2 Nephi 26:1-11 Definition of Righteousness
In verses 1-7, 9-11 Nephi foresees the post-resurrection ministry of Jesus Christ among the Nephites, followed by their eventual wickedness and destruction. Nephi cites numerous facets of their wickedness, including wars, rejection and murder of the prophets, pride, foolishness, and works of darkness. This is contrasted in verse 8 by those who remain righteous, which Nephi defines as those who “hearken unto the words of the prophets … look forward unto Christ with steadfastness … notwithstanding all persecution.” Put more simply for us today, we must follow the living prophets and prepare for the Second Coming, regardless of opposition.
2 Nephi 26:10-11, 24, 27 The Lord Strives with Us
Verse 10 teaches that there are those who “yield unto the devil,” and we know that Satan pursues us, trying to get us to give in to his enticements. Then verse 11 indicates that “the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man” (this phrasing also occurs in Genesis 6:3; Ether 2:15; D&C 1:33; and Moses 8:17). What does “strive” mean? Among its synonyms are contend, fight, and pursue. Satan fights for us, but so does the Lord. Our God loves us, wants us, and pursues us. Why does He say that His spirit will “not always strive” with us? Because He will not violate our agency. Note that in 2 Nephi 26:27 Nephi says that the Lord will “persuade all men to repentance,” but we know that He will not force. Additionally, verse 24 tells us that Christ “layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him.” This is one way He pursues or attracts us (see also 3 Nephi 27:13-15).
2 Nephi 26:23-28, 33 All That God Does Is for Our Benefit
In these verses we see that the Lord invites all to come unto Him and partake of His salvation and goodness. We often quote Moses 1:39 wherein the Lord says that His “work and glory” is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Nephi assures us that God “doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world” (verse 24), and that “he doeth that which is good among the children of men” (verse 33). This is perhaps an obvious point, yet it is still a sweet scriptural declaration regarding the character and purpose of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Indeed, “all are alike unto God” (verse 33).
2 Nephi 26:29-31 Priestcrafts versus Zion
Nephi defines priestcrafts thus: “Men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (verse 29). The reference to “the welfare of Zion” can be taken as an admonishment to church members, that we must always seek to feed the Lord’s flock and not seek our own selfish interests. To further the point, Nephi says that “the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity” (verse 30) and that we must “labor for Zion” (verse 31). Apparently “charity” can be considered an opposite of “priestcraft,” and we can better serve as the Lord commands by developing greater love for others. (See also Ezekiel 34:1-6.)
2 Nephi 26-29 Nephi Saw the Wickedness of Our Day
Note Nephi’s statement in 26:14, telling us that his prophecies from this point (through the end of chapter 30) are “concerning the last days.” The Lord inspired Nephi to see and record many things that would characterize our day, which are easy to recognize as having come true:
- A day of pride wherein many churches “put down the power and miracles of God,” instead promoting “their own wisdom and their own learning,” in order to “get gain and grind upon the face of the poor,” and causing “envyings, and strifes, and malice” (26:20-21; 28:13).
- A day of “secret combinations” committing “murder, and works of darkness” (26:22; 27:27; 28:10).
- All nations of the earth will be “drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations” and “whoredoms” (27:1-2; 28:14-15).
- People will draw near to God “with their mouth” and honor him “with their lips,” but their hearts are far from Him (27:25).
- Many churches will contend, deny the Holy Ghost, deny the power and existence of God, deny miracles, teach that we may “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us;” along with other “false and vain and foolish doctrines” (28:3-9). Other characteristics include corruption, false teachers, false doctrines, and victimizing the poor and meek (28:11-12, 15).
- Pride will be a dominant feature. The words vain, puffed up, pride, and lifted up occur eleven times in 28:9-15. It is all part of the “great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth” (28:18).
- They will “revile against that which is good” and Satan will use numerous approaches to wield his power among mankind. He will stir them up to anger and rage in their hearts; sometimes pacify them and “lull them away into carnal security;” cheat their souls, lead them away carefully, flatter them, and grasp them “with his awful chains” (28:16, 19-22).
- People will insist that they “need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (28:29).
- People put their trust in men, not God (28:31).
- They reject the Book of Mormon, saying they have enough scripture (29:3, 6).
