1 Nephi 10:20-22 — LeGrand Baker — “Unclean” and Unworthy.

1 Nephi 10:20-22

19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.
20. Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.
21. Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.
22. And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.

“Unclean” was a technical term in the Old Testament culture from which Nephi came. It described someone or something that was unworthy, such as animals that were not to be eaten or sacrificed (a pig for example), or persons who were ceremonially or ritually not qualified to participate in religious or temple rites. For such persons, uncleanliness had a physical cause (such as having a sore that would not heal{1} or being in contact with a dead body). The Law of Moses prescribed ceremonies to make such persons ritually clean again.

Nephi extends uncleanliness beyond physical impurities. In doing so, in these verses, he presents a argument that is perfect in its logical construction:

. The mysteries are known to those who seek.
.     This is equally true in our past, present, and future.
.      Therefore, judgment is inevitable.
.         Wherefore, wicked remain unclean
.            and no unclean thing can dwell with God;
.               Wherefore, they must be cast off forever.

Nephi writes that persons who do not know the mysteries of God are unclean and must be judged accordingly. The ramifications of that argument are these: Before he is resurrected, every individual will have a full opportunity to know all that is necessary for salvation. Not knowing those things defines one as unclean. There are only two circumstances that could cause one to be unclean under that definition. Either a person chooses not to know the mysteries, or, having known, one chooses to forget. Alma also taught that same thing, but was more explicit (Alma 12:11).


{1} Another example is the woman who touched the border of Jesus’s garment and was immediately healed. She had “an issue of blood” for twelve years and would have been unclean during all that time (Luke 8:43-44).


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