Jacob Chapter 2
Jacob 2 Jacob denounces pride and unchastity and condemns the unauthorized practice of plural marriage.
Jacob 2:18-19 Before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
Jacob 2:27-30 (compare D&C 49:16) Jacob's teaching on polygamy: If I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people.
1 The words which Jacob, the brother of Nephi, spake unto the people of Nephi, after the death of Nephi:
2 Now, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, according to the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with soberness, and that I might rid my garments of your sins, I come up into the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God.
verses 1-2 After his brother Nephi's death, Jacob went up to the temple in the land of Nephi to deliver an important discourse. There are three other temple discourses in the Book of Mormon. Jacob delivered another two-day sermon at the temple in the Land of Nephi prior to Nephi's death about fifteen years before the occasion of this present sermon (2 Nephi 6-10). King Benjamin will teach the people in the temple in the land of Zarahemla (Mosiah 2-5). And the resurrected Jesus Christ will deliver two discourses to the people at the temple in the land Bountiful (3 Nephi 12-14).
In the verses that follow, Jacob's discourse will cover three topics: wealth, pride, and chastity.
Since Jacob was probably not the king of the people, this temple sermon was specifically directed against the political and social elite, and not simply against the people at large.
verse 2 For a discussion of the phrases: "magnify mine office" and "rid my garments of your sins" see the commentary for Jacob 1:19.
verses 3-11 Previously the people of Nephi had been generally obedient to the words of God which Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph had diligently taught them. Now, however, the Spirit has prompted Jacob to discern a growing tendency toward grievous sins arising in the thoughts and hearts of his people. Jacob has received a divine charge to speak frankly to his people, but in these verses he reflects his apprehension that the candor of his reprimand will be disappointing or even offensive to some of his people. He worries that those with tender feelings and "delicate minds" who have come to the temple to hear a message of comfort and inspiration will be offended by his call to repentance. This sensitivity and timidity are typical of the prophet Jacob.
3 And ye yourselves know that I have hitherto been diligent in the office of my calling; but I this day am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of your souls than I have hitherto been.
4 For behold, as yet, ye have been obedient unto the word of the Lord, which I have given unto you.
verse 4 "as yet" This might be interpreted as "to this point" or "previously."
5 But behold, hearken ye unto me, and know that by the help of the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth I can tell you concerning your thoughts, how that ye are beginning to labor in sin, which sin appeareth very abominable unto me, yea, and abominable unto God.
verse 5 "labor in sin" This phrase implies that Jacob's people were not guilty of mere inadvertent and minor sins. Rather they had become obsessed and preoccupied with serious sins.
6 Yea, it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker, that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts.
verse 6 This verse is vintage Jacob-intimate and vulnerable (see also verse 3). His words paint the unmistakable picture of one who is sensitive, apprehensive, and passionate. He is obviously pained at having to preach a harsh message.
"shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker" Jacob feels that because of his people's grievous sins he is no longer able to function as an advocate for his people before the throne of God.
7 And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God;
8 And it supposeth me that they have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.
verse 8 What is the "pleasing word of God"? Surely this must include the doctrines of salvation, the exciting mysteries of the kingdom, and the lofty promises of the life that is to come. These are the parts of the doctrine that are edifying, exciting, and pleasant to hear. The wives and children have come to hear an inspiring and edifying message. But instead, Jacob is constrained to deliver a stern rebuke and warning.
9 Wherefore, it burdeneth my soul that I should be constrained, because of the strict commandment which I have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes, to enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds; and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds.
verse 9 "Crimes" are sins.
"to enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded" To whom is Jacob referring here? Who has been "wounded" by sin? The sinner? The sinners loved ones? Certainly both, but the context here suggests that Jacob may have mainly the loved ones of the sinner in mind. He is troubled that his stern admonitions directed at the sinners will further injure those in the crowd who have already been injured by the thoughtless and sinful deeds of those sinners.
"those who have not been wounded" These are apparently people who are not guilty of sin themselves and who do not have loved ones who are guilty of grievous sin. These are the "pure in heart" and those with a "broken heart" spoken of in the following verse. They have come to the temple to hear a positive and sweet message of hope. Instead they will hear Jacob's candid call to repentance which will be traumatic for them; Jacob fears that he may "pierce their souls" with "daggers" and "wound their delicate minds."
