CLICK HERE to read Jacob 3.
When Jacob opens with speaking to the “pure in heart”, he means he is talking to those who are of the covenant (and acting like it). He instructs us to “Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith” (verse 1). He says that if we do this, the Lord will “console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction”. When we are given something we should do, and something the Lord will do if we keep up our part, that is a covenant. This is covenant language!
So what should we do?
“Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith”.
Looking to God with firmness of mind is about staying on the “straight and narrow” (2 Nephi 9:41).
It reminds us of what we know about God: “For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said” (D&C 3:2).
So we should follow His example, and be like Him: “Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left…” (Joshua 23:6).
We when are able to look toward Him, and to be obedient by following His example, only then can we have faith. Faith requires obedience, which is why our testimonies develop out of experiences of being obedient. In Lecture 3 of Joseph Smith’s “Lectures on Faith“, he said that faith has three prerequisites:
First, the idea that he actually exists.
Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.
Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which one is pursuing is according to His will.
So we see why Jacob first instructs the people to look unto God with firmness of mind, because that kind of obedience is required before we can pray unto Him with exceeding faith.
This is always a stirring to repentance, so we know Jacob will be blasting them in that ever-so-gentle-but-very-serious kind of way that only a Prophet of God can do. Because repentance is part of knowing that our lives are on course. We are not perfect, and we are not finished. But we are in process, and so part of being “in Order” is the continual process of being brought further in line, further in tune, further “in Order” even when we have not “arrived” yet. Being in process of becoming more and more “in Order” is part of being “in Order”. Being in process of becoming more and more like Him is pursuing life according to His will.
So, if we do that, or are in process of learning how to do so, what has the Savior promised?
He promised to “console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction”.
I have experienced the Savior consoling me in my afflictions in many, many ways. I have had physical afflictions – like the pain after my cochlear implant surgeries – where I was consoled directly, consoled through friends who provided a hospital bed to relieve my pain, and consoled through priesthood blessings that brought me comfort and sweet sleep. I have had emotional afflictions when I was grieving in some way and the Spirit did calm me and give me peace. I have had temporal afflictions, from learning to live on a missionary budget to learning how to weedeat, where the Savior did console me by teaching me what to do and my job was to keep doing it.
I know that the Savior pleads my cause. I know that He did it in Gethsemane, and that He continues to do so through the atonement as it continues to work for me and in me. I know that He does it in specific cases, even so that I have been told in a blessing that the Savior was advocating for me.
In my professional work, advocates work with children to be sure the children receive all the rights they are entitled to. The advocate is on no one’s side except the child, and only has the child’s best interest at heart. Their sole job is to be sure the child receives all they are entitled to.
The Savior advocates for me in the same way. I am a child of my Heavenly Father, and that divine relationship entitles me (and each of us) to certain rights, privileges, and inheritances. So the Savior does advocate for me to be sure I receive these. He does this through His great atoning sacrifice, through direct advocating for me even now, and through calling me to repentance so that I can prove myself a child of my Father-in-Heaven.
I have also had experiences where those who seemed to want my destruction received justice. Sometimes this is consequences for their choices. More often than not, this justice seems to come in the form of in some way learning the truth about themselves and the truth about God, so that not only did they receive justice – but they also received mercy, the same as I have.
And all that is just in verse one! Since this chapter is written specifically to those within the covenant, it is PACKED full of layers for us to find and for the Spirit to unfold.
So, covenant people, or those “pure in heart”, “lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever” (verse 2). This is classic Hebrew parallel poetry, ending in this verse with what we started out with in the first verse (firm minds).
It also teaches again that all things are both temporal and spiritual. We can physically lift our heads because we do physically rejoice when spiritual understanding teaches us what marvelous thing the Savior has done for us. We receive His words spiritually, but feast upon them physically (by obedience). This unites our physical and spiritual selves in a kind of spiritual resurrection (from the darkened state in which we live when we do not feast upon His words), and leads us – literally, as eternal beings – to celestial-ness.
So this is where we get the “inasmuch” nature of covenants. All through scriptures, it is always saying “inasmuch” as you do this, I will do that. This is always how covenant language is worded.
