Book of Mormon Lesson 8
O How Great the Goodness of Our God
2 Nephi 6-10
A. Today we will be covering 2 Nephi 6-10. This is a 2 day discourse by Jacob the younger brother of Nephi. (If you think our 3 hour blocks are hard to sit through.). This is kind of like a Gospel Doctrine lesson where he reads a few chapters of the scriptures and then discusses and interprets them.
B. Chapter 6 is his introduction in which he outlines the key themes he will be talking about. Chapters 7 and 8 are just him quoting Isaiah 50-52 (which prophesy about the coming of Jesus Christ), and chapters 9 and 10 are where Jacob explains these chapters and give a long, detailed explanation on the plan of salvation and the atonement.
C. This last week we started to watch Fiddler on the Roof. That got me interested in the pogroms in Russia, which got me interested in Jewish history in general, so I was Googling Jewish history and I happened upon a website for a synagogue in Miami, Fl and I recognized the rabbi’s name, Micah Caplan, as possibly a guy I went to college with. I read his personal information and saw that he had gone to A.S.U., so I E-mailed him and asked if he was the Micah Caplan who was in my Hebrew 101 class, and that if he was he probably didn’t remember me, but I was the only Gentile in the class and had red hair and an ugly goatee in college, and that I was now teaching a religion class and that sometimes people had questions about Judaism that I couldn’t answer, and asked if these came up in the future could I e-mail him to ask him. He wrote back and said that he did remember me and that yes he would help me anyway he could. So now we have access to a bonafide, Conservative Jewish Rabbi. So, I was thinking about Judaism when I read these chapters and I will make some comments about how Jews might see some of Jacob’s statements here.
II. Chapter 6 - Jewish History
A. The first few verses we see that it is Jacob talking, that he was ordained and consecrated by his brother Nephi, and that he will be reading the words of Isaiah.
B. Read 2 Nephi 6:5-7.
1. Jacob is quoting from a few different chapters in Isaiah here. Vs 6 is a quote from Isa 49:22 and vs 7 is a paraphrasing of Isa 60:16.
2. Read Isa 60:14-16.
a. Vs 14-15 talk about how the world will come to honor the Jews. If you are interested in what we owe the Jews, a good book is The Gift of the Jews by Thomas Cahill. He talks about how Jews revolutionized the way we think.
b. What does it mean that they will "suck the milk of the Gentiles?"
C. Read 2 Nephi 6:8-11
1. Talks about Christ being crucified, the Jews being scattered, and then being gathered again.
2. We have to be careful to note that it was a very small number of the Jews that openly rejected Jesus. And that it was actually the Romans the crucified him.
3. It is absolutely true that Jews were, and still are, scattered throughout the world and that they are currently gathering in great numbers in Israel again for the first time in 2000 years.
D. We have to be very sensitive in reading these vs. and some of the verses in chapter 10 that says that Christ should, "come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him–for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God. For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that he be their God."
1. This sounds very anti-Semitic. I don’t believe there was anything inherently evil about the Jews at the time of Jesus. They were probably the most righteous people on the earth at the time, the only people with an inkling of the truth. It may have been the pride of a few of their leaders that caused Christ to be crucified.
2. Back in chapter 6 it indicates that the Gospel would be taught to the Jews by the Gentiles. The church has made unprecedented conciliations to Jews in agreeing not to proselyte in Israel or specifically to Jews and to not do baptisms for the dead for Jews or Holocaust survivors. Why have they done this.
a. If you look at the history of the Jews it is a miracle that they survive as a people at all with all the persecution they went through.
b. Through the years, part of this persecution has been strong armed proselyting to the Jews and more persecution if it was rejected.
c. The Merchant of Venice is a perfect example of the attitudes in Europe towards Jews.
d. We should be very sensitive to the Jewish people in this regard. Also, unlike "traditional Christianity," we do not believe that just because someone does not fully accept the gospel in this life that they will spend all eternity burning in Hell. One of the things I like most about being Mormon is that I have never had to say with a straight face, "He’s such a nice person, it’s too bad he is going to Hell." We have an urgency to spread the gospel, but not an unfair, irrational urgency.
III. 2 Nephi 7
A. Here Jacob quotes Isaiah 50 which talks about God not forgetting the covenants he has made with Israel.
B. Read 2 Nephi 7:1 - talks about God not abandoning Israel.
C. Read 2 Nephi 7:2 - talks about Christ’s first coming. Although he was rejected by Israel he has not forgotten them.
D. Isaiah speaks Messianicly in 2 Nephi 7:6
(I’m going to skip 2 Nephi 8 because of time. It quotes Isaiah 51.)
IV. 2 Nephi 9.
A. This is one of the best discourses on the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement ever recorded. (It is also one of the longest chapters in the BoM.)
B. Read 2 Nephi 9:5-6.
1. Last week we talked a little bit about the fall of man. Whether the fall was an actual event in time or if it was an explanation for the state in which men find themselves, I do not know. But regardless, we are clearly in a fallen state in that we all sin and fall short of our potential, and we are mortal, and none of us feel real good about that.