10 But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations, in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart, and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God.
verse 10 The word "greatness" here means difficulty. The phrase "broken heart" is a variation of the phrase "broken heart and contrite spirit." For a discussion of this phrase, see the commentary for 2 Nephi 2:7. See also "The Solution to Pride-A Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 5, The "Natural Self" and the "Spiritual Self."
In commanding Jacob to deliver this sermon, the Lord apparently delivered Jacob a "strict command" the intent of which could not be mistaken.
The word "abominations" is found some seventy-five times in the Book of Mormon text (see also verse 31 of this chapter). It is a broad term and covers every thought, deed, and attitude that is offensive to God who "cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (Alma 45:16; D&C 1:31). All abominations are a reflection of the carnal mind and, therefore, of ungodliness.
"in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart" Those present at the temple that day included, in addition to those guilty of grievous sin, some sweet and innocent souls. The phrase "and the broken heart" may refer to the fact these innocents possess the spiritual gift of "a broken heart and contrite spirit."
"and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God" Jacob expects that those sinners whom he admonishes will be brought low by the spirit of God's justice.
11 Wherefore, I must tell you the truth according to the plainness of the word of God. For behold, as I inquired of the Lord, thus came the word unto me, saying: Jacob, get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and declare the word which I shall give thee unto this people.
12 And now behold, my brethren, this is the word which I declare unto you, that many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, in the which this land, which is a land of promise unto you and to your seed, doth abound most plentifully.
verse 12 At this point, Jacob turns his attention to the general topic of pride. As we read the scriptures, we are inclined to read words or phrases and apply to them only the secular definitions which we carry in our minds. It is important to keep in mind that several words may have a simple secular definition, and, at the same time, represent a concept which has a much richer scriptural or spiritual meaning. A simple example might be eternal life. In a secular context, this phrase simply means living forever. However, we know that eternal life is a rich spiritual concept which means living forever in the presence of God and progressing toward a sublime fulness of all that God has and is. Another example of a word with both a simple secular meaning and a richer spiritual meaning is pride. In a secular context, pride as a negative quality is an exaggerated opinion of oneself-haughtiness and arrogance. Its scriptural or spiritual meaning, however, is different. Here, pride is a fixation upon, an abiding desire for, and an inappropriate seeking after, things of the world. It is also an inclination to seek after these things in a competitive and contentious way. For a more complete discussion of the sin of pride, see the commentary for Helaman 3:1 and "Pride" in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 5, The "Natural Self" and the "Spiritual Self."
"in the which this land . . . doth abound most plentifully" Gold, silver, and all manner of precious ores are plentiful in this new land.
Is Jacob warning here against the evils of prospecting for and mining precious metals? It is more likely that his reference to gold, silver, and precious ores is more metaphorical; that he had in mind the sins of pride and, more specifically perhaps, materialism-placing mammon, or things of the world, before things of the Spirit.
13 And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they.
verse 13 Materialism is an important sub-topic of pride. We tend to assume that material wealth is a sign of virtue, that it comes only to those who possess the qualities of intelligence, thrift, and industry. We may reason that those who have material wealth deserve it because of their hard work, and conversely, the poor are similarly deserving of their circumstances. This is dangerous and flawed logic. The Lord is the "hand of providence" that distributes material wealth to us mortals. By design, he does so unevenly. Let us not forget the role of industry and work in acquiring the things of the world that are needed. Nevertheless, even if we assume a good work ethic and initiative, to some he gives abundantly, and to others he gives but little. He may or may not dispense these temporal blessings to those whom the world might regard as "deserving." Sometimes also, material things may go to those who seem to deserve them least. Those upon whom he bestows abundantly will be watched by the Lord. Will they share of their abundance with those who are less blessed (see D&C 56:16; D&C 56:107:18)? Or will they use their wealth to proudly adorn themselves with expensive clothing and other trappings to prove to the world that they are people of status and position and they are better than those with less intelligence and industry? Will an individual's material blessings become, for him, a basis for judging others? Will they "wear stiff necks" that will not bow before God and acknowledge his hand in their material blessings. Will they carry "high heads" in their haughty pride? Those who receive from the Lord little in the way of material wealth will also be observed by the Lord. Will they accept their lot and strive to learn humility, thrift, and industry, or will they fret and chafe and covet the possessions of others. Will they adopt a good work ethic and strive to obtain sufficient for their basic needs?
