2 Nephi Chapter 29
2 Nephi 29:6-8 Thou fool that shall say, a Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible.
2 Nephi 29:13 The Jews, Nephites, and lost tribes shall have each other's words.
This chapter describes Satan's latter-day attack on the Book of Mormon.
By the time we arrive at this point in the scripture, Nephi has already prophesied that the whole world in the last days will be engulfed in apostasy. There are, abounding in the world, wickedness, priestcraft, pride, false teachings, and worldly wisdom in place of revelation. These apostate characteristics have infiltrated the world's churches and every institution of human endeavor. In this setting, the Book of Mormon comes forth by miraculous means and through an unsophisticated prophet to provide guidance to those who have faith. It is especially valuable because it has been hidden in the earth for centuries, and it still contains its original purity and plainness.
1 But behold, there shall be many-at that day when I shall proceed to do a marvelous work among them, that I may remember my covenants which I have made unto the children of men, that I may set my hand again the second time to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel;
verse 1 The construction of this verse is unusual in that most of it consists of a very long parenthetical expression which begins following "there shall be many"-and extends through verse 2 into verse 3. It ends following "my words shall hiss forth"-in verse 3. Without this long parenthetical expression, the first sentence of this chapter would read something like, "But behold, there shall be many Gentiles [who] shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible."
"marvelous work" This expression originated with the prophet Isaiah and is found in Isaiah 29:13-14. It has reference to the restored gospel in the latter days.
"my covenants which I have made unto the children of men" This phrase refers to the Abrahamic covenant the details of which can be reviewed in the commentary for 1 Nephi 14:8.
"that I may set my hand again the second time to recover my people" This same expression is used a few times in the book of Second Nephi. See also 2 Nephi 6:14, 2 Nephi 21:11, and 2 Nephi 25:17. If the Lord is going to set his hand a "second" time to gather Israel, then when was the first time the Lord "set his hand to recover his people"? It might be argued that this latter-day gathering is the third or fourth gathering. At the time of Moses, the Lord set his hand the first time to lead his people out of captivity in Egypt to their land of inheritance in Palestine. Another significant gathering took place following the Babylonian captivity. Some have suggested that the time of Christ's mortal ministry constituted a "gathering." After all, the keys of gathering were given by Moses to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration at that time (Matthew 17:1-9). Certainly this was an attempted gathering when the Lord "set his hand" to gather Israel. It turned out to be, however, a gathering that did not fully succeed. In any case this great "second" or final gathering is now in progress as Israel gathers to the gospel and to the stakes of Zion.
Perhaps the Lord refers here to his mortal ministry as the "first time" he set his hand to recover his people.
2 And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel;
verse 2 "the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father" The Lord extends the Abrahamic covenant to the posterity of the Book of Mormon people. See the commentary for 1 Nephi 14:1-2; 1 Nephi 14:8. The Lord also promises that the seed of Lehi and Nephi will be preserved even to the last days and have an opportunity to hear the words of the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 3:23).
"the words of your seed" This is the Book of Mormon which will, in the terminology of Isaiah, "hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel." One of the definitions of hiss in Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is, "To whiz, as an arrow or other thing in rapid flight." That is, the Book of Mormon will serve as a signal, a standard, a flag, or a rallying point for those elect of the house of Israel who will gather in that day.
3 And because my words shall hiss forth-many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.
verse 3 Here the term "Gentile" is likely best interpreted as any non-Jew who is a candidate to be gathered back to the fold or church of God. This would include the citizens of the great Gentile nation of the latter days, the United States of America, though many of those citizens are blood descendants of the house of Israel.
The meaning of this verse is clear. Certainly every modern-day missionary has encountered this objection to our Church's non-biblical standard works. Heber C. Kimball, after returning from a missionary excursion, wrote, "We delivered our testimony to many [ministers] who with one consent said 'we have enough and need no more revelation;' thus fulfilling a prediction of the Book of Mormon" (Times and Seasons [16 August 1841] 2:507-11).
Another more subtle but similar danger lurks for those of us in the Church who feel that our knowledge of our standard works is adequate or sufficient. We can never risk the scriptural apathy that invariably follows if a church member stops studying the scriptures. His rationalization might sound something like: "A Book of Mormon! A Book of Mormon! I've already read the Book of Mormon, and I don't need to any learn more about it."
Not only do we have the Bible and the Book of Mormon and the other standard works of the Church, but we as a people look forward to additional sacred scripture which will eventually be restored to the earth (D&C 93:18; D&C 107:57, Ether 4:7).
4 But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?
verse 4 Here is the Lord's warning to the "Gentiles" of the last days-the "day of the Gentile." See the commentary for the previous verse for reflections on the identity of the "Gentiles."
