1 Nephi Chapter 15
1 Nephi 15:23-24 Laman and Lemuel's question to Nephi: What meaneth the rod of iron?
1 Nephi 15:34 Nephi's teaching that no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God.
1 And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been carried away in the spirit, and seen all these things, I returned to the tent of my father.
2 And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them.
3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.
verse 3 We are here reminded of the profound truth that the intellect of a man by itself, however gifted and trained that man may be, cannot perceive and comprehend spiritual truths. When we are dealing with the things of the Spirit, we cannot weigh and evaluate and judge and handle them in a laboratory, unless we are speaking of a spiritual laboratory. These truths can only be understood through the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). The Holy Spirit favors a man with this blessing-that of being able to understand spiritual truths-only when he is receptive to the promptings of the Spirit. A man is receptive only when he is humble, prayerful, and obedient. It is likely that Nephi's brothers were not lacking in intelligence and logic. But they obviously did not qualify for the Spirit's promptings.
4 And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and also, because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men.
verse 4 "hardness of their hearts" See the discussion of this phrase in the commentaries for 1 Nephi 2:18 and Alma 10:6.
5 And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall.
verses 4-5 "I, Nephi, was grieved" "I was overcome because of my afflictions" "I considered that mine afflictions were great above all" We have learned from other prophets that the experience of having a vision is physically enervating (Moses 1:10, JS-H 1:20). These verses suggest that Nephi's vision had the same effect on him. He was obviously shaken emotionally to have been a witness to the eventual apostasy, destruction, and scattering of his people.
6 And it came to pass that after I had received strength I spake unto my brethren, desiring to know of them the cause of their disputations.
7 And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive-tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.
verse 7 For a review of the concepts of the "natural branches of the olive-tree" and the "Gentiles" see the commentary for 1 Nephi 10:14.
8 And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
9 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.
verse 9 Here the brothers seem to be stating their expectations of the Lord, i.e. "The Lord would never make such things known to us." They do not believe in personal revelation. They do not believe that Nephi could receive actual communication from the Lord. After all, Nephi is not a prophet. He is no better than they.
10 Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?
verse 10 This verse is a prelude to the following verse. In what sense will the brothers "perish"? See the commentary for verses 5-7 of 1 Nephi 14.
11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?-If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.
verse 11 Nephi quotes a scripture to his brothers. But where is this scripture? We do know of a scripture containing the same concept. It is a New Testament scripture, James 1:5: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Obviously the book of James was not available to Nephi. Both James and Nephi might have been quoting an ancient scripture which is not available to us today in our Old Testament. It is likely this scripture was found on the brass plates of Laban.
Nephi avers that personal and literal revelation is, in fact, available to common man, not just to prophets, if only man will obey the commandments and ask in faith. The brothers, of course, will not obey. Consequently they will be spiritually blighted as a result.
It is clear, in the Book of Mormon, that revelation and prophecy are not exclusively the privileges of the prophets. Because the book is compiled largely by Nephite prophets, we get only a few examples of revelation to common individuals. We will read of the missionary Ammon's watching helplessly as thousands of his converts, turned pacifist, suffer death rather than retaliate or defend themselves (Alma 24). He proposes a migration to Nephite-held Zarahemla, but they are reluctant. "And Ammon said: I will go and inquire of the Lord, and if he say unto us, go down unto our brethren, will ye go?" They agreed. "And it came to pass that Ammon went and inquired of the Lord, and he said unto him: Get this people out of this land" (Alma 27:7; Alma 27:11-12).
The concept of personal revelation is practically lost in the world today. The religious world acknowledges revelation mainly in written form-the Bible-and in God's managing of major events in the earth's history. The idea that any sincere individual might receive actual individually-tailored communication from God is foreign to virtually all theological circles today. We know that revelation is not confined to prophets and concerns itself with more than the exegesis or explanation of all existence and matters of ultimate concern to all mankind. It is the prerogative of each of us. Questions that prompt divine replies may arise from anyone and may concern themselves with matters that are quotidian, banal, and mundane. For example, while still in the wilderness on their way to the promised land, Nephi and his brothers will lose their weapons and their people will suffer hunger and discouragement. Lehi will "inquire of the Lord" where to hunt, and he will be directed (see 1 Nephi 16:24-31). Later in the record, on two occasions, military plans will be influenced by divine revelation (see Alma 16:5-6; Alma 42:23). The true nature of revelation is that it represents an egalitarian access to truths that range from the sublime to the mundane, from principles of salvation to advice on prime hunting grounds. Personal revelation is the key to spiritual survival, both for the individual and for the nation.
verses 12-20 These verses deal with the scattering and gathering of Israel. A few simple yet essential facts need to be kept in mind as we study about these two concepts-the scattering and gathering.
