2 Nephi Chapter 33
2 Nephi 33:3 But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.
This chapter may be considered to be Nephi's farewell. At the conclusion of a lifetime of faithful service, the great prophet Nephi bade farewell to his people in the land of Nephi and to all who would, in the future, read his words.
If we had available to us Nephi's writings upon the large plates of Nephi, perhaps we might have learned more about Nephi's ministry. From the record we do have, translated from the small plates of Nephi, we have learned little of that ministry. Only in 2 Nephi 5 did we read something of Nephi's actions as leader of his people. There we read that he maintained the records, made weapons for their defense, built a temple, and taught his people to be industrious. Mostly we have read of the Lord's dealings with Nephi's family including the rift that occurred therein. Also we have read a major discourse that Nephi's brother Jacob delivered to the Nephites (2 Nephi 6-10), several chapters of Isaiah's writings (2 Nephi 12-24), Nephi's commentary on those Isaiah materials (2 Nephi 25-26), and Nephi's prophecies of the latter days (2 Nephi 27-30).
1 And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.
verse 1 "I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people" Perhaps there are several reasons why Nephi could not write more. At least we can speculate that there was a lack of time. Also, the Lord exercised some constraining influences over him (2 Nephi 32:7). It seems clear that Nephi knew more than he wrote.
"neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking" Nephi indicates that he considered himself able to speak more powerfully than he could write. Apparently he did not feel the same power of the Spirit when he wrote as when he spoke. We must consider Nephi something of an authority on the Spirit of God. After all he spoke with him face to face (1 Nephi 11:11).
"when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the Power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the childen of men" We are reminded of a powerful principle of gospel teaching. If an individual is to teach the gospel effectively, that individual must be worthy of, desirous of, and in possession of the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. The teacher will be aware of the Holy Ghost's presence, as the Holy Ghost will actually bear witness to the teacher of the principles he teaches-as he is teaching! By this means the teacher will know that the Holy Ghost is with him and that the Holy Ghost will attempt to bear witness to the hearer as well. The missionary, for example, who remembers this principle and always seeks for the attending Spirit of the Holy Ghost will provide for his investigator the best possible chance of being ministered to by the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.
2 But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.
verse 2 In this verse and in the remaining verses in this chapter, Nephi continues to speak of his people. He is addressing his own contemporaries, their posterity, and us in this final dispensation..
"they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught" One example of those referred to in this verse might be those who will reject the Book of Mormon in this latter-day dispensation. Perhaps the "plainness" of the Book of Mormon's message is partly responsible for its widespread rejection. It has ever been that truth spoken plainly tends to divide people. Either people will accept and love the truth or they will "harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit" and "cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught." See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
Is it not ironic that some who reject the Book of Mormon today do so in the name of loyalty to the Bible!
3 But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.
verse 3 To esteem something is to regard it or set a value on it, whether low or high. Can there be any doubt that Nephi prayed earnestly? Nephi truly possessed that gift or character trait referred to as charity or "the pure love of Christ" which will be discussed further in the commentary for verse 7 below.
4 And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.
verse 4 "the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people" The Lord will accept my prayers and accordingly bless my people.
"the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them" Nephi has previously admitted his "weakness" (see 1 Nephi 19:6). This admission is made in a spirit of true humility and modesty. In verse 1 he mentioned that he perceived that he was not "mighty in writing." We must conclude that he genuinely regarded his ability to write as somewhat inadequate. This perception notwithstanding, he knew that he was communicating sound principles of truth, and that the Spirit of the Lord would testify of the truth of these principles to the honest reader of his words in the future.
"it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their father; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him." What is the antecedent of "it"? That antecedent is found earlier in this same verse and also in verse 3. Can you spot it? "It" is "the words which I have written," or, in verse 3, "what I have written." In other words, "it" refers to the writings of Nephi.
"life eternal" This is the same expression as "eternal life" which means far more than living forever. It implies living eternally in the celestial presence of God.
"persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal" This phrase is an excellent example of merismus, the Hebrew rhetorical device of invoking the entire gospel, or doctrine of Christ, by mentioning only a few of its parts. See the commentary on merismus in the introductory commentary for 2 Nephi 31. Here Nephi mentions only two features of the gospel: "to believe in him" and "to endure to the end."
