Jacob Chapter 3
1 But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.
verse 1 Jacob is addressing those whose "hearts [have] died" (Jacob 2:35)-those who have been hurt by a loved one's sexual sin.
"Firmness of mind" implies consistency, patience, and steadfastness.
"he will console you in your afflictions" No one of us will escape serious afflictions and vicissitudes in mortality. These may come in the form of serious illness, bereavement, divorce, problems in our relationships with others, and host of other problems. In these times, it is not justice we seek, rather we long for peace, comfort, and hope. How blessed we are to have access to the Comforter who can, if we seek diligently, infuse quiet peace to our souls.
"he will plead your cause" Take a moment to consider D&C 45:3-5: "Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him-saying; Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life."
Here the Savior is pleading the cause of mortals before the Father. One verse of scripture teaches plainly that the Father has left all judgment to his Son (see John 5:22). It would seem that Jesus's pleading here is a mark of veneration, deference, and respect. But it is also a manifestations of his matchless love, his grace.
"send down justice" There is nothing whimsical in God's judgments. He is a God of perfect justice, though his timetable and methods may differ from our intuitive preconceptions.
2 O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.
verse 2 The idea of "the pleasing word of God" has been discussed previously. See the commentary for Jacob 2:8. This concept likely includes the doctrines of salvation, the exciting mysteries of the kingdom, and the lofty promises of the life that is yet to come.
"for ye may . . . forever" Apparently the intent of this counsel to the pure in heart is that if they persist in purity they may feast upon God's love forever in his celestial presence.
verses 3-9 It is probably a mistake to think of the Lamanites as a benighted, hardened, indolent, and by nature a ferocious people. Certainly many among them were basically good, loving, gentle, and morally upright. Why then do we tend to form a contrary opinion about them as we read the Book of Mormon? Why do we intuitively regard them as an evil and loathsome people who are almost without redeeming qualities? What are the characteristics of this people that cause us to think so negatively about them?
To understand the answer to these questions, it is vital to understand the so-called "founding myth" of the Lamanites. The Lamanites had deeply rooted in their culture a tradition of hatred of the Nephites. This profound legacy of hatred began at the time of Laman, Lemuel, Lehi, and Nephi, and was passed along from father to son. From the Lamanites' point of view, this basic founding myth probably was told something like this: Our Father Lehi and our younger brother Nephi stole from us everything we ever wanted and deserved. We wanted to remain at home in Jerusalem, among our friends, and enjoy our cherished possessions. We didn't want to leave and embark on the rather ill-defined mission that our father Lehi had decided upon. Lehi and Nephi were oppressive and uncaring. They would not listen to us. They made us go with them. They virtually robbed us of our homes, and told us lies about some far away promised land. They would not allow us to decide for ourselves. They unjustly robbed us of the right to govern ourselves. When we arrived at the great ocean, they commanded us to help build a boat. We did not want to build a boat because we were frightened to try to cross the great water on a small boat. Again, we were forced, not only to help with the building but also to embark on this seemingly hopeless journey. Once on the boat, we tried to forget our fears by organizing a little lighthearted revelry. Nephi thought that this would offend the Lord and would not allow it! Again he tried to rule over us. We believed that Nephi was leading us to some wilderness where he might dominate us and subject us to his will and pleasure. Just as Nephi tried to take away our freedoms and govern us against our will, so will all Nephites do the same to us. The only way we can stop them from doing this is to use force against them-to smite and kill them. It is our only hope for happiness!
This Lamanite tradition of hatred for the Nephites is often referred to in the Book of Mormon as the "tradition of their fathers" or "the iniquity of their fathers." It dominated the relations between the two peoples throughout the Book of Mormon story. Lamanite children were doubtless indoctrinated with it from an early uncritical age. It was firmly imbedded in their very bones, and it dominated their feelings and thoughts about the Nephite peoples. It virtually represented the national identity of the Lamanites, and with it the Lamanite leaders could stir their people up to anger (see Alma 43:7). It fueled the nearly continuous wars the Lamanites made against the Nephites. As the Nephites experienced the expression of this tradition of hatred, they generally came to perceive the Lamanites as ferocious and hard. The Lamanites acted as if they felt nothing but hatred for the Nephites.
