1 Nephi Chapter 13
1 Nephi 13-14 Nephi's vision of the Great and Abominable Church
1 Nephi 13:12-13 The vision of Columbus and the Pilgrims.
1 Nephi 13:28-29 Plain and precious things taken away from the Bible
1 Nephi 13:37 How beautiful upon the mountains shall they be-those who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at the last day.
1 Nephi 13:40-41 Modern-day revelations to restore plain and precious things
Chapters 13 and 14 of 1 Nephi both deal in part with an often misunderstood concept-the great and abominable church of the devil. For this introductory discussion I have drawn from a paper by Stephen E. Robinson, "Early Christianity and 1 Nephi 13-14" published in The Book of Mormon, First Nephi, the Doctrinal Foundation, 177-91.
In these two chapters, Nephi describes the vision in which he sees the future of the world and its kingdoms. Nephi's vision is the type of revelation known in biblical literature as apocalyptic (prophetic revelation, especially concerning a cataclysm in which the forces of good triumph over the forces of evil), and it is represented in the New Testament most fully by John's book of Revelation. The revelations of Nephi and of John have more in common, however, than merely the apocalyptic form. For one thing, Nephi's vision foretells of John's vision (Nephi 14:19-28). The two are complementary, centering in part on the same characters and themes: the Lamb and his church, the apostasy, the great and abominable church of the devil, and the restoration of the gospel in the latter days.
The word great is an adjective of size rather than of quality. It thus informs us of the large size of the abominable entity. Secondary meanings might refer to great wealth or power. The term abominable is used in the Old Testament to describe what God hates, what cannot fail to arouse his wrath. In the book of Daniel, for example, the abomination of desolation is that thing so hateful to God that its presence in the temple causes the divine presence to depart, leaving the sanctuary desolate. The term is usually associated with idolatrous worship or gross sexual immorality.
The word church had a slightly broader meaning anciently than it does now. It referred anciently to an assembly, congregation, or association of people who bonded together and shared the same loyalties. Thus, the term was not necessarily restricted to religious associations. In fact, in Athens the Greeks used the term to denote the legislative assembly of government. The Greek word for church, ekklesia, is formed from the root -klesia, meaning "to call" and the prefix ek-, meaning "out." Thus it originally referred to those citizens who were called out or summoned to public meetings. It was thus an ideal word to represent the body of individuals whom God "calls out" of the world through the Holy Ghost.
When we put all this together, we find that the term great and abominable church means an immense assembly or association, likely a religious association, of people bound together by their loyalty to that which God hates. Most likely, this "church" is involved specifically in sexual immorality, false worship, or both. While the book of Revelation does not use the exact phrase great and abominable church, both John the Revelator and Nephi use a number of similar phrases to describe it. They both call it the "Mother of Harlots and Abominations," "mother of abominations," and "the whore that sitteth upon many waters" (Revelation 17:1; 1 Nephi 14:10-11).
Whenever the kingdom of God has been placed on the earth, "the devil always sets up his kingdom at the very same time in opposition to God" (TPJS, 365). "And since the kingdom of God or true church has been on earth from age to age, so also has the kingdom of the devil or the church of the devil" (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 340). In setting up his church, Satan has always imitated the kingdom of God in order to deceive people. We might always expect to find in Satan's church an organization similar to that of God's kingdom, priestcraft rather than priesthood, and the teaching of untruths mingled with scripture.
The major characteristics of the great and abominable church described in 1 Nephi 13 and 14 may be listed as follows:
1. It persecutes, tortures, and slays the saints of God (1 Nephi 13:5).
2. It seeks wealth and luxury (1 Nephi 13:7-8).
3. It is characterized by sexual immorality (1 Nephi 13:7).
4. It has removed plain and precious things from the scriptures (1 Nephi 13:28-29).
5. It has "dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people" (1 Nephi 14:11).
6. Its fate is to be consumed by a world war. This will occur when the nations which it has incited against the saints war among themselves until the great and abominable church itself is destroyed (see 1 Nephi 22:13-14).
These same characteristics are also attributed to the whore (Babylon) in the Revelation of John:
1. She is drunk with the blood of the Saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus and of the prophets (17:6; 18:24).
2. She is characterized by the enjoyment of great wealth and luxury (17:4; 18:3, 11-16).
3. She is characterized by sexual immorality (17:1, 2, 5).
4. She has dominion over all nations (17:15, 18; 18:3, 23-24).
5. Her fate is to be consumed by the very kings who have made war on the Lamb under the influence of her deceptions (17:14-16; 18:23).
It should be noted that one characteristic not common to both prophetic descriptions is Nephi's statement that the great and abominable church held back important parts of the canon of scripture. But because John's record is one of the very scriptures to which Nephi refers (14:20-23), this omission in John's account is not surprising.
Some confusion is caused regarding the concept of the great and abominable church by what seems to be a contradiction between chapter 13 and chapter 14. In 1 Nephi 13, the "great and abominable church" is one specific church among many. Nephi's description of it as "most abominable above all other churches" (verses 5, 26) does not make sense otherwise. Also, in chapter 13, it has a specific historical description: It was formed among the Gentiles after the Jews transmitted the Bible in its purity to the Gentiles (verse 26). It is also the specific historical agent responsible for removing plain and precious truths from the scriptural record. To this may be added the information provided by the Doctrine and Covenants 86:1-3, which teaches that the "great and abominable church" did its work after the apostles had "fallen asleep"-that is, after the end of the first century AD. Clearly, "great and abominable" here refers to one specific church among many others that are not "great and abominable."
In contrast, 1 Nephi 14:10 describes the devil's church as consisting of all those organizations not associated with the Church of Jesus Christ: "Behold there are save two churches only [that is, Zion and Babylon]; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil."
How can this be? Is the "great and abominable" one church or many? The answer is that the term is used in two different ways in chapters 13 and 14. In chapter 13, the "great and abominable church" refers to a specific historical entity, whereas in chapter 14 the term is used simply in a generic or universal or typological sense. An example of another such term used in the same way, with much the same meaning, is Babylon. Babylon is an ancient Mesopotamian city. Babylon is also a more general expression which signifies a spiritual category of people-the carnal world, and its values and lifestyle which include mockery of the kingdom of God.
