Press Forward – 2 Nephi 31:19-20

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
(2 Nephi 31:19-20)

After teaching us that repentance and baptism are the gate to enter the path of discipleship and after urging us to enter through that gate, Nephi asks us what we should do next. Are we done once we’ve entered the path? Obviously not. A path is meant to be followed. But how should we follow the path? Nephi tells us to remember what brought us to this point in the first place: hearing the word of God and exercising faith in Jesus Christ. If those activities have brought us through the gate, then we need to continue to pursue them after entering the path.

It’s much easier to begin a project than to finish it, and it is simpler to enter the path of discipleship than to pursue it consistently over time. But as Nephi points out, the reason we started this journey was because we wanted to finish it, and so we need to find the determination to keep going, even in the face of obstacles and challenges. We need to maintain “a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.”

Sister Elaine S. Dalton shared the importance of visualizing the completion of the process in order to keep going in the middle:

Several years ago, my husband and I qualified to run the Boston Marathon. The night before the marathon, in an effort to visualize what it would be like to complete the race, we went to downtown Boston about a mile from the finish line. There in the quiet of the evening we laced up our running shoes and ran that last mile to the finish. As we crossed the line we held our hands victoriously high in the air and pretended that we had won the race! We imagined thousands of observers in the stands cheering for us. The next day we ran the race. Twenty-six point two miles (41.3 km) is a challenging distance. There are hills that are called “Heartbreak” for a very good reason. The entire time I was running those hills, I kept in mind that finish line and what it had felt like the night before to cross the line victorious. That vision of the finish line helped me to finish that marathon in a pelting, cold New England storm (“Press Forward and Be Steadfast,” General Conference, April 2003).

Today, I will recommit to press forward. I will remember that the same activities which have gotten me this far along the path will continue to move me forward, and I will strive to visualize my end goal: receiving the gift of eternal life from my Father in Heaven, knowing this vision will help me to overcome challenges and trials which might otherwise discourage me and halt my progress.

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As Many of the Gentiles as Will Repent – 2 Nephi 30:2

2 For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.
(2 Nephi 30:2)

Nephi teaches an important principle in this verse: heredity does not determine destiny. As important as family relationships are, and as much as parents are able to influence their children, each of us must ultimately decide whether we are willing to enter into a covenant relationship with our Heavenly Father and abide in that covenant over time. As Nephi explains, the key question is whether we are willing to repent. All of God’s children, regardless of their ancestry or heritage, can become the heirs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob if they are willing to accept and live the gospel. Each of us can make that choice, independently of anyone else, even other members of our own family.

Today, I will be grateful that my Heavenly Father honors the agency of His children. I will remember that all people can rise above their circumstances and become His covenant people. I will strive to emulate His inclusiveness and to love all of His children and see their potential just as He does.


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The Testimony of Two Nations – 2 Nephi 29:8

8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
(2 Nephi 29:8)

One of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Title Page).  In the passage above, Nephi pleads with people who are so comfortable with the words they have already received that they are unwilling to accept additional scripture. If you believe that God spoke to prophets in ancient Israel, shouldn’t you be delighted to learn that God has also spoken with prophets in other regions of the world? Multiple, independent witnesses are far more convincing than a single witness, and multiple books of scripture are a stronger testimony than a single book.

Elder Russell M. Nelson identified at least three ways the Book of Mormon complements the Bible:

  1. It provides additional evidence that God speaks to prophets: “The Bible and the Book of Mormon are both witnesses of Jesus Christ…. Scriptural witnesses authenticate each other.”
  2. It helps us to more fully appreciate the word of God: “Love for the Book of Mormon expands one’s love for the Bible and vice versa. Scriptures of the Restoration do not compete with the Bible; they complement the Bible.”
  3. It clarifies the truths taught in the Bible: “An angel proclaimed…that writings in the Bible available in our day are not as complete as they were when originally written by prophets and apostles. He declared that the Book of Mormon shall restore plain and precious things taken away from the Bible” (“Scriptural Witnesses,” General Conference, October 2007).

Today, I will be grateful for the “testimony of two nations” represented by the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I will appreciate the blessing of having access to the Book of Mormon, which confirms the truth of the Bible, increases my love for the Bible, and clarifies the doctrines taught in the Bible.

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Stiff Necks and High Heads – 2 Nephi 28:14

14 They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.
(2 Nephi 28:14)

What does it mean to “wear stiff necks and high heads?” This phrase only appears one other place in the scriptures. Jacob uses it as he warns his people about pride: “And because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they” (Jacob 2:13).

The phrase seems to describe people who are so concerned about appearances that they fail to respond to the suffering of the poor and needy among them. Their obsession with impressing other people dominates their thoughts and leads them to neglect and even to harm people who are less fortunate. They are like the daughters of Zion described by Isaiah who “walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet” (2 Nephi 13:16, Isaiah 3:16). Sounds harmless enough, but in the prior verse, Isaiah asks them to explain why they “beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor” (2 Nephi 13:15, Isaiah 3:15). It doesn’t sound like they are intentionally harming others, but they are spending so much time and energy trying to impress others that they don’t recognize the harm they are doing.

Today I will pay more attention to the needs of the people around me and focus less on what other people may think of me. I will remember that an obsessive concern about appearances will distract me from doing what I can for the people who actually need my help.