For an interesting exposition of this tradition of hatred uttered by a Lamanite king, read the letter written to Captain Moroni by Ammoron in 63 BC (Alma 54:15-24). Indeed, understanding the genesis of this heritage of hatred may even give us a measure of sympathy and understanding for the Lamanite people.
It is important to keep in mind that the Book of Mormon was written by Nephite authors who perceived the Lamanites generally as hateful, vicious, and dangerous. It is natural that the reader will be persuaded to believe the authors' biases. Thus, most of us who read the Book of Mormon will also come to regard the Lamanites as wicked and violent. In fairness we ought to try to keep in mind the authors' prejudices.
3 But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not filthy like unto you, nevertheless they are cursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction.
verse 3 "they . . . shall scourge you even unto destruction" This prophecy was to find fulfillment just after 210 BC. In that year Mosiah will lead a righteous remnant of Nephites out of the land of Nephi northward to the land of Zarahemla (see Omni 1:12-13). Presumably this migration preceded captivity or destruction by the Lamanites of the less righteous Nephites who remained behind. Thus, we can see and understand that this fall of the first Nephite civilization occurred at least in part because of pride and immorality.
"they are cursed with a sore cursing" It is necessary to remind ourselves repeatedly that the sore cursing placed upon the Lamanites was not their dark skin. Rather, it was the fact that they were denied the gospel and the priesthood. The dark skin was not evil or wicked or even a negative characteristic except that it served as a (rather arbitrary) marker for those upon whom the curse was placed.
4 And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will lead away the righteous out from among you.
verse 4 "will lead away the righteous out from among you" See the commentary on the previous verse for the fulfillment of this prophecy. The land of Nephi, where the Nephites now live, will become the center of the Lamanite culture and remain so throughout the Book of Mormon following the "expulsion" of the Nephites in 210 BC.
5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they 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, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.
verse 5 "the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father" The Lord had given a commandment to father Lehi prohibiting the practice of plural marriage (Jacob 2:27; Jacob 2:34). It is interesting to note that the printer's manuscript of this verse had the word "father" as it is here-in the singular. However, all subsequent editions, until this present edition, have mistakenly rendered this word in the plural-"fathers." This latter mistaken use suggested to some that Jacob attributed a restriction on plural marriage to earlier Israelite fathers, whereas historical evidence of any such legal restriction in Hebrew tradition is lacking (Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch, Deseret Book Company and FARMS, 79).
Jacob's commendation of the Lamanites is in sharp contrast to the whoredoms he accuses the Nephites of committing (Jacob 2:23). Spiritually benighted though they were, the early Lamanites had one important, redeeming virtue: fidelity in marriage. It is, of course, unlikely that all of the Lamanites observed the law of chastity, but it appears that sexual immorality was not one of their dominant sins. It is food for thought that even though the Nephites had the gospel, the church, and prophets to guide them, in this matter they were considered less righteous than the Lamanites who had none of these advantages.
6 And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people.
7 Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?
verses 6-7 Other Book of Mormon prophets will yet prophesy concerning the ultimate fate of the Lamanite people (Alma 9:16-17; Helaman 7:24; Helaman 15:11- 12). The essence of these prophecies is that the Lamanites are not fully to blame for their state of spiritual ignorance. The "traditions of their fathers" had played a major role in preventing their access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ-see the commentary for verses 3-9 of this chapter. Accordingly the Lord will be merciful to them (see also D&C 68:25; D&C 93:39).
8 O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.
verse 8 Again, the color of the skin was designated as an arbitrary marker of spiritual status among the Book of Mormon peoples. The statement here that the skin of the Lamanites will be "whiter than yours" is a metaphor implying that the Lamanites will be more righteous than the Nephites.
