2 Nephi Chapter 2
2 Nephi 2 Lehi's counsel to his son Jacob includes teachings on the atonement.
2 Nephi 2:6-8 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
2 Nephi 2:11 There is an opposition in all things.
2 Nephi 2:14 Things to act and things to be acted upon.
2 Nephi 2:25 Adam fell that men might be, and men are, that they might have joy.
2 Nephi 2:27 Lehi's teaching on the principle of agency. Wherefore, men are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself .
In giving his son Jacob a father's blessing, Lehi delivers a doctrinal discourse on the fall of man, the atonement, and the agency of man. Before studying this chapter, please read Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 19, The Essence of the Lord's Atonement and volume 2, chapter 2, Consequences of the Savior's Atonement.
1 And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.
verse 1 "Thou are my first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness" This statement may have a deeper meaning than simply stating that Jacob was the first child to be born to Sariah while in the wilderness. Lehi may have considered Jacob to be something of a replacement for his eldest son, Laman, with his younger son Joseph being a replacement for the second son, Lemuel. There is a parallel to this situation in Genesis 48:5; Genesis 48:16 where Jacob adopted Joseph's sons Manasseh and Ephraim in place of Reuben and Simeon who had sinned (see Genesis 34:30; Genesis 35:22; Genesis 49:3-5). In consequence of Reuben's sins, he was replaced as firstborn by Joseph (see 1 Chronicles 5:1-2). In the case of Lehi, however, with the rebellion of his two elder sons, the birthright went to Nephi and not Jacob.
"in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow" The Book of Mormon account of the travels of Lehi's colony in the wilderness, after their departure from the valley of Lemuel, is reported in 1 Nephi 16 and 1 Nephi 17:1- 4. It would seem that the trail from Nahom to Bountiful was the most difficult leg of the trip. One of the poignant phrases in these verses is in 1 Nephi 17:1 where Nephi reports, "And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness." One might wonder if this wasn't something of an understatement!
"because of the rudeness of thy brethren" Though "rude" has come to mean "impolite" in twentieth-century English, at the time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, it meant "wild" or "savage."
2 Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.
verse 2 "he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain" Here is an important doctrine: The Lord will turn suffering and tribulation into blessings. Since all people will experience adversity, this is a vital doctrine for all to know. Afflictions will be imposed upon us from without by the very nature of this mortal experience, and perhaps on occasion by a loving God who wishes to try and test us. They most often occur quite at random, through no fault of our own, simply because vicissitudes and trials characterize this mortal experience. Also afflictions may come from within. We may bring them on ourselves due to sins, errors in judgment, or mistakes. Whatever the source of our trials, in this verse we are promised that as we strive to overcome them, we will be blessed with spiritual strength. For a more detailed discussion of adversity, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 3, chapter 1, Adversity and Suffering. See particularly the section titled "How Might We Categorize Adversity and Suffering?"
Jacob had been born "in the days of [Lehi's] tribulation." He had been raised on raw meat rather than milk and will be orphaned at a young age. Some people are hardened and made cynical and resentful by hardship, but not Jacob. We will learn that Jacob will become a uniquely sensitive and loving prophet. His long afflictions seem to have softened his spirit. He is a grand example of the sweet uses of adversity.
3 Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.
verse 3 What does it mean to be redeemed? The word redeem means to buy back or to clear by payment. From what great evil does man need redemption? Man is in need of redemption from his own sins. Because every man has sinned, he is not qualified to return to God's presence or, in fact, he does not qualify to be assigned to any degree of glory. He is said to be in a fallen state. We also know that man cannot redeem himself from this fallen state. He must have a rescuer, a redeemer, a savior. The scriptures teach clearly that if there had been no Savior and no atonement, then all mankind would sojourn with Satan in outer darkness forever (2 Nephi 9:8-9). To be redeemed in a spiritual sense, then, means to be rescued from the fall of man, to be saved in a degree of glory, to be snatched from the clutches of the Devil. The optimal form of redemption is, of course, to be exalted in the celestial heaven.
"thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother Nephi" "I know that thou art redeemed" Apparently it had been made manifest to father Lehi, presumably by the Holy Ghost, that the "callings and elections" of both Jacob and his brother Nephi have been made sure. In other words they are assured of their exaltation, barring any unforeseen and unlikely spiritual mishaps.
"righteousness of thy Redeemer" One of the ways in which Jesus qualified to be able to atone for our sins was that he was perfectly righteous and "justified by the law." In addition, by virtue of His atonement, Jesus will qualify himself to become the perfect judge of all mankind. In this context, Jesus may be referred to as the "righteous judge" or able to judge with perfect "righteousness."
"in the fulness of time" This expression has reference to the period of Christ's mortal ministry (see Galatians 4:4-5). A similar phrase, the "fulness of times" (plural) is used many times in the Doctrine and Covenants, usually referring to the "dispensation of the fulness of times," the dispensation beginning at the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith (D&C 27:13; D&C 27:112:30; 122:31; 124:41; 128:18-20; 138:53). The expression "dispensation of the fulness of times" was also spoken of by Paul (Ephesians 1:10). Doctrine and Covenants 76:106 employs the phrase "fulness of times" to refer to the end of the Millennium.
"he cometh to bring salvation unto men" As has been mentioned previously, the word salvation when used in scripture often means "exaltation." Here, however, it may simply refer to the fact that the Savior's atonement has made it possible for man to achieve a kingdom of glory, whether it be celestial, terrestrial, or telestial. An individual qualified to enter any of the three degrees of glory is said to be "saved."