Another similar expression is Zion. Zion is a specific city to be founded before the Lord's second coming. It is also a spiritual category of people-the pure in heart. As spiritual categories, Babylon is the antithesis of Zion. Zion is wherever the pure in heart dwell, and Babylon is wherever the wicked live. Anyone who fights against Zion can be put into the category of Babylon.
Apocalyptic literature is also dualistic. Because it deals with archetypes, it boils everything down to opposing principles: love and hate, good and evil, light and dark. There are not gray areas in apocalyptic scripture. At the very least, everything can be reduced to the opposing categories of "A" and "not-A" ("They who are not for me are against me, saith our God"-2 Nephi 10:16). In the realm of religion, there are only two categories; religion that will save and religion that will not. The former is the church of the Lamb, and the latter-no matter how well intentioned-is a counterfeit. Thus, even a "good" church must still be part of the devil's kingdom in the sense used in 1 Nephi 14 ("there are save two churches only"). Again, by the construct of 1 Nephi 14, there is only one true church, and all other churches are part of the entity known as the "great and abominable church." However, all of the churches that are part of the "great and abominable" entity in 1 Nephi 14, cannot be called the "great and abominable church" in the sense used in 1 Nephi 13, for their intentions are good and honorable, and quite often such churches teach people enough truth that they can then recognize the true church when they meet it. These churches do not slay the saints of God, they do not seek to control civil governments, nor do they pursue wealth, luxury, and sexual immorality. Such churches may belong to the kingdom of the devil in the apocalyptic sense, when there are only two categories, "A" and "not-A," but they cannot be called the great and abominable church in the historical sense-the description is just not accurate.
In 1 Nephi 13:5; 1 Nephi 13:8, and 26 the reference to the "great and abominable church" implies the specific historical entity. In 1 Nephi 14:10, the more general meaning is apparently intended.
What, then, is the specific historical entity referred to in 1 Nephi 13? Before we consider what it is, let us consider what it is not. Well-intentioned churches do not qualify as the "great and abominable church" described in 1 Nephi 13. They do not slay the saints of God, and they do not seek to control civil governments. Nor do they pursue wealth, luxury, and sexual immorality.
Some have suggested that the great and abominable church is Judaism in the first century AD. After all, Jewish leaders persecuted the Church and spilled the blood of the Saints. They even crucified the Messiah. It was this kind of argument-that the Jews were the antichrist-that led directly to the Holocaust in the 20th century and that still fans the bigoted insanity of some present-day groups. Judaism cannot be the great and abominable church. Nephi makes clear that the scriptures were complete when they came forth from the mouth of a Jew, but that the great and abominable church, which had its formation among the Gentiles, excised some of their most plain and precious parts (1 Nephi 13:24-26).
Some have suggested that the Roman Catholic Church might be the great and abominable church of Nephi 13. This also is untenable. Catholicism did not yet exist when the crimes described by Nephi were being committed. Constantine did not formally organize the state church until AD 313. Furthermore, the early Catholic Church can hardly be accused of immorality. It had, in fact, gone to the extremes of asceticism. And during much of the period, members of the Catholic Church were not in a position to persecute anyone, as they were being thrown to the lions themselves. The Catholic Church of the fourth century was the result of apostasy, not its cause.
As an aside, the word apostasy is a most interesting one. It is derived from the Greek word apostasia which means literally standing apart. Most commonly, however, apostasy is taken to mean "rebellion" or "revolution." It conveys the sense of an internal takeover by factions hostile to the intentions of the previous leaders. A similar meaning is conveyed by the word mutiny, which implies that unauthorized crew commandeers a ship and take it where it is not supposed to go. Because early Christians often thought of the Church as a ship, it seems "mutiny" conveys exactly the right sense of what Paul and others meant by the term "apostasy." Webster's Dictionary defines apostasy in a somewhat different way when it says, "An abandoning of what one has believed in." Although the word apostasy is not found in the text, the Book of Mormon has much to say about the nature, causes, and effects of apostasy. Indeed, the stories of two of its great civilizations, the Jaredites and the Nephites, end in massive, and fatal, national apostasies. The Book of Mormon teaches that apostasy occurs in at least two ways: (1) Drifting or falling away; losing one's zeal for or commitment to the gospel; losing one's way, often in almost imperceptible degrees. The phrase "dwindle in unbelief" is used to represent such a process. (2) Knowingly and openly rebelling. Indeed, those who sin knowingly, "in open rebellion," are especially condemned, and are frequently the most bitter of apostates, far more so than those whose apostasy stems from backsliding parents or inherited false traditions. A primary cause of both types of apostasy is giving in to one's carnal or natural self. For a discussion of this carnal or natural tendency within each of us, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 5, The "Natural Self" and the "Spiritual Self."
What then is the historical great and abominable church that existed in the second century AD? This "church" would have had its origins in the second half of the first century and would have done much of its work by the middle of the second century. Brother Stephen E. Robinson wrote of this time:
This period might be called the blind spot in Christian history, for it is here that the fewest primary historical sources have been preserved. We have good sources for New Testament Christianity; but then the lights go out, so to speak, and we hear the muffled sounds of a great struggle. When the lights come on again a hundred or so years later, we find that someone has rearranged all the furniture and Christianity has become something very different from what it was in the beginning. That different entity can accurately be described as hellenized Christianity ("Nephi's Great and Abominable Church," in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, volume 7, number 1, 1998, 32-39).
