lehi (or Nephi) was simply given by direct revelation the words of John the Baptist and the apostle John.
3. Perhaps Lehi, John the Baptist, and John the apostle were all quoting an earlier prophet whose writings are lost to us today. This seems the most likely possibility.
10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.
verse 10 "bear record" The phrase "bear/beareth record" occurs thirty-two times in the Book of Mormon and seven times in the King James Version of the New Testament, where it is used to translate the Greek work martureo, meaning to give evidence, testify, or be a witness (e.g., John 8:14).
"the Lamb of God" It is interesting to note that this specific phrase is found thirty-five times in the Book of Mormon and thirty-eight times in all the standard works. The vision of Nephi (1 Nephi 11-15) contains twenty-eight of the thirty-five Book of Mormon examples of this phrase. It is found once in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 88:106) and not at all in the Old Testament. The only two examples of this phrase in the New Testament are found in the gospel of John (John 1:29; John 1:36). Do you suppose it is simply a coincidence that the two ancient characters who are mostly responsible for the scriptural use of this phrase are brought together in Nephi's vision, the apostle John and Nephi? Many of the things Nephi saw in his vision are the very things the apostle John will also see and write about (1 Nephi 14:24).
"who should take away the sins of the world" This phrase in the original manuscript reads sin, in the singular, and not sins. Elsewhere in the original Book of Mormon, in fifteen other instances, the text speaks of the Savior as taking away the sins (plural) of mankind. But in the two places where it speaks of the atonement in connection with John's baptism of Jesus (here and in 2 Nephi 31:4), it uses the singular sin-precisely as does John the Baptist himself in the New Testament (see John 1:29). This observation has been referred to as evidence of an "astonishing consistency" of the original text by Dr. Royal Skousen, a BYU professor of linguistics and English language (see the report "Restoring the Original Test of the Book of Mormon," Insights 24/4 ).
11 And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel which should be preached among the Jews, and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief. And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.
verse 11 The "gospel" is a term that may be understood in two contexts. In its broader sense, the gospel embraces all truth including the verities of science, philosophy, and the arts. Usually, however, we speak of the gospel in its scriptural or saving sense. In this context the gospel is the proclamation that Christ is the way, and one must obey those principles and laws which he taught, and which he typified, in order to live with God eternally. The scriptural definition of the gospel is found in 3 Nephi 27:13-21.
"And after they had slain the Messiah" Let us never become guilty of allowing ourselves to believe or preach the unqualified half truth, that "the Jews crucified our Savior." Keep in mind that most of Jesus's adherents during his mortal ministry were Jews. The vast majority of Jews in Jerusalem did not even know that Jesus was being crucified, and they likely would have dealt with him in a more gentle way if it had been up to them. Christ's crucifixion was engineered by a relative few of the Jewish leaders, largely Pharisees and Sadducees, whose positions of power and influence were threatened by Jesus.
"unto the Gentiles" The word "Gentiles" is used here for the first time in the text of the Book of Mormon. Gentile is a word used to translate the Hebrew Goyim, literally meaning "the nations." The use of this word in various contexts often results in confusion, because different meanings have been applied to it over the history of the world. Let us summarize the evolution of this word. All inhabitants of the earth (at least those in the family of Adam) descended from the three sons of Noah. Those sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The descendants of Shem were the "Shemites" or Hebrews. Through this lineage came the prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The descendants of Ham are the black races or "Hamites." Before the Flood, Ham had married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain. Thus the descendants of this union were the "Canaanites" (Genesis 9:25). The descendants of Japheth were called "Gentiles" (Genesis 10:1-5). These were all of those who have not descended from either Shem or Ham.
In the days of Abraham, the meaning changed to include all those not descended from him. Gentiles, by this definition, would include all those not descended through the patriarchal line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Arabs and other races of Semitic ("Shem-itic") origin would not be counted as Gentiles. In the days of Jacob or Israel and throughout the history of ancient Palestine or Israel, the meaning changed again to become all those not descended from Jacob or Israel-all those outside the "house of Israel."
Another definition of Gentile was used by father Lehi and his descendants and therefore finds application throughout the Book of Mormon. After the Kingdom of Israel with its ten tribes of Israel were carried away captive by Assyria between 732 and 722 BC, those of the Kingdom of Judah came to call themselves "Jews" and designated all others as "Gentiles." Lehi was brought up in the land of Jerusalem with this definition. Thus, it is not surprising to find, in the Book of Mormon, the following: (1) the phrase "Jew and Gentile" which implies all mankind; (2) a description of the United States as a "Gentile Nation" (1 Nephi 13; 3 Nephi 21); and (3) the promise that the Book of Mormon would come forth "by way of the Gentile" (title page of Book of Mormon) even though the prophet Joseph Smith was of the tribe of Joseph through Ephraim. Thus all of scattered Israel, except for the Jews, are referred to in the Book of Mormon as Gentiles.