4 And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.
verse 4 "And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory" Jacob and his brother Nephi were both blessed to see the Lord Jesus Christ as had the prophet Isaiah many years previously (see also 2 Nephi 11:2-3).
"the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever" From the context of this passage, the "Spirit" is Jesus Christ. As the Lord deals with us in this dispensation, so he has dealt with all people in all dispensations of time since the human family inhabited the earth. There is a "timelessness" to the Lord's eternal plan for us. A specific example of this timelessness would have been particularly pertinent for Jacob. He lived six hundred years before the Savior came to earth to work out the infinite atonement. Yet, the atonement is retroactive. Its benefits apply to Jacob just as much as they apply to any people who have ever lived on the earth in any dispensation, before or after Jesus's mortal ministry. The blessings of the Lord's atoning sacrifice are not contingent on when one is born during this earth's history.
"the way is prepared from the fall of man" There is a tendency to read this phrase, "And the way is prepared for the fall of man." It actually says, "And the way is prepared from the fall of man" (italics added). This phrase implies that the plan of redemption was prepared long before the fall took place (see also D&C 124:33, 41; 128:5; 130:20). The plan was laid from the very beginning. When Adam fell, there was no confusion or anxiety in Heaven. The plan was already in place to save mankind.
"salvation is free" There are at least two possible interpretations of this phrase:
1. The term "salvation" here may refer to the "unconditional" aspect of Christ's atonement, the gift of resurrection and immortal life. To earn this gift, one must needs do nothing. It is provided free of charge. All will be resurrected, and all will live forever.
2. The word "salvation" here might refer to exaltation or to salvation in the lesser two degrees of glory. In what way, then, is this salvation "free"? This phrase may simply be teaching the important concept that man cannot obtain exaltation through meticulously living the law of Moses or even the law of the gospel of Jesus Christ alone. Man cannot be "justified by the law." Another essential ingredient is necessary for a man's exaltation. This ingredient is "free" and given to man without his having earned it. This is the atonement of Christ which is given to a righteous man because of Christ's love for the man-the "grace of Christ." While the opportunity to take advantage of Christ's atonement is free and need not be earned, man does need to live worthy of this great blessing in order to actually receive it. Thus, the actual working out of one's salvation and ensuring that the blessings of the Lord's atonement will be applied to any individual are not in fact free. They require diligent effort and self denial.
5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
verse 5 "And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil." This important principle applies only to those who reach the age of accountability. All accountable people are provided a level of understanding that allows them to intuitively know good from evil. This free gift may be referred to as the light of Christ or the spirit of Christ (D&C 88:7; D&C 93:2; Moroni 7:16-17).
"And the law is given unto men" The "law" here is apparently the law of the gospel of Jesus Christ-all the commandments of the Lord.
"And by the law no flesh is justified" We know that by living the law of the gospel alone no man can be justified. Remember that to be "justified" is to have one's penalties for sin removed. When an individual commits sin, a penalty is inflicted or imposed by the law of justice. The individual is thereafter unworthy to be exalted or to enter any degree of glory. When the individual's penalty for sin is removed, he or she is said to be "justified."
To understand this phrase in this context, it is essential to understand the concepts of justice (the law of justice), the law of mercy, and the atonement. These concepts are discussed in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 12, The Law of Justice, and chapter 19, The Essence of the Lord's Atonement. Even if you have already read these articles, yet their vital concepts are not fresh on your mind, please re-read them before you study the rest of this chapter. See also the commentary for Mosiah 14:11.
This phrase simply implies that no man can be "justified" or judged worthy of exaltation through his living of the law alone, since no man can live the law perfectly without sin. The grace or mercy of God is also necessary. By this grace or great love for us, the Savior is inclined to apply the power of his atonement to mankind. Each and every man and woman, based on his or her performance relative to the law do not really merit that application.
"by the law men are cut off" Adam transgressed and every other man commits sin. Because of the workings of the law of justice each man is "cut off"-that is, subject to two types of death:
1. "physical death" This is separation of the body and the spirit. A man who dies a physical death is thus said to be cut off by the "temporal law."
2. "spiritual death" This is separation of man from God's presence. Thus man is said to perish by the "spiritual law."
In both of these are men "cut off," or separated, from something important.
"become miserable forever" This phrase refers to the idea that if the states of death (physical and spiritual) are not reversed, then all men will become sons of perdition and live with Satan forever (2 Nephi 9:8-9).
verses 6-13 Please do not take these verses for granted. They are vital and contain some of the clearest teachings on the doctrine of the atonement found in all of the scripture. There is no clear explanation of this vital doctrine found in the Old Testament, and a study of the New Testament has led to much confusion (see also 2 Nephi 9:6-16; Alma 34:13-16; Alma 42:13-26; and Mormon 9:13-14).
6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
verse 6 Man may only be redeemed from the fall (resurrected, justified, and saved in a degree of glory) through Christ's atoning sacrifice.
"he is full of grace and truth" The redemption of man, which comes "in and through" Christ, is not a matter of grace (his matchless love for us-proclivity his proclivity to grant us mercy) alone or truth (righteousness and obedience to the law) alone. Rather redemption is found in the combination of the two. The Savior is the source and prototype of both the saving grace and the saving truths of the gospel.