Brother Robinson, after thoughtfully analyzing the possibilities, concludes that the historical great and abominable church was the earliest apostate Christian church, the Greek Christian church. In about 330 BC Alexander the Great and his Greek culture conquered the known world, and the world became "hellenized," or imbued with Greek culture. The Greek influence pervaded the biblical world, and it persisted until after the time of Christ's mortal ministry. It was not even altered by the Roman political domination that existed at the time of Jesus. Following the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, his apostles carried the gospel message into the world. Thus, Jewish Christianity and Greek culture met head-on. Greek culture prevailed, and Jewish Christianity was revised to make it more attractive and appealing to a Greek audience. Primary prejudices of the Greek world were the absolute nature of God (i.e., he cannot be bound or limited by anything) and the impossibility of anything material or physical being eternal. In order to satisfy the Gentiles steeped in Greek philosophy, Christianity had to throw out the doctrine of an anthropomorphic ("in the shape of man") God and the resurrection of the dead, or at least reinterpret them drastically. Some Greek Christians at Corinth had already reinterpreted the doctrine of resurrection, and Paul responded in 1 Corinthians 15:12: "Now, if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is not resurrection of the dead?" Thus resulted the original and earliest apostate church. This church (let us call it "hellenized Christianity") had in its possession all the Jewish scriptures and were in a perfect position to alter them. It taught the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. It dethroned God in the church and replaced him with man by denying the principle of revelation and turning instead to human intellect. As the product of human agency, its creeds were an abomination to the Lord, for they were idolatry: men worshiping their own creations, not so much of their own hands, but of their own minds.
The hellenization of Christianity is a phenomenon that has long been recognized by scholars of Christian history, but it is one which Latter-day Saints know better as the Great Apostasy. Hellenization means imposing Greek culture on the native cultures of the East. The result was a synthesis of East and West, with the elements of the Greek West predominating, creating a melting-pot, popular culture that was virtually worldwide. But in the realm of religion, synthesis means compromise, and when one speaks of the gospel, compromise with the popular culture of the world means apostasy from the truth.
While the Orthodox Christians in the first and second centuries AD adopted Greek philosophy, there may have been other specific bit players in this period of apostasy. Some Jewish Christians couldn't let go of the law of Moses and eventually gave up Christ instead. The Gnostics wallowed in the mysteries and in unspeakable practices on the one hand, or in neurotic asceticism on the other. And all of them together forced the true church of Jesus Christ into the wilderness.
The specific historical entity that qualifies to be the great and abominable church of 1 Nephi 13, then, has been named. What of the typological entity of 1 Nephi 14? Does it exist today? Today, the great and abominable church of the devil is, as Bruce R. McConkie describes it, "the world; it is all the carnality and evil to which fallen man is heir, it is every unholy and wicked practice; it is every false religion, every supposed system of salvation which does not actually save and exalt man in the highest heaven of the celestial world. It is every church except the true church, whether parading under a Christian or a pagan banner" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:552). It is especially anyone who makes war against the saints.
In a later chapter, Nephi will teach that the day would come when the great and abominable church will be destroyed (see 1 Nephi 22:13-14). This is likely to come just prior to the Savior's second coming. Does this mean that people who are members of churches other than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are wicked and are marked for destruction? Certainly not. While the whole of all the world's churches may form part of the entity spoken of as the great and abominable church, there are doubtless many within those churches with whom the Lord is pleased individually. Elder James E. Talmage taught: "I do not understand that when the Lord states that those churches shall be overthrown-I mean the church of the devil, using his expression as he says-I do not understand that all members of those churches are to meet destruction, physically or otherwise. He is speaking there of the church collectively, and he is not pleased with it; but individually he may be well pleased with many of his sons and daughters who have been born under an environment that has led them into those churches which are not of God. . . . But the Lord is not pleased with those churches that have been constructed by men and then labeled with his name. He is not pleased with those doctrines that are being taught as being his doctrines when they are only the effusion of men's brains, undirected by inspiration and utterly lacking in revelation" (CR, October 1928, 120-21).
1 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld many nations and kingdoms.
2 And the angel said unto me: What beholdest thou? And I said: I behold many nations and kingdoms.
3 And he said unto me: These are the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.
verses 1-3 The "nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles" are multiple and likely refer to the Middle East, Asia Minor, Europe, and all of the Mediterranean area. We will learn later that the promised land, the Americas, will also be inhabited by Gentiles and be referred to as a great Gentile nation.
4 And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the formation of a great church.
verse 4 "a great church" Here is the first reference to the specific historical entity which later will be called the "great and abominable church." This may well be the Greek Christian Church of the second and third centuries AD. Keep in mind that the adjective "great" refers to size and not quality.
5 And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.
6 And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.
7 And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots.
8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.
9 And also for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.
verses 5-9 These verses outline the major characteristics of the great and abominable entity. They include immorality and materialism. This "church," headed by Satan, captures, tortures, and even slays the saints of God. It seeks for worldly popularity and approval.
10 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren.
verse 10 Here Nephi suddenly changes the subject from the great and abominable entity to the future of the Nephites and Lamanites on the western hemisphere. The great and abominable entity-located in nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles with its center in Europedescribed in verses 1-3 of this chapter-is separated from his own eventual descendants by the great oceans.
11 And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren.
verse 11 Nephi sees the spiritual decline of the Nephite and Lamanite nations.
"wrath of God" This expression is used several times in chapters 13 and 14 of 1 Nephi. Its meaning is self evident. It has been defined, perhaps somewhat euphemistically as "divine justice." The word "wrath" is usually thought to mean fierce anger leading to vengeance, actually just punishment, as a consequence of that anger.
This is first time the word "wrath" is used in the Book of Mormon. The suggestion has often been made by anti-Mormons that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, that he himself was the author. Here is a brief summary of a simple word study done in comparing the Book of Mormon with the Doctrine and Covenants:
There are several unique terms used in the Book of Mormon that are not found once in the Doctrine and Covenants. These include "wrath" (42 times), "consecrate" (instead of "ordain" 8 times), "restoration" (instead of resurrection 19 times), "of my proceedings" (15 times), "more part" or "more history part" (28 times), "Holy One of Israel" (39 times), "clouds of darkness" (10 times).
Also there are some expressions found in the Doctrine and Covenants that are not found once in the Book of Mormon: "wheat and tares" (11 times), "the Seventy" (14 times), "keys of the kingdom" (50 times), "and lo," or "lo" (36 times), and "even so, amen" (49 times).
