1 Nephi Chapter 14
1 Nephi 14:10 There are save two churches only-the church of the Lamb of God and the church of the devil.
1 And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks-
2 And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.
verses 1-2 Here is a great promise to those inhabitants of the great Gentile nation in this final dispensation. Those who accept the gospel will be restored to their rightful place as a covenant people in the house of Israel if they are of the blood of Israel. This will include not only those remnants of Book of Mormon peoples who still exist, but also those immigrants who have entered the great Gentile nation who are also, by blood, of the house of Israel. Those who accept the gospel who are not of the house of Israel by blood will also be admitted into the covenant house of Israel by adoption. They will then in every sense become part of the covenant people (see the commentary on the concepts of covenant making and a covenant people in the introductory commentary for Alma 43; see also the commentary for 2 Nephi 30:1-2).
"stumbling blocks" The gospel message itself is replete with stumbling blocks for those who are unrepentant and lack the Spirit. Paul said: "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23). It is probably not this type of stumbling block being referred to here, however. Rather, this verse seems to refer to the stumbling blocks of ignorance which were removed by restoration of the gospel.
"they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father" This phrase, which is explained in the phrase that follows it in the text, simply means that they shall be numbered among the house of Israel.
Let us not fall into the trap of believing that all of the native American Indian peoples are descendants of the house of Israel. They more likely have complex heterogeneous origins. For a discussion of this issue, see the supplemental article, Book of Mormon Myths.
"they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever" Does this mean that the Americas will continue to be a promised land for the house of Israel during the Millennium? And what about the time after the world is celestialized?
"they shall be no more brought down into captivity" This is a promise with far reaching implications. The Nephite land of promise was and is a covenant land. If those who inhabit it remain faithful to the gospel, they will never again be captured and live in servitude.
"the house of Israel shall no more be confounded" The word "confounded" here means to be scattered or thrown into disorder. Scattering occurs only because of apostasy-gathering only with repentance. "Confounded" may also mean mixed or mingled in with a group so that the original form or identity cannot be distinguished.
3 And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell-yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.
verse 3 "yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it" This poignant phrase speaks, figuratively of course, for itself and is worth memorizing and pondering! The great and abominable entity here might well be either the specific "church among churches" described in 1 Nephi 13 or the more generic or universal application of the term used more commonly in this chapter (see the commentary for verses 9-17 below).
By the way, the expression "hath been digged" was appropriate in Joseph Smith's world in 1829. Webster's 1828 Dictionary of the English language shows the word "digged" as an acceptable preterite or past participle form of dig. Today, of course, we would use the word dug.
"utter destruction" This expression is necessarily somewhat figurative or hyperbolic since our doctrine contains no provision for the annihilation of any intelligence and its spirit. This fact is explained in the phrase which completes this verse.
"not the destruction of the soul" See the commentary for 1 Nephi 15:35. The word "soul" here means spirit of man. The spirit of man cannot be destroyed (TPJS, 352-54).
"that hell which hath no end" The only hell we are aware of that literally has no end is outer darkness, where Satan and his angels will live forever. The spirit prison is also a "hell." This latter definition of hell is more applicable here in this verse and in the following verse.
Is the world of spirits really a "hell which hath no end"? In general the Book of Mormon speaks of the life hereafter in simplistic terms-either endless exaltation or endless perdition. The Book of Mormon does not contain the concept of "multiple heavens" or the three degrees of salvation. For a discussion of the incomplete doctrine of the post-mortal world contained in the Book of Mormon, see "Post-Mortal Life and the Book of Mormon" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 13, The Spirit World.
4 For behold, this is according to the captivity of the devil, and also according to the justice of God, upon all those who will work wickedness and abomination before him.
verse 4 "according to the captivity of the devil" Though Satan delights in the eventual spiritual death of those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ, he actually had no role in creating that captivity. Generally, he tend also give him too much credit for causing that captivity. It is man himself to incessantly gives in to his natural self and refuses to instead deny himself and obey the Lord's commands. He is responsible for his own eventual captivity.
"according to the justice of God" Whatever fate befalls a man for eternity, we can be assured that it will be consummately fair and just, as it is "according to the justice of God." See a discussion of the law of justice in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 12, The Law of Justice.