5 And it speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth; wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil.
verse 5 Here is the "it" again. As in the previous verse, "it" refers to the writings of Nephi. In a broader sense, we might regard "it" as referring to the entire Book of Mormon.
We have mentioned previously the fact that eternal truths, plainly presented, tend to polarize people into two camps. If the people are in tune with the Spirit, they will embrace the truth. If they are not, they will reject the truth as being foolish, naive, unsophisticated, or otherwise nonsensical. This rejection, however, seems always accompanied by a subtle and deep-seated element of ambivalence, disquiet, and discomfiture. "The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center" (1 Nephi 16:2). The Book of Mormon itself is just such a "plain" truth. It is either the word of God, or it isn't. It is either true, or it is a lie. There is no gray area.
"he shall be of the spirit of the devil" Perhaps the devil gets too much credit here. People need only be captivated by things of the world rather than eternal things to render them inclined to reject eternal truths. Mortality itself-combined with our natural-man selves-offers abundant opportunities to become distracted from our eternal destiny. The mortal experience was designed by God for man as a test. Many become lost here in mortality while seeking after material possessions, power, popularity, pleasures, and other things of the world. While it certainly pleases Satan to see us led astray, he probably doesn't have to try very hard since the world itself and our natural-self response to it are sufficient distractions for many.
6 I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.
verse 6 Here the verb "glory" means that Nephi delights in considering and expressing sacred spiritual truths.
"he hath redeemed my soul from hell" It would seem that Nephi's calling and election had been made sure.
7 I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat.
verse 7 In this verse and the two which follow, Nephi expresses his love for three different groups of people. These include his own people (verse 7), the Jews (verse 8), and the Gentiles (verse 9).
"I have charity for my people" Some students of the Book of Mormon have complained of a subtle problem in their relationship with the prophet Nephi. To some, he seems almost too good to be true. He seems to be so pure and so steady and so noble that some have been a little discouraged in trying to follow his example or to identify with him. It is vital that we disabuse ourselves of this false idea. Certainly he was human with weaknesses, but it is apparent that he was a guileless, humble, remarkable individual who was exactly what he appears to be. It is clear that over his lifetime Nephi had developed a profound love for his fellow man. Charity may be defined as "the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; but the pure love of Christ. It is never used to denote alms or deeds or benevolence, although it may be a prompting motive" (Bible Dictionary, 632). Perhaps an even more apt definition of charity is this: If a person yearns for the exaltation and temporal welfare of another individual as earnestly as he yearns for his own exaltation and temporal welfare, then he has charity for that individual. It would seem that this Christ-like love is the natural result of a life centered in Christ and his service.
In this verse Nephi expresses his charity for "my people." These certainly included those who lived with him in the land of Nephi and likely their posterity.
8 I have charity for the Jew-I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came.
verse 8 "I have charity for the Jew . . . them from whence I came" Was Nephi of Jewish descent? We know that father Lehi and his son Nephi were descendants of Joseph through Manasseh. Thus Nephi was a "Jew" only in that he was a Jewish national-he hailed from the land of Judah. Actually Nephi made reference to this unique definition of a "Jew" in other places in the text. To Nephi, Jews are those descended from the inhabitants of the kingdom of Judah at the time Lehi left Jerusalem, even though those individuals might have descended from ancestors from Israelite tribes other than Judah (see 2 Nephi 25:6; 2 Nephi 25:14-15; 2 Nephi 25:30:4).
9 I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.
verse 9 Notice that even though Nephi expresses his charity for the Gentiles, he
qualifies his hope for them somewhat. He expresses his misgivings about the chances
that the Gentiles will eventually be exalted. But what is a Gentile? Here, a Gentile is any individual who is not a Jewish national. In essence, the label Gentile encompasses all non-Israelites.