12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
verse 12 Who was this man "wrought upon" by the Spirit of God? Elder Orson Pratt identified this man as Christopher Columbus in a footnote in the 1879 edition of the Book of Mormon. Critics of the Book of Mormon have tended to dismiss this passage as a cheap and easy instance of prophecy after the fact, composed centuries after Columbus's death-but postdated, as it were, in order to create a seemingly impressive and self-validating prediction by an ancient prophetic writer. At the very most, some have observed, a "prophecy" of Columbus hardly constitutes evidence for the antiquity or inspiration of the Book of Mormon.
On a surface level, such critics seem to be right. It would have taken little talent in the late 1820s for someone to prophesy the discovery of America nearly three and a half centuries earlier. But the description of Columbus provided by this verse nonetheless remains a remarkable demonstration of the revelatory accuracy of the Book of Mormon. It is only with the growth of Columbus scholarship in recent years, and particularly with the translation and publication of Columbus's Libro de las Profecias in 1991, that English-speaking readers have been fully able to see how remarkably the admiral's own self-understanding parallels the portrait of him given in the Book of Mormon. The Columbus revealed in recent scholarship is quite different from the gold-driven secular adventurer celebrated in the textbooks and holidays most of us grew up with.
We now understand, for example, that the primary motivation for Columbus's explorations was not financial gain but the spread of Christianity. He was zealously committed to the cause of taking the gospel, as he understood it, to all the world. He felt himself guided by the Holy Spirit, and a good case can indeed be made that his first transoceanic voyage, in particular, was miraculously well executed.
Columbus was a serious and close student of the Bible. Among his very favorite passages of scriptures was John 10:16: "And other sheep I have that are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." This verse provided significant support for his image of himself as a bearer of the gospel to the New World. And, though he was unfamiliar with the writings of Nephi, Columbus was convinced that his role had been predicted by ancient prophets. "The Lord purposed," he wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella, "that there should be something clearly miraculous in this matter of the voyage to the Indies. . . . I spent seven years here in your royal court discussing this subject with the leading persons in all the learned arts, and their conclusion was that it was vain. That was the end, and they give it up. But afterwards it all turned out just as our Redeemer Jesus Christ had said, and as he had spoken earlier by the mouth of his holy prophets" (Delno C. West and August Kling, The "Libro de las profecias" of Christopher Columbus [Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1991], 107). "For the execution of the journey to the Indies," he said, "I was not aided by intelligence, by mathematics or by maps. It was simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied" (Ibid., 111). Referring to his first crossing of the Atlantic, Columbus declared:
With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies, and he opened my will to desire to accomplish the project. This was the fire that burned within me. . . . Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit who encouraged me with a radiance of marvelous illumination from his sacred Holy Scriptures, by a most clear and powerful testimony . . . urging me to press forward? Continually, without a moment's hesitation, the Scriptures urge me to press forward with great haste (Ibid., 105).
Additional scholarship has come to agree with the Book of Mormon's assessment of Columbus (see especially Pauline Watts, "Prophecy and Discovery: On the spiritual Origins of Christopher Columbus's 'Enterprise of the Indies,'" American Historical Review [February 1985]: 73-102). In a book entitled Columbus, Don Quixote of the Seas, the author Jacob Wasserman quotes directly from the writings of Christopher Columbus: "From my first youth onward, I was a seaman, and have so continued until this day. . . . The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and he bestowed upon me courage and understanding. . . . Our Lord with provident hand unlocked my mind, sent me upon seas, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my enterprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?" (18). President Spencer W. Kimball testified, "I'm sure that [God] inspired a little boy, Christopher Columbus, to stand on the quays in Genoa, Italy, and yearn for the sea. He was filled with the desire to sail the seas, and he fulfilled a great prophecy made long, long ago, that this land, chosen above all other lands, should be discovered. And so, when he was mature, opportunity was granted to him to brave the unknown seas, to find this land . . . and to open the door, as it were" (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball. Edited by Edward I. Kimball, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft], 1982, 427). George Q. Cannon taught, "Columbus was inspired to penetrate the ocean and discover this Western continent, for the set time for its discovery had come, and the consequences which God desired to follow its discovery have taken place-a free government has been established on it. The men who established that government were inspired of God. . . . We believe it was a preparatory work for the establishment of the kingdom of God" (JD, 14:55).
The recent publication of Columbus's Book of Prophecies in English translation, much too late for Joseph Smith to have used it, now permits us a window into the great admiral's soul. And what we find there is strikingly reminiscent of prominent themes in the Book of Mormon. Columbus was fascinated, for instance, by such subjects as the recovery of the Holy Land and the rebuilding of the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem. One of his favorite scriptures, in this regard, was Isaiah 2:2 (cf. 2 Nephi 12:2): "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." He was also, as mentioned, deeply committed to the notion that the gospel had to be preached to the ends of the earth and the inhabitants thereof brought to Christ before the end of the world. For much of this, as careful readers of the Book of Mormon might have guessed, Columbus's favorite author was the prophet Isaiah. Indeed, it was in that prophet's book that Columbus thought he could see himself and his voyages divinely foretold. Among the passages that caught his attention was Isaiah 55:5: "Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee."
Columbus seems to have regarded this as a prophecy of his own mission, along with Isaiah 42:1-4 ("Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him. . . . and the isles shall wait for his law"), which students of the Book of Mormon will have no difficulty connecting with the prophet Jacob's remarks at 2 Nephi 10:20-22.
"Our Lord," Columbus said in AD 1500, "made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth, of which he spoke in the Book of Revelation by St. John, after having spoken of it by the mouth of Isaiah; and he showed me the place where to find it" (Cited in Kay Brigham, Christopher Columbus: His Life and Discovery in the Light of His Prophecies [Barcelona: CLIE, 1990], 50, or 57 n.).
