CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 10.
In chapter 10, Nephi goes back to his story, back to the part of the story where Lehi has finished telling about his dream. Nephi says that his father also prophesied, like Isaiah and Jeremiah of the Old Testament, of the coming destruction of Jerusalem. But Lehi also promised, like other prophets, that one day the Jews would be brought back out of captivity and possess their land once again.
Lehi also promised that six hundred years after they (Lehi and his family) left Jerusalem, the promised Messiah would come to redeem His people.
This is powerful language, and like the Old Testament prophets, it points to the way the people will be rescued and delivered: not just brought out from captivity or delivered from bondage, but actually redeemed, or ransomed. A price has to be paid, and the Messiah is going to pay it. There is going to be a political exchange, both on the temporal and spiritual levels. The Messiah is going to buy back His people, so that He can set them free.
We know He did this physically, conquering death so that all may experience immortality, so that all people can live forever.
But He also did it spiritually, so that those who exchange their sins for His righteousness may then qualify to return to our Heavenly Father.
This is the atonement, that we may be reconciled to God. And when we are reconciled to God, we become at-one with Him, and He does embrace our prodigal selves like the Father who was waiting and watching all along.
Lehi says in verse six, “all mankind were in a lost and fallen state” and that all can be saved if they “rely on this Redeemer”.
Like the other Old Testament prophets, Lehi also prophesied of John the Baptist, that he would be a prophet who came before the Messiah, “to prepare the way of the Lord” (verse 7). He prophesied the things John would say, and that John would baptize the Messiah (verse 8), and that afterward John would testify “that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world” (verse 9). Lehi spoke of the Messiah being killed, that “he should rise from the dead” (verse 11), and that He would manifest Himself even to the Gentiles.
Lehi talked about the Gentiles and the house of Israel (the Jews), and compared them to an olive tree. He said the olive tree (the Jews) and its branches (the tribes of Israel) would be broken off and scattered across the Earth. He told his family that their leaving Jerusalem was part of that scattering, and pointed out how it was an example of the fulfilling of prophecies made by prophets long before they lived. But he also reminded his family that the prophecies also say that the tribes of Israel will one day be gathered again, but not until the Gentiles have received the full Gospel, or message of the Lord. After the Gentiles are grafted into the olive tree (the house of the Lord), then also will the tribes of Israel be brought back through knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.
In verse 17, Nephi says that after hearing all this, and all about his father’s vision of the tree and the rod of iron, and all about the promised Messiah promised to come, that he “was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all who diligently seek him.” Nephi describes God as being the same God that He has always been, which means that if God did manifest Himself to people in the past, then Nephi knew God could manifest Himself even to Nephi in some way.
He says in verse 18, “for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever”.
But then he adds his next thought, the revelation that comes through his pondering the truths of God, and declares that “the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.” So we know that since the beginning, since before the beginning, the way for our deliverance has been part of the plan. Taking it one step further, this would also mean that since the beginning, since before the beginning, we have known that He is our God and that we need to return to Him, that we want to return to Him. It is His plan, this way prepared from the foundation of the world, that makes it possible.
This means that since before we came to Earth, we have known that the plan – an agreed upon plan that we all knew and understood – was to get back home to our Heavenly Father, and that we could do this by the power of the atonement. It is through the promised Messiah that we can become at-one, and be embraced as we are welcomed home again.
Nephi tells us in verse 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”. Nephi says again, that the Lord will manifest Himself through the Holy Spirit to people today just as He did in the old days. But you have to do the work to prepare for it and do the work to notice it. That’s the diligence part.
The more familiar New Testament words from Jesus Himself sheds light on the process: ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be answered.
This is the pattern of how the atonement works: ask for truth, and you will receive it; seek to understand and you will be taught; knock and you can enter His presence.
These are the “mysteries” of God, with “mysteries” meaning ordinances for how the things of God – gifts of God – are bestowed upon His people.
These are the ordinances of God: to ask for truth and receive it, to seek to understand and be taught, to knock and enter His presence.
It is the diligence that unfolds the mysteries; it is the diligence that unfolds the ordinances.
By the power of the Holy Ghost, these mysteries can unfold before you. It’s like a scroll opening, ever so gently, ever so slowly, with each bit of unrolling revealing more and more of what the scroll says, and the more you study it the more it makes sense because the more pieces you have, until it becomes like a movie playing in the air above you, inside of you, instead of just something you hold in your hands.
So remember, Nephi says, remember. We knew all this from the beginning, from before the world came into being, and Nephi urges us to do the work of remembering.
Listening to the prophets, whether it is reading the Scriptures or watching General Conference or memorizing any of those words or studying or any effort to make the words of ancient and living prophets a part of you, that is how to remember. The more you remember their words, the more you will remember what you already knew before you came here to Earth.
Nephi then reminds us that because we knew the plan before we came and because prophets have been sent to remind us now, there is no excuse for not knowing. The Messiah has accomplished His work of atonement. He has conquered death, so we will all have immortality. But our choices now determine the quality of that eternal life later.
Nephi says this life is our “probation”. It’s a time of testing, of proving. We were sent here to learn how to make choices, and to prove that we would choose God in all things.
But God is holy and pure, and no unclean thing can be in His presence. So if we are to return to His presence, we must become as He is.
We, of course, in our own selves cannot do it. There is nothing in me that is god-like or god-ly.
This is why we need the great exchange.
The Savior took all the parts of us that are not worthy of Him, all the parts of us and that prevent us from being able to return to his presence. He takes it away, He covers it, He wipes it off the record. He removes it from us, so that without Him we are nothing.
But then He fills us back up. In exchange, we get HIS righteousness, HIS purity, HIS holiness. In this way, we become His people. We become like Him because He has purified us, cleansed us, filled us up with good-ness.
It’s a process, though, and we have to choose to let Him do that work in us.
But this atonement, this exchange of our sins for His righteousness is what makes it possible to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.
This is Nephi’s testimony, which he declares in verse 22: “And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.”