7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
verse 7 Through his atoning sacrifice, Christ "answer[ed] the ends of the law," that is, he fully qualified himself, according to the eternal law, the law of justice and the law of mercy, to absolve men of their sins. And, unto whom will he extend this absolution? To those who manifest "a broken heart and a contrite spirit," in other words, to those who are obedient.
A "broken heart and a contrite spirit" is a gift of the Spirit. It is the gift of being aware constantly of a deep and compelling sense of gratitude to the Savior for his love and his willingness to die for us all. With this gift comes the motivation to obey the commandments, to submit to his will. In a sense, we may say that "a broken heart and a contrite spirit" is the gift of being able to obey enthusiastically and gratefully.
"unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else" Doesn't Christ's atonement apply to all men? Why does this verse say that his "sacrifice" applies only to those who qualify? The atonement of the Savior has a dual character. There are "unconditional" blessings or benefits of the atonement and "conditional" blessings of the atonement. Man is automatically the beneficiary of the unconditional blessings of the atonement without any effort on his own part. By this unconditional atonement, the effects of the fall of Adam are completely overcome. That is, all men shall be resurrected, and no one will be kept out of his eternal presence because of Adam's sin. These unconditional blessings of the atonement also overcome the effects of "sins" or transgressions committed by those who were not in a state of accountability at the time. The conditional blessings of the atonement overcome the effects of the fall of each individual person, but only on condition of that person's repentance and obedience-only those with "a broken heart and a contrite spirit." These are the people who repent of their sins.
"unto none else can the ends of the law be answered" The "ends of the law" are "answered" for an individual when he is justified and able to return to the presence of God to receive his exaltation. He has satisfactorily repented of his sins and therefore is qualified to receive the Savior's absolution or forgiveness.
8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
verse 8 This verse contains the succinct "bottom line." Since no man can live the law to perfection, no man can be justified and saved by virtue of his own merits. No one will live with God in the celestial kingdom or in any kingdom of glory "save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah." There is no other name by which man can be exalted. There is no other way. We are all totally and abjectly dependent upon him. He is qualified to be our Savior by (1) his "merits"-he lived a sinless life and suffered the agony of the atonement; (2) his "mercy" his willingness and inclination to provide each of us blessings greater than we actually merit; and (3) his "grace"-his unparalleled love for us, particularly that aspect of his love that inclines him to give us blessings we don't fully merit.
"who layeth down his life according to the flesh" Jesus's agony and death in Gethsemane and on the cross was not mitigated by his being the God Jehovah and his being sired by the Father. He suffered the unbelievable agony just a man would suffer. His body was mortal and had to undergo the obligatory terminal physiologic phenomena necessary to terminate life common to all mortals.
"and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit" This phrase suggests that the Holy Ghost was somehow involved in the resurrection. This is certainly a provocative independent observation.
9 Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.
verse 9 "he is the firstfruits" Mosaic law required the consecration of the choicest and initial part of the harvest to God-the "firstfruits." These were brought to the temple and given to the priests for their support.
In an analogous way, Christ's life was lived and given up as a sacrifice to the Father. The term firstfuits has reference to a few different aspects of the life of the Savior. First, it refers to the fact that he is "the first that should rise" from the dead-the first to be resurrected. Second, that he is the "Firstborn" spirit child of Elohim (D&C 93:21). Finally, as in this verse, the term firstfruits refers to the fact that "he shall make intercession for all the children of men."
As a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ as the "firstfruits," the ancient Israelites were commanded to "give," or dedicate to God, the "firstborn of [their] sons" (Exodus 22:20); to sacrifice to God the "firstling males of their flocks and herds" (Deuteronomy 15:19-21); and to bring "the first of the fruits" of their land "into the house of the Lord" (Exodus 23:19). Book of Mormon peoples followed this same practice, "according to the law of Moses," specifically noting the sacrifice of the "firstlings of their flocks" (Mosiah 2:3).
Actually two other variations of the term "firstfruits" are used also in the Book of Mormon, first-fruits, and first fruits. The followers of Christ who are worthy to come forth in the first resurrection will be "presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God" (Jacob 4:11). This is the first harvest of souls redeemed through the atonement of Christ. The phrase first fruits may be used to mean the first action as a consequence of another action or principle. For example, "the first fruits of repentance is baptism" (Moroni 8:25).
"he shall make intercession for all the children of men" An intercession is an intervention to resolve a predicament. The predicament here is that all are guilty of sin (Romans 3:23), and therefore unworthy to return to the celestial presence of the Father or any other kingdom of glory.
"they that believe in him shall be saved" This rather understated passage might be rephrased, "those that accept Christ and his gospel with all their hearts and repent of their sins and persist in obedience to the end will be exalted in his presence."
10 And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement-
verse 10 "all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him" One of the unconditional blessings of Christ's atoning sacrifice was the complete overcoming of the effects of Adam's transgression. Please recall that because of Adam's transgression, all men will suffer a physical death, and all will also be temporarily separated from God-they will suffer a temporary spiritual death. Because Christ's intercession has completely overcome the effects of Adam's transgression, all men will be resurrected and all will be brought back into the presence of God at least long enough to be judged. These are the unconditional blessings of the Savior's atonement. The presence of God that we seek, however, is not just a brief audience during which we will be judged but rather an eternal sojourn with him in the celestial kingdom.
"the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given" The phrase "ends of the law" refers to the demands of justice. Simply stated, they are that a man guilty of sin is unworthy to return to his celestial home, or in fact, unworthy to return to any degree of glory. The phrase "which the Holy One hath given" simply states that in the plan of the Father and the Son, man is made subject to the "ends of the law."
"unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of . . . happiness" Since all have sinned, all are subject to the "ends of the law" and will receive the "punishment which is affixed" to that law. That is, by his own merits, each and every man is shut out of God's heavenly kingdom and shut out also of any degree of glory. He thus cannot find eternal happiness.
"happiness . . . is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement" Punishment is inexorably "affixed" to the law of justice. Happiness is "affixed" to the blessings of the Lord's atonement.
Each man will be judged by the Lord according to the individual's intentions and actions relative to the law of the gospel. Each will be meted out "happiness (reward)" or "punishment" according to his merit. Those who have done their best to adhere to the gospel principles as they understand them will qualify and benefit from Christ's atonement. Christ's suffering will answer or satisfy the law of justice for those sincere individuals. They will be justified and cleansed from sin and perfected and return to his presence for eternity where they will receive a fulness of happiness or joy (see D&C 45:3-5). Those who are hard-hearted and proud and remain unrepentant will not qualify for the benefits of the atonement. There will be no intercession. The law of justice will not be satisfied. The individual will then be left to suffer personally for his own sins in the spirit prison (see D&C 19:4; D&C 19:15-17). It would seem that the phrase "ends of the atonement" refers to the ultimate fulfilling purpose of the atonement-exaltation in the eternal presence of the Father.
In the spirit world, if the demands of justice are not satisfactorily met by the individual's own personal suffering, and if he does not eventually repent and confess Jesus Christ, the individual will remain "filthy still" and go with Satan and his angels. If, in spirit prison, he is successful in making the needed personal atonement, the benefits of Christ's atonement will be extended to him, and the law of justice will be fulfilled. He will then become "justified" and be resurrected to a lesser kingdom where he will experience joy, but not a fulness of joy.
The use of the word "atonement" here is the first usage found in the text of the Book of Mormon. This is a most interesting word. It has no Greek or Latin root. It is a "neologism" or new word created by the early English translators of the Bible in the latter sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. As they came across the concept of bringing two estranged and alienated things into perfect harmony, they sometimes used the word reconcile. At other times, they apparently found that word wanting, and they made up a new word. They created the word at-one-ment or atonement. The word contains the idea of scattered or separated things being encircled or embraced or enveloped by something-for example, being encircled in the arms of the Lord. The prophet Lehi said, "The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love" (2 Nephi 1:15).
Atonement is also another word for sealing. There is no eternal embrace by the Lord or eternal relationship between two people that is not secured by a priesthood or temple ordinance. Priesthood ordinances both in and out of the temple may be viewed as a progressive sealing of ourselves to the Lord until the atonement is complete and we are embraced in the arms of the Savior. Many scriptural words may be considered synonymous with atonement. Consider, for example, oneness, in one, unity, united, gathering, equal, cleaving, sealing, welding, linking, embracing, and even resurrection.
The reader may wonder why Joseph Smith used the word atonement in the Book of Mormon text when the word would not even exist for another two thousand or so years. As a matter of fact the entire English language did not exist at the time the Book of Mormon plates were engraved. The simplest answer is that Joseph did not decide to use the word atonement. Rather, the Lord simply revealed to him the English translation of the book. During the translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith seemed to simply read the text of the Book of Mormon by using his seerstone in the bottom of a hat (see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 2, Appendix A, The Process of Translating the Book of Mormon). Apparently, it was the Lord himself or his assigned agent who was actually clothing the concepts on the plates with English words.
11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
verse 11 "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things." Here is a profoundly important principle. Try to imagine, if you can, a world without opposition. What would life be like? Would happiness be possible if there were no sadness? Would growth be possible if there were no adversity and no need to strive? With no ethical issues, could we learn to use our agency in an edifying manner? Indeed, would we in fact possess any meaningful agency? McConkie and Millet wrote: "No virtue can exist without its corresponding evil: without the evil of danger there could be no courage, without suffering there could be no sympathy, without poverty there could be no generosity, and so forth. Without darkness there could be no light, without cold there could be no hot, without depths there could be no heights. Thus there must be wickedness so there might be righteousness, death so there might be life, that which is satanic so there might be that which is godly" (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, volume 1, 195).
We are here in mortality to be tested, and this cannot occur without the existence of opposition. In fact we will learn that without opposition, man and God cannot even exist. Read on!
"all things must needs be a compound in one" The statement, "all things must needs be a compound in one" is simply a re-statement of the idea that there must be opposition. Man is a dual or "compound" being, having both a physical or "natural" self and a spiritual self. He must have a dual nature-he "must needs be a compound in one." If man were only a natural or physical or temporal being ("if it should be one body"), then he would be entirely subject to natural law. He would have no agency. The natural law would be his sole determinant. There would be no concept of right or wrong, no wickedness or righteousness. The condition of man would resemble this hypothetical condition if there were no opposition in the world. He could not progress. Such a man might as well "remain as dead"-he might as well not even exist. There would be no purpose in creation. Indeed, God might as well not exist. He would have no purpose.
"nor corruption nor incorruption" The words corruption and incorruption are used in the Book of Mormon to contrast the nature of mortal things (corruption) and spiritual things (incorruption). In most cases "corruption" refers to the mortal body, which is subject to death and dissolution, and "incorruption" refers to the immortal body, which is resurrected, spiritual, and will abide forever (2 Nephi 9:7; Mosiah 16:10; Alma 5:15; Alma 11:45; Alma 12:18; Alma 40:2; Alma 41:4; Mormon 6:21).
