Thursday, February 13, 2020

Condescension and Covenants (2 Nephi 6-10)

This set of chapters are from the sermons of Jacob, the brother of Nephi.

READ 2 Nephi 6:1-2
What is the difference between being called and ordained by God to His Holy Order and being consecrated by Nephi?
·       The High Priesthood After the Order of the Son of God or Melchizedek Priesthood (some would call it the “Patriarchal Priesthood) can only be given by God Himself to man (see also D&C 84:19-27 and 33-42; Abraham 1:2; JST Genesis 14:27-31; TPJS 205:2)
·       Nephi “called” or administered an authorized invitation for Jacob to rise up and be “chosen” by Christ and receive the ordination by God – this was done to Jacob via an ordinance of consecration or setting apart by Nephi

READ 2 Nephi 6:3-4
Why does Jacob preach to us?
·       He is greatly concerned about the welfare of our souls – he loves us – he is filled with charity, the pure love of Christ
·       If we do not become precisely as Christ is, we cannot be saved (LoF 7:9)
·       We are fallen and we must be redeemed from the fall, which requires coming again into Christ’s presence in the flesh (Ether 3:13)
·      To exercise sufficient faith to rend the veil and have the Lord administer comfort to us, we must receive an actual knowledge that the course of life we are pursuing is according to His will (LoF 3:5)
·      And this requires first learning the truth about the existence and character, perfections and attributes of God from one who already knows with a perfect, experiential knowledge – one who has already tread the path and been saved (LoF 3:4 and 2:54-56) – i.e. Jacob

READ 2 Nephi 6:8-9
How does Jacob know what he is about to tell us?
·       The Lord has visited him in the flesh, ministered to him, and shown him the visions of heaven
·       Angels have also ministered to him (see 2 Nephi 10:3)
·       Jacob has seen the same things Isaiah has and chooses to use Isaiah to teach his (Jacob’s) prophesy

Jacob Reinterprets Isaiah for the Remnant

READ 2 Nephi 6:13
What does it mean to “wait” for the Lord to come?
·       Like the Parable of the Ten Virgins, they “wait” for the Bridegroom to come unto them, but he delays His coming past the expected time
·       It means to submit to His timetable in meekness without losing faith (D&C 98:2)
·      It means to be “found fighting” when He finally comes, like King Theoden at Helm’s Deep from JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings when the reinforcements finally arrive to save those beset within the fortress and on the brink of defeat (see also D&C 133:11 and Isaiah 40:31)

READ 2 Nephi 7:2
To what time is the Lord referring when He says “when I came, there was no man”?
·     During His mortal ministry, He was only recognized and accepted by a relatively tiny number of people to be the Son of God or even recognized as the Messiah of Israel
·       His “people” and their leaders were “absent” or didn’t hear Him – they weren’t “present” to welcome Him

READ 2 Nephi 7:10-11
What does it mean to “kindle fire” to “compass yourselves about with sparks” and “walk in the light of your fire”?
·       It means that you rely on yourself – your own intelligence, insights and experience – you follow your own way
·       You do not look to the Lord for light – you rely on the arm of the flesh
·      You are actually walking in darkness with a few sparks for guidance and you act like you are walking in the light of the Midsummer sun at noonday

READ 2 Nephi 8:1-3 and 2 Nephi 9:1-3
Why is Jacob quoting these verses for his people and the Remnant to whom the Book of Mormon was written?
·      He wants these “lost” people to look to the “quarry” or bloodlines that they descend from – to see who they are – of the House of Israel and…
·       That they are heirs to the covenant of Abraham
·       They will be redeemed again – personally and as a people – from a “waste” to a “garden”
·      He is also speaking to the Remnant, who are Native Americans, a people who today are “lost” compared to the splendor of the American economy and its educated, successful citizens

READ 2 Nephi 8:4-8
What does it imply that the world is “waxing old like a garment”, when our knowledge and technology is increasing at an ever-increasing rate?
·       Our knowledge is the arrogant “light of our fire” not the light of God
·     Old garments are those that have lost their usefulness; they “cumber the ground” and are only fit for burning or being eaten by moths in old, forgotten closets
·       Our knowledge, as plentiful as it might appear, is not useful to us in the ultimate sense – it will not save us; in fact, it is a source of arrogance for us like the people in the days of Noah

READ 2 Nephi 8:11-13 and 23-25
Who will transform the Remnant from a forgotten, oppressed people to inheritors of America and builders of the New Jerusalem?
·       The Lord will do His work
·        It is too great a work for man – Remnant or Gentile; all we can do is assist Him

Condescension and Covenants

Jacob gives 2 Nephi 9 as a commentary on Isaiah 49:22-50:11.