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His Soul Is Empty – 2 Nephi 27:3

3 And all the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision; yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.
(2 Nephi 27:3, Isaiah 29:7-8)

The pattern outlined in this passage is all-too familiar. A person feels dissatisfied or uncomfortable for some reason. They begin looking for something that will help them feel better. They think they have found the solution, but upon trying it, they discover that the activity doesn’t help them feel better, and they are pretty much where they started.

It’s not hard to think of activities that people participate in, hoping they will bring joy, but which leave them unsatisfied. Examples range from unhealthy foods to unwise purchases, and can also include unkind words, either verbal or written. Sometimes when we have the urge to defend ourselves against a supposed offense, we discover that the words we speak make us feel worse, not better, and that they aggravate the original problem in the process. I think this last example most closely matches the context of the passage above, because it is the nations fighting against Zion who continually feel that they are satiating their hunger or quenching their thirst with their attacks. But in the end, they discover that they are every bit as hungry or thirsty as they were before, and their actions have not helped them feel better at all.

Today, I will seek effective solutions to the challenges I face. I will remember that my instinctive reaction to a problem may not solve it at all, and I will discipline myself to make decisions which will have a real impact.

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I Am Able to Do Mine Own Work – 2 Nephi 27:19-20

19 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned.
20 Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.
(2 Nephi 27:19-20)

Faith in Jesus Christ includes confidence that He can use our efforts to fulfill His purposes. We might believe in God but doubt our own abilities. If so, we need to increase our faith until we are willing to do our part, believing that God’s power is sufficient to compensate for our weaknesses.

In the King James Version of the Bible, there is a brief  passage about an educated man refusing to read a book because it’s sealed, and an uneducated man expressing doubt that he can read it because of his lack of education. (See Isaiah 29:11-12.) In Nephi’s telling of that story, we get more details: the learned man asks that the book be brought to him, and when he hears that part of it is sealed, he says, “I cannot read it” (2 Nephi 27:15-18). Joseph Smith recognized a literal fulfillment of that prophecy in Martin Harris’s interaction with a professor named Charles Anthon, to whom he showed part of the translation of the Book of Mormon (Joseph Smith—History 1:64-65).

But there is a second half of the story: the book is given back to the unlearned man, who says, “I am not learned.” In other words, “I can’t do this. I don’t have enough training, knowledge, and experience.” God responds, “The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them.” People like Professor Charles Anthon, who seem more qualified to fulfill this assignment, are so confident in their own abilities that they are unwilling to receive direction from God. Only an unlearned person who knows He needs to rely on the Lord can actually do this. And then, the Lord reassures his uneducated servant by saying, “I am able to do mine own work.”

As Elder Neal L. Anderson has reminded us, these words of assurance were directed not only to Joseph Smith but also to you and me:

Brothers and sisters, seeing and believing the Lord’s miracles in establishing His kingdom on earth can help us see and believe that the Lord’s hand is at work in our own lives as well.
The Lord declared, “I am able to do mine own work.” We each try to do our part, but He is the grand architect…. As we are spiritually awake and alert, we see His hand across the world and we see His hand in our own personal lives (“Thy Kingdom Come,” General Conference, April 2015).

Today I will watch for the hand of the Lord in my life. I will have faith that God, who has all power, can use my humble efforts to accomplish great things. I will follow the example of the unlearned man, who may have doubted his abilities but who ultimately trusted that the Lord would help him accomplish the work he had been given.

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Bond and Free – 2 Nephi 26:33

33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
(2 Nephi 26:33)

Yesterday, I wrote about Nephi’s declaration that all people need to know that Jesus is the Christ, and that He will manifest Himself to everyone who believes in Him. Later in the same chapter, he emphasizes this point by listing several characteristics which do not affect our relationship with God. Nephi tells us that God welcomes all of His children that come to Him, without regard to race (“black or white”) or gender (“male or female”). And he includes a third distinction: “bond or free.”  What did he mean by that, and what are the implications for us?

We know that, at least from the time of King Benjamin, slavery was illegal among the Nephites. (See Mosiah 2:13, Alma 27:9.). Also, it seems unlikely that any of Nephi’s people were slaves. Nephi was certainly familiar with slavery. He reminded his brothers at least twice of the bondage of the children of Israel to the Egyptians (1 Nephi 17:24-25, 1 Nephi 19:10), and just two chapters earlier, he quoted a prophecy from Isaiah about the eventual deliverance of his people from bondage in Babylon (2 Nephi 24:3). But considering that his people probably had no direct experience with bondage, it’s worth considering whether this characteristic could have other meanings.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that the word bond “means more than slavery. It means being bound (in bondage) to anything from which it is difficult to escape.” He then suggested a number of different forms of bondage we might experience: physical or emotional afflictions, addictions, harmful customs or traditions, and erroneous ideas (“All Men Everywhere,” General Conference, April 2006). With this more expansive definition in mind, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that we’re all in some form of bondage. What a comfort it is to know that God invites us to come unto Him in spite of these limitations, and that He will not turn us away. 

Today, I will be grateful for the knowledge that Heavenly Father loves all of His children. I will pray with confidence, knowing that He will not turn me away in spite of my limitations. I will treat other people with respect, knowing that they are all His children and that He loves them just as He loves me.

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