2 Nephi Chapter 28
2 Nephi 28:3-4 Nephi's prophecy of latter-day secular churches which are built up and not unto the Lord. When one shall say to the other, behold I, I am the Lord's, and the other shall say I, I am the Lord's.
2 Nephi 28:7-9 Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
2 Nephi 28:20-22 For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good. And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well-and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
2 Nephi 28:29-30 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
In chapters 28 through 30 Nephi prophesies of the latter days-that day when the Church will be restored and the Book of Mormon will be revealed to the world. Specifically he describes the religious landscape into which the restoration of the gospel will take place including the apostate conditions of the Christian world in that day. These chapters became the favorites of early church members in the early nineteenth century since they describe with uncanny accuracy the religious state of affairs that existed at the time the Church was restored. These chapters explained for those early saints the religious world around them and served to confirm for them the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. A delightful discussion of the details of the early saints' perceptions of these chapters has been written by Grant Underwood ("Insights From the Early Years: 2 Nephi 28-30," (The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, the Doctrinal Structure, 323-339). A sampling of the details of this article will be included in the verse commentary of these three chapters.
1 And now, behold, my brethren, I have spoken unto you, according as the Spirit hath constrained me; wherefore, I know that they must surely come to pass.
verse 1 "behold, my brethren" Nephi's audience is primarily those who live in this final dispensation. He particularly addresses his descendants (see the following verse where he refers to "our seed").
"as the Spirit hath constrained me" The word constrained means compelled or urged to action.
"I know that they must surely come to pass" Those events revealed to me by the Spirit will come to pass.
2 And the things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men, and especially unto our seed, which is a remnant of the house of Israel.
verse 2 This verse has reference to the Book of Mormon and clearly identifies the time frame of this chapter to be the latter days when the Book of Mormon will be introduced to the world.
"the things which shall be written out of the book" This phrase might better have been rendered "the things which shall be written in the book."
"our seed" This, of course, refers to the descendants of Lehi, Ishmael, and Zoram.
3 For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord's; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord's; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord-
verse 3 Here is a major feature of the apostate condition of the world in the last days. Among the churches of men-those "built up, and not unto the Lord"-there will be a competitive and contentious vying for recognition and for members.
This verse and the next describe the situation that Joseph Smith, Jr., encountered in the surrounds of his home as he was growing up and wondering which church he should join.
Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, "Lo, here!" and others, "Lo, there!" Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.
For notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one part and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued-priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions (JS-H 1:5-6).
4 And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance.
verse 4 "teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance" In these false churches intellectualism and the scholarship of men will replace the promptings and gifts of the Spirit as the means for determining theological truths (D&C 50:17-22).
5 And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men;
6 Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.
verses 5-6 Nephi identifies some false precepts that will be taught at the time of the restoration. These false ideas tend to instill in their adherents the notion that a restoration of the gospel is wholly unnecessary.
"they deny the power of God" The concept of priesthood is irrelevant. There is no need for a restoration of the priesthood.
"there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work" As Joseph Smith shared his account of the first vision with the Protestant preachers of his day, they responded "with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them" (JS-H 1:21). There will be no more miracles wrought by the power of God, for "he hath given his power unto men." We already have a Bible and any further revelation or scripture is unnecessary, anticlimactic, and redundant.
7 Yea, and there shall be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us.
verse 7 This verse illustrates the insidious humanistic and hedonistic philosophies. These hold that individuals should be free to gratify their own carnal desires, to set their own moral standards, to live for the pleasure of the moment, and to do all of this without guilt. In order to sin without guilt, of course, one must lower his moral standard to correspond with his behavior. This is exactly opposite the true gospel principle which is that to remove guilt one must repent and lift his behavior to correspond to the Lord's standard. Among those who espouse these hedonistic philosophies of men, there exists a significant and poignant irony: These philosophies can never result in true happiness. The principle that "wickedness never was happiness" is absolutely true and there will never be an exception (see the discussion of this principle in the commentary for Alma 41:10).