It means that He will do what He has promised to the degree we do what we have promised.
I mean to say, that He does always keep His promises. He has atoned for us, and He will bless us.
But those blessings come at the same rate, to the degree, “inasmuch” as we do obey Him.
So, for example, if we want our marriage and family blessed, we must obey the laws of chastity and/or fidelity. If we follow the law of fidelity, then He blesses us with an intact family. But if we follow the law of fidelity only physically, while having emotional attachments outside the marriage, then we have an intact family with failing emotional connections. But if we follow the law of fidelity, including keeping our emotional attachments inside the marriage (not just body parts), then we will have an intact family that is also full of love and emotional support and presence. But if we are absent emotionally, then our family will feel far away emotionally. We do it to ourselves in that way, and Jacob will show us how later in this chapter.
Another example is the blessings of the Temple. One of the blessings from the Temple is, again, blessing for our family. If we go to the Temple because we have to, we will only stay in our families because we have to. If we go to the Temple because we love being at the Temple, we will have a love for our families as well. If we go to the Temple regularly and often, with a love for the Temple, we will have families that are much stronger than simply intact, because we will have families that FEEL like families “regularly and often”, and in which love overflows.
We are blessed “inasmuch” as we obey.
“But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes…” (verse 3). This reminds us of the Family Proclamation, which says:
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
“And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will lead away the righteous out from among you” (verse 4). We know this has been the warning since the time of Lehi, and we know we see this unfold throughout the rest of the Book of Mormon stories.
So now, having reminded the people of their covenants, and reminded them of the warnings of what happens when we do not keep our covenants, Jacob begins the blasting.
He picks up from the previous chapter (two), which talks about how Solomon and Abraham had more than one wife because they were authorized to do so. At this time, Jacob is saying, and in our day, having more than one wife is not authorized. In fact, anyone who does can lose their membership in the church.
So that’s the context, but watch how Jacob slams them with truth in the way only a Prophet can…
“Behold, the Lamanities your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness… are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord” (verse 5).
Watch how it unfolds!
First, Jacob is saying that the Nephites, who should know better, are hating on the Lamanites.
The biggest problem with this is that people of God should never be haters.
God is not a hater.
But not only are the busted for hating, they are also busted for not being covenant keepers.
We know someone who is being a hater is not someone who is keeping covenants because hating is not of God, and so when we do that we are not of God. It’s a big, serious deal.
But the specific example Jacob uses has to do with families.
Jacob is saying that the Lamanites, who do not have the full story, who do not know the full Gospel, are at least keeping the commandments they do know… while the Nephites, who have the full Gospel, are not keeping the covenants they have made.
Do the Lamanites have the full story? No.
Are they being obedient to the law they have thus far? Yes.
Are the Nephites, who have the whole story being obedient? No.
This reminds me of our Muslim brothers and sisters in our day. So many so-called-Christians hate on the Muslims as a whole, without even knowing individual people. Christians should not be haters. God is not a hater. And if we are going to stereotype Muslims into one population as a whole, then what the truth is about them is that they are way better at keeping covenants than we are. We cannot and will not make an impression on them or share conversion stories with them until we first learn to keep our covenants as well as they already do.
“And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people” (verse 6).
What blessings do they receive? Love.
“Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands” (verse 7).
Notice it doesn’t say that they stay married because they have to, or that they do married things because it’s what the other person wants, or that they do what they are supposed to do because it makes other people happy.
No. It’s says they LOVE each other.
They also love their children: “their husbands and their wives love their children”.
That’s the love of family that comes from complete obedience to God and complete fidelity to spouse.
Jacob then goes on to explain that “their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers” (verse 7). The Lamanites are being faithful to what they know. This goes all the way back to Lehi’s sons. Nephi was obedient, including passing down the records of the family and the scriptures they had. Laman and Lemuel were the murmurs who were not obedient and did not pass anything down.
So the Nephites got the memo, but the Lamanites didn’t.
Yet, now, the Lamanites are still being obedient to what they DO know, while the Nephites are NOT.
That’s a big problem.