12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
verse 12 The pronoun "it" here seems to refer to the earth and the sum total of all creation. The purpose of all creation, as we understand it, is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). Man cannot grow toward godhood without being able to exercise his agency in a world where there is opposition. If there were no opposition, the world would have been created in vain or "for a thing of naught." God would have no purpose. His powers and other virtues would be negated. He would have no reason to be God.
There is, of course, opposition in the world, and it is precisely these opposites coupled with the agency of man that gives purpose to life and to the creation of the world. Man is the center and essence of the universe. He is not simply an accident of nature subject only to natural laws. Joseph Smith taught that happiness of man is the object and design of the world's existence (TPJS, 55, 255). This world did not come into existence by chance, rather it was created by God for the mortal probation of man.
verses 13-15 These verses continue Lehi's defense of the proposition that there "must needs be" opposition.
13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
verse 13 This verse implies that the concepts of law, sin, righteousness, punishment, and God are so intimately interdependent upon one another that one cannot exist without the others. Intuitively it is easy to understand that if law didn't exist, there would be no sin. Without sin there could be no wickedness or righteousness. Hence there could be no misery or happiness. Less intuitively obvious, however, is the obligatory interdependence of God and the law. Could God exist even if there were no law? Or, could the law exist even if there were no God? God became God in a setting characterized by law, sin, punishment, righteousness, misery, happiness. He could have become God in no other way. Without these things there could be no God. If there were no God, then there could be no creation. Hence, there would be no earth and no man, indeed nothing would exist.
We ascribe to God the epitome of intelligence and the quintessence of spiritual gifts. It is notable that the very word intelligence implies the characteristic of agency. The word intelligence comes from the latin intellegere which is a variant form of inter meaning between and legere meaning to choose. Thus the word intelligence teaches that an intelligence possesses agency or the ability to choose.
14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
verse 14 "God . . . hath created all things" The Father did not "create" all things out of nothing or ex nihilo. As he began the process of creation, he was given, by the family of Gods, a vast repository of primal building blocks-elements (unorganized matter) and intelligences which he organized together. We may thus rephrase Lehi's statement, "God . . . hath organized all things.
"things to act and things to be acted upon" In one sense these may be regarded as the building blocks available to the Father as he began the process of creation. The "things to act" are the vast host of intelligences. They are capable of exercising their agency or acting for themselves. The "things to be acted upon" are the elements or matter. These are incapable of acting for themselves and are instead acted upon. In spite of the implication of this verse, both of these entities are eternal. Neither was created, and neither can be destroyed. They can only be organized, reorganized, or disorganized.
15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
verse 15 The "eternal purposes" of God are "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). The phrase "in the end of man" is perhaps best interpreted as meaning "in the life of man" or "in the lives of men."
The expression "in fine" means in conclusion or in summary.
This verse simply states that in order to bring about his purpose-the eternal life of man, the presence on the earth of opposition-good and evil-is essential. Without an opportunity to sin, man cannot progress. Without an opportunity to excel in obedience, he cannot be exalted. It is notable that God created neither good nor evil. They have always existed and are characteristics of every individual intelligence. Intelligences have also always existed. Every intelligence has a "natural" self and a "spiritual" self. The natural self is the greatest source of evil in the universe. When the spiritual self has its way with us, the result is "good."
"even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life" The "forbidden fruit" is symbolic of the world and its worldliness. The "tree of life" is symbolic of Christ and eternal life in his presence (see 1 Nephi 11:7). The "forbidden fruit" is "in opposition to the tree of life" since failing to overcome the world leads to failure to achieve the presence of God.
Note that the adjectives ("sweet" and "bitter") modifying the phrases "forbidden fruit" and "tree of life" are in reverse order.
The specific nature of the forbidden fruit has not been revealed. Elder Bruce R. McConkie suggested that when Adam and Eve partook of this fruit they "complied with whatever the law was that brought mortality into being" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 86). The issue may not have been so much one of sin versus righteousness. God's prohibition against partaking of the "forbidden fruit" may have been more of a statement of consequences-what would come about if and when they did partake. The Lord said that if Adam "wished to remain as he was in the garden, then he was not to eat the fruit, but if he desired to eat it and partake of death he was at liberty to do so" (Joseph Fielding Smith, "Was the Fall of Adam Necessary?" Improvement Era 65 [April 1962]: 231).
16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
verse 16 "the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself" We often say that God has given to man his agency. Strictly speaking, this is not true. God did not give to any man his agency, as every man has always possessed agency. God also cannot remove a man's agency. God did place man in a situation where his agency is operational-in mortality, man may use his agency to progress spiritually. See Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 13, Agency and Freedom.
"man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other" Also we are instructed that in order for man to exercise fully his agency, both good and evil choices must be associated with some enticement. Certainly the Spirit of God and the "spirit of Christ" within each of us do entice a man to do good, but does God entice a man to do evil? Certainly not. The natural self of man is all the enticement a man needs to do evil. Indeed, the natural self of man is the greatest source of evil in the universe.
17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
verse 17 Satan would be allowed to come to earth to entice men to do evil. Let us not be guilty of being too simplistic, however, and failing to understand Satan's role. Satan is not the creator or author of evil. The origin of evil resides deep within each of us and has always done so. It is our "natural self" or "natural-man self" (see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapters 5 and 6, The "Natural Self" and "Spiritual Self" and The Gospel and the Two Natures of Man). While Satan did not create our natural self, he certainly rejoices in it. Because of Satan's strategies and efforts, it is more difficult for us to resist our natural selves. See Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 16, The Role of Satan.