The meaning of the term Gentile that is most applicable today is that of a Gentile being all those outside the house of Israel, that is, those not descended from Jacob and his twelve sons. By this definition Joseph Smith would not be a Gentile since he is descended from the house of Israel.
By any definition, the membership of the Church today consists of people of whose lineage is both Jew and Gentile. However, all people who accept the gospel, regardless of descent, are "adopted" into the house of Israel. Those who fail to accept the gospel, regardless of their lineage, lose any preferential status into which they may have been born. It is because of this principle of adoption that the custom has developed in the Church today of referring to members of the Church as "Israelites" and to all non-members as "Gentiles."
"should make himself manifest by the Holy Ghost unto the Gentiles" During Jesus's mortal ministry, he delivered the gospel message preferentially in person to the twelve tribes of Israel and not to those outside the house of Israel. Some years after Christ's death and resurrection, the apostle Peter was inspired to begin preaching the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Thus the Gentiles did not hear his voice directly. Rather, they heard the word from his disciples and it was "manifest by the Holy Ghost" unto them. Following Christ's resurrection he will teach the Book of Mormon people during a personal visit to them. He will teach that he intends to appear personally only to Israelites and not to the Gentiles. Thus he will "make himself manifest by the Holy Ghost unto the Gentiles," but he will not manifest himself personally to them (see 3 Nephi 15:23 and its commentary).
12 Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive-tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
verse 12 "they should be compared like unto an olive-tree" It is difficult to know when the practice of comparing the house of Israel metaphorically to an olive tree began. Genesis 49:22 ("Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall") suggests that Moses may even have suggested the comparison. The Old Testament prophet Zenos, whose writings are contained on the plates of brass but not in the Bible, certainly used this comparison extensively. See Jacob's quotations of Zenos's prophecies in Jacob 5. It is likely that father Lehi was familiar with Zenos's allegory of the olive tree as he had studied the brass plates. Both Isaiah (Isaiah 5) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 12:10) compared the house of Israel to the Lord's vineyard. At any rate, the idea of comparing the house of Israel with an olive tree does not seem to have originated with the prophet Lehi.
"whose branches should be broken off" This expression refers to the scattering of Israel.
The word branch (or branches) is used with four different meanings in the Book of Mormon:
1. It may be used, as it is here in this verse, to refer to groups of people, most often to Israelites who are scattered or separated from their Israelite kinsmen. With this meaning, the branch is part of the metaphor of the olive tree. These scattered branches will be gathered and grafted back into the olive tree in the latter days (see verse 14 and 1 Nephi 15:12-16). For other instances in which the word branch is used with this meaning, see 1 Nephi 19:24, 2 Nephi 3:5, Alma 26:36, and Jacob 5.
2. A branch may be a cutting with negative or undesirable characteristics. Isaiah referred to the time when the king of Babylon would be "cast out of [his] grave like an abominable branch" (2 Nephi 24:19).
3. Branch may be used as a title for Christ. The Savior is a branch or descendant of the house of Israel through the Davidic line (2 Nephi 21:5; cf. Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 33:15-17).
4. Branch may refer to posterity. Malachi warned that the wicked, at the Lord's second coming, would be left with "neither root nor branch" (3 Nephi 25:1).
13 Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
verse 13 The departure of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem and their sojourn to the land of promise was a significant part of the scattering of Israel. Most of those Israelites scattered at the same time, however, were taken captive in Babylon. Generally, when a lineage rejects Christ and his gospel, they are in danger of being "scattered" or dispersed into the world. Here, we see another purpose of scattering. It is for the preservation of a lineage.
14 And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.
verse 14 The expression "in fine" means in conclusion or in summary.
"in fine, after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again" This refers to the latter-day gathering of Israel in this present dispensation.
"after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel" During the time of Christ's mortal ministry, the gospel went first to the house of Israel and then to the Gentiles. In this final dispensation, that order is reversed. The gospel will be received first by a "Gentile nation" who will then take the gospel to the world and begin to gather or "graft in" the house of Israel.
There are a few references in the Book of Mormon-direct or indirect-to this Gentile nation which is thought to be the United States of America (see, for example 1 Nephi 13:15; 1 Nephi 13:30; 1 Nephi 13:22:7; Ether 2:12). In the Church, we have come to refer to this nation as the "great Gentile nation," a phrase probably initially coined by Elder B. H. Roberts (see Conference Report, October 1922, 14-21) but later used by Presidents Spencer W. Kimball (Conference Report, October 1959, 57-62) and Ezra Taft Benson (October 1961, 69-75). The specific phrase "great Gentile nation" is not found in the Book of Mormon or in any scripture. The most direct reference in the Book of Mormon to this nation is found in 1 Nephi 22:7 where it is referred to as "a mighty nation among the Gentiles." It should be noted that those citizens of the great Gentile nation who receive the gospel are most often of the blood of Israel (see more discussion on this topic in the commentary for 1 Nephi 15:13).