"O fools, they shall have a Bible" The Lord refers to the people of the latter day.
"And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them?" Just how grateful are the Gentiles for the Bible they received from the Jews?
"Yea, what do the Gentiles mean?" What are the perceptions of the Gentiles relative to the Bible and its origins? Do they acknowledge the diligence of those righteous Jews, the Jewish prophets, through whose efforts and sacrifice we have a Bible today?
5 O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.
verse 5 Here is a sobering reminder of the persecutions the Jews have received at the hands of the "Gentiles" since the final scattering of the Jews by the Romans in AD 70. Also contained in this verse are instructions as to how we ought to regard the Jews today. While we may have come to regard them, as a culture, to be refractory to the gospel message until the Lord's second coming, we must love them and never cease our efforts to win them over to the fulness of the gospel-to "recover them."
It is touching to reflect on the Lord's persistent dedication and patience which he evidences for his wayward children-especially his "chosen," those who were especially valiant in the premortal world.
6 Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?
verse 6 The Lord is still condemning those latter-day "Gentiles" who claim to accept the Bible yet maintain prejudices against the Jews, the very people that gave us the Bible. He is also condemning those who feel that the Bible alone is sufficient scripture to settle all questions of religion. Revelation has not ceased. The Bible is not the final word of God. Miracles, spiritual gifts, and revelation are always available to the true followers of Christ.
7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
verse 7 Do you not know that all people of the earth are my children and are entitled to hear my words? The implication seems to be that the record of the Jews, the Bible, contains revelation intended primarily for the people of the Old World. Is it not logical to expect a corresponding record to be provided for people of the New World?
"isles of the sea" Again, this term refers simply to scattered Israel, wherever they may be found upon the earth.
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
verse 8 "murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word?" Are you really resisting the concept that revelations in addition to the Bible should come forth?
"the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you" In the justice of God, no person is expected to accept a truth unless it has been properly established. One condition for this proper establishment is that the truth satisfies the law of witnesses. This law simply stated is: "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (1 Corinthians 13:1; see also Matthew 18:16; D&C 6:28; D&C 6:30; D&C 6:128:3). Examples today of the application of this law might include the testimony of Christ in the Bible and the Book of Mormon; the three and eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon plates; the witness, in the meridian of time, of both Jesus Christ and John the Baptist-both sealed by their blood; the martyrdom of both Hyrum and Joseph Smith; the invariable presence of another individual with Joseph Smith when priesthood keys were restored; and the sending out of missionaries two by two.
It is obvious that the central thrust of this verse is that the Bible and the Book of Mormon function together to satisfy the law of witnesses.
"when the two nations shall run together" What are the "two nations"? And when will they "run together"? It is likely that the two nations are the Old World (Judah) and the New World (Joseph or Ephraim). Their respective scriptural records (the Bible and the Book of Mormon) shall function together in the last days.
9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
verse 9 "that I may prove unto many" It should be obvious that even when a truth is established according to the law of witnesses and is thus "proven," it may well not be proven in a tangible worldly or scientific sense. The only individual to whom the Lord is able to "prove" anything is he who is responsive to the Spirit.
"end of man" This verse is a statement on the constancy and eternal nature of God. The meaning of the phrase "end of man" is unclear. It could refer to the time when each and every one of the spirit children of God-those who belong to our round of creation-has been dispatched to this mortal earth to one of the other worlds in this round of the Father's creation. Whatever the meaning of this phrase, the meaning of the verse is clear: God is eternal (Moses 1:38), and he will never cease to provide us with his word.
10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
verse 10 A firmly held heresy in the sectarian religious world is that the Bible contains all of God's word and that there is no true scripture outside of the Bible. This is the doctrine of sola scriptura. Furthermore they would pronounce a malediction upon anyone who would contend otherwise, often quoting Revelation 22:18: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book" (even most orthodox Christians today admit the apostle John had in mind only his own book when he wrote this verse-see also Deuteronomy 4:2). Here in verse 10 this incorrect doctrine is decried by the Lord himself. For a more complete discussion of the heresy of sola scriptura, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 4, chapters 7, 8, and 9: Scriptural Canon-Should It Be Open or Closed?, Continuing Revelation and Modern Scripture, and The Question of Scriptural Inerrancy.
As long as we are "Bible bashing" with the sectarian world, why not bring up a verse written by the very same author who wrote the verse in Revelation 22: "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25). It is clear that the Bible does not contain all of God's word, and there is much more which he has "caused . . . to be written."