"costliness of your apparel" Costly apparel includes expensive attire and costly ornaments (jewelry). It has oft been decried by prophets as being prototypical of excessive pride. It is the universal wont of those whose hearts are set too much upon worldly riches (e.g., Alma 1:6; Alma 1:32; Alma 5:53; 4 Nephi 1:24; Alma 31:28). It would appear that avoiding costly apparel is one key to avoiding the negative effects of prosperity.
14 And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.
verse 14 We are aware of a recurring theme found in the pages of the Book of Mormon. It is the prosperity-pride-destruction cycle. Whenever a group chooses to keep the commandments of God, the Lord blesses them, and they prosper. Often the people, in the midst of their prosperity, lose sight of the source of their blessings, and they attribute the virtue to themselves. Wealth becomes an end rather than a means. Acquiring it becomes more important than how it is acquired. Soon there emerge class distinctions, caste systems, and persecution of the poor. The Lord is disappointed and causes his prophets to warn the people. The wealthy and prosperous disregard the warnings. After all, the prophets seem to the wealthy to be merely spokesmen for the poor who are coveting their possessions. The Lord then withdraws his blessings, and allows the destruction of the people by outside and inside forces. These forces include war, bondage, or natural calamity. There is then a return to humility and repentance by the people because of their miserable and lowly circumstances, which brings again the blessings of the Lord, including prosperity. And the cycle is repeated. Two complete and yet succinct descriptions of the cycle of prosperity and destruction are offered in Helaman 11 and in 4 Nephi.
15 O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!
verse 15 Jacob's meaning seems to be: "Oh that God would demonstrate his awful power for you so that you might be reminded to repent before he is compelled to actually smite you!"
16 O that he would rid you from this iniquity and abomination. And, O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!
verse 16 How does pride destroy one's soul? One of mortality's prime deterrents to maintaining a spiritual, eternal perspective is pride. It keeps a man's head turned toward things of the world and away from eternal issues. President Ezra Taft Benson observed, "Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. Instead it looks sideways to man and argues who is right. . . . To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts" (CR, April 1986, 6). See also Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 5, Our "Natural Self" and Our "Spiritual Self."
17 Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
verse 17 "Think of your brethren like unto yourselves" Here is a restatement of the golden rule. We may regard the golden rule as the golden rule of charity. A practical, yet meaningful, definition of charity is this: When you come to yearn for the temporal welfare and spiritual welfare of another as much as you yearn for the temporal and spiritual welfare of yourself, then you have charity.
"be familiar with all" Here is a command to become aware of the circumstances and needs of those around us.
"that they might be rich like unto you" A simple statement of Chauncy C. Riddle's is worth pondering: "In any mortal situation, a righteous person who has the strength to do so will be voluntarily producing physical goods and services for the society in which he dwells. He will consume only what is necessary of these self-gained benefits, and will voluntarily share the surplus with others who are in need of his surplus" (The Book of Mormon: Jacob Through Words of Mormon, To Learn With Joy, Religious Studies Center, BYU, 225-26). The Lord himself said, "If any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment" (D&C 104:18).
18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
verse 18 We should not pass this verse without asking ourselves, "What, in actual fact, is my priority? What is my treasure?" If you wish to ponder this verse for a few moments, you might also review the story of Jesus's encountering the rich young man, and ponder those verses as well (Luke 18:18-30; Mark 10:17-26). Riches are not intrinsically evil. The central issue is the priority we place on them.
While you are pondering, consider this question: If we truly live the gospel of Jesus Christ, must we be willing to be poor? Certainly the Lord generally blesses the industrious and hard-working individual with sufficient material possessions. Yet, should not each of us possess an innate willingness to give up those possessions in favor of our spiritual growth?
19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good-to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
verse 19 "after ye have obtained a hope in Christ" As Jacob speaks of obtaining "a hope in Christ" (see also Jacob 4:6). He seems to intend more than just seeking for the secular quality of hope. He is speaking of the assurance that comes after one has consecrated one's life to the Lord and to his kingdom-that spiritual witness that you are "on track" for exaltation. Obtaining a "hope in Christ" implies a particular spiritual level or special relationship with the Lord. The person with hope maintains that quiet and humble assurance that he will one day live in the celestial heaven with the Father and the Son. See further discussion of this important spiritual gift in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine. See particularly "Two Little-Appreciated Gifts of the Spirit" in chapter 10, Deliberate Faith and Revealed Faith and in "The Fruits of Faith" in chapter 11, Other Notes on Faith. Still further discussion of this topic is found in "The Rest of the Lord-the Gift of Hope" in chapter 17, Justification and Sanctification.
