CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 6.
This chapter has our first real shift in authorship as Nephi’s plates get handed down. Years and years and years have now passed since Lehi took his family and left Jerusalem. Now Jacob, one of Nephi’s younger brothers, has taken over the writing on the plates.
Chapter 6 is a speech that Jacob gave to the people of Nephi, those we will soon begin calling Nephites.
For context, it helps to read the chapter heading given before the chapter starts:
Jacob recounts Jewish history: The Babylonian captivity and return; the ministry and crucifixion of the Holy One of Israel; the help received from the Gentiles; and the Jews’ latter-day restoration when they believe in the Messiah. About 559–545 B.C.
So that’s Jacob’s speech, a review of the history.
There is a pattern for how the Lord brings His covenant people to be at-one with Him.
This is the pattern: there is a recounting or a review of the history of the people, then Laws are given to establish the covenant nature of the relationship between the Lord and His people, the people then cry out to the Lord in prayer, and then in response the Lord gives them specific instruction that leads them (and grants them permission) to enter His presence.
We see this pattern in Jewish festivals, and we see this pattern in the temple, and we see this pattern in this chapter.
But before Jacob can start speaking to the people, first he clarifies that he has the authority to do so.
“Behold, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi…” (verse 2).
Before Jacob can speak to the people as a Prophet, first he is called of God, ordained to do so, and consecrated (set apart).
Only then can he begin his work.
When he begins, he begins by saying that he is “desirous for the welfare of your souls. Yea, mine anxiety is great for you; and ye yourselves know that it ever has been. For I have exhorted you with all diligence; and I have taught you the words of my father; and I have spoken unto you concerning all things which are written, from the creation of the world” (verse 3).
Beginning with the creation of the world, Jacob teaches the people by taking them through this pattern that is always used to bring the covenant people into His presence.
Jacob starts out with the idea that we should study the words of the Prophets – in this case, Jacob mentions Isaiah specifically – and that we should liken their words unto our own lives. This means we should take those long ago words, and see what they mean for us in this present moment. We should take the Scriptures and keep them real in our very own lives in this very moment.
Jacob says we can do this because Isaiah was writing to the House of Israel, and we are the House of Israel.
The “House of Israel” is “the covenant people” of the Lord.
As we become covenant people, we are made holy.
As we are made holy, we become the House of Israel – or, being made holy – and bringing this Holiness to the Lord, we become the House of the Lord.
Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.
And so we see how he does make us holy, through this pattern.
Jacob follows the pattern, that sacred pattern that brings people into the presence of the Lord.
So, in following that pattern, Jacob begins at the beginning, reviewing the history of the people and where they came from. He goes all the way back to Jerusalem. Jacob reminds the Nephites that they left Jerusalem because they believed the Lord and His words. Jacob reminds them that all of what was prophesied came true, and will come true, even the destruction of Jerusalem.
So, likening this to ourselves, Jerusalem represents that time or place in our lives where we used to be, but from which the Lord has called us. Where (or what or whom) has the Lord asked you to leave, to change, to let go? In what ways has following Him sent you into the wilderness so that you may learn to depend on His word alone?
But the Lord does not abandon us in the wilderness, whether literally or in the metaphor meaning mortality.
He provided a way to save us from the destruction that came to Jerusalem, a way to save us from the destruction we caused when we were not following Him.
This is the mercy that balances out judgment. This is the mercy that has always been a part of the Plan of Happiness. This is the atonement.
The Lord is the way. He is the one who saves us.
“Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again. And he also has shown unto me that the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, should manifest himself unto them in the flesh; and after he should manifest himself they should scourge him and crucify him, according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me” (verse 9).
But to return to Him, to repent, we must let Him soften our hard hearts; we must bow down in submission, letting our stiff necks loosen up.
Hard times and challenges in life are not always things we earned or deserved in some negative connotation of a negative perspective on life.
But, the Lord can use these experiences to teach us.
“Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance” (verse 11).
Gathering-for-healing is the opposite of scattering-to-destruction.
“the people of the Lord shall not be ashamed. For the people of the Lord are they who wait for him; for they still wait for the coming of the Messiah” (verse 13).
But, Jacob says, the Messiah will come “a second time to recover them” (verse 14).
The whole purpose of us being gathered is so that He can “recover” us.
And when the Messiah comes again, Jacob says, the Lord will “manifest himself unto them in power and great glory” (verse 14).
The problem with God demonstrating power and glory is that it will overcome you if you are not prepared for it.
For believers and covenant keepers, the return of the Messiah will be an amazing and powerful thing.
For non-believers or those outside the covenant, they will be driven to fear and confusion and chaos for not understanding the “signs of the times”.
“And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, and by tempest, and by earthquakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine. And they shall know that the Lord is God, the Holy One of Israel” (verse 15).
We know from Revelation and other sources that these kinds of signs of the times are the Earth’s testimony that the Savior returns very soon.
But those who do the work to become covenant keepers – they will be gathered and delivered and saved, rather than scattered and destroyed “for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people” (verse 16).