2 Nephi 26-30 The Lord’s Work in Our Day
Nephi also foresaw what the Lord will do in the last days, as counterpoint to the great wickedness upon the earth:
- He will bring forth the Book of Mormon, which comes “out of the ground,” speaks to us “out of the dust,” will “hiss forth unto the ends of the earth,” and be a “standard” to His people (26:15-17; 27:6; 29:2).
- He will bring forth the writings on the sealed portion of the plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon; and Nephi gives us clues as to what the sealed portion contains (27:7, 10-11, 22).
- He will show unto the world that He is “a God of miracles” and “will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder” (27:23, 26).
- He pronounces “wo” and “cursed” upon the wicked (twelve times in 28:15-16, 24-29, 31-32); and declares their eventual destruction, causing the great and abominable church to tumble and fall (28:15-16, 18; 30:9).
- He will shake and stir up the kingdom of the devil (28:19).
- He will give men line upon line and bless those who hearken, extending mercy to those who repent and come unto Him (28:30, 32).
- He will bring forth His word to “all the nations of the earth” (29:7, 11-13).
- He will gather home His people who are of the house of Israel and show that He is God (29:14).
- He will make the repentant gentiles as His covenant people (30:2).
- He will declare the gospel—through the Book of Mormon—among the remnant of the Nephites and among the Lamanites, the Jews, and all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people (30:3-8).
- He will usher in the millennial era (30:11-18).
2 Nephi 27:15-18 Martin Harris and Charles Anthon
Most students of the Book of Mormon have interpreted these verses as referring to Martin Harris’s February 1828 journey to New York City. Martin was apparently seeking scholarly affirmation of the truth of Joseph Smith’s work, and he met with a few scholars, including Charles Anthon, professor of classical studies at Columbia College. Martin Harris’s account is in the Pearl of Great Price (in Joseph Smith—History 1:63-65), and a composite account from Isaiah/Nephi/Harris relates the following:
- “The learned” (Anthon) examined the sample characters copied from the plates, along with Joseph’s translation of them, and declared the characters and translation to be “true” and “correct” (JS—H 1:64).
- Anthon wrote a certificate attesting his findings and gave it to Harris. But when Harris mentioned that “an angel of God” had a hand in the work, Anthon balked, asked for the certificate, and “tore it to pieces” (JS—H 1:64-65).
- Anthon then asked Harris to bring the plates to him so that he could translate them, but Harris declined (JS—H 1:65; Isaiah 29:11; 2 Nephi 27:15, 17-18).
- We learn from the prophecy of Nephi that Anthon would make this request “because of the glory of the world and to get gain” (2 Nephi 27:16).
The glory and gain of the world can be Anthon’s only motive, because he was incapable of translating the plates. Centuries before, Moroni had said that the record was written in “reformed Egyptian” and that “none other people knoweth our language”—certainly not Charles Anthon! (see Mormon 9:32, 34). This is why, says Moroni, the Lord had “prepared means for the interpretation thereof” (referring to the Urim and Thummim and perhaps other methods Joseph would use in the translation process; see Mormon 9:34). Because of this addition to the account from 2 Nephi 27, we can conclude that Anthon’s offer to translate the record appears to be entirely self-serving, and was foreseen by the Lord’s prophet some 2,400 years earlier.
2 Nephi 28:14, 21, 24 Even the Humble Followers of Christ
In verse 14 of Nephi’s lengthy prophecies regarding the last days, he speaks of the wicked of the world having “stiff necks and high heads,” along with their “pride and wickedness, and abominations and whoredoms.” He follows this with what can be taken as a compliment to the latter-day Saints, saying that the people of the world “have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ.” But this in turn is followed with a stunning rebuke: “Nevertheless, they [the humble followers of Christ] are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” All of us should take this to heart and consider the “many instances” in which we may be leaning toward (or directly following) the precepts of men, whether it be in how we spend our time. in our fashions, media choices, politics, materialism, and so forth.
Nephi’s point is driven home as he speaks of Satan’s influence on those who should know better: “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion” (verse 21). Then he adds this final warning to us: “Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion” (verse 24). To feel carnally secure or to be “at ease” are contrary to the Lord’s plan for us as His saints and stewards.