Biblical references to the fall of Lucifer are very scarce and veiled (Isaiah 14; Revelation 12). We must look to modern-day revelation for a clear understanding (Moses 4:1-4 which is the same as JST Genesis 3:1-5).
"according to the things which I have read" Obviously Lehi had learned something of the plan of salvation from reading the brass plates. However, he was apparently not taught as many of the specific details of that plan as we have today in this final dispensation. It was necessary for him to "suppose" some of the details, while today we have been taught many of the specifics of the Grand Council, the rebellion of Lucifer, and his being cast out of heaven with a third of the hosts of heaven.
"[Satan] sought that which was evil before God." Here is the essential reason for Satan's fall from glory in the pre-existence. Knowing first hand of the existence and preachings of the Father and the Son, he not only gave in to his "natural self," but he began to contend openly against the teachings of the Father and the Son. In this case part of his underlying "natural" inclinations were profound fears that he would fail to return to his former place of prominence.
18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.
verse 18 Here we learn that Satan's very objective is to bring about "the misery of all mankind." His motivation is a profound application of the old saw: "misery loves company."
Note Satan's statement to Eve. As he attempts to deceive her, he does so in a most effective manner. He combines truth and falsehood. The falsehood is, "Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die." The second part of his statement, "Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil," is, of course, true.
"be as God" We know it is a righteous desire of all who cleave to gospel truths to seek to one day "be as God."
19 And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth.
verse 19 As mentioned previously, we are left to wonder and speculate as to the literal or symbolic nature of the "forbidden fruit." Whatever the fruit was, it was rendered enticing, at least to Eve, by Satan's verbal manipulations. On the other hand, we know that ultimately Adam and Eve's choice to leave the garden was a deliberate one. They saw their loftiest responsibility as multiplying and replenishing the earth.
20 And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth.
verse 20 "the family of all the earth" We believe that all human inhabitants of the earth are lineal descendants of Adam. In the premortal world, these were the spirit children of God and came into mortality on the path to progress toward godhood.
21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
verse 21 "the days of the children of men were prolonged" The use of the word "prolonged" here is a curiosity since the time a man spends on this earth is certainly a relative thing. In other words, the days of the children of men were "prolonged" compared to what or to whom? The same concept is restated later in this verse-"their time was lengthened." This same phraseology is used elsewhere, several times in the scriptures (Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:16; Deuteronomy 5:30; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 11:30;18; 32:47; Isaiah 13:22; Isaiah 53:10; Helaman 15:4; Helaman 15:10; 2 Nephi 23:22; Alma 9:18). A study of these references suggests that the verb "prolonged" might also be interpreted as "given sufficient time."
Apparently, the lives of Adam and his children before the Flood were lengthened so that no one died during Adam's dispensation without first having had the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel (see D&C 29:42). Further, it would seem that in that dispensation the Lord was particularly inclined to send to the earth angels to preach his gospel (Moses 5:58; Moses 7:27). Thus, through the preaching of Adam, Enoch, Noah, angels from heaven, and even God himself (see Moses 5:58), no one who died before the Flood died in ignorance. This longevity changed with the Flood (see Genesis 6:3), and it then became possible for people to die in ignorance.
The apostle Peter describes the missionary work in the spirit world as beginning among these disobedient antediluvian souls, those "which sometime were disobedient [not ignorant], when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah" (see 1 Peter 3:20). Elder James E. Talmage has explained:
The disobedient who had lived on earth in the Noachian [pre-Flood] period are especially mentioned as beneficiaries of the Lord's ministry in the spirit world. They had been guilty of gross offenses, and had wantonly rejected the teachings and admonitions of Noah. . . . We are not to assume from Peter's illustrative mention of the disobedient antediluvians that they alone were included in the blessed opportunities offered through Christ's ministry in the spirit realm; on the contrary, we conclude in reason and consistency that all whose wickedness in the flesh had brought their spirits into the prison house were sharers in the possibilities of expiation, repentance, and release (Jesus the Christ, 672-73).
Also we are taught in modern revelation that when Christ introduced missionary work to the spirit prison almost immediately following his resurrection, he did not actually personally minister among the spirits in prison (D&C 138:18-20).
To this point in this chapter, Lehi has logically outlined the essential steps in man's progression toward godhood. He "gave" man his agency (actually God placed man in a situation where man could use his agency to progress to become more like God-verse 16) and a set of commandments whereby man might progress. In order to make this agency operative in an especially meaningful way, he allowed Satan to operate in the world. Satan would encourage adherence to the enticing alternatives to the gospel plan. One other essential step remains. That is for mankind to fall from God's presence into the obligatory state of probation where they will be tested in a setting where opposition abounds.
"he showed unto men that they were lost because of the transgression of their parents" Are all men really "lost" because of the sins of Adam and Eve? Only in the sense that they became mortal (subject to death) and temporarily separated from God.
To review: The Fall of man has a two-fold nature. (1) First, there is the fall of Adam. Adam transgressed, and by this transgression he brought two types of death into the world: physical death (all men must eventually die) and spiritual death (all men are temporarily separated from God during mortality). (2) Secondly, each man falls on his own. Man is not separated from God permanently because of Adam's sin. Only his own sins result in a lasting separation. No one lives without sin. A man's own sins result in his "permanent" spiritual death or separation from God. This spiritual death is actually "permanent" only until the law of justice is satisfied. The law of justice is very exact. If even one sin is committed, man cannot qualify for entry back into God's presence or indeed into any kingdom of glory.
verses 22-26 In all of the scripture, these five verses are unique in that they make clear truths about the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement that are found nowhere else in scripture.