The Lamanites are not held accountable for what they do not know; that is the sin of their fathers, not their own choice.
The Nephites, however, know better, but are not being obedient to what they know.
So Jacob asks, “how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?” (verse 7).
Jacob outright tells them in verse 8 that all this means that the Lamanites are more prepared to meet God than the Nephites. He tells them that the judgments the Nephites have made against the Lamanites are actually their own judgment. So stop hating, he says!
“Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them… neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers” (verse 9).
So the guilt of the Lamanites is not their own (not their choice for what they do not know), but the the sin of the fathers for not teaching them.
However, the Nephites were taught, so it is their choice, which makes it their own sin.
So not only has Jacob shown them how their enemy is actually innocent, but now he tells them that it is they themselves who have actually become the enemy!
Not only that, but now they are the “guilty fathers” passing the sin on to their own children! They are now doing what happened to the Lamanites! They were depending on the faithfulness of their fathers instead of doing their own work, and so have not made the faith their own, and now have nothing to pass down to their children.
“Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day” (verse 10).
This is NOT talking about children who were taught the things of the covenant, and are straying by their own use of agency while in process of working out their own salvation.
This is talking about the failure to pass on faith to the children, which is failure to pass on the knowledge that God exists, the knowledge of who God is, and the knowledge that one’s life is in accordance with His will.
So Jacob slams them with the reality that they have become the enemy, even an enemy to God.
The judgments the Nephites were making against others turns out to be their own judgment.
The world calls this karma.
Psychology could call it projection or displacement.
Projection is when we don’t like something in ourselves, or don’t want to face the truth of something about ourselves, or are in denial about what we are doing wrong – and instead of fixing it – in effort to ignore it, quite-en it, silence it, avoid it – we put that problem on someone else instead.
Using Jacob’s example, it looks like someone who is doing fidelity with body parts only, so having an affair by inappropriate emotional attachments outside the marriage. When this person is confronted, instead of seeing the truth or repenting of it, they accuse those around them of doing that same thing – of having an affair or some inappropriate emotional attachment.
This is how people are far more invisible than they think, revealing what is wrong inside by so loudly accusing others. This is why it is drama, because it is avoiding the problem by hiding it somewhere else, by “projecting” it – like a moving from the projector onto the screen – other people become the “screen”, instead of just dealing with the issue directly. So the person thinks they are putting the problem away from them, when really they are revealing it for the whole audience to see.
Displacement is when we do acknowledge the problem, but express it in the wrong place or at the wrong time or with the wrong people. It might be when you are angry at your boss, but take it out on the kids. It might be talking with your friends at work about how “far away” or “not understanding” your spouse is, instead of understanding that to be close to your spouse you must discuss those things with them directly. It is, again, the emotional affair, where instead of being emotionally connected to your spouse, you keep secrets from them and don’t talk about things with them and instead share private things to develop inappropriate relationships via text or email or facebook with those of the opposite gender and/or those from previous relationships before your spouse.
It’s serious enough that Jacob slams the truth into their faces, unaltered, and un-gentle-ized. He wants them to see it, because it is that important, and that critical to their future.
Covenants are sealed by the Holy Spirit, not by the person representing the Lord doing the ordinance.
Without obedience, we cannot have such access to the Holy Spirit.
Without that access, those covenants cannot be sealed “for time and eternity”, even if we go through the motions. It’s our very obedience, our very faithfulness, that enables the sealing power that makes them real, that makes them eternal. It’s that important.
“O my brethren, hearken unto my words; arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death; and loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil…” (verse 11).
It’s that important.
Look at what Jacob says happens, when our covenants are not sealed by the Holy Spirit. When we lose that shiny-ness, we are out of Order (of the Priesthood). We are going through the motions (the slumber of death), but it is not real. Instead of happiness and joy and peace, we have “the pains of hell”. Instead of leading to celestial-ness, with ever-increasing love and joy and peace, we are slaves to the misery of the devil.
This is why, Jacob says, that he spoke to the people of Nephi, “warning them against fornication and lasciviousness, and every kind of sin, telling them the awful consequences of them” (verse 12).
It’s that important.