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Sunday, March 9, 2008

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

Listen now!In Part II of this chapter, we covered the arrival of the Gentiles and their wars and contentions with their mother nations. We also covered the book they brought with them which, it is abundantly apparent, is the Bible as we know it today.

In Part III, we finish 1 Nephi Chapter 13 by discussing Gentile influences on the descendants of Nephi's brothers, Laman and Lemuel.

Christopher Columbus wrote in journals regarding his experience in mounting his voyage to the New World:
It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel his hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit because He comforted me.... For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied.
The passages of Isaiah he refers to are as follows:

Isaiah 18:1-2
1 aWoe to the land shadowing with wings, which is bbeyond the rivers of cEthiopia:
2 That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of abulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have bspoiled!
Isaiah 49:1, 5-6
1 aListen, O isles, unto me; and bhearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath ccalled me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.
5 ¶ And now, saith the Lord that aformed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.
6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a alight to the bGentiles, that thou mayest be my csalvation unto the end of the earth.
Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard, who studied the extremely spiritual character of Columbus, wrote:
Men may doubt this, but there can be no doubt that the faith of Columbus was genuine and sincere, and that his frequent communion with forces unseen was a vital element in his achievements. It gave him confidence in his destiny, assurance that his performance would be equal to the promise.... This conviction that god destined him to be an instrument for spreading the faith was far more potent than the desire to win glory, wealth, and worldly honors, to which he was certainly far from indifferent.
In the secularized world of today, with its so-called "separation of church and state", and perpetual hand-wringing over America's erstwhile participation in the slave trade, the topic of Columbus can certainly make for uncomfortable dinner conversation among mixed company. For, as the argument goes, if Columbus hadn't set foot on his ship and come here, nothing bad would have happened.

Utter nonsense. To believe such a thing is to ignore patterns of human development and behavior in all nations and by all nations, especially their tendency to invade and enslave their neighbors. It is to imagine that only Columbus would ever have stumbled upon the Americas.

If not Columbus, then someone else--perhaps with unabashedly ignoble motivations--would have taken his place.

It certainly can't be denied that the impact of European contact with American natives was enormous. However, contrary to popular, uninformed opinion today, Europeans unknowingly carried with them certain strains of microbes and viruses that had not existed in the Americas, accidentally causing the deaths of great numbers of those already living here. They didn't arrive with a knowledge of what would happen in the future any more than you or I know whether we will be safe going to and from work in the morning or if we will, by some innocent choice or errant left turn, cause accident or injury to others.

Columbus was a humble, yet noble, learned, and religious man. So were several (but not all) of those who traveled with him on his first voyages. Those who were the more righteous and well-intentioned part did the best they knew how with what knowledge of the Gospel they possessed in the scriptures they had inherited from their fathers. They were therefore zealous in their desire to convert the natives they found on Hispa├▒ola and other islands of what is now known as the Bahamas.

Among many, a great example of these good intentions is found in a quote from a copy of Columbus' original Journal of the First Voyage as written by Bartolom├ę de Las Casas and quoted in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations:
...And I say that Your Highness ought not to consent that any foreigner does business or sets foot here, except Christian Catholics, since this was the end and the beginning of the enterprise, that it should be for the enhancement and glory of the Christian religion nor should anyone who is not a good Christian come to these parts.
Tragically, when word got out about the great resources and riches of the New World, others who were not so much inclined towards religious benevolence as to monetary gain, took it upon themselves to exploit and plunder whatever they could find. The Native Americans, being in the way of their greed, took the brunt of this exploitation in that they were turned from friends into slaves and made to do the work of those who wanted what the new land had to offer.

Again, in today's political climate, we often hear a revisionist interpretation of these events: as if somehow Columbus was the purposeful instigator of the mistreatment of God's children on the American continents. However, those who malign Columbus do not have the perspective that the Book of Mormon offers to us--and to Native American descendants who remain. God foresaw all of these events and has designed a higher purpose in their tragedy and suffering that transcends our own limited perspective and interpretation of events. When people make wrong choices and suffer consequences, God provides for even greater blessings than those that were lost, if they will but repent and obey Him. Sometimes those blessings come much later, but the do come.
30 Nevertheless, thou beholdest that the Gentiles who have gone forth out of captivity, and have been lifted up by the power of God above all other nations, upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands, which is the land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy father that his seed should have for the aland of their inheritance; wherefore, thou seest that the Lord God will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the bmixture of thy cseed, which are among thy brethren.
31 Neither will he suffer that the Gentiles shall adestroy the seed of thy brethren.
32 Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness, which thou beholdest they are in, because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that aabominable church, whose formation thou hast seen.
33 Wherefore saith the Lamb of God: I will be amerciful unto the Gentiles, unto the visiting of the remnant of the house of Israel in great judgment.
First, God makes a promise to Nephi that his family's descendants will not be completely eliminated. He promises to be merciful to the Gentiles and, through them, to restore what was once lost from the written Gospel they carried with them. How would he do this? Through the seed of Nephi and his brethren.
35 For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them [the Book of Mormon], which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, athese things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.
36 And in them shall be written my agospel, saith the Lamb, and my brock and my salvation.
37 And ablessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my bZion at that day, for they shall have the cgift and the dpower of the Holy Ghost; and if they eendure unto the end they shall be flifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting gkingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall hpublish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.
The fulfillment of this prophecy is the restoration of the Gospel, through Joseph Smith, who descended from these first European-American Gentiles, and the Book of Mormon, which was written by Nephi's, Laman's, and Lemuel's descendants.

Verses 38 through 42 can be summed up thusly: God saw that people would make wrong choices and intervened to help them. When precious parts were taken out of the Bible, either intentionally or unintentionally, He made sure that the Book of Mormon would be made available to support the Bible's teachings and provide clarification as to what was lost. In the end, the Jews, who were the first to receive the Gospel, and the Gentiles, who received it second, would be brought together and unified towards fulfilling all of the prophecies in both books.

Research hints that Columbus was of Jewish descent. It is certainly possible that God meant for Columbus' journey to be one of many symbols of the literal fulfillment of the unification of Gentiles and Jews in the latter days in this vision given to Nephi.