It would seem that after one has obtained the gift of hope, then it follows naturally that he will feel compelled to continue on to obtain an even greater gift, that of charity. He will come to possess the pure love of Christ for his fellow men. He will yearn for their exaltation every bit as much as he yearns for his own. Again, in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, see "The Fruits of Faith" in volume 1, chapter 11, Other Notes on Faith.
This verse implies that the Lord may bless certain such righteous individuals, if they so desire, with material wealth providing it is their intent to use the wealth for righteous purposes.
It turns out that pride is the great impediment to our developing charity. Responsiveness to the Spirit instills in man a constant need to repent and strive and improve, whereas worldly pride stifles this need for spiritual improvement. Pride also pits the proud man against his brothers and sisters. He is in competition with them rather than praying for their success. Even those in the Church may often be found guilty of this pride. Another reflection by Chauncy C. Riddle is food for thought:
Why do some of us resist [our development of love for our neighbors]? Is it not because we somehow see ourselves as being sufficient as we are? Do we not believe in our hearts that we are already good enough, that the Savior may indeed have to forgive us of a few things, but his love and generosity will easily take care of those things and we will then be ushered ceremoniously into the blessings of the great beyond? Such a belief is what the scriptures call pride. It is the belief that we are good, though perhaps our deeds are not. This is the belief that the old us does not need to die and become a new creature, but only our garments need to be cleansed. In pride we see ourselves as eternal creatures who may need to be forgiven and lifted up by Jesus Christ, but who do not need to be essentially changed by him. We do not need that new and pure heart which only he can give to us.
My understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that no mortals are just and righteous enough of themselves to go to the same kingdom as Jesus Christ unless they are remade in the image of Christ, heart and mind, body and soul. For without that pure heart, that charity, we are nothing (Moroni 7:44), and can, of ourselves, do no good thing (John 15:1-5). We must cease to exist as the old selfish persons we were and take upon ourselves new hearts and new minds.
Then in the humility of being salvaged from damnation by the Savior's love, we will never again consider that we are better than anyone else. Then we will know that we stand only in the grace of Christ, and will never be found looking down on anyone, including the worst sinner and Satan and his angels. We will then know our true place and being in the universe, and will say of the sinner, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
Pride is the root of our evil, the source of our selfishness, the great barrier to our salvation. It is the pride of our hearts from which we need to be saved more than from anything else. Once we are saved from that, then all good things can be added to us. Then we will see as we are seen, know as we are known, and we will be familiar and free with our substance, treating all men as brothers. Then indeed we will have heaven on earth" (The Book of Mormon: Jacob Through Words of Mormon, To Learn With Joy, Religious Studies Center, BYU, 231-33).
"to clothe the naked" This might apply to those without clothing to cover their bodies or perhaps also to those who might be naked emotionally such as the sick or the bereaved.
"to liberate the captive" There many "jailors" in the world including ignorance, undue or unrighteous dominion, sin, and drugs, to name a few.
20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?
verse 20 "those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts" Again, Nephi emphasizes that pride is essentially competitive in nature. The proud man seeks to better himself at the expense of his neighbor, thus injuring his neighbor.
"what say ye of it?" Jacob asks for the people to judge themselves-to either exonerate or condemn themselves out of their own mouths. They may confess their sins and forsake them or they may murmur their rebellious position and persist in evil.
21 Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever.
verse 21 "all flesh is of the dust" All men are equally subject to the corrupting influences of mortality and to the vicissitudes of life. Also no man has claim on superior origins. We all share the same heavenly father.
22 And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.
verse 22 Here Jacob shifts his attention from the sin of pride to the sin of immorality. Is there a relationship between the two? Indeed so-an intimate one, in fact. The inappropriate seeking after the lusts of the flesh is an important sub-topic of pride.
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
verse 23 "whoredoms" This word is found twenty-seven times in the Book of Mormon text. It is the general Book of Mormon term for unchastity in all of its forms. Here it likely refers to adultery and fornication. These are the "grosser crimes" spoken of in this verse and in the previous verse.
