2 Nephi 9:25-38 — LeGrand Baker — Jacob’s warnings
Throughout human history, the object of apostate religion has been to control its adherents. The purposes of that control can usually be dropped into three major objectives,
1. To create a glue binding religious practices and political enthusiasm among the masses. And, conversely, to make things which are defined as politically divisive also be equivalent to the criteria for one’s going to hell. The way to do this is to establish local or national gods who will only save or bless those people who support the local or national king. That kind of king/god relationship was typical of the ancient world, but it is also typical of modern nations — after all, “God is an Englishman!”
2. To provide religions reasons for the religious and political aristocracy to have a monopoly, or a near monopoly, on the accumulation and retention of wealth. The theology to support such accumulation usually asserts that there is virtue in poverty, and if one sacrifices for the good of the religious/political organization in this world, then in exchange for the worldly goods of this life one will receive be greater compensatory glory and wealth in the next world. (That is quite unlike our tithing, where the principle is neither about money, delayed blessings, nor buying one’s way into salvation.)
3. To provide social control, define cultural morality, and define the rational limits beyond which people may neither think nor speak independently. This control is necessary to preserve the religion, the political structure, the system of wealth, and the cultural class structure.
Thus false religion has always been used as a weapon against the people, to control them, and to deny them freedom of both thought and action. The theological basis for that control is the notion that their god loves only his people who adhere to that religion and that all other people will surely go to hell—but that his people will join the others in hell also, unless they retain the traditions which define their culture and their religion.
In the environment of those kinds of ideas, this statement of Jacob’s is absolutely amazing.
25 Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him (2 Nephi 9:25).
It violates every objective of apostate religions whose purpose is to control. Jacob’s next statement is more amazing still:
26 For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel (2 Nephi 9:26)..
It not only rejects the notion that the power of religion might be used to control and dominate, it guarantees that no capricious whim of nature, or accident of birth, nationality, race, culture, or physical infirmity will prevent the blessings of the atonement. It does not bother to say that God is the God of all nations, but it declares that as fact, by defining the universal reality of individual worth and freedom in terms of one’s relationship with Christ.
And there’s the rub! With individual worth and individual freedom comes responsibility far greater than could ever be imposed by the cultural, political, economic demands of an apostate god.
27 But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state! (2 Nephi 9:27).
The purpose of the gods of apostate religions is to control mankind for the benefit of their earthly “betters.” The purpose of the atonement is to empower each individual that he may be a benefactor to all things. The object of the relationship between man and God is to teach man the laws by which individual people may be fully free, and thus be fully empowered. The communal unity resulting from such individual empowerment creates perfect freedom in a perfect Zion.
But there is nothing willy nilly about such freedom. The people thus “free” are controlled by two separate and immutable laws: The first is the “law of one’s own being” which defines each as a unique individual with a unique personality. The second is, I believe, “the law of the gospel” which provides ultimate opportunity for the fruition of the “law of one’s own being.” I believe the “law of the gospel” was defined when the Saviour said these words: “Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you–that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me (3 Nephi 27:13).” The gospel is that the Saviour came to this world to do the will of his Father because his Father sent him. As I understand it, the law of the gospel, as it applies to me, is that I came to do the will of my Father because my Father sent me (3 Nephi 27:21).
If the Gospel of Christ is that he came to do the will of his Father because his Father sent him, I suppose the relevance of that law to me is that I also came to do the will of my Father because my Father sent me, and by virtue of the atonement I am empowered to be able to fulfill my assignment. If that conclusion is true, it is built upon two premises which must also be true. 1) That what I am asked to do is consistent with “the law of my own being,” that is, my assignment is consistent with both my eternal abilities and my eternal desires—that the assignment itself is an expression of the Law of My Own Being. 2) That there was actually an assignment given, and a way guaranteed that I would be able to fulfil that assignment. If that is true, as I believe it is, then there is a dreadful foreboding in Jacob’s warning, “wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!”
28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish(2 Nephi 9:28).
Taken out of context, this last verse is scarey all by itself. In context (If I am reading its context correctly) it might be described as terrifying. Jacob seems to be saying there is an interconnecting relationship between transgressing the law, wasting the days of one’s probation, and being so learned that one thinks he is too wise to harken unto the counsel of God. If that is true, and I believe it is, then having an education can be an exceedingly dangerous thing. Significantly, feeling wise in one’s education does not necessarily imply one has an M.D. or Ph.D. or even that one has gone to college. The illiterate Irishman who knows all the secrets of the “Little People” qualifies in that regard as much the professor/astronomer who has looked into the depths of the universe and decided that there just couldn’t be a God who is out there that far away.
The principle is universal. One can get so caught us in learning that he can lose sight of his own place in the universe, violate the law of his own being, and refuse to fulfill the covenants he made in the realms of his Father.
29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God (2 Nephi 9:29).
For many persons, the only path by which one may discover the law of his own being is through the excitement and the tedium of getting an education. That also may be universally true, but if it is, then “education” must have some meaning other than formal learning. For example, the farmer who seems intuitively to know how to heal every sick cow in the valley, and the big bosomed school teacher who can hug the tears from every child’s eyes, have mastered their special gifts because they have thought and cared, and listened to learn.
30 But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their God. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also (2 Nephi 9:30).
To a paraphrase of a line spoken by a proper gentleman in an English novel: “Of course the poor suffer from being cold and hungry, but they are different from us and could not possibly suffer as we would do.” Having money is not a sin. Letting one’s money insulate oneself from the reality of other people’s needs may be the greatest danger of having money.
31 And wo unto the deaf that will not hear; for they shall perish. 32 Wo unto the blind that will not see; for they shall perish also (2 Nephi 9:31).
There are ordinances about correcting deafness just as there are ordinances about being able to see.
Jacob’s catalog of “Wo’s” gets worse and worse until it finally reaches a crescendo.
33 Wo unto the uncircumcised of heart, for a knowledge of their iniquities shall smite them at the last day.
34 Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.
35 Wo unto the murderer who deliberately killeth, for he shall die.
36 Wo unto them who commit whoredoms, for they shall be thrust down to hell.
37 Yea, wo unto those that worship idols, for the devil of all devils delighteth in them.
38 And, in fine, wo unto all those who die in their sins; for they shall return to God, and behold his face, and remain in their sins (2 Nephi 9:25-38).
It is like the awesome blade of the Sword of Laban, about which Nephi wrote, “…and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.” The “most precious steel” of the days of Nephi, was not made from smelted iron ore. It fell from heaven in the form of a meteorite. The heavenly stone was heated, beaten, shaped, and heated again, then it was dropped into cold water which set its temper. If, during this process, the steel has not become perfectly pure, if it containes particles of rock which responds differently to the heat of the furnace and the cold of the water, then, when it is dropped into the cold water, its surface will pit or crack, rendering the heaven-sent blade virtually worthless.
Every individual who leaves his heavenly home to come to this world is guaranteed, by virtue of the atonement, that he will return again to be judged in the presence of his God. If one has wasted this experience, if, because he has insulated himself by the self-defined luxury of his education or wealth, so that in his refining process he has not been purified, shaped, tempered, and then used as he was intended to be used; if that is so, then, still clothed in the meaninglessness of his luxury, he shall return to God, behold his face, and remain clothed in his sins.