READ 2 Nephi 9:4
What does it mean that in our bodies we shall see God?
·       It most obviously refers to seeing God once we are resurrected
·       It also means that regardless of the death of our mortal bodies, we shall (or can) see God while in the flesh
Why is it important that we see God in the flesh?
·       Exercising the faith to rend the veil and bring the spiritual realm into the physical realm is what enables us to be redeemed from the fall and qualify as heirs of the celestial kingdom (see Ether 3:13 and D&C 76:51, 74)
·       There seems to be some evidence to infer that a spirit cannot come again into the presence of God as a spirit after it has experienced a mortality and died – see v 15, where spirits come into God’s presence only after they have passed from “death unto life” and have become immortal (i.e. resurrected); perhaps they can only be in God’s presence again “in the flesh”

READ 2 Nephi 9:5 and 2 Nephi 10:2-5
Why is it expedient that Christ lived His mortal life among those at Jerusalem?
·       They were heirs of the covenant of Abraham and line of David
·        It was their “right” to have the Messiah live among them
·       In their deeply religious fervor, they would turn against Christ and put Him to death – but they should have been most likely to have recognized Him
·        It is “unbelief” or belief in that which is incorrect that causes them to reject Christ – it is their pride in their “chosen-ness” and their fabricated religiosity – that is their wickedness
Why did the Creator have to condescend to the flesh and die that all men might be subject unto Him?
·       What God creates, He must also redeem – because for it (the created person) to accomplish the measure of its creation, it must be exposed to the possibility of sin and the surety of decay/death and be able to choose the light in a probationary state outside the direct presence of God that offers a real test (opposition) and consequences (for good and bad – on the person making the decisions and on others affected by the decisions); so things are going to be in need of redemption because the person will not abide by the fullness of eternal law all of the time and the wages of sin are death
·     The way that all things become subject to God is that He must live a perfect life in this mortal sphere, meriting nothing but everlasting glory but then submit Himself to suffer the sins of all and to die unjustly (as the wages of sin are death, but the God is not a sinner); He then overturns death and all mankind that are subject to it are now subject to Him who holds the key to release them from death (and hell)

READ 2 Nephi 9:6
What needed to happen to fulfill God’s plan, once death had been introduced into the world?
·       Mankind needed to be reunited with their bodies – a resurrection of all living things
·       Mankind needed to be reunited with their God – a redemption from spiritual death 
What is the relationship between death, the Fall, and resurrection? 
·      Death passed upon all men 
·      The resurrection was needed to restore men back to their physical bodies after death had separated the spirit from the body
·      The resurrection “came unto man” (was given to man) “by reason of” (because of or as a consequence of) the Fall – the resurrection was provided to man to combat the effects of the Fall (both the physical and spiritual death aspects of the Fall;  Must we be clothed “in the flesh” to ever see God again – either the mortal flesh or resurrected flesh?)
·      The Fall came by reason of transgression – this is clear
·     Did death and the fall come from just partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – in other words, does eating that fruit inherently cause death in an immortal body?  Or does death come as a result of a Fall which came by partaking of that “forbidden” fruit “out of season” or without being commanded by God to do so?  Did the fall come by disobeying the command of God when He told them not to partake of the fruit? Would death have been introduced by God without a fall to a telestial sphere if Adam and Eve and waited until the command to partake of the fruit had been given?  Would they have lived in a terrestrial world and die when their life was over, as those will who are born during the Millennium?  It is not clear to me)
Why are men cut off from the presence of the Lord?
·       Because of the Fall – their natures become evil continually – they seek their own will – they all sin and cannot abide God’s glory – and God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance (see Mosiah 3:19, Romans 3:23, Mormon 9:3-5, D&C 1:31)
·       Therefore it is merciful to cut them off from God’s presence; otherwise they would be totally wasted by His glory

READ 2 Nephi 9:7
What was required to resurrect man and bring him back into the presence of God?
·       An infinite atonement
·      Infinite because God, against whom the transgressions occurred, is an infinite being – only a perfect or infinite atonement could make restitution in kind
·       Only a God can make this kind of sacrifice – only a God can suffer an infinite sacrifice or all that a God can suffer
What is the “first judgement”?
·       To be cut off from the presence of God as a result of partaking of the Forbidden Fruit
·       To die without hope of living again outside of outer darkness (as a disembodied spirit)

