CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 22.
This last chapter of the first book of Nephi switches gears one last time, from the Isaiah-ish prophesying in recent chapters back to his own narrating of his experience.
Nephi tells us that when he finished reading these things (scriptures) to his brothers, they came and asked him what it all meant. Specifically, they asked him whether these lessons learned from the scriptures were physical (tangible in the here and now, as in “temporal”) or spiritual.
Nephi answers that they are both.
Remembering this is critical, and unlocks most everything else we read in scriptures, as well the underlying meaning of our day to day experiences.
He says that the Scriptures are both temporal (historical) and spiritual (likened to us for real-life application), but also explicitly says that all things in the whole entire world have meanings that are both temporal and spiritual.
And, he says, that the understanding of this comes as the Prophet and as the Spirit manifests it to each individual, or makes it known (understood) on an individual basis.
“The things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual” (verse 3).
Specifically, Nephi’s family wants to know about those that stayed in Jerusalem when Lehi and Nephi and the others left.
He says, “it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations” (verse 3).
Now-a-days we call this “the lost tribes” of Israel.
These prophesies of Nephi and of Isaiah and Jeremiah and all the Old Testament prophets – they all came true temporally, when Jerusalem was overtaken and the Temple destroyed and covenant people fled for their lives. But it also became spiritually true, as believers fell away and as covenant people lived amongst the world, and as individuals lost the blessings that come from behaving like a child of the covenant.
“there are many who are already lost from the knowledge… the more part of all the tribes have been led away…” (verse 4).
They have been literally (temporally) led away, and spiritually led away (outside the covenant).
Nephi says, just like the other Old Testament prophets say, these people who have either fallen away from the covenant or were so mixed with the world they were not living as children of the covenant… these people will harden their hearts against God, and against the covenants. It is this hardening that will lead to their scattering (verse 5).
In the same way, when we soften our hearts toward God, He rushes in with truth and light to gather us and lead us back to Him.
And as we are led back to Him, we are nourished by others (Gentiles) who were born outside the covenant (not born Jews) but now have been adopted into it (verse 6).
And this “nourishment” is the teaching that will restore the knowledge of the covenant, even “unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham…” (verse 9).
This cannot happen without Him revealing Himself (verse 10). It is by the process, power, and unfolding of personal revelation that God reveals Himself so that we learn who He is.
“Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel” (verse 11).
And when we receive the full Gospel,we are baptized: “he will bring them again out of captivity” (verse 12).
Then we go to the Temple and make covenants (and remember those already made). There are many blessings that come from going to the Temple, but two of the primary blessings that lead to the others include:
1. the gathering of our families: “and they shall be gathered together” (verse 12); and
2. receiving instruction on who we must become to return to the presence of our Father-in-Heaven: “gathered together to lands of their inheritance” (verse 12).
This is the process by which we escape bondage, by which we escape captivity, by which our hope becomes testimony, and faith becomes knowledge.
“and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel” (verse 12).
But we must do it His way, after the pattern of the order of the Priesthood as it was given to us.
Everything outside of that, or mocking that, is “abominable”. Rituals and rites and ceremonies are empty and pointless without the proper authority and the Spirit of the Lord. This is a perversion of truth, and a misapplication (or misuse) of ordinances (verse 14). This is when the “proud and they who do wickedly” will be burned, but those who live in righteousness will be saved.
It’s very reminiscent of Passover.
And like the Israelites escaping the oppressive Egyptians, “He will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous” (verse 16).
And so, like Passover, “he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fullness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire” (verse 17).
We are in the last days, Nephi says, and this will (temporally, literally) happen on the last day.
This is why we are “Latter-day Saints”: We are the Church of Christ, but we know that we are in the context of the very last days. We, the Saints (believers in Jesus Christ), are His church in this day and time. We are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
And because we are His people, He will make a way where there was no way. The “way” is through the Prophets, the Scriptures. We know that the “flaming sword” on the path to the tree of life is a symbol of the Prophet, that we must go to Him through His servant, through His prophet. This is the order it has always been; this is as it has always been.
And living “in order” does make us at-one.
His righteousness makes us at-one.
“And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power” (verse 25).
This is the squashing of his head while he is bruising our heel: that by the atonement, we become righteous. And our being righteous means we advance the glory of God – it means that the more we become like Him, the more credit He gets for it, so that we are all ever progressing. We can never catch up to our parents! I can be a grown-up, and have a good job, and work hard on a space I enjoy and appreciate. But as I progress and grow up, so does my mother. I can never catch up. No matter how grown-up I become, she will always be my mother.
In the same way, the more righteous we become – because it is possible because of the atonement – the more credit He gets for it.
This is our call to repentance, that we might show His plan for our salvation worked.
“And now I, Nephi, make an end; for I durst not speak further as yet concerning these things” (verse 29).
You, he says, just focus on doing what you are supposed to do, and staying out of trouble.
Easier said than done.
But it is possible, Nephi says.
This is his testimony and his teaching: that “if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day” (verse 31).