Without question, Columbus's first voyage to America is one of the most significant events of the history of humanity. His expedition brought two worlds into permanent contact with each other, the Old World of Europe and Asia, and the New World of the Americas, and it set in motion a chain of events that would transform both worlds forever. Among other things, Columbus's encounter with the Americas opened the door to a flood of exploration, colonization, missionary work, and fortune-seeking. Latter-day Saints honor Columbus for being a forerunner to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days. He laid the foundation for the establishment of a nation that would "be set up as a free people by the power of the Father, that [the Book of Mormon and the fulness of the gospel] might come forth" (3 Nephi 21:4).
The "promised land" is the Americas.
13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
verse 13 Perhaps this verse is a reference to the early European colonists or Pilgrims who fled their countries in Europe and the British Isles to America to escape religious persecution.
14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.
verse 14 Undoubtedly this is a reference to the scattering and suppression of remnants of Book of Mormon peoples-perhaps some among the Native Americans, by the early American settlers. Another possible historical correlation with this "scattering and smiting" is the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish in AD 1519 and the three-hundred-year Spanish Colonial Period that followed.
15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.
verse 15 This verse likely refers to the "Gentiles" who founded and inhabited the great Gentile nation, the United States of America. See a discussion of the great Gentile nation in the commentary for 1 Nephi 10:14 and 1 Nephi 15:13. The Spirit of the Lord was indeed "upon [these] Gentiles" as they established their independence from other nations, wrote their constitution, and established their free form of government. As we have discussed previously, many of these "Gentiles" were descendants of the house of Israel, especially of the tribe of Joseph through Ephraim.
Again, a word of caution seems appropriate. This verse seems to communicate the doctrinally unsound concept that white skin is inherently more desirable than dark skin. For a discussion of the "mark" placed upon the unrighteous peoples in Book-of-Mormon history see the commentary for 2 Nephi 5:20-21.
verses 16-19 These verses likely have reference to the Revolutionary War fought by the colonies against their "mother," England. The Book of Mormon, thus, leaves little doubt that God took sides in the Revolutionary War, and that he aided the American colonists in their fight against Great Britain, the home of the "mother Gentiles."
16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.
verse 16 "the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity" This phrase refers to the early American settlers (see verse 13).
17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.
verse 17 "mother Gentiles" These are those European countries from which colonists immigrated to the Americas, and which subsequently, and unsuccessfully, "gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against" those colonists. England, France, Spain, and Portugal all waged unsuccessful wars against colonists in the New World.
18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.
19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.
20 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.
verse 20 What book did Nephi behold? Likely he saw the Bible as it is known today.
21 And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?
22 And I said unto him: I know not.
23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
verse 23 "Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew." Who is this Jew? In about 445 BC, following the exile of Judah in Babylon and some 150 years after the exodus of Lehi from Jerusalem, a Jewish priest and scribe named Ezra collected together all of the authentic sacred writings extant in his day. He edited and correlated the various manuscripts. After his work was complete, he gathered the people together, read the record to them, expounded it for seven days, and then submitted it to them for their acceptance (Nehemiah 8:1-18; Nehemiah 9:3). This was the beginning of the Old Testament. The canon was later completed by the addition of the writings of those prophets who lived during and after the exile in Babylon. The New Testament, of course, came forth from the mouth of Jesus the Jew and also out of the mouth of other prophet Jews.
"the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel" Of all God's spirit children, one group distinguished itself, during the conflicts incident to the war in heaven, by its exceeding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This group was called and foreordained to participate in a great work on earth among the children of men. These were born into this world through the literal lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or Israel; thus they are "of the house of Israel." Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: "Israel is an eternal people. She came into being as a chosen and separate congregation before the foundations of the earth were laid; she was a distinct and a peculiar people in the pre-existence, even as she is in this sphere. Her numbers were known before their mortal birth, and the very land surface of the earth was 'divided to the nations [for] their inheritance . . . according to the number of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:8)'" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 510-11).
"it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many" The Old Testament of the Bible contains fewer writings than the brass plates of Laban. The writings of several qualified prophets, which would undoubtedly be of value to us today, are not found in the Bible. These include the writings of Zenock, Neum, and Zenos (1 Nephi 19:10), the writings of Ezias (Helaman 8:20), the Book of the Covenant (mentioned in Exodus 24:7, 2 Chronicles 34:30, and 2 Kings 23:2), the Book of the Wars of the Lord (mentioned in Numbers 21:14), the Book of Jasher (referred to in Joshua 10:13, and 2 Samuel 1:18), and the Book of the Acts of Solomon (mentioned in 1 Kings 11:41). The writings of Nathan (2 Samuel 7:2), Gad (1 Samuel 22:5, 2 Samuel 24:11), Ahijah (1 Kings 11:29; 1 Kings 14:2), and Iddo (2 Chronicles 13:22) are unavailable in the Bible, and they were all qualified prophets. Also missing from the Bible are The Sayings of the Seers (2 Chronicles 33:19), the Book of Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34), the Prophecies of Enoch (Jude 1:14), and a second book by Isaiah known as the Acts of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:22).
verses 24-32 Here Nephi explains how the "great apostasy" from early Christianity would occur. These verses seem to identify three stages in this process (for further discussion see "The Plain and Precious Parts," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed. John W. Welch [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992], 37-40):
1. The Gentiles would take "away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious" (verse 26). This might have been accomplished simply by altering the meaning of the things taught by the Lord without necessarily changing the words themselves.
2. The Gentiles would also take away "many covenants of the Lord" (verse 26). This step also could have been accomplished without deleting any words from the Bible. The knowledge and benefits of the covenants of God would then be lost simply by neglecting the performance of ordinances, priesthood functions, or individual covenants.
3. Finally, "many plain and precious things" were "taken away from the book" (verse 28). In other words the scriptures were actually altered. This was probably a natural consequence of (1) and (2). It is likely that the removal of "many plain and precious things" was less the altering of those materials included in the Bible and more the elimination of other works that might well have been included in the canon.