5 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, Nephi, saying: Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them; and thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish.
verse 5 "the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel" These covenants are reviewed in the commentary for verse 8 of this chapter.
6 Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God.
7 For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other-either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.
verse 7 "a great and marvelous work among the children of men" This phrase has its origin in Isaiah 29:13-14 and, of course, has reference to the restoration of the gospel in the latter days. The wording of Isaiah 29:13-14 is also used in 2 Nephi 27:25-26.
This verse makes it clear that the gospel will not only be a blessing to those who accept it, but a witness against those who reject it.
"the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity" One definition of "deliverance" in Webster's 1828 Dictionary of the English Language is "the act of giving or transferring from one to another." That definition seems to apply here.
"destruction, both temporally and spiritually" The word "temporally" is placed here in apposition to the word "spiritually" and implies a destruction of that part of man which is not spiritual-his body. Our doctrine does not actually include any type of figurative eternal destruction of the body since all will be resurrected and live forever in an eternally enduring body. What type of temporal destruction, then, is spoken of here? Perhaps this could be a reference to the great destructive cleansing of the earth prior to the Lord's second coming. Or, perhaps this phrase simply refers to the erosive effect of sinful living on the body.
verses 5-7 Those who "perish," those who are delivered "to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds," those who are "brought down into captivity," and those subject to "destruction" do not necessarily suffer eternal destruction and live with Satan as sons of perdition. Rather they all die a spiritual death and fail to return to God's presence in the celestial kingdom. See the discussion of the phrase, "that hell which hath no end" in the commentary for verse 3 of this chapter. See also the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
8 And it came to pass that when the angel had spoken these words, he said unto me: Rememberest thou the covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel? I said unto him, Yea.
verse 8 "the covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel" Let us review these covenants. These covenants, as a group, are often referred to as the Abrahamic covenant as it was first made between father Abraham and the Lord. The Abrahamic covenant may be said to consist of five main provisions-five main promises of the Lord to those of Abraham's seed who "hearken to my voice"-to those who obey the Lord's commands. Abraham received from the Lord the gospel, baptism, the higher priesthood, and the ordinance of celestial marriage. He agreed to abide by the gospel law and honor his priesthood, or, as the Lord told Abraham elsewhere, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect" (Genesis 17:1). The Lord in turn made eternally binding promises to Abraham. They include:
1. Abraham would be blessed to become the "father of many nations" (Genesis 17:19), and his posterity would be exceedingly numerous-even "as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is upon the seashore (Genesis 17:2; Genesis 22:17-18; Abraham 2:9). Abraham's seed would grow and continue forever.
2. Abraham and his posterity were blessed with certain lands as an eternal inheritance (Abraham 2:6; cf. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:9-14). Initially this included the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:8) extending from the Nile River to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18).
3. Abraham and his descendants would be blessed to have a right to the priesthood and enjoy its blessings (Abraham 1:18; Abraham 2:11).
4. Abraham's posterity would prove to be a blessing to all families of the earth (Genesis 12:3; Abraham 2:9-11). They would do this by bearing the priesthood and by having the right and responsibility to preach the gospel to all the world.
5. Thus will every individual and every family have the opportunity, through the posterity of Abraham, to enjoy the blessings of the gospel, which eventually include the "blessings of salvation, even of life eternal"-the blessing of salvation and exaltation (Abraham 2:9-11).
These covenants were renewed with Isaac (Genesis 26:1-4; Genesis 26:24) and again with Jacob (Genesis 28; 35:9-13; 48:3-4). The restoration of the fulness of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith is in fact the restoration of the Abrahamic covenant. Through this restoration God has renewed for the Latter-day Saints all he promised to the former-day Saints, including his covenants and his gospel, a "mighty nation among the Gentiles," and that in this dispensation of the fulness of times the Father will "make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations." That is, he will demonstrate his power to gather his children throughout the earth.
verses 9-17 The phrases "the whore of all the earth . . . the great mother of abominations . . . the mother of harlots" in these verses refer to the generic or universal definition of the "great and abominable church" as spoken of in the introductory discussion for 1 Nephi 13 above. Certainly an application of these verses to this final dispensation is likely.