Apparently some of the Nephites who were guilty of sexual sin in Jacob's day were using the scriptural account of David and Solomon found in the plates of brass to excuse their lascivious behavior. By what logic, though certainly it is specious logic, were they doing this? Doubtless they were saying, "David and Solomon had multiple wives and concubines, why shouldn't we?" The truth about David and Solomon is that they did practice plural marriage, and their wives were given to them by the Lord. However, both took wives beyond those sanctioned by the Lord. In doing so, they were guilty of the sin of unchastity.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
verse 24 The term "concubine" may refer to one of two things. At times she is simply a woman kept for lewd purposes. More commonly a concubine is a lawful wife of a lower social standing than her husband's other wives. Usually they were captive slaves or foreigners who had legitimacy but not full honor. Sarah's handmaid Hagar, the plural wife of Abraham, would be an example of the latter. We know that Abraham's taking Hagar the concubine to wife was approved by the Lord since Abraham did only that which he was commanded (D&C 132:37). The children of concubines enjoyed no rights of inheritance.
Concubinage reflected the realities of the ancient world. It was a lesser law for a lesser time. In viewing those times, the issue is not what was ideally right or wrong, fair or unfair, but what was workable. If concubinage was a relative evil, it was the lesser of evils; better a concubine than a woman alone, or a harlot. That the Lord justified his servants in having concubines, and he did, is no proof that he viewed the practice as more than a necessary, albeit unfortunate aspect of an imperfect order of things (Rodney Turner, The Book of Mormon: Jacob Through Words of Mormon, To Learn With Joy, 280-81).
"which thing was abominable before me" What is antecedent here of the phrase "which thing"? What exactly is the Lord condemning here? Is it the practice of plural marriage? We know that it is not the practice of plural marriage. From time to time in the past God has called upon his people to enter into the practice of plural marriage. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses were examples of righteous men who were commanded by the Lord to take more than one wife (D&C 132:37-39). What is it, then, that is being denounced as being "abominable" before the Lord? Surely it is the unauthorized marriages entered into by both David and Solomon. We have already considered the matter of David and Bathsheba in the commentary for Jacob 1:15 (see also 2 Samuel 11). Solomon's marriage to "strange women" who "turned away his heart after other Gods" was displeasing to the Lord and certainly unauthorized (1 Kings 11).
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
verse 25 "thus saith the Lord" Beginning in this verse and extending though verse 33, we are apparently reading a direct quote from the Lord. Where might Jacob have obtained this quote? It is possible that it was received as a revelation directly to him. There is some evidence, however, to suggest that Jacob may have been quoting from a revelation received by his father Lehi and recorded on the record of Lehi. In the following chapter, Jacob will observe that the Lamanites "have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father-that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none" (Jacob 3:5; see also Jacob 2:34).
"I have led this people forth . . . that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph" The Lord desires that this people remain free from sexual sin.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
verse 26 What action or characteristic of "them of old" is so displeasing to the Lord? Is it their practice of the principle of plural marriage? No. Rather it is the tendency toward sexual immorality found among them.
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
verse 27 It was the Lord's intent that the principle of plural marriage not be practiced among the Book of Mormon peoples. Why was this so? We can only speculate. Perhaps it was because of the historical tendency for the principle to be abused. Also, the practical basis for polygamous marriages did not exist among the Book of Mormon peoples. They did not practice slavery, nor did they take female captives and marry some of them as had their Israelite ancestors (Numbers 31:9; Deuteronomy 21:11). Actually at one point in time the same command was given to the Latter-day Saints in this dispensation: One man shall have one wife and one woman shall have one husband unless otherwise commanded (D&C 49:16). It is likely that some of the Nephites of Jacob's day were trying to justify forbidden practices by appealing to the scriptural precedents wherein the Lord had previously authorized the taking of plural wives and concubines. It has always been that the Lord's people are bound by the commandments given them through the prophet of their own day, not those of an earlier time.
"hearken to the word of the Lord" In his book, Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World, biblical scholar David E. Aune sets forth the various formulaic expressions that characterize prophetic speech in the Old Testament (see Donald W. Parry, "Thus Saith the Lord: Prophetic Language in Samuel's Speech," JBMS 1/1 :181-83). These expressions serve to formally introduce vital, sacred utterances and to announce that the Lord is the source behind them. The Book of Mormon prophets used the same formulas in their prophetic discourse. This particular expression, "hearken to [hear] the word of the Lord," is called the proclamation formula and is an emphatic summons to hear God's word (e.g., 1 Kings 22:19; Amos 7:16; Isaiah 49:1). Other instances of use in the Book of Mormon include 3 Nephi 30:1 and Helaman 13:21.