24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
verse 24 "the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew" This reference to "the book" Nephi is shown is to both the Bible (Old and New Testaments), with which modern readers are familiar (verses 20, 29, and 30), and to the early scriptural records from which the Bible would be compiled (verses 24-28). The book (biblical source records) would suffer omissions at the hand of the great and abominable church "after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (first and second century), and the resulting book (the Bible that Nephi saw centuries later among the Gentiles) would reflect those omissions.
25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
verses 24-25 Apparently the Jews did not alter the scriptures in such a way as to prevent their use by the early apostles in teaching the gospel in its purity. We will learn in verse 28 that many "plain and precious things" have been removed from the Bible. This did not occur at the hand of the Jews. Rather, the scriptures came forth from them "in purity unto the Gentiles." Keep in mind that the Gentiles are everyone except the Jews.
As an aside, it is worth noting that the Book of Mormon does not contradict or undermine the Bible on any given common point. Rather, the Book of Mormon confirms the Bible's basic historicity and doctrinal correctness. Clearly these two sacred volumes are not competitors for the truths of salvation but joint witnesses of it.
26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
verse 26 Not only is our Bible incomplete, as is argued in the commentary for 1 Nephi 13:23, but those books we do have in our present Bible may have been altered by the great and abominable church and perhaps other special-interest groups, so that the gospel teachings they contain are missing "many parts which are plain and most precious" and "many covenants of the Lord." Thus, the deletions are extensive.
What are some examples of missing "plain and most precious" parts? To mention just a few, what about the identity of Jesus Christ as Jehovah in the Old Testament, a clear description of the ordinances of salvation (baptism, confirmation, sealings, and eternal marriage), the age of accountability, the premortal existence of man, the typology or symbolisms contained in the Law of Moses, a specific description of the nature and function of the Melchizedek priesthood, and a more precise elaboration of the doctrines of the Fall and the Atonement.
"and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away" As mentioned, another part of the apostasy from early Christianity which Nephi prophesies is the taking away of ordinances, priesthood functions, and individual covenants.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
verse 27 This verse suggests that the alterations and omissions which have occurred in the scriptures were not all simply accidents of translation and transmission caused by unintentional human error. Rather, some were purposeful and intentional changes made with evil intent. All the changes and omissions have made the Bible difficult to understand, thus disputations and various interpretations have resulted. The importance of these changes should perhaps be emphasized. This alteration was extensive, deliberate, and done by someone who had access to very early, even first generation, manuscripts. It was indeed an "inside job." Joseph Smith said, "There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me" (TPJS, 310).
"that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men" See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
verse 28 "there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book" It is generally held by knowledgeable LDS scholars that our present Bible has suffered more from what has not been included in it, than it has by scribal alterations and errors. Dr. Hugh Nibley has taught that one of the most important restorations of these missing "plain and precious things" has been the books of Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.
Hugh Nibley also commented:
As many things were taken away from the Old Testament as from the New Testament. R. H. Charles who was the principal editor of the Book of Enoch [an apocryphal record] for many years, says that nearly all writers of the New Testament were familiar with it [the Book of Enoch]. He discovered that there were no less than one hundred twenty-eight quotations in the New Testament from the Book of Enoch. But the world didn't have any Book of Enoch. What had happened to it? It is quoted as a genuine production of Enoch by Jude in the New Testament and as scripture by Barnabas, one of the seven apostolic fathers. And with the early fathers and apologists it had all the weight of a canonical book. It was scripture as far as the early church was concerned. It was included in the Bible and belonged there, but there is not a trace of it there now. But when the men of the schools became the leaders of the church, accommodating to the contemporary philosophy, there were many things in Enoch that they did not like. Charles [the editor of the Book of Enoch being spoken of here] himself doesn't like them; he puts it as tastefully as possible here. He says, "But our book contained much of a questionable character." This was the fourth century, of course. That was the time when the University of Alexandria won a complete victory over everything. That's the Athanasian Creed. The Book of Enoch fell into discredit. Under the ban of such authorities as Hilary, Jerome, and Augustine, it gradually became lost. Notice that they banned it. They would not allow people to use the Book of Enoch, and they were the authorities. It was Hilary who made more decisions than anybody else. He said that if a thing isn't found in the scripture, you can be sure that it never happened. Unless a thing is mentioned in the Bible, it didn't happen. Now that is absolute dependence on the infallibility of the scriptures (Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price, a FARMS publication, lecture one).
29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest-because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God-because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.
verse 29 "unto all nations of the Gentiles" These are evidently the nations of Europe.
"across the many waters" Apparently this refers to the western hemisphere and to the European immigrants in the Americas "which have gone forth out of captivity."
"which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God" The reasons why our current Bible is often interpreted with different meanings have already been described. There have obviously been serious difficulties in precisely defining the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ when the Bible is used as the primary resource. There is a distressing ambiguity and lack of "plainness" in our Bible as regards some points of doctrine. As a result, a dangerous apostate concept has grown up and flourished among some students of the scriptures. These students have come to believe that the scriptures were not intended by God to provide plain and simple and absolute explanations. Rather they were meant to be merely "ambiguous catalysts" to stimulate our thinking about spiritual things in a general way. They feel each individual reading the scriptures should seek his own individual interpretations. Too much concreteness or clear explanation might restrict an individual's ability to perceive his own personal and intimate interpretations.
Carried to its extreme, this ridiculous concept of scripture may be easily made to sound illogical and even ludicrous. According to the "ambiguous catalyst" theory, for example, an individual who desires to study the scripture would need no prior preparation. He would require no knowledge of the historical or geographic or linguistic aspects of the world. Nor would he need to know anything about the writings of the ancient prophets. He would not even have to study what other authorities have had to say about certain scriptures. For him a study and interpretation of the scripture is a purely individual endeavor. If he should come to a verse of scripture, written by the prophet Isaiah, for example, that makes no sense to him at all and means little more than a "word salad," that's perfectly all right. He shouldn't be concerned. If the Lord wanted to reveal any meaning to him from that group of unintelligible words, then he would.