9 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil.
10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
verse 10 Again, see the introductory commentary for 1 Nephi 13.
Individual orientation to the Church of the Lamb or to the great and abominable church is not by blood lineage or by being a "member of record," but by loyalty. Just as there are Latter-day Saints who belong to the great and abominable church because of their loyalty to their natural, material self, so are there members of other churches who belong to the Lamb because of their loyalty to him and his principles. Membership is based more on who has your heart than who has your records. Hence, it is unwise and inaccurate to point to any particular church or political system as the great and abominable church.
11 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.
verse 11 "the whore of all the earth . . . sat upon many waters" This expression seems to have originated in Jeremiah 51:13. It is alternatively translated, "dwelt beside many waters." Jeremiah seemed to have in mind the city of Babylon, the symbol of all wickedness, which was located beside the Tigris River. In the context of this verse, however, it seems appropriate to interpret it as implying that the influences of the "great whore"-the great and abominable church-is located in all countries throughout the world.
12 And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.
13 And it came to pass that I beheld that the great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God.
verse 13 "to fight against the Lamb of God" This war is likely not one that will be fought with bombs and artillery, but rather it will be a battle for the hearts of men using testimony and witnessing versus persecution and propaganda.
14 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.
verse 14 "and they were armed with righteousness" "They" refers to both the "saints of the church of the Lamb" and also to "the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth." Because they are "armed" with the gospel and the priesthood, they will withstand the great propaganda wars and physical destructions of the latter days prior to the Lord's second coming.
"with the power of God in great glory" The Lord's people are also armed with God's power. This could refer to the priesthood or also to the power provided all members of the Lord's Church as they keep their temple covenants. See the "Endowment of Power" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 18, The Temple.
15 And it came to pass that I beheld that the wrath of God was poured out upon that great and abominable church, insomuch that there were wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds of the earth.
16 And as there began to be wars and rumors of wars among all the nations which belonged to the mother of abominations, the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold, the wrath of God is upon the mother of harlots; and behold, thou seest all these things-
verses 15-16 These two verses clearly state that the time will come when the wrath of God will be poured out upon the great and abominable entity in the form of "wars and rumors of wars." Those people who are a part of the great and abominable church-those whose lives and purposes are consumed with worldliness-will begin to make war on one another. And this war will be, in a way, a manifestation of God's wrath or judgment upon them.
An interesting question might here be raised for your consideration: Would God ever start a war? Did God, for example, inspire the Assyrians to attack and carry off captive the ten tribes of Israel in the Kingdom of Israel between 732 and 722 BC? Did the Lord encourage the Babylonians to overcome the rebellious Israelites in Judah in 587 BC? Some might argue that certainly the Lord would never start something as inherently evil as a war. After all, Moroni 7:12 states, "Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil." The Lord may not start a war, but he might decide not to intervene when men on the earth commence an attack on one another motivated by their materialistic and selfish desires. Another might argue the contrary view: Of course the Lord had Assyria capture the northern tribes, and obviously it was his will that Babylon punish the people of Judah. From our limited mortal perspective, who are we to judge the Lord's actions in this regard?
17 And when the day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil, then, at that day, the work of the Father shall commence, in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel.
verse 17 "then, at that day, the work of the Father shall commence" The "work of the Father" is the missionary effort of the latter-day Church of Jesus Christ-the gathering of Israel. This work commenced and has continued during a time of great conflict including the Civil War in the United States and two major world wars. The final defeat of the great and abominable church will not occur until the great final cleansing of the earth just prior to the Lord's second coming. While the Lord's missionary work and gathering has commenced prior to the great final cleansing of the earth, following this great destruction it will greatly accelerate in speed and efficiency as it continues into the Millennium (see also 2 Nephi 30:7-15; 3 Nephi 21:24-28).
"in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel" For a review of those covenants see the commentary for verse 8 of this chapter.
18 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
19 And I looked and beheld a man, and he was dressed in a white robe.
verse 19 It is apparent from subsequent verses in chapter 14 (20-22, 27) that the "man . . . in a white robe" is John the Revelator. Here, some six hundred years before Christ, Nephi sees John and his writings-centuries before they were written! Sectarian scholars of the Bible generally accept the rule that there is no such thing as true prophecy-a prophet cannot actually see beyond his own historical horizon. They would have difficulty in accepting this verse. We, in the Church, do gratefully accept the literal reality of prophecy.