It seems likely that Nephi's reservations about the Gentiles grew out of those things he had been taught through revelation. Regarding the seed of his father or his own seed, Nephi had learned that "they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive-tree, in the true olive-tree" (1 Nephi 15:16; see also 2 Nephi 26:15-16; 2 Nephi 26:29:2). Nephi was also familiar with the promises that had been made to the Jews: "It shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ shall also become a delightsome people" (2 Nephi 30:7). Nephi knew that the prophesied promises made to the Gentiles were less hopeful. For example, Nephi had learned that when the Gentiles would receive the writings in the Book of Mormon, they would respond by saying, "We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible" (2 Nephi 29:3). Nephi had also written: "The Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block" (2 Nephi 26:20).
Reading his "warnings" to the Gentiles might be a bit confusing since the requirements he outlines for them apply equally to those of the house of Israel. We realize today that the division between "Jew" and "Gentile" is of little spiritual significance, since anyone of gentile heritage who accepts the gospel becomes a member of the house of Israel by "adoption." Also any descendant of the house of Israel who rejects the gospel loses any "preferential" status which they might have had.
"strait path which leads to life" For a discussion of why the word strait (rather than straight) is appropriate here, see the supplemental article Strait and Straight in the Book of Mormon.
10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.
verse 10 Here Nephi begins his final warning to the world which will continue through verse 15. That the Book of Mormon is a powerful witness for Christ, there can be no doubt. As mentioned previously, Susan Easton Black has pointed out that Christ is mentioned in the Book of Mormon an average of every 1.7 verses. The book's avowed purpose is to teach that "Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God" (title page of the Book of Mormon).
Nephi's promise here is an interesting one. The honest seeker after truth, who does not believe in the Book of Mormon ("these words"), is promised that if he will believe sincerely in Christ (and, of course, remain open to the ministrations of the Holy Spirit), he will come to believe in the Book of Mormon since the Book of Mormon contains the words of Christ. The Spirit ever stands ready to testify of Christ's teachings.
"they teach all men that they should do good" What does it mean to "do good"? It means to become like Christ, to emulate his example, to think as he thinks and do as he does. He is the epitome of good. In this context, see D&C 6:34.
11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye-for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.
verse 11 Here we have a promise of a great final testimony Christ will bear to the truth of the Book of Mormon. Apparently it will be a testimony for all to hear, born "with power and great glory." Then all will know that the Book of Mormon contains the words of Christ.
12 And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.
verse 12 A prophet has the power to condemn those who will not hear, but that is not his desire or his purpose. Rather his purpose is to lift and to save.
13 And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.
verse 13 "I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust" The expression "crying from the dust" is used with three different meanings:
1. The prophet-writers of the Book of Mormon use the expression to mean that their individual messages and testimonies will be read and taught long after they had died and their physical bodies returned to the dust or buried in a grave. This meaning seems most applicable here (see also 2 Nephi 3:19-21; 2 Nephi 26:16; 2 Nephi 26:27:13; Mormon 9:30; Moroni 10:27; Isaiah 29:4).
2. The phrase is used by Moroni to refer to the pleas of departed saints, which cry out for fulfillment of the Lord's promises or for vengeance or justice upon the wicked (Mormon 8:21-24; Ether 8:23-25; cf. 2 Nephi 28:10; 3 Nephi 9:11).
3. The concept of truth coming forth from the earth also applies to the Book of Mormon itself, as a record sealed up and hid in the ground but brought forth from the earth by the Lord in modern times (Mormon 8:16; Mormon 8:26; cf. Moses 7:62).
"until that great day shall come" What specific day is being spoken of here? It is that time "at the last day," at the Lord's second coming, when all of those who believe in him will be vindicated-when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is the Christ.
14 And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day.
verse 14 Nephi is speaking. He warns his readers that they will not reach the kingdom of heaven if they will not (1) "respect the words of the Jews" (believe the words of the Jewish prophets contained in the Old Testament and Book of Mormon); (2) believe "also my words" (believe in the Book of Mormon); and (3) accept "the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God" (teachings of Christ as will be recorded in the New Testament).
15 For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen.
verse 15 Nephi did write his record with priesthood sealing authority and with the ratification of the Holy Ghost. He knew that he had been commanded to write, and he had obeyed. He was a special witness of the Savior. With full understanding of his role, Nephi had the authority to seal his writings with this final warning and promise.