1 Nephi 17:43-46 — LeGrand Baker – “Ye are swift to do iniquity”

1 Nephi 17:43-46

42 And they did harden their hearts from time to time, and they did revile against Moses, and also against God; nevertheless, ye know that they were led forth by his matchless power into the land of promise.
43 And now, after all these things, the time has come that they have become wicked, yea, nearly unto ripeness; and I know not but they are at this day about to be destroyed; for I know that the day must surely come that they must be destroyed, save a few only, who shall be led away into captivity.
44 Wherefore, the Lord commanded my father that he should depart into the wilderness; and the Jews also sought to take away his life; yea, and ye also have sought to take away his life; wherefore, ye are murderers in your hearts and ye are like unto them.
45 Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.
46 And ye also know that by the power of his almighty word he can cause the earth that it shall pass away; yea, and ye know that by his word he can cause the rough places to be made smooth, and smooth places shall be broken up. O, then, why is it, that ye can be so hard in your hearts?

Nephi was reminding his brothers of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama and its attendant ordinances and covenants, and he has now brought them to the place of the ceremonial battle between good and evil where the king was symbolically killed before being rescued from death and hell by Jehovah. But in Nephi’s version, there was no rescue for the king and his people; rather, their destruction is made sure by their own wickedness, and the only rescue he cites is God’s leading Lehi and his family from the doomed city. In the drama, Jehovah exercises his authority over the forces of nature to defeat Israel’s enemies and restores the king.{1} But when Nephi applied those principles to his brothers, he reminded them that it was they to whom God spoke with a voice “like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.”

There is a psalm that echoes all of Nephi’s sentiments—both his own joy in the Lord and his fear for his brothers’ salvation. One cannot know whether he called on this psalm to express his feelings or whether part of it went through his mind as he spoke. The concept of righteousness had been the one with which they had first challenged him. He had used it in his response. The psalm is about the contrast between those who are and those who are not righteous. It says God will bless the one but not the other. It reads in part,

17 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:17-18).

Those last words were a concluding promise of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama..{2} Nephi’s next words were a further echo of the promise of the psalm.



{1} For a discussion of the ancient Israelite temple drama see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, “Part 1.”

{2} For a discussion of the that psalm as the basis for the Savior’s instruction to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 9 see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 884-91; Second edition, p. 620-25.

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