Perhaps it's unfair to state this philosophy of scripture in its extreme in order to expose its faults, since there can be no denying that individual revelation is often received in response to reading scripture. It seems to me, though, that it behooves each of us who would study the standard works to prepare ourselves as best we can. The Book of Mormon is not a divination tool. Learning something of the life and historical setting of the prophet Isaiah, for example, can be invaluable in understanding his writings. It may also be helpful to read the commentary of those scholars who have made a study of the life and times and language of Isaiah.
Another reason the "ambiguous catalyst" theory is potentially hazardous is that the unprepared individual may never become emotionally attached to the scriptures since he will always regard the study of them as more of an exercise in abstraction. They cease to become words written by a real feeling and thinking human being that he knows and loves.
I cannot refrain from recounting an instructive anecdote told by Robert J. Matthews. His account illustrates an important flaw in the apostate view of scripture I have referred to above as the "ambiguous catalyst" perspective.
In March 1978, a prominent Lutheran minister participated in a symposium on the Brigham Young University campus. He had accepted the task of comparing the Savior's sermon in 3 Nephi with the Sermon on the Mount found in the book of Matthew. By the tools and procedures of textual criticism, he discovered several interesting differences between these two sermons. He gave an astute and perceptive analysis. He said that compared to the New Testament, 3 Nephi is much clearer, the Savior's teachings are more precise; they are stronger, bolder, and offer considerably more information than can be gained from the New Testament. He found also that the personality of Jesus is more commanding in 3 Nephi than in the New Testament. He noted that in the New Testament Jesus speaks as a teacher, but in 3 Nephi he speaks as a God.
As I listened, I thought it was remarkable that he had recognized these things, and I supposed that he was speaking with favor toward the Nephite account. However, as he continued, he tried to discredit the Book of Mormon by saying that new religions and cults always have an insatiable thirst for answers and for knowledge, whereas spiritual maturity brings a more ascetic view. He preferred the New Testament to 3 Nephi because it was not so definitive and allowed him more choice of interpretation. He acknowledged that the New Testament was less clear, and less dramatic, but felt that was the beauty of it. It did not seem to occur to him that the New Testament had suffered at the hands of copyists, translators, and textual critics and so was now only a shadow of its former self ("Jesus the Savior in 3 Nephi" in The Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 9-30, This is My Gospel, 34-5).
It is heartening to learn in verse 29 that God intended for his scriptures to be easily understood by those who study them.
30 Nevertheless, thou beholdest that the Gentiles who have gone forth out of captivity, and have been lifted up by the power of God above all other nations, upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands, which is the land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy father that his seed should have for the land of their inheritance; wherefore, thou seest that the Lord God will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the mixture of thy seed, which are among thy brethren.
31 Neither will he suffer that the Gentiles shall destroy the seed of thy brethren.
verses 30-31 Here is another reference to the western hemisphere as a covenant land. Even though the Gentiles will scatter and abuse the descendants of the Book of Mormon peoples, the Lord will never allow those peoples to become extinct.
32 Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness, which thou beholdest they are in, because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, whose formation thou hast seen.
verse 32 Here is an allusion to the restoration of the gospel and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and other modern-day scripture. Without this restoration, those "Gentiles" who will be inspired to come to this land, which is choice above all other lands, will remain in an "awful state of blindness."
33 Wherefore saith the Lamb of God: I will be merciful unto the Gentiles, unto the visiting of the remnant of the house of Israel in great judgment.
verse 33 In this verse the Gentiles are those who will be inspired to come to this choice land and thus escape spiritual captivity, eventually to receive the restored gospel. The "remnant of the house of Israel" refers to the descendants of the Nephite/Lamanite people who will inhabit this land. The Lord's allowing the Gentiles to overpower the remnant of the house of Israel as the Gentiles become established in this land is part of the great judgment brought by the Lord on the heads of the descendants of Lehi. The Lord will be merciful unto the "Gentiles" in the great Gentile nation by (1) visiting the native American Israelites with his judgment, thus allowing the Gentiles to smite them, and by (2) restoring the gospel among those Gentiles.
34 And it came to pass that the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying: Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel-and this remnant of whom I speak is the seed of thy father-wherefore, after I have visited them in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb-I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.
verse 34 "Behold, saith the Lamb of God" The prophecy contain in this verse is uttered by the "Lamb of God" who is, of course, Jehovah or Jesus Christ. Critics of the Book of Mormon may well consider this phrase, written nearly six hundred years before Christ, to be anachronistic. Hugh Nibley has written: "At the end of the last century scholars were mystified to find that a demotic [ancient Egyptian] prophecy datable to the time of Bochoris (718-712 BC), in which coming destructions were predicted with the promise of a Messiah to follow, was put into the mouth of 'the Lamb.' Greek sources inform us that this prophecy enjoyed very great circulation in ancient times. The strange wording of Lehi's great prophecy, uttered by 'the Lamb' (1 Nephi 13:34), is thus seen to be no anachronism, taking from Hellenistic or Christian times, as was once maintained" (Lehi in the Desert, 18). We may, of course, defend Nephi's use of the term "Lamb of God" in another way as well. We will later (Jacob 4:4) learn that "all the holy prophets," beginning with Adam, have known of the coming Christ and his atoning sacrifice.
The reader is reminded to keep in mind that many of the immigrating "Gentiles" that will inhabit this great Gentile nation carry the blood of Israel. Many of our generation, in our patriarchal blessings for example, have been told that they have descended from ancient Joseph through is son Ephraim. Thus an individual may be Israelite by birth but a "Gentile" by culture.
35 For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.
verse 35 This verse has reference to the Book of Mormon. The prophet writers of the Book of Mormon "shall write many things which [the Lord] shall minister unto them," and these writings shall be recorded on plates which shall be "hid up" for a time before coming forth to the Gentiles.
36 And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.
verse 36 "my rock" When the word rock is used symbolically in the scriptures, the most common meanings include (1) the Lord himself (Deuteronomy 32:13; Psalm 71:3; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 2 Nephi 9:45), (2) revelation (Matthew 16:18; TPJS, 274), or (3) the gospel itself (D&C 11:24). The latter meaning seems most likely to apply here.