C. Read 2 Nephi 9:7-8
1. The phrase "infinite atonement" is not used anywhere in the Bible. This is a concept that is unique to the BoM, but I think if you used the term to traditional Christian they wouldn’t have a problem with it.
2. What does an "infinite atonement" mean?
3. Breck England said: "when Jacob speaks of an infinite atonement, he probably means that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has limitless, immeasurable scope. The Atonement is absolutely unlimited in its effectiveness for those who are righteous."
4. Elder Spencer J. Condie says: "The Book of Mormon teaches us of an infinite atonement, an atoning sacrifice by Christ that is unbounded by time, ethnicity, geography or even kinds of sins, save for the unpardonable sin of denying the Holy Ghost. The Resurrection includes all people ‘from the days of Adam down’ to the end of time, those ‘both old and young, both bond and free, boh male and female’"
D. Read 2 Nephi 9:10-12.
1. What are the 2 deaths spoken of here? Physical and spiritual. We will all die and we all sin. The Atonement compensates for the 2 imperfections of mankind.
E. Read 2 Nephi 9:13-17
1. How will you feel when you have a perfect knowledge of all of your guilt? I would not look forward to this. Breck England said: "Obviously, to have a perfect recollection of every sin, every thoughtless remark, every hurtful action we have ever done would be excruciating. The problem with sin is its infinite effects. Some scientists theorize that the flapping of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas: the call this phenomenon ‘sensitivity to initial conditions.’ Our sins have the same effect. A harsh word to a child can echo in the child’s heart for a lifetime. A home-teaching visit omitted can lead a lonely sone to believe no one cares. A simple lie can lead to unending deception and pain.
2. When I was a kid I was bad in primary. I probably have a mild case of ADHD. But I had some very good Sunday School and Primary teachers who were patient with me and didn’t treat me harshly. My little brother was like me, but he had a primary president who hated him. When he misbehaved she would come behind him and pinch his neck. My mother remembers being upset that he would come home from church with his skin broken from her nails. While I had a great church experience as a kid, as soon as my brother got old enough to have some independence he stopped going to church. He didn’t go to seminary, didn’t go on a mission, doesn’t date Mormon girls (thank goodness), has been arrested a few times. I don’t put all the blame for this on this Primary President and ultimately it is my brother’s responsibility, but without the atonement, this woman would have to find out about the consequences of her actions.
3. In 17 we see what the consequences of knowingly committing sin are. Without the Atonement there needs to be justice.
F. Read 2 Nephi 9:20-23.
1. Here Jacob contrasts the pains of Hell with the mercies of God for those who repent and take advantage of the atonement.
G. Read 2 Nephi 9:25-27.
1. Here is another example of something that is not in the Bible that is clarified in the BoM. That the atonement applies to those who have not received the law. That only those who have received the law are responsible for following it.
2. In traditional Christianity, only a small percentage of people who have ever inhabited the earth will be saved because they had the opportunity to learn about and accept Jesus Christ. The rest will suffer and burn for all eternity.
3. We don’t believe that people will be eternally punished because they didn’t "hit the religious jackpot."
4. Some of my missionary companions believed that after we had knocked on someone’s door and invited them to hear the discussions and they didn’t let us in that they had had their chance to accept the gospel and now they would be relegated to a lower kingdom. I didn’t and don’t believe that. I believe that everyone will get an equal chance to accept the gospel. Michelle’s grandmother is a sweat little English lady who goes to the Anglican church every week wearing a big church hat. She has 2 children that have joined the church and she is familiar with the church. She helped support Michelle when she was on her mission and she has come to all of her grandchildren’s baptisms and most of the blessings. She’s never going to join the church because she doesn’t think it matters and she is very comfortable going to the Anglican church. But Michelle has told her that as soon as she dies we are going to baptize her, and I’m sure she will accept it and go to the Celestial Kingdom.
H. Finally, Jacob invites us to take advantage of the Infinite Atonement.
1. Read 2 Nephi 9:41-42.
2. Read 2 Nephi 10:23-24
3. Joseph Smith describes the infinite Atonement this way: "Those who have died in Jesus Christ may expect to enter into all the fruition of joy when they come forth, which they possessed or anticipated here....I am glad I have the privilege of communicating to you some things which, if grasped closely, will be a help to you when earthquakes bellow, the clouds gather, the lightenings flash, and the storms are ready to burst upon you like peals of thunder. Lay hold of these things and let not your knees or joints tremble, nor your hearts faint; and then what can earthquakes, wars and tornadoes do? Nothing. All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it.
a. What does it mean that "all your losses will be mad up to you."?
b. Breck England said: "all your disappointments, your sorrows, your discouragements, your pains will be made up to you. If you’ve lost a child, watched a loved one suffer from cancer, been crushed by debt, been abandoned or abused—no matter what you have suffered, it will all be made up to you. Although your suffering may appear infinite to you , the Atonement reaches beyond it. And even more, the infinite consequences of all your mistakes, the wrongs you have done, the good things you neglected to do, the guilt you bear, the shame of a hurting conscience—no matter what you suffer, it has been paid. The debt has been canceled. The infinite Atonement has answered the demands of justice."