20 And the angel said unto me: Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
21 Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been.
verse 21 Here the angel is telling Nephi that John the Revelator will also see and write about the things Nephi will yet see in his vision and also many of those things Nephi has already seen.
22 And he shall also write concerning the end of the world.
23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.
verse 23 John's writings will be found in the Bible.
"easy to the understanding of all men" It is humbling to consider the fact that the angel considered the writings of John the Revelator to be "easy" to understand. How many of us even plan to one day make a serious attempt to understand the book of Revelation?
24 And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.
25 But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.
verses 24-25 John's calling was to write those things which Nephi had already seen and recorded and those things which Nephi would yet see in vision and write into his record. Nephi would also see things of which he was asked not to write. John would also write of these latter things.
26 And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel.
verse 26 "also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things" Nephi is a member of the elect fellowship of those who have seen the panoramic vision of the earth from its beginning to its end. Others in this fellowship include Adam, Enoch, Noah, the brother of Jared, Abraham, Moses, and Joseph Smith. Apparently there are many wonderful features and aspects of this vision that have been written but never made available for mankind. At some future date when man is prepared to receive them, perhaps during the Millennium, these will be published. We know that one such account was Moroni's abridgment of the vision of the brother of Jared which was contained on the plates of Mormon, but that part of the plates of Mormon was sealed and could not be translated by Joseph Smith.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote of additional scripture yet to be sent forth to earth by the Lord:
We have not received, by any means, all of the word of the Lord. I think we have received most of the word of the Lord that is required until the second coming. The Lord has given all that people in the world have the spiritual capacity to receive at this time. There is going to be another great dispensation-that is, another great period of enlightenment-when he comes. At that time he will reveal all things, such as the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. But he will not reveal the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon now, or let us publish it to the world because what it contains is so far beyond the spiritual capacity of men that it would drive people away from the truth rather than lead them to the truth. Actually, it is an act of mercy for the Lord to limit, to a particular people, the amount of revelation they receive.We have not received, by any means, all of the word of the Lord. I think we have received most of the word of the Lord that is required until the second coming. The Lord has given all that people in the world have the spiritual capacity to receive at this time. There is going to be another great dispensation-that is, another great period of enlightenment-when he comes. At that time he will reveal all things, such as the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. But he will not reveal the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon now, or let us publish it to the world because what it contains is so far beyond the spiritual capacity of men that it would drive people away from the truth rather than lead them to the truth. Actually, it is an act of mercy for the Lord to limit, to a particular people, the amount of revelation they receive.
We are now in a glorious dispensation in which we have received substantially all of the revelations we are able to bear; it is true, however, that if we were able to unite and have faith, we would get more. That is one of the things that was involved in 1978 when President Kimball received the revelation that the gospel and all of its blessings (the priesthood and the ordinances of the house of the Lord) were now to go to those of every race and kindred and tongue without any reservation except that people live in righteousness and be worthy to receive what is offered to them. That new revelation came in large measure because the prophet of God and those associated with him united in faith and in prayer and in desire, and sought for an answer from the Lord. There are added revelations we could receive, and I hope we will receive, as we manage to get in tune with the Spirit. But the great reservoir of revelation for our dispensation-meaning the things that we need to know to govern our conduct in order to gain an eternal life-these things have already been given. And there will not be great added reservoirs of substantive revelation that will come before the second coming because of the wickedness of the world. Some of that wickedness spills over and prevails among the Latter-day Saints. But eventually, there will be a day of great added revelation (Sperry Symposium Classics, The Doctrine and Covenants, 44).
27 And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel.
28 And behold, I, Nephi, am forbidden that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw and heard; wherefore the things which I have written sufficeth me; and I have written but a small part of the things which I saw.
29 And I bear record that I saw the things which my father saw, and the angel of the Lord did make them known unto me.
30 And now I make an end of speaking concerning the things which I saw while I was carried away in the spirit; and if all the things which I saw are not written, the things which I have written are true. And thus it is. Amen.