1. Israel was scattered because they rejected Christ and his gospel, and they will not be gathered again until they accept him.
2. One cannot fully accept Christ without joining his Church and thus accepting citizenship in his kingdom-being gathered to his kingdom.
3. The Israelites will be gathered to the lands of their inheritance-their lands of promise. The western hemisphere, the Americas, have been promised to the tribe of Joseph, while the land of Palestine has been promised for the tribe of Judah.
For more discussion on the scattering and gathering, see the commentary for 1 Nephi chapters 20-22.
12 Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive-tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?
verse 12 As explained in 1 Nephi 10:12, in the olive-tree analogy, the tree is the house of Israel and the breaking off of branches signifies the scattering of Israel. Thus, Lehi's family's journey to the western hemisphere is one aspect of the scattering of Israel. This verse implies that the olive-tree analogy originated with the prophet Lehi. This is obviously not the case as is discussed in the commentary for 1 Nephi 10:12.
13 And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed-
verse 13 "the fulness of the Gentiles" This statement refers to a period of time. This same time period is also known, particularly in the Doctrine and Covenants, as the "times (or days) of the Gentiles." This is the period of time beginning with the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith in which the fulness of the gospel is taken to "Gentile" nations. Actually, any nation that does not have prophets at its head, revelation as its constitution, and the Messiah as its king, is a Gentile nation. Hence all nations of the earth are Gentile nations. The "times of the Gentiles" are the last or latter days. This period culminates or is fulfilled at or near the second coming of the Lord, after the Gentiles have had a full opportunity to receive the gospel. Gospel preaching will then be directed principally to the Jews.
In another sense, the "times of the Gentiles" began in the days of Paul, when he turned from preaching to the Jews and offered the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46-47). In Paul's day the gospel was preached first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. In the latter days the gospel goes first to the Gentiles and then to the Jews (1 Nephi 13:42). As has already been pointed out, this is an application of that well known principle "the last shall be first, and the first shall be last" (see 1 Nephi 13:42).
"grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles" This signifies the gathering of those of actual Israelite blood descent ("the natural branches") by those missionaries from the great Gentile nation who have received the gospel. For additional discussion of the phrase "great Gentile nation" see the commentary on 1 Nephi 10:14.
The work of gathering in the latter days will begin as the everlasting gospel is restored to a particular servant of the Lord, Joseph Smith, Jr. He will be living in and is a representative of the great Gentile nation, the United States of America. Then missionaries from this great Gentile nation, under the direction of Joseph Smith, will take the gospel to the house of Israel-to those of the actual blood of Israel-including the Lamanites and the Jews.
Are these missionaries really "Gentiles?" Obviously, many of these missionary "Gentiles" are really descendants of the house of Israel. They are "Gentiles" only in a cultural sense since they belong to this great Gentile nation. They will receive the gospel and take it to those of the house of Israel, including to those who are a "remnant of our seed," obviously a reference to those who are descended from Lehi, Ishmael, and Zoram (see also 1 Nephi 22:7).
The "great Gentile nation" will be established in the latter days by the inspiration of the Lord, but its establishment will, of necessity, be a compromise by the Lord. It will not be a truly righteous nation. There will be a separation, by constitutional mandate, of church and state. It will be this way because it must. The world would not tolerate or allow the founding of a truly righteous nation to receive the gospel. Modern revelation regarding this great Gentile nation suggests that the Lord allows this nation to exist as a mechanism for the restoration and promulgation of his gospel, but he does so almost grudgingly. There will exist here much apostasy. The Lord will allow the "tares" to grow among the "wheat" (see JST, Matthew 13:22-29). And what of the eventual fate of this nation? It is sealed up to its eventual destruction after the work of the Lord's gathering of Israel has progressed to a satisfactory state.
14 And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.
verse 14 This knowledge that they, "the remnant of our seed," are natural descendants of the house of Israel is to be restored to Lehi's descendants. This restoration will, of course, come through the Book of Mormon.
"Saved" here means exalted.
15 And then at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? Yea, at that day, will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine? Yea, will they not come unto the true fold of God?
verse 15 "at that day" This refers to the day when Lehi's seed comes to a knowledge of the gospel and to a knowledge of their own true identity as blood members of the house of Israel. This will occur in the final dispensation just prior to the Millennium.