22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
verses 22-23 Here we are taught that if Adam had not fallen, "all things" would have remained forever in the state in which they had been created. This is usually interpreted to mean that all things, including Adam, Eve, plants, and animals were created in an innocent and paradisiacal state at least in the area specified to be the Garden of Eden. They would have remained so if Adam and Eve had not fallen. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
The initial creation was paradisiacal; death and mortality had not yet entered the world. There was no mortal flesh upon the earth for any form of life. The Creation was past, but mortality as we know it lay ahead. All things had been created in a state of paradisiacal immortality. It was of this day that Lehi said: "And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end" (2 Nephi 2:22). If there is no death, all things of necessity must continue to live everlastingly and without end ("Christ and the Creation," 9-15).
Some committed members of the Church, because of their scientific backgrounds, have questioned whether or not all things on the earth in every age of the earth were, in fact, created in an immortal or paradisiacal state (Trent D. Stephens and D. Jeffrey Meldrum, Evolution and Mormonism, 134-38). They point out that, while Elder McConkie's interpretation of 2 Nephi 2:22 is one possible interpretation, "It has not received official sanction as a doctrine; and it has no explicit foundation in scripture. Furthermore, it is inconsistent with the fossil record and other well-established scientific data indicating a very old earth in which natural processes (life and death) have been at work for billions of years."
Two other plausible explanations have been proffered for 2 Nephi 2:22:
1. Some have divided the period of the earth's physical creation into two major eras:
a. The first is the period of preparatory creation when the earth was prepared for the advent of modern life forms including man on the earth. This period may well have lasted millions upon millions of years, and included the period of the dinosaurs and other ancient life forms. It was during this period that the fossil fuels, minerals, soil, precious metals, and other vital stores were accumulated upon the earth so that there might be "enough and to spare" (D&C 104:17) to support the family of man when they eventually arrived on the earth. During this period all life lived in a purely mortal form-subject to death. Following this creative era, once the earth was ready, all living things may have been removed from the earth.
b. The second period is the actual placement of modern life forms on the earth. All life forms placed upon the earth at the outset of this era (human, animals, and plants) initially existed in a paradisiacal or "spiritual" state.
After the fall of Adam, all forms of life became mortal.
2. Another explanation is that the creation story applies selectively to only a specific location on the earth-the Garden of Eden. Only in the Garden were living things all created in a "spiritual" or paradisiacal state. Only in the Garden was there no death prior to Adam's fall.
The book of Moses explains that all things were "spiritual" in the day in which they were created. The word spiritual in this context may have two possible meanings:
1. The first is that all things were not subject to death or change. This meaning of spiritual is important and pertains in other verses of scripture. For example, Amulek described the resurrection as a state in which body and spirit are united "never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption" (Alma 11:45, italics added). This same meaning was intended by Paul. Speaking of the physical body, he said, "It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44). Those who do not understand this meaning of the word spiritual have concluded that Paul was saying that in the world to come we will exist only as spirits. We know of course that Paul intended to teach that resurrection is the inseparable union of spirit and an immortal and incorruptible body.
We thus learn that when the Lord described the Creation by saying that it was "spiritual in the day that I created it; for it remaineth in the sphere in which I, God, created it, yea, even all things which I prepared for the use of man" (Moses 3:9), we understand that the Lord may have been saying that there was no death or corruption among God's creations, at least at the time of-or in the location of Adam, Eve, and the Garden.
2. The Lord has explained in D&C 29:34: "Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created." Something that is "spiritual" in this context is not just temporal but has eternal implications.
"they would have remained in a state of innocence" "Innocence" means that they lived in a bland and naive state where there was little opposition and they had a limited concept of the difference between good and evil. Though Adam and Eve did have some knowledge of good and evil, in their innocent state, they had insufficient knowledge to enable them to grow or progress spiritually in an optimal way.
"they would have had no children" In the paradisiacal or spiritual state no living thing could enjoy the privilege of procreation.
It is sound logic that joy cannot exist in the absence of misery, and righteousness cannot exist when there is no possibility of sin.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
verse 24 "all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things" The fall of man was planned in advance by God. Even though Adam and Eve were warned by God of the consequences of partaking of the forbidden fruit, they were given to act for themselves (see 2 Nephi 2:16), and God knew they would fall. It was all according to divine purpose.
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
verse 25 "Adam fell that men might be" This statement implies that Adam knowingly fell (transgressed) in order to enable the human family to come into mortality. He knew that in their original created state, he and Eve could not have posterity (Moses 5:10).
The apostate doctrine of original sin seems to be based in part on the notion that Adam and Eve's disobedience was an act of overt rebellion against God, an attempt to usurp the knowledge available only to the gods. This notion paints a dark and negative picture of Adam and Eve. The notion then evolved to the assumption that all mankind inherited their evil tendencies. How much more ennobling and soul-satisfying is the true doctrine of the fall and the true notion of Adam, the assurance that Adam "fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." Adam's and Eve's actions in Eden were intelligently thought through, selfless, and nobly executed. There is nothing of evil or wickedness about their conduct in the garden.
