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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Nephi Sees Conditions Leading to Latter-day Events (1 Nephi 13, Part II)

Listen now!Nephi now sees that the Gentiles who have come to the Americas (to Nephi, "the promised land") have family troubles of their own. The "mother Gentiles" from which they came arrived by sea to do battle with them. We know this as the various wars that led up to and followed the Revolutionary War.

Nephi also sees that the Gentiles are not alone in their struggles against their mother nations.
18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together aagainst them to battle.
19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were adelivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.
As we will read later, and quite often at that, one of the major themes of the Book of Mormon is this: that no people will be able to prosper here unless they believe in God, their Creator.

Now, Nephi sees that they have something else with them that is "of great worth". He writes:
20 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a abook, and it was carried forth among them.
21 And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?
22 And I said unto him: I know not.
23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The abook that thou beholdest is a brecord of the cJews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the dplates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
In short, they carry with them a record of the Jews who were left at Jerusalem. Remember, now, that Nephi only has everything up to and including the reign of Zedekiah, Nephi's contemporary, and then his record is of his own people in the Americas. He would have known nothing about the Christian Bible as it came forth from the Middle East and Europe after the third century A.D. The book he sees in the vision is entirely new and unexpected, especially, as he writes, that they are "of great worth unto the Gentiles". Why would they have been of such great worth to Gentiles if they were considered "outsiders" to ancient and traditional Hebrews?

Here's why.
24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the abook proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the aJews in purity unto the bGentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
It contained (past tense) the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, which the twelve apostles also shown in this vision bore testimony. The words that were originally written by the Jews at one time were uncorrupted when they arrived in Gentile hands. But then...
26 And after they go forth by the ahand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews bunto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that cgreat and abominable dchurch, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have etaken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are fplain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and aprecious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
29 And after these plain and precious things were ataken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.
You can read the howls of heresy across the Internet as I write this. Hundreds of anti-mormon web sites exist for the sole purpose of denouncing us for believing that the Bible is not 100% the inerrant and flawless word of God. All kinds of rhetorical gyrations are engaged in by anti-Mormons to show that the Bible (no matter which of the hundreds of translations now published) has never, ever been tampered with...or that if it has, God "made it okay" somehow and that it's just a mystery we'll never understand.

We respectfully disagree.

We disagree on the grounds that any document that passes through the hands of men, as the Bible has done for the nearly 1600 years that it has existed more or less as a single book (there were 400 years during which it was scattered to the four winds), has the potential of being changed. To claim that God somehow forced each handler to be precise, even when making mistakes in translation or interpretation, either on purpose or by accident, is completely illogical and at odds with the clearly accepted Christian doctrine that God respects free agency.

No. There is another explanation that makes much more sense, does not require incredible claims with virtually no evidence, and does not contradict God's law of free agency: a second record. God knew that there would be mistakes and deliberate changes made by translators and those who made handwritten copies. Instead of forcing those individuals to "do it right" in some unexplainable way (and forcing us to believe without providing some other witness as to authenticity), God prepared other records, the principle of which is the Book of Mormon, to help re-establish what was lost in terms of doctrine and "plain and precious things" that once existed in the Bible.
  1. 6 aAt the mouth of btwo witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to cdeath; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
  2. 15 ¶ One awitness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two bwitnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
  3. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three awitnesses every word may be established.
  4. 1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three awitnesses shall every word be established.
  5. 19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three awitnesses.
  6. 28 He that adespised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
  7. 28 And now, behold, I give unto you, and also unto my servant Joseph, the akeys of this gift, which shall bring to light this ministry; and in the mouth of two or three bwitnesses shall every word be established.
  8. 3 Now, in relation to this matter, it would be very difficult for one recorder to be present at all times, and to do all the business. To obviate this difficulty, there can be a recorder appointed in each ward of the city, who is well qualified for taking accurate minutes; and let him be very particular and precise in taking the whole proceedings, certifying in his record that he saw with his eyes, and heard with his ears, giving the date, and names, and so forth, and the history of the whole transaction; naming also some three individuals that are present, if there be any present, who can at any time when called upon certify to the same, that in the mouth of two or three awitnesses every word may be established.
The Book of Mormon is that sacred, second witness that fills in what Satan tried to have removed from the Bible. Why else was Joseph Smith killed, among other things, for claiming it to be true scripture? Why else were thousands of Mormons forced from their homes and made to flee from the most religiously free nation on earth? Why else would Mormons be so hated for propagating it to all the world? It so enrages the enemy of God to know that his original plan to create confusion and contention among thousands of breakaway Christian sects because of misunderstandings about passages found in multiple of versions of the Bible was thwarted, that he will stop at nothing to discredit a second witness.

And that is why God establishes truth via multiple testimonies, including the Book of Mormon. To destroy the works of the devil and to establish His Word among all nations...not just those dwelling in one region of the world.

For more on this subject from a Book of Mormon perspective, go to www.fairlds.org:
Also see 2 Nephi 29.