"their rock and their salvation" The most common symbolic meaning of the word "rock" is the gospel of Jesus Christ. For additional meanings see the commentary for 1 Nephi 13:36. These additional meanings include (1) the Lord himself (Deuteronomy 32:13; Psalm 71:3; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 2 Nephi 9:45), and (2) revelation (Matthew 16:18; TPJS, 274). It is the Lord who is being referred to here as "their rock."
"true vine" Figuratively speaking, the "true vine" is Jesus Christ.
Viticulture is the science of the production and study of grapes. A grape plant, or grapevine, in growing season, consists of a vertical trunk, supported by an underground root system. The trunk is covered with bark and is the permanent part of the grape plant or grapevine. The trunk serves to provide water and nutrients to the rest of the plant. From the trunk there arise horizontal arms, cordons, or branches which are the semi-permanent parts of the plant. These give rise to the shoots which are the fruit-bearing parts of the plants. These branches are often pruned if they become unproductive. In coming to understand the Savior's being the "true vine," John 15:1 is useful. It reads: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman." It would seem most appropriate to compare the Savior to the life-giving trunk of the grapevine. This is the permanent and fixed part of the plant which provides life-giving water and nutrition to the remainder of the plant.
Husbandman is an archaic word which means farmer. Another archaic word is vinedresser. Today, we may refer to him as the vineyard keeper.
"true fold of God" A fold is an enclosure for sheep. Figuratively the "true fold of God" is the Church of Jesus Christ.
The "true olive-tree" spoken of in the following verse is also symbolic of the Church and its Head, the Savior himself.
16 Behold, I say unto you, Yea; they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive-tree, into the true olive-tree.
verse 16 "They" refers to Lehi's descendants. They are a "natural" branch in that they are blood Israel.
17 And this is what our father meaneth; and he meaneth that it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by the Gentiles; and he meaneth that it shall come by way of the Gentiles, that the Lord may show his power unto the Gentiles, for the very cause that he shall be rejected of the Jews, or of the house of Israel.
verse 17 "it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by the Gentiles" Lehi's descendants will not realize their true identity and be grafted in to the Church of Christ until after they have been scattered by the Gentiles. For a discussion of this scattering see the commentary for 1 Nephi 13:14.
"that the Lord may show his power unto the Gentiles" Here Nephi gives the reason why the Lord "will show his power unto the Gentiles" and why the gospel will be restored in the latter days through the Gentiles in the great Gentile nation. It is because he has been and will be rejected by the Jews and the rest of the house of Israel.
18 Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
verse 18 "In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed" Here reference is made to one tenet of the Abrahamic covenant. For a summary of the other features of this covenant, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 14:8.
19 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, spake much unto them concerning these things; yea, I spake unto them concerning the restoration of the Jews in the latter days.
verse 19 "I, Nephi, spake much unto them" Keep in mind that Nephi is speaking to his rebellious brothers-see verse 6 above.
"I spake unto them concerning the restoration of the Jews in the latter days" This might be a good time to read, for the first time, the important introductory commentary for 1 Nephi 20, particularly the paragraph on the temporal gathering of Israel.
20 And I did rehearse unto them the words of Isaiah, who spake concerning the restoration of the Jews, or of the house of Israel; and after they were restored they should no more be confounded, neither should they be scattered again. And it came to pass that I did speak many words unto my brethren, that they were pacified and did humble themselves before the Lord.
verse 20 "Isaiah, who spake concerning the restoration of the Jews, or of the house of Israel" Isaiah did indeed prophesy of the restoration of the house of Israel, particularly in Isaiah chapters 2 and 11. A detailed commentary will be provided of these chapters-see the commentary for 2 Nephi 12 and 21 respectively.
21 And it came to pass that they did speak unto me again, saying: What meaneth this thing which our father saw in a dream? What meaneth the tree which he saw?
22 And I said unto them: It was a representation of the tree of life.
verse 22 As stated previously (introductory commentary for 1 Nephi 8), the "tree of life" is the tree of eternal life and is symbolic of Jesus Christ. Its fruits symbolize the saving principles of the gospel. All must partake of this fruit if they are to obtain eternal life.
The title "tree of life" is first encountered in scripture in the creation story. It stood in the midst of the Garden of Eden, and its fruit contained the power of everlasting life (Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22-24). A question that is sometimes asked: "Is the tree of life in the Garden of Eden the same tree as that in Lehi's and Nephi's visions of the tree of life?"
Perhaps Adam and Eve were allowed and even commanded to partake of the tree of life in the garden prior to their transgression. It is possible that it was simply a nutritional necessity. Perhaps their regularly partaking of that tree had the essential physical effect of perpetuating their peculiar eternal state in the Garden. Perhaps that was the way they maintained their eternal physical condition.
