2 Nephi 6 tweet: J reads Isa. Gentile (Pearly?) kings & queens will nurse Israel. Gentiles who dont fight Zion r also saved. God will fight for Israel.
2 Nephi 7 tweet: Has God sold Israel? Israel sold themselves but for a price God has bought Israel again. Walk in your own light, lie down in sorrow.
2 Nephi 8 tweet: God will comfort Zion. Israel pleads for God to awake and redeem them again. In turn God tells Zion to awake, put on strength & b free.
As I have covered previously, Joseph Spencer has proposed a fourfold structure to 1 and 2 Nephi:
1 Nephi 1–18, the story of the establishment of the Lehite people in the New World. CREATION
1 Nephi 19–2 Nephi 5, the story of the breaking up of that people into two rival factions. FALL
2 Nephi 6–30, the sermons, quotations, and prophecies that make up the sacred heart of the record, and in particular, how the Lamanites will be redeemed in the latter days. ATONEMENT
2 Nephi 31–33, a concluding word concerning the doctrine of Christ and how to approach the VEIL
Therefore, according to Spencer, 2 Nephi 6 marks the beginning of the atonement portion of Nephi’s record, or his “more sacred things”. In an earlier post I addressed why the break between 2 Nephi 5 and 6 marks the start of Nephi’s more sacred things (and the purpose of all the chapters preceding this break).
With this structure in mind, Spencer makes the following temple-themed allusion to what begins in 2 Nephi 6:
The construction of the temple immediately precedes the arrival of what the text presents as three angels (Jacob, Isaiah, and Nephi) with a divine message about reconciliation with God (2 Nephi 6-30) preparatory to passing through the veil into God’s presence (2 Nephi 31–33).1
As I’ve noted before, it is therefore somewhat ironic that the more sacred part of Nephi’s record is arguably the most neglected part due to its heavy focus on/quotation of Isaiah. So my lofty aim over the next several posts (especially those that cover 2 Nephi 12–24) is to try and make Isaiah more relevant.
To begin with, I’ll share some reflections on Jacob’s use of Isaiah. 2 Nephi 6–8 made up a single chapter in the original Book of Mormon. Jacob prefaces his remarks to the people by making clear that the words of Isaiah that he reads are those that Nephi wants him to share (see 2 Ne 6:4). He then goes on to quote Isaiah 49:22–23:
Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me. (2 Ne 6:6–7)
Jacob goes on to liken these verses to latter-day Israel. What’s interesting is that Nephi has already done exactly the same thing, i.e. quote Isaiah 49:22–23 and liken those verses to latter-day Israel (see 1 Ne 21:22–23 and 1 Ne 22:6–12). The most obvious question is why does Nephi want to use up precious space on his plates to quote Jacob revisiting work that he has already done? For those so inclined it would be interesting to compare and contrast Nephi’s and Jacob’s use of these Isaiah verses.
In this one ‘original’ chapter (i.e. 2 Ne 6–8), Jacob essentially co-opts (likens) Isaiah to prophesy of a latter-day Zion. So what follows are some brief reflections on what it means to build Zion.
As LDS we have a unique take on how the Creation took place. The Book of Abraham and the account of Creation dramatised in the endowment ceremony suggest that we ourselves (or at least some of us) were involved in the creation of this world. Think about that for a moment. Our scriptures and the temple suggest we have already helped to create at least one world. So what does this have to do with Zion? Well, I might be wrong, but it seems to me that often we talk about Zion or heaven or the world during the Millennium as places we’ll inherit rather than something we’ll build (or create) ourselves. That is, I think we imagine that if we keep certain standards one day we’ll eventually be permitted to enter the gates of the kingdom and be given the keys to our own mansion. What I don’t think we imagine is that a group of us will get together, form a cooperative and build the kingdom and all the mansions in it ourselves. But if it’s true that we’ve already made one world (i.e. this one), do we really expect that God is going to make the next one for us?
So what? Does is really matter whether our understanding about how heaven will be built is right or not? Surely as long as we live right we’ll be ready for it however or whenever it comes, right? Well, I would suggest that this fundamental misunderstanding regarding the nature of heaven was at the heart of the original war in heaven. In essence, Satan ultimately envisaged heaven as a place. Therefore, he could say forget agency, forget the process, forget the change of heart, I’ll bring them back and we’ll all be in the right place. What he didn’t understand is that heaven isn’t about the external surroundings, it’s made up of the internal state of those who dare to build it. The bricks and mortar of heaven will be the hearts and minds and the consecrated lives of those saints who didn’t dream of their mansion above, but instead set about building it here below.
Joseph Smith said it this way:
Let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it. Where this people are, there is good society.2
I fear that if we imagine Zion (or heaven) is a place, we are making the same fundamental mistake that Satan made an eternity ago. If we’re waiting for Zion to land in our laps I think we’ll be waiting a long time, and perhaps it will come and go without us. So how do we go about building Zion now? As I’m suggesting above, I think fundamentally we need to change our perception of heaven and therefore, why we do what we do. Again, I might be wrong, but I think we tend to imagine that with our good works – our obedience, our acts of service, etc – we are essentially contributing to an eternal pension scheme. That is, while it costs us something now it will be worth it in the long run when we finally inherit our mansion. At last we’ll be able to rest from our labours and do the things we really wanted to do all along but couldn’t because we were too busy serving. Now that’s maybe a bit of a caricature, but the idea exists to some degree to warrant the following remark from Marion G. Romney:
Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.3
In contrast to Zion, at the end of 2 Nephi 6 we find the words of the Lord who said:
I will feed them … with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine. (2 Ne 6:18)
Their own flesh. Their own blood. Does this describe a people obsessed with themselves? Is this supposed to contrast with those who feed on the sacramental flesh and blood of Christ, who have made covenants to overcome their selfish desires and build Zion? I don’t hold to the idea that today we’re a day closer than we were yesterday to Christ’s Second Coming and a 1000 years of peace. I don’t think there’s a day set in stone that we’re marching towards irrespective of what we do. I think we’re only a day closer if our hearts are a day more ready. That’s what I get from reading between the lines of Jacob reading between the lines of Isaiah.
Next week’s reading: 2 Nephi 9
- History of the Church, 5:516–17; see also: https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-45?lang=eng