CLICK HERE to read Jacob 1.
Now it has been fifty-five years since Lehi took his family out of Jerusalem (verse 1). Lehi handed down the records of the family (and their scriptures) to his son Nephi, who continued the record of their people. Now it is time for Nephi to hand the records down to the next generation.
Nephi picks his younger brother Jacob, and instructs him to keep the records of the people. Not just the history of the people, but more importantly, the spiritual development of the people. This is what is “most precious” (verse 2). And, of course, Nephi reminds Jacob to also pass the records on to the generation after him when it is time (verse 3).
I love how Jacob describes what is most important to record: “preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying” (verse 4). He also shares the purpose of keeping this record: “for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people” (verse 4).
We are also instructed to keep records of our family through genealogy, as well as the history of our spiritual development through “books of remembrance”. Any writing, any sharing, and record keeping counts as part of that effort, even a blog like this.
Because the point of the record is to testify.
That is the “for Christ’s sake” part, for because it is the testifying that gives Him the glory, as we acknowledge that only He could orchestrate events such as we experience, or only His Spirit that could teach us the things that we learn.
The “for the sake of our people” part is because those around us and those who come after us need our testimonies to learn and grow and become.
In Nephi’s case, he had already seen a vision of and prophesied about what would happen to later generations (verse 5), and so he understood the keeping of these records and the teaching of the scriptures as not only helpful but also necessary.
“Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest…” (verse 7).
Jacob takes the mantle from Nephi, and begins to “fulfill the commandment of my brother” (verse 8).
This being his final task, Nephi prepares to die. He anoints a new king (verse 9), and the people honor and celebrate Nephi because they have loved him very much (verse 10). They love him because he has “been a great protector for them” and “labored in all his days for their welfare” (verse 10). So part of their effort to honor him, each king was named after him in succession.
And we mourn the death of Nephi, while celebrating his life as he lived it and his life that continues.
The first thing Jacob does, in order to make his job of keeping the records easier, is to clarify that from this point forward, all those who “seek to destroy the people of Nephi” are called Lamanites, and all “those who are friendly to Nephi” are called Nephites.
Jacob does what he is told to do, by keeping the record, and shares that under this second king of Nephi, the people began to be indulgent (verse 15) and “lifted up in pride” (verse 16).
So Jacob, having now the prophet-mantle handed to him, must teach the people. It’s his job to rebuke them, to teach them, to invite them back to the Lord. It’s why God has always used prophets, and it is why He – the unchanging God who is the same as He has always been – still uses prophets today.
“Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord” (verse 17).
This is a critical verse, too often overlooked.
Start with the last part first: “having first obtained mine errand from the Lord”. This is demonstrating that Jacob wasn’t just out doing whatever he wanted, even though it was good and right things. He was doing what the Lord commanded him to do: he had been set apart and called to a specific assignment, and that was the assignment he was going to do.
Jacob further clarifies this in the next verse (18), stating that he had been consecrated, which is to be set apart by the Priesthood and within the Priesthood. He had the authority, through the Priesthood, to be doing what he was doing. That’s vital.
But not only did he have and work within the Priesthood, he magnified his office within the Priesthood. Verse 19 is where that phrase is defined for all the rest of scripture! What does it mean to magnify an office (or calling)?
- take upon the responsibility;
- answer the sins of the people – either by inviting them to the Lord so that the Lord can atone for the sins (and thus “their blood might not come upon our garments”), or answer the sins of the people by taking them on yourself if neglecting that invitation (and so their blood on our garments);
- teach with all diligence; and
- labor with your might.
This “answering the sins of the people” thing is a big deal, and definitely a “responsibility” that requires teaching “with diligence” and laboring with all our might.
Then go back to verse 17 and notice the first part of the verse: the people learned in the Temple.
The Temple is a “house of learning”, and when we worship there we learn. We learn who Heavenly Father is, we learn who we are, and we learn about our relationship to Him and what that means for our relationships to others.
This is why we must go “regularly and often”.
The future depends on it.
Nephi said so.
And Jacob believed him.
And so do I.