8 And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God-he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
verse 8 Both justice and mercy are valid concepts. It is vital, however, that there be maintained an appropriate relationship between justice and mercy. The false doctrine described in this verse distorts this relationship by inappropriately expanding the role of mercy and diminishing the importance of justice. In scripture this is referred to as allowing "mercy to rob justice." For other examples of the erroneous philosophy wherein mercy is allowed to rob justice, see Alma 30:17 in which Korihor taught: "Whatsoever a man does is no crime." Also in Alma 1:4, Nehor testified that "all mankind should be saved at the last day," and that "in the end all men should have eternal life." When the appropriate relationship exists between justice and mercy, then mercy will not rob justice but rather will appease justice, providing, of course, the sinner repents. Anyone who would be inclined to let mercy rob justice in their lives ought to heed well Alma's final warning to his son Corianton: "O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility" (Alma 42:30).
"take the advantage of one because of his words" This phrase refers to an individual who would lie in wait hoping to ensnare someone because of his words. Another way of expressing this sinful tendency is found in 2 Nephi 27:32: This sinner is one who waits eagerly to make another an "offender for a word." Those who are charitable tend to overlook the mistakes of others concentrating instead on the good he finds in people.
"God will beat us with a few stripes" Stripes are strokes made with a lash, whip, rod, strap, or scourge; affliction; punishment; sufferings.
9 Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.
verse 9 "there shall be many which shall teach after this manner" In Book of Mormon times there were, indeed, many including Sherem (Jacob 7:1-20), Nehor (Alma 1:2-15), and Korihor (Alma 30:6-60). Nephi prophesies that there will be many in the last days.
In what way are these doctrines "vain"? Vain implies over concern about self-personal vanity. In obeying these erroneous doctrines, a man is self-centered. He who lies or watches for a way to ensnare or dig a pit for his neighbor is only looking to elevate himself at the expense of another. The "live-for-today" philosophy embodies the "me-first" attitude which is common today. The world would teach that we prosper only according to our own genius, and we prosper only according to our own strengths and abilities. It is us against the world. If our neighbor prospers, then he does so at our expense. This apostate philosophy may be termed the scarcity mentality or the law of the jungle.
"shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord" This phrase has already been discussed in the commentary for 2 Nephi 27:27. To reiterate: The Hebrew word that is here translated as "counsel" might well have been sod. This Hebrew word has a double meaning and might well be translated as secrets. Thus those who "seek deep to hide their counsel" are those who try desperately to hide their secret and wicked acts and thoughts from the Lord, an undertaking which is, of course, impossible. The Lord, of course, perceives perfectly the hearts of men.
10 And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them.
verse 10 As mentioned in the commentary for verse 3, false doctrines are a major characteristic of the apostate latter day world. The previous verse identifies another important characteristic-false teachers. They are the very antithesis of the humble and righteous teachers who preceded them. Their apostate teachings mock those that have gone before. Thus, "the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them."
11 Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted.
verse 11 "The way" may be said to be the way of truth. In this and subsequent verses, we are taught the characteristics of false teachers-those characteristics by which they can be recognized.
12 Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.
13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.
verses 12-13 In the previous verses, we have been discussing the sin of pride. Perhaps pride may be succinctly defined as the seeking primarily for things of the world rather than things of the Spirit. This seeking is most often competitive and disregards the rights and feelings of others. Review Moroni's memorable warning to the people of the latter day delivered near the end of the Book of Mormon.
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.
For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer (Mormon 8:35-37; Mormon 8:41).
For a further discussion of the concept of pride, see "Pride" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 5, The "Natural Self" and "Spiritual Self."
It is said that priestcraft seeks to hide its spiritual poverty behind worldly wealth. See the definition and discussion of priestcraft in the commentary for 2 Nephi 10:5. Those involved in priestcraft would rather build costly buildings and wear lavish vestments than feed the poor.