READ 2 Nephi 9:8-9
What does Jacob praising God’s mercy and grace imply about our condition?
·       Outer darkness is our just or deserved end state
·       Mercy is not getting what we do deserve while grace is getting blessings that we don’t deserve – neither is fair or just!
What state is Jacob describing with Satan reigning over us?
·       The traditional Christian understanding of what Hell will be like
·      This is not even representative of what outer darkness will be like since Christ accomplished the resurrection, as those who merit Perdition who have bodies (as opposed to those perdition spirits who followed Satan during the War in Heaven and never received bodies on this earth) but will be banished to outer darkness with Satan and they will rule over him as they have bodies and he will not
·       However, those who inherit a telestial glory will also be shut out of the presence of God, and while they will remain servants of God, they cannot regain His presence, so there are some similarities (see D&C 76:112)
Why would our spirits become like Satan’s without the Atonement?
·       It’s not that we would “turn evil”, even after having lived under his rule for so long (although I suppose that’s possible…)
·      It’s because that is what Satan is – a disembodied spirit who, by definition, is filled with darkness and not light and is miserable forever (as that state is inherently miserable to be in – no light and no body – or at least to not possess a fullness of light)
Why did Satan transform himself to appear as an angel of light?
·         Because he used to be one
·     The “sheep’s clothing” is donned to appear to be something that you are not because the appearance gives credibility to the deceptive message you are trying to share to get people to believe something that is not true
·       He is pretending to be a “true messenger” sent from God with a message; he is trying to legitimize his message of evil – he calls evil good and good evil, in this manner

READ 2 Nephi 9:10-12
Why does Jacob call death and hell “a monster” instead of “monsters”?
·       Spiritual death and physical death are inseparably connected
·        One cannot experience a fullness of joy without a body
·     One cannot experience a fullness of joy without being a Son or Daughter of God – being like Him, being in His presence continually
·     The effects of the fall included both types of death and the atonement of Christ included redemption from both types of death – spiritual and physical – Jacob often conflates the atonement and resurrection (see v10, 12, 21-22)
·       Both deaths “captivate” those who are subject to them – they cannot release themselves from these “bonds” or the state they now find themselves in

READ 2 Nephi 9:13-14
What is the difference between the righteous and the wicked?
·       The righteous have a “perfect knowledge” of their “enjoyment” and “righteousness”
·       The wicked have a perfect knowledge of their guilt, uncleanness and nakedness before God
·       But as all of us are guilty sinners…
·      The real difference is the “robe of righteousness” – the righteous are clothed in it while the wicked are not; the robe of righteousness gives a perfect knowledge of Christ’s “enjoyment” and “righteousness” (which they now share – “their” righteousness is His – they are “perfect in Christ” not on their own merits) and causes those wearing it to forget their guilt and uncleanness because they are no longer naked in God’s presence

READ 2 Nephi 9:15
How many judgements will there be?
·       Two
·       Christ’s comes first
·       Then comes the “holy” judgement before God the Father

READ 2 Nephi 9:16-17
What if, although a vile sinner, the Lord decrees you “righteous” - will this judgement be honored?
·       Yes
·       It is Christ’s righteousness that is everlasting, not your own – at least not yet
·       If Christ decrees you “righteous” or “perfect” or “innocent”, you are – regardless of what you have or haven’t done
It is easy to see how the Lord is great, but how is it “just” to decree as “righteous” a person who has sinned?
·     Because of the atonement and resurrection – where Christ suffered and died unjustly, He won the keys to death and hell and whatever He now decrees, it automatically “just”
·       He fulfills all of His words – so if He has decreed something, He will ensure that it comes to pass – this is just, in that any promises He makes with us, He always honors them

READ 2 Nephi 9:18-19
What are the “crosses of the world” and what does it mean to despise the shame of them?
·     Symbolic of the humiliating, cruel ways of suffering and death that the world metes out to those it deems unworthy or out of alignment with its ways (i.e. criminals by its definition)
·       To despise the shame of these crosses is to disregard man – it is to ignore the shame and humiliation that man tries to heap on those who do not align with the world – it is to fear God or worship and respect God more that man