37 And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.
verse 37 "Zion" This is the first time Zion has been mentioned in the Book of Mormon text. Let us briefly review the concept of Zion. Literally, Zion is the kingdom of God upon the earth, a society that governs itself by celestial principles. Figuratively, Zion is that glorious city or land which will be established in the latter days some time prior to the Lord's second coming. It will serve as a place of gathering and refuge to those who accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church members who establish and live in Zion will be sanctified. They will live and be governed by the principles of the celestial law. Zion will be the abode of Jesus as he administers the government of the earth during the Millennium. It will not be a secret place, rather all will know of it, even those who do not dwell there. Zion is described in scripture as "Fair as the sun, clear as the moon, and . . . terrible unto all nations; [such] that the kingdoms of this world [will be] constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ" (D&C 105:31-32).
In the latter days, two places will be called the center places of Zion. The first is the city of Jerusalem itself which will be restored to its holy position of grandeur and beauty. It will serve as a gathering place for the tribe of Judah. The second is the New Jerusalem to be built upon the western hemisphere with its center in Jackson County, Missouri. To Zion on the western hemisphere will gather the rest of Israel and those Gentiles without the house of Israel who accept the gospel and are "adopted" into the house of Israel.
Zion is not limited just to the city of Jerusalem and Jackson County, Missouri. In the latter days, wherever there are saints of God who have embraced the restored gospel, there is Zion.
Zion may also be something other than a place. Zion may also be an attitude of acceptance of the gospel, a spirit of obedience, a purity of heart. Just as the title Babylon may refer in a specific way to an ancient city or in a general way to the evil which exists in the world, so may the word Zion represent either a city or label used to describe all that is truly righteous, wholesome, and in tune with the Spirit of the Lord and his eternal plan.
Those who assist in the cause of Zion in the latter days ("at that day") will be exalted ("saved"). For a more complete discussion of the concept of Zion, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 27, Zion.
"whoso shall publish peace" To "publish peace [and] tidings of great joy," of course is to preach the gospel. Isaiah saw the missionaries of the latter days and praised them in somewhat peculiar terms. He said that they will have "beautiful [feet] upon the mountains" (Isaiah 52:7). This verse is a partial quotation of Isaiah 52:7. This same idea and wording will be used elsewhere in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 12:21; Mosiah 15:15-18; 3 Nephi 20:40). The prophet Abinadi will provide a more precise definition of those who "publish peace" in Mosiah 15:15. They are all the prophets since the world began who have prophesied of the coming of the Lord.
38 And it came to pass that I beheld the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the book of the Lamb of God, which had proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew, that it came forth from the Gentiles unto the remnant of the seed of my brethren.
verse 38 "the book of the Lamb of God" Again, this is the Bible. The white settlers of the Americas early on made the Bible available to the native American Indians.
39 And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.
verse 39 What are the "other books" which Nephi sees? It seems likely that they are "latter-day" scriptural records such as the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. A valid function of these scriptures is to bear witness of the truth of the Bible-"the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."
40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.
verse 40 Here the Bible is referred to in the plural as "the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." This plural reference could refer to the books of the Bible or the many spiritual truths contained therein. The other latter-day standard works are referred to as "these last records." Not only will the more modern day scriptures bear witness of the Bible, but they will also restore many truths which have been lost from the Bible.
"the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father" The 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon rendered this phrase "the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father." See the commentary for 1 Nephi 11:18 and 1 Nephi 11:21.
"saved" Again, it is not inappropriate to interpret this word as meaning exalted. However, we know that no individual will be saved in any kingdom of glory, including the terrestrial and telestial, lest they "come unto" Christ.
41 And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.
verse 41 The Book of Mormon and the Bible must be used together as complementary records. Together they describe the way in which all men must come unto the Lord to be saved.
42 And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.
verse 42 There is a timetable established for the dissemination of the gospel. This verse summarizes that timetable. At the time of Christ's mortal ministry, the gospel was preached to the house of Israel, or to "the Jews" (Matthew 15:24). Some years later the apostles took the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10-11). This sequence is, in a way, reversed in this final dispensation. In 1830 the Church was first established among people of a "great Gentile nation." As has been often stressed, most of those designated as Gentiles in the Book of Mormon are actually members of the house of Israel by lineal descent. They are "Gentiles" largely in that they are not Jews and they are citizens of the great Gentile nation. From its establishment among these "Gentiles," the gospel will then be taken to the house of Israel, including the Jews. Thus "the last [the Gentiles] shall be first [to receive the gospel in this final dispensation], and the first [those of the house of Israel] shall be last [to hear the gospel in this final dispensation]."
There is yet another phase of this back-and-forth pattern. In the latter days the gospel will be restored to the Gentile-Israelites, mostly of the tribe of Joseph through Ephraim, in the great Gentile nation. The period after the restoration is referred to as the "times of the Gentiles." During this period the Gentile missionaries-actually missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-will carry the gospel to the nations of the world and will gather Israel to the stakes of Zion. Those gathered will include both Israelites by blood and non-Israelites. The latter, after accepting the gospel, will be assimilated into the house of Israel by adoption. They thus become the Lord's people.
Just prior to the Millennium there will be a major apostasy of the Gentiles. This will include inhabitants of the great Gentile nation who have not accepted the gospel and probably some "Gentiles" who have joined the Church but who have not lived up fully to their covenants. After the Lord's second coming, the "times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled," and the gospel will be "taken from the Gentiles" and given back to its original stewards, the house of Israel. This prophesied change of stewardship is more symbolic than practically significant, since all who accept the gospel and endure in it are covenant Israelites in every sense of the word, though they might have previously been classified as Gentiles by virtue of their citizenship in the great Gentile nation. Their allegiance to Christ's gospel is the sole determinant of whether or not they are Israelites by covenant. Their blood lineage matters little if they reject the gospel. At the beginning of the Millennium, all Gentile governments will end, the day of the Israelite will begin, and Jesus Christ will reign personally upon the earth.