The "natural branches of the olive tree" are those individuals who belong to the house of Israel by blood descent. These will be taught the gospel by the "Gentile" missionaries. Again, the Gentile missionaries are usually Israel by blood descent. They are "Gentiles" only in that they live in the great Gentile nation and are not Jews.
15 And after this manner of language did my father prophesy and speak unto my brethren, and also many more things which I do not write in this book; for I have written as many of them as were expedient for me in mine other book.
verse 15 "this book" This is, of course, Nephi's reference to the small plates of Nephi. "Mine other book" is the large plates of Nephi.
One of the definitions of expedient in Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is, "fit or suitable for the purpose; proper under the circumstances."
16 And all these things, of which I have spoken, were done as my father dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel.
17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God-and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come-I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
verse 17 "by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God" Obedience to the commandments of the Lord has profound effects on the obedient individual, including a closer connection to the Spirit of God and a gradually increasing testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. The expression "faith on the Son of God" is synonymous with obedience to the commandments of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"as well in times of old" It is false doctrine that the Holy Ghost was manifest for the first time following the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, such manifestations have been known from the very beginning of man. Even the gift of the Holy Ghost has been bestowed whenever there has been a legal Melchizedek priesthood administrator of the kingdom of God on earth (Moses 5:58). For a discussion of this issue see "Is having one's calling and election made sure the same as receiving the Second Comforter?" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 16, Calling and Election Made Sure.
18 For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
verse 18 The concept explained in this verse is a rich and vital one. We are governed by God's law. That law is absolute, completely reliable, unvarying, and its consequences are inescapable. For every action there is an identical result. These results follow without respect to person. It has always been thus, in Adam's day just as in ours and in the eternities to come. Thus, "the course of the Lord is one eternal round" (see the following verse).
"from the foundation of the world" The period here referred to as the "foundation of the world" is that period in the premortal existence when preparations were made for the great mortal experience of the family of Adam and the plan of redemption by which members of that family might eventually return to their celestial home. This expression will be used on several occasions in the Book of Mormon (see 2 Nephi 9:18; Mosiah 15:19 18:13; Alma 12:25; Alma 12:30; Alma 13:3; Alma 13:5; Alma 18:39; Alma 22:13; Alma 42:26; Helaman 5:47; Ether 3:14). The term foundation will also be used as a direct reference to Jesus Christ. Jacob and Helaman will teach that as the "stone" or "rock" upon which faith must be built, Christ is the "only sure foundation" of everyone's hope for redemption, even for the Jews, though they would reject him during his mortal ministry (Jacob 4:15-17; Helaman 5:12).
19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.
verse 19 "mysteries of God" For a discussion of the concept of the "mysteries of God" see the commentary for 1 Nephi 1:1. He who has faith in Christ and seeks to know the things of God will be granted that privilege by the power of the Holy Ghost. This promise holds true in all ages because "the course of the Lord is one eternal round" (see the commentary for verse 18).
20 Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.
verse 20 As explained in the commentary for verse 18 above, the eternal law which binds and governs us is absolute. Our actions or "doings" in mortality will determine our course for eternity.
21 Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.
verse 21 "no unclean thing can dwell with God" For added insight into this phrase, see the discussion on concept of justification in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 17, Justification and Sanctification.
It should be noted that this verse states two seemingly incompatible inevitabilities. First,"no unclean thing can dwell with God," and second, that the unclean will be brought before God at his judgment seat. Actually the unclean cannot dwell with God in that they cannot live in his presence permanently, but all, even the unclean, will be admitted into his presence temporarily to be judged of him (see also 2 Nephi 9:38). "ye must be cast off forever" To be "cast off" means to suffer spiritual death or to be cast out of the Lord's presence.
Generally, the Book of Mormon does not teach the complete doctrine of our post-mortal lives. There is no mention of the three degrees of glory in the Book of Mormon. Rather, it teaches only the extremes: accept and live the gospel in this life, and receive eternal life in God's presence, or reject the gospel and be cast out to live with Satan and his angels. There is no mention of spirit prison or the opportunity to repent after mortality. For a discussion of this problem, see "Post-Mortal Life and the Book of Mormon" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 13, The Spirit World.
22 And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.
verse 22 One of the roles of the Holy Ghost is to be the witness or testator. He witnesses to man through personal revelation the validity and importance of eternal truths. When a man speaks these truths with the assistance and influence of the Holy Ghost, he has the authority and power from God to do so.