14 They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.
verse 14 "They wear stiff necks and high heads" The false teachers, those practitioners of priestcraft in the latter days, will be stubborn and spiritually unteachable (have "stiff necks") and smug and proud, even disdainful of those of lesser position ("have high heads").
"a few who are the humble followers of Christ" Let us hope that Nephi saw, in this instance, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We must also acknowledge others of this latter-day dispensation who are outside of the Church, yet who strive earnestly and successfully to emulate the Savior.
"nevertheless they are led" Here the pronoun "they" seems to have reference to those "few who are humble followers of Christ." These might, on occasion, have ecclesiastical leaders who lead them in such a way as to cause them to err. "Behold, I the Lord have looked upon you, and have seen abominations in the church that profess my name. . . . Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness before me" (D&C 50:4; D&C 50:9).
15 O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!
verse 15 "Whoredoms" are sexual sins, especially adultery.
A warning reiterated. Nephi's concept of "hell" seems to correspond to what we would call the spirit prison today.
16 Wo unto them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth! For the day shall come that the Lord God will speedily visit the inhabitants of the earth; and in that day that they are fully ripe in iniquity they shall perish.
verse 16 It seems to be man's nature that those who reject truth particularly if they have previously accepted that truth, do so with some considerable ambivalence. It is this ambivalence that compels many sinners to "revile against that which is good" and to actively reject the righteous and pronounce them to be of little value-"turn aside the just for a thing of naught." The restored Church's bitterest opponents may be often found among those who were erstwhile members of the Church but later became disaffected often due to an inability to live up to the church's standards. People of this group behave as though they carry a continual burden of guilt that can only relieved by actively persecuting the Church.
"for the day shall come that . . . they shall perish" Apparently we can expect the gap between the righteous and the wicked to widen as the Savior's advent nears. The righteous will stand apart from those obviously "ripe in iniquity." The latter group will "perish"-they will suffer spiritual death. They will be permanently separated from God.
17 But behold, if the inhabitants of the earth shall repent of their wickedness and abominations they shall not be destroyed, saith the Lord of Hosts.
18 But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof.
verse 18 "that great and abominable church" This phrase has reference to that entity described in 1 Nephi 14. Bruce R. McConkie has described it as: "It is the world; it is all the carnality and evil to which fallen man is heir, it is every unholy and wicked practice; it is every false religion, every supposed system of salvation which does not actually save and exalt man in the highest heaven of the celestial world. It is every church except the true church, whether parading under a Christian or a pagan banner" (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 340). It is especially anyone who makes war against the saints.
verses 19-21 There are several ways in which a man may be led away captive by Satan. Satan customizes his approach to each individual. Some may be provoked to anger or violence. Some might be more effectively led away by gentle appeasement or pacification. Others may be encouraged toward indolence or indifference. Still others may be satiated with abundant worldly possessions or influence and become driven to protect them and even to accumulate more.
19 For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance, or the devil will grasp them with his everlasting chains, and they be stirred up to anger, and perish;
verse 19 The "kingdom of the devil" is the spirit prison. The word "shake" implies rouse themselves to action, in this case repentance. If the inhabitants of the spirit prison are not "stirred up unto repentance," they will spend eternity with Satan as sons of Perdition.
20 For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
verse 20 "at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men" It is sobering to contemplate Satan's desperate rage-anger and resentment-which impels him to try to stir up the same anger and resentment in the hearts of men, and encourage men to direct it against that which is good.
21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well-and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
verse 21 "carnal security" As long as the war between things of the world and things of the Spirit is being actively fought in a man's heart and mind, that man glimpses, from time to time, his eternal identity and does not lose touch with his eternal spiritual self. He will persist in remaining, at least to some extent, uncomfortable with his worldly concessions. If, however, he falls far enough along the worldly path, he may lose this discomfiture. He will become comfortable with his worldly self. He will achieve a state of "carnal security."
"All is well in Zion" At least some of the devil's various tactics here are intended for members of the Church (see also verse 24). The sobering implication here is that often all is not well in Zion.