11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
verse 11 "For I command all men . . . that they shall write the words which I speak unto them" If one people to whom the Lord has spoken has been commanded to record at least some of which the Lord has said, isn't it logical to suppose that others to whom the Lord has spoken will also be asked to write it down? In the final verses in this chapter, we will identify three major scriptural records that have come forth or will eventually come forth. This particular verse leaves open the possibility that several other records may have been written and may yet come forth.
Again, the phrase "all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south" and the phrase "islands of the sea" refer to scattered Israel wherever they may be found.
"for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world" It may be true that a man who has not heard the law or had a chance to understand it will be judged lightly until he had that chance (D&C 82:3; Luke 12:48). However, this phrase makes clear that the old saw, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," is ultimately applicable. Certain books will be used both as a standard and as a witness in the final judgment. Each man has an obligation to search the scriptures to learn the law.
In speaking of some of the books out of which the world will be judged, President Spencer W. Kimball offered the following insight: "The Book of Life (see Revelation 20:12) will show the earthly activities of all of us, and the book of the angels will give the entire story of every man and what he did in the light and in the shadows, in the open and in the corners, all that is said in the secret places and from the housetops, all that was thought and expressed, whether good or bad. There will be no escape. The honest judge will give full value to all for their good works and will not overlook the other" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball. Edited by Edward L. Kimball, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft], 1982, 46).
12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
verse 12 There are to be at least three major scriptural testimonies of Christ that will eventually come forth. These are the written records of "the Jews" (the Bible), "the Nephites" (the Book of Mormon), and "the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away"-obviously the ten lost tribes. The verse then tantalizes us by suggesting the eventual coming forth of yet a fourth record, that of "all nations of the earth." Isn't it exciting to consider and speculate regarding these other records?
The possibility of a separate record of scripture coming forth from the "lost" ten tribes of Israel is problematic. We have discussed previously that many of these Israelites, those descended from the ten tribes, have been thoroughly scattered throughout other nations of the world and do not exist in a discrete and separate body. Do they? Is there a separate body of the scattered ten tribes that live together somewhere?
As one reads the scriptural descriptions of the dramatic return of the ten tribes in the latter days, one cannot help but wonder if these passages of scripture are describing a discrete and sizable group of Israelites who will return en masse rather than a piece-meal gathering in of widely scattered Israelites from among the peoples of the earth. The Bible suggests, for example, that their return will be so spectacular that it will make the crossing of the Red Sea pale by comparison. Jeremiah says the Lord will lead the seed of Israel "out of the north country" and then comments: "It shall no more be said, the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands whither he had driven them" (Jeremiah 16:14-15).
In latter-day scripture we read: "And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves" (D&C 133:26).
Here we learn that wherever the ten tribes are, they have prophets among them who will lead them in their gathering. The record then continues: "And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep" (D&C 133:27). Isaiah suggests that this miraculous highway may be the result of the drying up of the great deep similar to the way the Lord parted the waters for Moses and allowed the Israelites to walk over on dry land. He says: "Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?" (Isaiah 51:10).
Apparently the returning Israelites will fill up the Western Hemisphere. Joseph Smith said one of the principal reasons the wicked will be cleansed from the earth is to make room "from the lost tribes of Israel from the north country" (TPJS, 1973 edition, 17). Modern revelation indicates that the massive immigration pouring across the Lord's mighty highway will saturate all of the arable land and require the settling of both deserts and barren regions. To solve this problem the Lord says: "And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land" (D&C 133:28).
The Lord says these returning multitudes will bring with them vast treasures of precious things which will be turned over to the priesthood in the New Jerusalem, no doubt for the embellishment of the temple and beautifying of the great new capital city: "And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephraim, my servants" (D&C 133:30).
In Deuteronomy 31:4 Moses addresses scattered Israel and implies that a part of scattered Israel may even be located somewhere outside of this earth: "If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee" (italics added). A possible extra-terrestrial location of this group is also suggested by Jesus's proclamation: "He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31, italics added). Perhaps Jesus's phrase "from one end of heaven to the other" corresponds to Moses's "out unto the outmost parts of heaven."
Prophets have suggested that the ten tribes will be gathered in from "the north countries." One verse of scripture suggests that "north countries" refers to a place beyond the four corners of the earth: " . . . being gathered in from the four corners of the earth, and from the north countries" (Ether 13:11, italics added). Brigham Young said: "The ten tribes of Israel are on a portion of the earth-a portion separate from the main land" (Brigham Young, quoted by Matthais F. Cowley in his book, Wilford Woodruff, 448). All who read the scriptures are familiar of the concept of God's technique of removing large bodies of people from the earth to some place especially prepared for them. The classic example is the City of Enoch: "And Enoch . . . built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion . . . and lo, Zion in process of time was taken up into heaven" (Moses 7:19-21). The City of Enoch was taken up and perhaps even that portion of earth on which the city was located.