READ 2 Nephi 9:20
Does God really know all things or is it that He knows us so well that He can predict things perfectly?
·       All things are present before His eyes (see D&C 38:2; Moses 1:6; Abraham 2:8)
·       At least in this eternity… because God does seem to progress in glory and continues to act by faith (see TPJS 392:1); I will state categorically that I do not understand this.  We have faith in Him now because, among other things, His attributes and traits (including His Omniscience) facilitate this faith.  If that Omniscience is bounded within an “eternity”, it does present some questions regarding how we can have true faith (not blind faith) going forward.  But as we are within this eternity now – it is a speculative and moot question for another eternity…one that the Lord likely has a good answer for but one which I am not yet ready to receive 

READ 2 Nephi 9:21-24
If Christ suffered the pains of all creatures (the atonement) to bring to pass the resurrection, then why are the only ones saved in the Kingdom of God those that have perfect faith in Christ, repent, are baptized and endure to the end in covenant?
·       Again, the suffering of the atonement and the gift of resurrection are conflated – they are one
·     All can be saved because what Christ did was universal in its scope, but Christ can set the terms regarding who is saved, as He unjustly suffered what was required to save us – enabling Him to dictate the terms of salvation
·       Christ “decrees” by what He speaks (see D&C 88:75) who is saved and who will be damned – it is all at His discretion

READ 2 Nephi 9:25-27
Who gave us the Law?
·       God
·       It is a law of God’s justice
·       This “law” is not referring to the Natural or Eternal Law that God must align with or adhere to or He ceases to be God (see LoF 7:9, 15-16); 
·     This law governs the workings of those who qualify for the Atonement (and how they qualify), which Atonement grants them mercy in the face of the justice they deserve in breaking the Eternal Law
·       If mankind has God’s Law given to them, and they are deemed accountable for it but they disregard it, Christ decrees them damned
If there is no law given by God with its associated punishment, then why is there still a need for mercy to be extended through the act of the Atonement to deliver people in this situation, if they are not condemned?
·       Because there is still a Natural or Eternal or Spiritual Law of Light that God must adhere to – He must be precisely as He is or He would not be a saved being and would cease to be God (LoF 7:9, 15)
·       As eternal beings, we as well are subject to this Eternal Law; it is why we need an atonement to redeem us from our current fallen state; Eternal Law dictates that death is the wage of sin and one cannot gain a body back if one is in bondage to sin and darkness – there is nothing that God or anyone else can do to annul this Law – an Atonement must be worked to reconcile this situation

READ 2 Nephi 9:28-39
What does “wo” mean?
·       A “wo” is a warning
·       Having one “wo” pronounced upon a people or person is a warning of condemnation in this life
·       They suffer setbacks because they listen to the precepts of men and engage in unrepented sin – they fall back as a result
·      When three “wo’s” are pronounced upon a people, there is a condemnation being given which will last beyond this life and into eternity – it cannot be altered; this is particularly true if three names of God are used in the warning (see 2 Nephi 28:14-15)
What is the cunning plan of the evil one?
·       To use the vanity and foolishness of men against themselves
·       To use learning to induce pride and set aside the counsel of God
·       To induce the love of riches to supplant the love for mankind
·       To deafen and blind people so that they cannot hear or see what is really going on around them – or their current predicament
·       It is a cunning, subtle plan – not an obvious attack
What is Jacob’s warning to the rich?
·       They will despise the poor, just because they are rich and think themselves better
·       They will persecute the meek
·       They will worship their treasures
·       But their treasure will not save them – no economic security in this life will avail them in the next; and it blinds and deafens them here, if they are not careful
What does it mean to “die” in your sins?
·       It means to die unrepentant
·       It means to be carnally minded
·       It means that you never turned to God with a broken heart and contrite spirit but continued to the end, sheltering your “pet sins”
What does “carnally minded” and “spiritually minded” mean?
·       It describes where your mind and heart lie – where your desires and will are focused
·       Either they are focused on this world (carnal) with its excesses (see 1 Corinthians 2:11-16)
·      Or they are focused on God’s world (spiritual); with the purpose of bringing that world into this one through one’s behavior and faith; to be filled with the Spirit or mind of God but to operate in this world (see Romans 8:6-18)