The word "carefully" in this verse is chilling. It implies that Satan's efforts at seduction of men are made thoroughly, painstakingly, and conscientiously.
22 And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none-and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.
verse 22 "there is no hell" C.S. Lewis wrote, "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. . . . [The devils] themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight" (The Screwtape Letters, 13).
"others he flattereth away" To flatter is to coax; to attempt to win by praise or enticements. It also has the meaning of false praise for the purpose of gaining favor and influence. Flattery is one of Satan's most effective tools. He will say to the sinner, "You're fine. You're doing well. You have no need to worry. All your thoughts and actions are natural and fully justified." President Joseph F. Smith identified flattery as one of the three great temptations facing the Latter-day Saints (Gospel Doctrine, 312-13). In the Book of Mormon the different forms of flattery are used almost always in a negative sense (the exception is Alma 17:31 where the word flattereth is used to mean persuaded or encouraged).
23 Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.
verse 23 Joseph Smith taught that man's three arch enemies in mortality are death (physical death), hell, and the devil, and that salvation consists in overcoming these three (HC, 5:387-88, 403; Times and Seasons, August 15, 1844). Do we believe in universal salvation? No. All are saved but the sons of perdition (JD, 2:238; D&C 76:39; D&C 76:41-44).
"lake of fire and brimstone" This expression, of course, does not describe the literal fate of anyone. Rather, it is a figurative or symbolic expression that is discussed more fully in the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:16.
24 Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!
25 Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!
verses 24-25 We are reminded simply that there is no place for passivity in living the gospel. We must remain uncomfortable and proactive in our strivings to be obedient. The phrase "all is well in Zion" obviously indicates an attitude of spiritual complacency. For those with this attitude, Satan has a fertile opportunity to lead them "carefully down to hell" (2 Nephi 28:21).
26 Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!
27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!
28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
verses 28 "And in fine" In summary.
"wo unto all those who . . . are angry because of the truth of God" In another place Nephi said, "No man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil" (2 Nephi 33:5). Put simply, some people react to the truth with anger. This is clearly due to the absence of the Spirit of God and the presence of the spirit of Satan acting on a susceptible individual.
The analogy of building on a rock or sand is used by the Savior himself in 3 Nephi 14:24-27 (see also D&C 6:34; D&C 11:24; D&C 50:44; and 90:5). The "rock" would seem to represent the Savior himself or the principles of his gospel. The sand simply represents the absence of these.
29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
verses 27-29 These verses are usually thought to be intended for people outside the Church who believe that the Bible is sufficient scripture, and that no further revelation is needed or even appropriate. Could these verses also apply to people within the Church? An example of how this prophecy might apply to the saints was experienced in June of 1978 when the Revelation on Priesthood was announced to the Church. Most everyone in the Church received the news with grateful hearts and with thanksgiving. A small number did not accept it, and some apostate groups have broken off from the Church as a result of that revelation. This subject is so important that it will dominate the entire next chapter-2 Nephi 29.
30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
verse 30 "thus saith the Lord God" Here begins a sermon by Jesus Christ quoted by the prophet Nephi. It will extend through the entire next chapter.
"line upon line, precept upon precept" The important concept described in this verse outlines the conditions upon which the Lord reveals knowledge to man. It includes more than the idea of revealing knowledge a little at a time. Also implicit in this concept is the idea that in order to receive additional knowledge, one must prove oneself a faithful steward over the knowledge already received. If not, then even that which has been already received will be taken away.
31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
verse 31 Here we are reminded of that essential theme whose importance pervades all of mortality. It is the struggle between influences of the Spirit and those of the world. In this context the meaning of the colorful phrase "maketh flesh his arm" is clear. It means to regard things of the world and men as the source of one's power.
32 Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts.
verse 32 In this verse and the verse which follows, the Lord makes it clear that the benefits of the restored gospel in the latter days will be extended to the Gentiles ("I shall lengthen out mine arm to them") as well as to the house of Israel.
"for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long" During this mortal trial the Savior remains ever willing and anxious to receive any of his children into his fold.