Brother Cleon Skousen has also drawn upon the apocryphal Old Testament book of Esdras for some other suggestions regarding the lost ten tribes. Before listing those suggestions, perhaps it would be appropriate to mention a few things about "the apocrypha."
In Joseph Smith's King James Bible, which he was using to create his inspired revision, there were fourteen books between the Old Testament and the New Testament known as the Old Testament Apocrypha. Most latter-day saints are not familiar with the apocryphal Old Testament books because they were eliminated from the King James Bible and all protestant Bibles in the early 1800s. They are still present in some Catholic Bibles, though there is some skepticism over their authenticity among the leadership of the Catholic Church. Today, if one is interested, these books are available and may be easily found and purchased.
When Joseph finished his inspired revision of the Old Testament, he inquired of the Lord on March 9, 1833, as to whether or not he should translate or revise these apocryphal books. The Lord in D&C 91 gave him, in essence, the following answer which is the position of the Church on the Apocrypha: (1) These books contain many things which are true, and they are mostly translated correctly. (2) There are also many things contained therein that are not true but are the false traditions of men. (3) There is no need to revise the Apocrypha. (4) Any member of the Church may read the Apocrypha, but he should make certain he has the Spirit with him to help him discern what is true from what is not.
We have come to apply this counsel more widely than to just the Apocrypha. For example, is it all right for a church member to read the Dead Sea Scrolls and accept as true those things which are witnessed as such by the Spirit? Yes, indeed! There are literally hundreds of pieces of ancient literature which have been discovered that are as old as the Old Testament books in our Bible. We do not accept them as canonized scripture, but certainly acknowledge that they may contain some significant truths.
Now, back to Brother Cleon Skousen and The book of Esdras. This book indicates that the ten tribes, after they had been taken captive into Assyria, eventually decided to migrate north to a land which had never before been inhabited:
Those are the ten tribes, which were carried away prisoners out of their own land at the time of Osea, the king, whom Salmanasar, the king of Assyria, led away captive, and he carried them over the waters [Euphrates and Tigris Rivers] and so came they into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves that they would leave the multitudes of the heathen, and go forth into a further country, where never mankind dwelt.
Anglo-Saxon tradition suggests that this people originally lived in large numbers around the Black Sea until the first century BC. Then they migrated en masse to the north about 65 BC. As a result of this migration they eventually settled in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Holland, England, and France.
According to Esdras at some point in time the ten tribes divided into two groups. It would appear that the more spiritual elements were quickened sufficiently to be transferred to a location, perhaps the "outmost parts of heaven" referred to by Moses who promised they would also be gathered back in the due time of the Lord. The fragments of the ten tribes who were not taken became dispersed among the nations of the earth. These also must be eventually gathered out from among the nations (A Glimpse into the Future, Chapter 1, The Great Last Gathering).
13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
verse 13 These three records are to be shared with the other groups. These three records are, by the way, another example of the law of witnesses (see the commentary for verse 8).
"the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews" The expression "lost tribes" is found in only two verses of scripture, here and in 3 Nephi 17:4. We learn in 1 Nephi 22 that the term "lost" reflects the perspective of the Israelites in the Holy land. Thus, the lost tribes are those who are "lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem" (1 Nephi 22:4). The lost tribes are Israelites whose identity is not known to the world and in some cases not even to themselves. Some scriptures describe their scattered exile as being in "the north," using metaphorical language from the perspective of the rest of Israel, who last saw them being taken away in that direction (Jeremiah 16:15; Zechariah 2:6; D&C 110:11; 133:26).
The "words of the lost tribes of Israel" will apparently be brought forth when the body of the ten lost tribes return en masse to join the rest of gathering Israel. The records of the Nephites and of the Jews obviously do not consist of only one book each. Rather each is a collection of many books. Perhaps the record of the lost tribes will be the same.
An alternate suggestion has been made regarding the identity of the record of the lost tribes of Israel. Since Ephraim was the predominant tribe among the ten lost tribes, and since the latter day Church has frequently been referred to as consisting of the "children of Ephraim," perhaps the Doctrine and Covenants should be regarded as a witness for Jesus Christ among latter-day Ephraim which may some day be combined with the other records of the lost tribes when they come forth.
14 And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.
verse 14 It is obvious that the latter-day gathering and restoration of Israel will also include a gathering, into one, of the three major scriptural testimonies of Christ. This combined scriptural record will "show unto them that fight against my word . . . that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever."