CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 2.
In this chapter, Lehi continues his final blessings to his sons. This chapter is the final blessing given to his son Jacob, the son born to him in the wilderness after they left Jerusalem.
In verse 1, Lehi brags on Jacob, reflecting on how Jacob suffered many things because of growing up on their journey and because of his mean murmuring brothers. But in verse 2, Lehi gives Jacob the promise of the principle of compensation: that when we are obedient and faithful, he will consecrate our afflictions to bless us in some way.
There are layers and layers to this, but for another blog.
“Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men” (verse 3).
This is the promise, that despite the afflictions of the past, he will get the fullness of a life centered on the Savior. It hints at a mission, at work in the Temple, and family. There are a thousand cross-references that develop what this patriarchal blessing means for Jacob.
I love the part in the middle, where it says “thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer”. We are not redeemed because of us, or because of our righteousness. We are redeemed because of HIS righteousness. It takes us back to the great exchange of Isaiah 22:23 and 25.
The beginning of verse 4 repeats the end of verse 3, about how Jacob has BEHELD the glory of the Lord.
Lehi also reminds Jacob that the Spirit is the same spirit yesterday, today, and forever – reminding us that Heaven is not closed, that we still can see visions and dream dreams, that we still can receive personal revelation from the Holy Spirit. What comfort this is! What strength it brings!
Then Lehi says, “the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (verse 4).
We know that “the way”, or the Atonement, was planned pre-mortally, before we ever came to Earth. The atonement was always part of the plan of salvation, and we have always known it.
The Family Proclamation says:
In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.
We have always known.
Not only have we always known, but even since being on Earth, we are instructed sufficiently to know good from evil (verse 5).
The law has been given to show us who God is, by showing us what is not of God.
But because there is the law, we can never measure up – because we are still learning. We are not yet like Him.
This is why we need the atonement, the redemption that “cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth”.
The truth is the whole story of who God is, the mercy with which He balances out justice.
His grace is the salvation we did not earn.
“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (verse 7).
That great exchange requires our giving up of ourselves, so that we can be filled with His righteousness.
It is how we become like Him.
He has kept His promise of doing the work of His great atoning sacrifice. We knew, from before the beginning, that this was part of the plan. Because He has kept His promise, we must also keep ours: which is to testify of that atonement.
This is our premortal covenant: that He would complete the work of the atonement, and we would testify of it.
“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise” (verse 8).
Lehi reminds Jacob that the sacrifice of the Savior is the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices, that these sacrifices have always pointed to the Savior and what He would (did) do for us. And because He has paid the price, because He fulfilled the Law in that way, He is able to intercede for us, to advocate for us, to bridge the gap between us and Heavenly Father.
It is this intercession that makes it possible for us to even approach God, much less return to His presence.
“And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement” (verse 10).
The “punishment” is the opposite of “happiness”, he says.
We know that happiness is to be in the presence of Heavenly Father.
Holiness is required to be in His presence.
So what is not holy, cannot be in His presence.
That is the “punishment”.
In this way, we kind of choose – now – our own punishment for then – by how holy we choose to become in this life.
We are, of course, a work in progress, and “fall short of the glory of God”.
But it is that exchange, that ongoing process of sanctifying to become holy, it is that atoning for what is not-holy (mercy) and give us of His righteousness (mercy) that makes it possible. But we have to choose it, and do the work it requires.
We do that work by making good choices.
This brings us back to the Law of Opposition.
Without opposition, we cannot make choices. We need opposing choices of good and of what is not-good, in order to choose the good. Without a choice of what is not-good, there would be no good to choose.
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility” (verse 11).
But because there is a choice of good and not-good, that means we need a Law that says what is of God and what is not of-God.
But because there is a Law, that means there is the fulfilling of the Law, and the transgression of the Law.
This is how opposition plays out.
So because there is transgression against the Law, we need the atonement to make things right again.
“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away” (verse 13).
This, Lehi says, is “for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon” (verse 14).
But to bring about all this, that chain of consequences of opposition had to start somewhere. So we have Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit.
This was the beginning of agency, or the ability to make choices.
It is the whole reason we all came to planet Earth, to learn how to make choices.
(Also to receive our bodies, of course.)
We learn to make choices by overcoming the temptations of the devil.
The devil was kicked out of heaven for trying to usurp God. That is consistent in most all Christian religions, and many other religions as well. We know that story. In LDS beliefs, we have more details of this, in that we know Heavenly Father presented this plan – even for us to come to Earth to receive our bodies and gain experience (learn to make choices). He explained the plan, even the need for the atonement.
Jehovah, our eldest brother, offered Himself as the sacrifice as the atonement. This way Heavenly Father’s plan could unfold as He designed it, and we could all make choices and work our way back home to Him. Each of us making it back home would bring glory to Heavenly Father, for He had accomplished His work and glory.
Lucifer, however, didn’t want to do it Heavenly Father’s way. He wanted to FORCE everyone to choose God. Forcing us to choose God would remove our agency, and negate the need for an atonement. It would also mean Lucifer himself would get all the glory for getting us back home by force, rather than Heavenly Father getting the glory because we demonstrated our love for Him.
This is why Lucifer and his followers got kicked out of Heaven, and why they did not get to be born into bodies.
They are mad about this, and want us as miserable as they are. So they like to trick us into surrendering our agency or using it poorly.
“And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God. And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind” (verses 17 and 18).
So this is how LDS view Eve differently than other Christian perspectives.
We all agree she took the first bite, so to speak.
We even agree that in some way, this caused our “fall”.
But others believe this was a bad thing, and because of her we are all miserable.
This is a horrible and oppressive and twisted view on women in general, especially our most honored first woman, the mother of us all.
In contrast, LDS honor Eve in that she did what she had to do to enact the plan of salvation, to start that process of opposition so that we all could make choices.
And so through this, we were all able to come to earth, to learn to make choices and learn how to demonstrate our love to Him by doing what He says, and by turning to Him through repentance when we fail to do what He says.
“And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents” (verse 21).
But this means that if they had remained in their state of innocence, they never even would have had children.
Without the fall, none of us would have ever been born.
In the same way, they would have never known joy or happiness, because they would have never experienced sadness or pain.
There has to be opposites.
“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (verses 22 and 23).
And so in this way, Eve transgressed a lesser law in order to follow a higher law.
In this way, Eve taking the first bite was actually being obedient to the overall plan.
In this way, we know that the forbidden fruit was put in the Garden of Eden for a reason. He had a plan when He planted it there! He knew what the plan was, and Adam and Eve understood what the plan was.
“Behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things” (verse 24).
Even the forbidden fruit was part of the plan.
The “Fall” of Adam and Eve was really part of the process of us leaving our premortal presence with Heavenly Father, so that we could come here to learn to make choices. We needed the agency – the ability to make choices, to choose or not, so that our love could really be love – because it was a choice. And this is our whole point of being on Earth, so that we can find this joy of choosing to love our Heavenly Father.
This leads us to one of the most famous verses in all of LDS scripture, verse 25, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”
But that joy comes through the atonement of Christ.
He was always part of the plan.
“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given” (verse 26).
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (verse 27).
It says “men are free according to the flesh”. This means that because the Savior conquered death through His resurrection, by His divine nature, we all will experience immortality. That is His free gift to everyone.
But eternal life – the quality of that immortality – that we must choose, and now is when we choose it.
How do we choose eternal life?
“And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit…” (verse 28).
We choose eternal life by obeying the commandments, by being faithful to Him (and our premortal covenant of testifying). We are ABLE to do this because of the help we receive from the Holy Spirit.
But if we do not obey, if we are not faithful, if we do not listen to the Holy Spirit, then we are instead allowing the devil to have power to “captivate”, with those chains that lead to death and destruction, to be reigned over by him instead of living with Heavenly Father in the celestial kingdom.
And these words are his testimony to all his sons, “in the last days of my probation” (this time on Earth to prove that we have learned to make choices, to show that we choose Heavenly Father). “I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet. And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls. Amen” (verse 30).