We usually emphasize the negative effects of the fall of Adam. There are, however, two positive or desirable effects. The first has just been mentioned: they could procreate. The second is that they could distinguish good from evil. They could then possess a more comprehensive knowledge of good and evil and grow spiritually at a rate limited only by their own willingness to overcome their natural self and obey the Lord's commands.
"men are that they might have joy" It is the purpose of man's very existence to obtain true joy. This joy, however, can only be obtained by an individual who has the opportunity and the ability to choose between good and evil, and he selects the good. True joy exists only when there is spiritual growth. The ultimate joy man seeks is the joy of exaltation in the celestial heaven for eternity.
The reader should also be reminded that there is much poetry in the Book of Mormon but it is printed in prose form. This verse is a good example. If, for example, we wanted to emphasize the poetic structure of this verse we may arrange it:
Adam fell that men might be;
and men are, that they might have joy.
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
verse 26 Here again is the expression "fulness of time" which refers to the period of Christ's mortal sojourn.
If there had been no atonement, the fall of man would have been permanent. Man would never have had the freedom to return to God's presence and realize his ultimate potential. He would have been subject to Satan's buffetings forever. The atonement has enabled man to follow either God or Satan. Ultimately, however, all men will be blessed or not blessed according to their obedience to the commandments of God. Man has agency and can choose for himself, but he cannot escape the consequences of the eternal law.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
verse 27 In order to understand this verse, it is important to distinguish between two separate concepts, agency and freedom. It is suggested that the reader study the chapter, Agency and Freedom found in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 13, prior to continuing.
"men are free according to the flesh" This phrase seems to refer to man's agency. The phrase "according to the flesh" in the Book of Mormon is often used to remind the reader that the current topic is literal and practical and not referred to in any figurative or symbolic sense. Hence, here in mortality-"according to the flesh"-man has his agency.
An alternate, but less likely, explanation of this phrase suggests that it refers more to freedom than to agency. The freedoms we possess here in mortality depend partly on our obedience to gospel law, but not entirely. Sometimes our circumstances here in mortality are such that limitations are imposed upon us by forces from without ourselves, forces that we cannot control. Freedom can be limited by physical laws or physical infirmities. It might also be compromised by the actions of others including government. Thus, "men are free," that is, they have their freedom "according to the flesh"-according to the circumstances of their mortality. For clarity, we might even add to this phrase as follows: "men are free or not free according to the flesh."
"they are free to choose liberty and eternal life" This expression, and the remainder of the verse, refers to the principle of agency. To summarize, agency is simply the right to choose among available alternatives. Agency is a free gift. We did nothing to earn it. We have always possessed it, and it cannot be taken from us.
This phrase does not, of course, mean to imply that man automatically has the freedom to choose eternal life. Rather, it means that man has the agency to choose whether or not to obey the commandments-to choose the course to eternal life.
The number of alternatives that any given man might have available to him might vary considerably. The blessing of having many alternatives has nothing to do with agency. Rather that blessing is freedom. Freedom is having abundant desirable alternatives. Freedom is not a free gift, however, but must be earned. In spiritual matters, we earn our freedom by exercising our agency and obeying the commandments of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A man who is disobedient to the commandments of the Lord, will experience decreasing freedoms in spiritual matters.
"all things are given them which are expedient unto man" This comforting statement simply assures us that sufficient alternatives will be available to each and every man while they are here on earth to allow them to grow spiritually and obtain exaltation if they might the righteous choices among their alternatives. No mortal will every find himself subject to conditions here on earth that would prevent him from exercising his agency in a way that will result in his spiritual growth and his ultimate exaltation. These guaranteed alternatives are here in the form of commandments of the Lord. These commandments, when obeyed, will eventually result in the freedom to choose to enter the celestial heaven.
28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;
29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
verses 28-29 "choose eternal life . . . and not eternal death" The Book of Mormon does not teach the concept of "multiple heavens" or multiple degrees of salvation. Rather it teaches a simplistic view of the life hereafter which is living either with God (exaltation) or with Satan (in outer darkness) (see the commentary for Mosiah 2:33).
verse 29 "the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein" The Book of Mormon does not teach the doctrine of human depravity, but it does teach that man has a "fallen" or "natural" nature that is prone to disobedience and ingratitude. Within each individual is the "natural man" or "natural self" which tends to be attracted to things of the world. This natural side of man will lead all men to commit sin. Let us also not make the mistake of assuming that the "natural" inclinations of man began at the time of the fall. It seems clear that man's natural self has always existed.
30 I have spoken these few words unto you all, my sons, in the last days of my probation; and I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet. And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls. Amen.
verse 30 "I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet." In the previous two verses, Lehi urged his sons to choose good over evil. Here he seems to be saying that he has chosen the Lord's way. The identity of "the prophet" is unknown but probably is Isaiah or perhaps Moses. There is probably a scripture written by a major prophet which refers to "choosing the good part" and which is lost to us today. It was probably this lost scripture to which Jesus referred to in Luke 10:42 when he spoke of choosing "that good part."
Let me just add one thought at the conclusion of this chapter. If you are normal, you probably feel that you have just studied a truly complex chapter. In fact, you probably feel that in order to understand everything well in this chapter, you should probably read it again, and then perhaps again. This is normal. I can assure you, however, that with repeated study, all of the concepts in this chapter are compatible with one another. They fit together seamlessly into "one great whole."
Was Joseph himself-or any other man-the author of these materials? Of course not!