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
verse 28 "whoredoms are an abomination before me" Here the Lord is not equating the principle of plural marriage with "whoredoms," nor is he declaring that all previous plural marriages have been an "abomination" in his sight. He is denouncing the abuse of the principle, not the principle itself.
As an interesting aside, some have pointed to Jacob 2 as evidence that there may have been a major city populated with non-Nephites near the city of Nephi. Where, for example, did these Nephites get all these plural wives and concubines? The Nephites hadn't been in the Americas long enough to have a surplus of women who were of marriageable age. Nephite men were committing whoredoms, and Jacob chastised them. Just where did all these women come from? Such a major city may have been populated before Nephi and his followers ever traveled inland. Or, it has also been speculated that some Lamanites may have later joined forces with the Nephite inhabitants of the city of Nephi, and that this city became a major Lamanite (as well as Nephite) population center. Thus, there could have been a Nephite city of Nephi (later called the city of Lehi-Nephi) and a Lamanite city of Nephi. Perhaps the Lamanite city of Nephi was even the major Lamanite population center in the land.
29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
verse 29 Here again is one of the tenets of the promised land concept. If the inhabitants of the promised land abide the commandments, they will prosper. If they do not, they will be swept off the land. This principle will be aptly summarized by Moroni centuries later: "And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity" (Ether 2:9). The Lord's warning in this case particularly applies to the people's remaining free of sexual sin.
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
verse 30 The phrase "raise up seed unto me" refers to the Lord's command, given from time to time, to practice the principle of plural marriage. There is yet another implication contained in this phrase. It is that the practice of plural marriage may result in more offspring if all of the women in a population are allowed to marry and bear children. The Lord says, If I decide that my people should practice plural marriage, then I will so command them. Otherwise they should hearken unto the commandments given in previous verses to take only one wife. It is obvious from this verse that Jacob knew the restriction placed upon the Nephites was neither universal nor absolute.
This verse teaches an important principle of marriage throughout the history of the world. Monogamy is the rule, and polygamy is the exception. Unless God commands otherwise, a man should have but one wife. The Nephites were also aware from the scriptural accounts of the Old Testament prophets that God occasionally called upon his people to practice plural marriage, and thus "raise up seed unto" him. In this dispensation, Joseph Smith said, "I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise" (TPJS, 324). It is clear that at one time in this final dispensation the Lord did direct otherwise.
31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.
verse 31 There ought to be a spirit of chastity in every marriage. This spirit of chastity concerns more than just sexual matters. It implies a husband's commitment to the physical and emotional well-being of his wife. When a husband renders the wife a mere object by any implication of his own, then the spirit of chastity departs.
32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.
33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.
verses 32-33 "I will not suffer" means I will not allow. I will not permit. I will forbid or hinder. The Lord warns that he will not tolerate rampant sexual sin among the Book of Mormon peoples. If it should occur, he will respond by cursing and destroying them.
verse 33 "They" are the wicked husbands whose wives are susceptible to lives of tyranny and captivity, because of the wives' "tenderness" and submissiveness, should their husbands prove unfaithful and unrepentant. Note that the Lord's emphasis here is chastity on the part of the husband and not the wife. Perhaps in that day, moral sin among women was not as common as it is today.
34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.
verse 34 Here is another reference to a revelation and commandment given by the Lord to Lehi and quoted by Jacob in verses 25 through 33 of this chapter. Jacob accuses his fellow Nephites of already having violated this commandment with which they were all familiar-to "have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them" (Jacob 3:5). As mentioned above, it is likely that, while Jacob's teachings on marriage did come from the Lord, they were probably received by father Lehi. Jacob probably obtained them from the record of Lehi and simply quoted them from that record (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 1:17).
35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.
verse 35 "many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds" As the judgments of God are meted out to those sinners who warrant them, their loved ones become two-fold losers. First these loved ones are deeply hurt by the infidelity and disloyalty of the sinner. Their hearts are further pierced as they helplessly watch the Lord's promised cursings and destructions which are wrought upon the sinner according to "the strictness of the word of God." When hearts are pierced and die, love may actually depart from relationships.