This, of course, would make the tree of life in the Garden unrelated to the "tree of life" in 1 Nephi 8 and in 1 Nephi 11-15 except that they would share in the symbolism that they both were the mechanisms for producing something of eternal duration. If, in fact, it is true that the Eden tree is simply a nutritional necessity that enabled Adam and Eve to maintain their status quo in the Garden, then continued access to the tree of life in the Garden might simply have allowed them to maintain their Edenic conditions (not subject to death, unable to procreate). Perhaps their being cast out of the Garden and being denied access to the tree of life were the factors that caused them to begin to deteriorate in a "mortal" way-in other words to become mortal.
23 And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?
24 And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.
verse 24 "fiery darts of the adversary" These are the temptations of the Devil. This colorful metaphor is extended in D&C 27:17 where we read that one may be protected from these by the "shield of faith."
verses 23-24 Here, Nephi asserts unambiguously that the "word of God" is a "rod." Latter-day Saint scholars Hugh Nibley and John A. Tvedtnes have shown how a rod came to be commonly identified with the word of God in the ancient Near East (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, ed. John W. Welch, 311-28; John A. Tvedtnes, "Rod and Sword as the Word of God," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 5/2 : 148-55).
Further support for the antiquity of Nephi's imagery has been reported by Matthew L. Bowen (FARMS Update, no. 175, vol. 25, 2005: 2-3). Brother Bowen points out that the comparison may involve a word play with the Egyptian term for "word" and "rod." Although we obviously have the Book of Mormon text only in translation and do not know the original wording of the text, we can use our knowledge of the languages that the Nephite writers said they used-Hebrew and Egyptian (see 1 Nephi 1:2; Mormon 9:32-33). The Egyptian word mdw means not only "a staff or rod" but also "to speak" a "word." The Egyptian word mdw, probably pronounced mateh in Lehi's day, was common in the Egyptian dialect of that time and would have sounded very much like a common Hebrew word for rod or staff, matteh. An indication of Nephi's awareness of the play on words is his use of the expression in these two verses "hold fast unto" the "word of God," since one can physically hold fast to a rod but not to a word (compare Helaman 3:29). Another indication of Nephi's awareness of this word interplay is found in 1 Nephi 17:26; 1 Nephi 17:29: "And ye know that by his word the waters of the Red Sea were divided. . . . And ye also know that Moses, by his word . . . smote the rock, and there came forth water" (italics added).
25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.
verse 25 To "give heed," of course, is to pay attention; to observe; to notice; to obey.
26 And they said unto me: What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?
27 And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.
verse 27 As father Lehi witnessed the vision of the tree of life, he did see and comment upon the river of water, but he failed to noticed that the river flowed with filthy water. The river and its "filthiness" represents the gulf which separates the righteous from the wicked.
28 And I said unto them that it was an awful gulf, which separated the wicked from the tree of life, and also from the saints of God.
29 And I said unto them that it was a representation of that awful hell, which the angel said unto me was prepared for the wicked.
verses 28-29 "an awful gulf" Nephi points out that in mortality the river of filthiness separates the proud and worldly in the large and spacious building from the tree of life and from the saints of God. The symbolism of this awful gulf likely has application to both our mortal life and to the post mortal phase of our existence.
Some have taken this symbolism to be referable to the great gulf in the spirit world (see also 1 Nephi 12:18). From the time of Adam to the time of Christ's mortal ministry, there existed no link in the spirit world between paradise and prison-between the righteous and the wicked. People who had chosen to live according to the things of the world as opposed to ways of the spirit were doomed, in the spirit prison, to live without gospel light for centuries.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus as related in the book of Luke is often taken as a depiction of this great gulf (Luke 16:19-26). The rich man, finding himself in hell, saw Lazarus some distance away in "Abraham's bosom" (paradise). He pled with father Abraham to send Lazarus, "that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame." In commenting on this parable, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that these two men "knew each other in mortality, so they remember their former acquaintanceship. But no longer are they accessible to each other so that one might minister to the needs of the other. Christ [had] not bridged the gulf between the prison and the palace, and there [was] as yet no communion between the righteous in paradise and the wicked in hell" (The Mortal Messiah, 3:263).
Jesus Christ bridged the gulf between paradise and prison when he visited the spirit world between the time of his death and resurrection. We are taught by President Joseph F. Smith in D&C 138:20-37 that Jesus did not actually go personally among the spirits in prison, but rather he preached the gospel to the righteous in paradise and then organized them to travel as missionaries to the spirits in prison.