READ 2 Nephi 9:40-43
What does Jacob mean when he admonishes us to “come unto the Lord”?
·       To actually come unto the Lord, in the flesh, as Jacob did! (see 2 Nephi 6:1-2, 8-9; 2 Nephi 9:4)
·       This is not a conceptual or metaphorical idea to Jacob; it is also not an idea that Jacob is reserving for after we all die – at that time we will ALL come unto the Lord but only those that know Him, having found Him here, will be allowed to stay with Him (or even want to, for that matter – others will flee from His glory and their guilt)
·       He admonishes us because he knows it is both possible (having done it himself) and required if we are to be saved like he has been
What does Jacob teach us about The Way?
·       It is narrow – not many will find it
·       It is narrow – you will not be able to take anything with you except your soul
·       But once you are on it and have relieved yourself of all baggage (pride, riches, credentials, wisdom), it lies straight before you – it doesn’t contain unanticipated twists and turns – no tricks
·       At the end of the Way is a closed Gate; Christ Himself is the Gatekeeper and cannot be deceived – He knows you; and there is no other way into the Kingdom but through the Gate
·       Only those who are truly humble will be permitted to enter the Gate
·      And it is only in the Kingdom beyond that Gate that true happiness lies – and all others will not even really know what they are missing – that happiness and the mysteries of godliness are hidden from them forever

READ 2 Nephi 9:44-49
Who is Jacob speaking to here?  Who has he effectively warned so that he is now guiltless with regards to their eternal fate?
·       All those who read the Book of Mormon
·       US – the modern day Gentiles
·       And most especially the Remnant of Lehi
Why does Jacob not speak to us of holiness?
·       Because we are not holy
·     The Book of Mormon was written for us (the Gentiles) and the Remnant – Mormon and Moroni saw us in vision and included everything that they included by divine revelation (see Mormon 8:35)
·       We have great need of repentance – and of gaining further light and knowledge, which is why the Book of Mormon was needed to enable us to be saved – it was written to us to try to get us to repent
What does Jacob imply about our cultural traits wherein we must never say “harrowing” or harsh things to one another?
·         He is desperately trying to save our souls
·       He is risking offending us to save us – but he is doing it with charity and kindness – truly because he loves us – if we turn away from his friendship, it is because we choose to turn, not that he turned from us
·       Mormon, who is using Jacob’s sermon to help us, knows that we will not use such harrowing indictments of our behavior with each other; we would rather tell each other that all is well in Zion…

READ 2 Nephi 9:50-51
Who does Jacob (quoting Isaiah) invite to the “waters” to buy and eat?
·       Those who thirst and are hungry
·       Those who desire to be full
·       Those who want to come unto Christ
·       Those who want to be saved
Where is the labor spent if the feast is free?
·       The “labor” is to “look” to Christ  (see 1 Nephi 17:41)
·       The labor is to come unto Christ – to enter the Gate by offering one’s whole soul and to persist along the path until you find Him and partake of the feast He has set out for you; what is interesting though is the uses of the word “look” in 1 Nephi 17 or “come” and “buy” here in 2 Nephi 9 are not words that are associated with hard labor – in fact, in 1 Nephi 17 we are told that the labor asked of us to come unto Christ in the flesh is “simple” and “easy”; maybe we are doing it wrong?
·       The feast itself is not for sale – the price would be impossible for us to afford anyway – remember Christ paid for it all and can set the terms – He invites all to come who will

READ 2 Nephi 9:52-53
What is the relationship between covenants and condescension?
·       Condescensions by God enable the covenants that He offers to man to save us
·       Someone always has to condescend to enable a saving covenant
How do these verses summarize Jacob’s whole message, including the Isaiah quotes?
·       God has condescended to save the wayward House of Israel, including the descendants of Lehi
·       He does it by covenant – which requires great sacrifice on God’s part; and that covenant reconciles us with God, making those who keep the covenant His House or family –ultimately making them righteous Sons and Daughters of God

READ 2 Nephi 10:23-25
Why should it cheer up our hearts to remember that we are free to choose everlasting death or life?
·       Because, as hard as this probation may be, it is still up to us – we are “self-elect”
·       Because salvation is “free” if we but choose to “look” to Christ (see 1 Nephi 17:41)
·       If we realized what it took for Christ to accomplish His mission, we would rejoice that we do not have to accomplish the same to be saved…
Why is it only in and through the grace of Christ that we are saved?
·       Without Christ accomplishing the atonement, everything else would be moot – we would be back in the traditional Christian Hell scenario described in 2 Nephi 9:9 without any hope – regardless of the degree of righteousness we tried (even successfully) to accomplish or even the desires of our hearts for good
·       Reconciling ourselves to the will of God means to offer the required sacrifice to meet the covenant terms – our whole souls or a broken heart and contrite spirit – something that everyone can do regardless of their level of personal righteousness; but even this is enabled by Christ’s grace, as the bodies we presently occupy and the creation we presently live in are all His creations and his materials

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