9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.
verse 9 What does it mean to "revile" against another person? It may mean to abuse, both physically and verbally, or to despise. Jesus said: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye-and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?" (see Matthew 7:1-5).
10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.
verse 10 Can parents really "bring [their] children unto destruction"? Jacob has just explained how the Lamanites are "cursed with a sore cursing"-they have lost the priesthood because of decisions and actions of their fathers, Laman and Lemuel. They have had to live in relative spiritual ignorance. Nevertheless, since the subsequent generations of Lamanites were not responsible for this sore cursing, they will be judged more leniently. If they are true to the limited light they do receive, then they shall receive their eternal reward. Every man is judged according to the circumstances he encounters and the light he receives. It would be unfair to judge a man on any other basis.
In this verse Jacob reminds the unrighteous Nephites of the profound effects their actions may have upon their children. While it is true that a child will not be punished for the sins of his parents, it is also true that a parent's negative example may lead a child away from eternal things and toward worldly things. A child is inclined to look to his parents as an example. If that child finds a pattern of rebellion and disobedience, then he may be inclined toward the same pattern in his life. Such a child will be judged by the merciful and all-knowing Lord, and the circumstances of each child will certainly be a factor in the Lord's judgment. Some will, of course, still be judged unworthy of a celestial inheritance. A parent who sets a poor example may bear the responsibility for some his child's sins, since a truly righteous parental example might have a redemptive spiritual effect on a child inclined to seek after things of the world.
11 O my brethren, hearken unto my words; arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death; and loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil, to be cast into that lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death.
verse 11 "arouse the faculties of your souls, shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death" Jacob attempts to awaken his brethren from their spiritual apathy. Nephi warned that Satan will win over some by lulling them into a sense of apathy, a "slumber of death": "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 28:20-22).
"loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil" Again, here is a reminder that the doctrine of the post-mortal existence taught in the Book of Mormon is a simplified version that includes only eternal life with God or eternal life with Satan as a son of perdition. There is no mention of degrees of salvation.
"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 9:19.
"second death" This term is used several times in the Book of Mormon. Here its meaning is clear-it refers to that place of eternal damnation where Satan and his sons live, so-called outer darkness (see also Alma 12:16; Alma 12:32; Alma 13:30; and Helaman 14:18-19). More commonly, however, the term "second death" is used to refer to the spiritual death or that separation from God which may be suffered by mortals due to their sins (see the commentary for Alma 12:16).
12 And now I, Jacob, spake many more things unto the people of Nephi, warning them against fornication and lasciviousness, and every kind of sin, telling them the awful consequences of them.
verse 12 "warning them against fornication and lasciviousness" Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines lasciviousness as, "Looseness; irregular indulgence of animal desires; wantonness; lustfulness."
13 And a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, which now began to be numerous, cannot be written upon these plates; but many of their proceedings are written upon the larger plates, and their wars, and their contentions, and the reigns of their kings.
verse 13 "a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people . . . cannot be written upon these plates" It is possible that Jacob gets into trouble with his double negative, and that his meaning is the opposite of what he intends to say. That would be so if his intended meaning is that only a hundredth part of the proceedings can be written on these plates. Perhaps, however, he intends to say that there is not room on these plates for even a hundreth part of the proceedings of this people.
"These plates" are the small plates of Nephi. The "larger plates" are the large plates of Nephi. See the supplemental article, Those Confusing Book of Mormon Plates.
14 These plates are called the plates of Jacob, and they were made by the hand of Nephi. And I make an end of speaking these words.
verse 14 It is interesting to note that at the time of Jacob, the small plates of Nephi were called after Jacob himself. Perhaps the same was true of the other prophet engravers of the small plates of Nephi. When Enos had possession of the small plates of Nephi, perhaps they were called the plates of Enos.
This verse marks the end of the first section of the book of Jacob. An outline of the book is provided in the introductory commentary.