Prior to the bridging of this great gulf between wicked and righteous, the saints in paradise had nowhere to preach the gospel. It was during this period that the Lord chose to utilize some of these righteous saints as translated beings. Their mortal lives were prolonged, and their bodies were raised to a terrestrial level. They were then given assignments that allowed them to continue their labors among the children of men (for additional discussion of the phenomenon of translation, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 17, Doctrine of Translation). Enoch and his city were an example.
Joseph Smith taught of translated beings: "Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters he held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets" (TPJS, 170-71, 191). After Jesus bridged the gulf in the world of spirits, this practice changed. Now the obligation of the righteous is to die, go to the spirit world, and continue to preach the gospel there (Bruce R. McConkie, "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified," 1976 Brigham Young University Devotional Speeches of the Year, 401; The Millennial Messiah, 284-85).
Does an analogous gulf exist in mortality? It certainly does, and Nephi refers to it in the following verse.
Prior to Jesus's atoning sacrifice and resurrection no one could cross either gulf. The atonement of Jesus Christ has made it possible for both to be crossed.
30 And I said unto them that our father also saw that the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end.
verse 30 "the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous" To understand how an "awful gulf" divides the wicked from the righteous in mortality, as well as in the post mortal world, one needs only to understand the concept of the law of justice. For a review of this important concept, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 12, The Law of Justice. In mortality the law of justice divides the righteous from the wicked. Strictly speaking, the only completely righteous individual, standing alone on his side of the gulf, is the Savior himself. In a more practical sense, there is a clearly definable difference or "gulf" between those individuals earnestly striving for righteousness and those caught up in the snares of the world.
The "brightness of a flaming fire" apparently refers to the glory of those residing in paradise in the spirit world.
31 And they said unto me: Doth this thing mean the torment of the body in the days of probation, or doth it mean the final state of the soul after the death of the temporal body, or doth it speak of the things which are temporal?
32 And it came to pass that I said unto them that it was a representation of things both temporal and spiritual; for the day should come that they must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation.
verses 31-32 Nephi's brothers ask him whether the symbols spoken of, namely the "river of water" and the "awful gulf" which separate the righteous from the wicked, pertain to the mortal world ("the days of probation" and "things which are temporal") or to the world to come("the final state of the soul after the death of the temporal body"). Nephi answers that it applies to both.
"they must be judged of their works" "They" refers to all mankind.
33 Wherefore, if they should die in their wickedness they must be cast off also, as to the things which are spiritual, which are pertaining to righteousness; wherefore, they must be brought to stand before God, to be judged of their works; and if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God; if so, the kingdom of God must be filthy also.
verse 33 Usually the phrase kingdom of God is used to refer to the Lord's earthly kingdom. Here, however, the context makes it obvious that in a broad sense there are two kingdoms of God, one on earth and the other in heaven. The phrase kingdom of heaven uniformly refers to God's celestial heaven.
34 But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy.
verses 33-34 As we read about the law of justice (see the reference above) we learn that for every violation of the Lord's law a penalty must be paid. Also, for every obedience to the law there is a reward. A man is "justified" when all penalties are paid. He is then "reconciled to God" or brought into perfect harmony with God to the point where he can be exalted. The following statement is absolute and must be understood to be absolute: No man can be exalted in the celestial kingdom without being justified.
35 And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.
verse 35 "the preparator of it" A "preparator" is one who prepares. Today we would prefer the word preparer. Dr. Royal Skousen has, however, observed that the original manuscript for this phrase reads "proprietor of it" and suggests that when the printer's manuscript copy was made from the original, this word was mis-copied.
"souls" The most precise definition of a soul is the combination of the body and the spirit of man (Abraham 5:7; D&C 88:15-16). However, here, and in several other places in the Book of Mormon, the word "soul" is used as meaning the spirit. See also Mosiah 14:10; Alma 36:15; Alma 40:7; Alma 40:11-14; Alma 40:18; Alma 40:21; Alma 40:23; and 42:16. The same meaning also pertains elsewhere in the scriptures (D&C 101:37; Abraham 3:23).
"the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out" As has been stated previously, the Book of Mormon speaks of the life hereafter in simplistic terms-either exaltation or perdition. It does not contain the concept of "multiple heavens" or the three degrees of salvation. See "Post-Mortal Life and the Book of Mormon" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, chapter 13, The Spirit World.
36 Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God. And thus I spake unto my brethren. Amen.
verse 36 The "greatest of all the gifts of God" is exaltation in the celestial kingdom (D&C 14:7).