Verse by Verse Commentary: 1 Nephi 1:13

Jerusalem… I have seen thine abominations

Destruction of Jerusalem by Gary L. Kapp

And he read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem—that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.

Obviously by this time, Jerusalem was in trouble. They’d nearly reached the fulness of iniquity, and had become ripe for destruction. It takes a lot to get to that point, but it happens repeatedly throughout the scriptures. For Sodom and Gommorah, it was (among other things) moral transgression and violence, for the Nephites and Jaredites it was secret combinations and violence, for the people of king Nimrod (the brother of Jared’s time in the kingdom of Babylon), it was secret combinations and rebellion. There are always multiple layers of wickedness, but there are common threads of rejecting prophets, turning from the truth, and persistently disobeying God, to the point where children growing up the society have no chance for a moral, righteous life.

God’s destruction that comes of the fulness of iniquity is an act of mercy, albeit a last resort.

What were the abominations of Jerusalem? For one thing, they defiled the temple and desecrated it:

2 Chronicles 36:
14 ¶ Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem.
15 And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:
16 But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.
17 Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand.
18 And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon.
19 And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof.
20 And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia:

They also replaced their worship of God with the worship of idols:

2 Kings 21:

1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzi-bah.

2 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.

3 For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.

4 And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord said, In Jerusalem will I put my name.

5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.

6 And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.

7 And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:

8 Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.

9 But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel.

10 ¶And the Lord spake by his servants the prophets, saying,

11 Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols:

12 Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.

Obviously, the leaders of the people led out in this rebellion, idolatry, and iniquity. But entirely letting the people off the hook wouldn’t be appropriate, either. Often, political wickedness (in their time as well as ours) is a reflection of the popular ideas of the time–practices that are generally accepted despite being wrong. I doubt these kings were acting against the will of the people in their actions. More likely, they are doing the wickedness as a political move to gain the favor of the people.

When leaders condone the sins of the day, they are simply providing “legal” justification for iniquity. That’s why, as Mosiah taught, “if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.”

We discussed more about the condition of Jerusalem in the commentary to 1 Nephi 1:4.

…That it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.

This was literally fulfilled, and we have several records of it in the Bible.

Jeremiah 52:4-15

4 ¶And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it, and built forts against it round about.
5 So the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.
6 And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land.
7 Then the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.
8 ¶But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him.
9 Then they took the king, and carried him up unto the king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath; where he gave judgment upon him.
10 And the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes: he slew also all the princes of Judah in Riblah.
11 Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.
12 ¶Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem,
13 And burned the house of the Lord, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire:
14 And all the army of the Chaldeans, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down all the walls of Jerusalem round about.
15 Then Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard carried away captive certain of the poor of the people, and the residue of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the multitude.

2 Kings 25:1-22

1 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about.

2 And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.

3 And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.

4 ¶And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.

5 And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him.

6 So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him.

7 And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.

8 ¶And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:

9 And he burnt the house of the Lord, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.

10 And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about.

11 Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard carry away.

12 But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.

13 And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the Lord, and the bases, and the brasen sea that was in the house of the Lord, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon.

14 And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away.

15 And the firepans, and the bowls, and such things as were of gold, in gold, and of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away.

16 The two pillars, one sea, and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord; the brass of all these vessels was without weight.

17 The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and the chapiter upon it was brass: and the height of the chapiter three cubits; and the wreathen work, and pomegranates upon the chapiter round about, all of brass: and like unto these had the second pillar with wreathen work.

18 ¶And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door:

19 And out of the city he took an officer that was set over the men of war, and five men of them that were in the king’s presence, which were found in the city, and the principal scribe of the host, which mustered the people of the land, and threescore men of the people of the land that were found in the city:

20 And Nebuzar-adan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah:

21 And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their land.

22 ¶And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, even over them he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, ruler.

Unfortunately, this was the last time the Jews would rule their own country of Jerusalem until the 1900s AD. This destruction and carrying away into Babylon also marked one of the major stages of the scattering of the tribes Israel.

Verse by Verse Commentary: 1 Nephi 1:12

Scripture Study and the Holy Ghost

And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.

There is a deep and vital connection between reading the word of God and being filled with the Spirit. On the road to Emmaus, when the two disciples walked with the resurrected Lord, not knowing it was him, and then invited him to stay and eat with them, immediately after Jesus vanished, they said to one another:

And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 1)Luke 24:32

When Josiah, king of Judah at a time of great Israelite wickedness, accidentally found the book of the law (the scriptures) among other treasures of the temple, he felt the Spirit and changed his life. It was the scriptures that sparked the change.

And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments,and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book. 2)2 Chronicles 34:31

Speaking of the scriptures to the early brethren of the church in the latter-days, the Lord said that the scriptures are given by the Spirit, and it is by the same power that they are read:

These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man; For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them; 3)Doctrine and Covenants 18:34-35

Or, as Elder Richard G. Scott put it,

Because scriptures are generated from inspired communication through the Holy Ghost, they are pure truth. We need not be concerned about the validity of concepts contained in the standard works since the Holy Ghost has been the instrument which has motivated and inspired those individuals who have recorded the scriptures. 4)The Power of Scripture, Richard G. Scott, October 2011 General Conference

Elder Neal A. Maxwell speaks of his own experience with the Book of Mormon:

Neal A. Maxwell:
For my part, Brothers and Sisters, I am glad the book will be with us “as long as the earth shall stand.” I need and want additional time. For me, the Book of Mormon is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. My tour of it has never been completed. Some rooms I have yet to enter, and there are more felicitous fireplaces waiting to warm me. Even the rooms I have glimpsed contained further furnishings and rich detail yet to be savored. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights, and design and décor dating from eden. There are even sumptuous banquet tables painstakingly prepared by predecessors which await all of us. Yet we as church members sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry hall. May we come to feel as a whole people beckoned beyond the entry hall. May we go inside, far enough to hear clearly the whispered truths from those who have slumbered, which whisperings will awaken in us individually, a life of discipleship as never before. 5)Neal A. Maxwell, The Great Answer to the Great Question, FARMS audio cassette, Deseret Book.

The scriptures, by means of that life changing Holy Spirit, are of primary importance in gaining, maintaining, and strengthening a testimony of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Elder Richard G. Scott said,

A testimony is fortified by spiritual impressions that confirm the validity of a teaching, of a righteous act. Often such guidance is accompanied by powerful emotions that bring tears to the eyes and make it difficult to speak. But a testimony is not emotion. It is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions. These choices are made with trusting faith in things that are believed and, at least initially, are not seen. A strong testimony gives peace, comfort, and assurance. It generates the conviction that as the teachings of the Savior are consistently obeyed, life will be beautiful, the future will be secure, and there will be capacity to overcome the challenges that cross our path. A testimony grows from understanding truth distilled from prayer and the pondering of scriptural doctrine. It is nurtured by living those truths with faith anchored in the secure confidence that the promised results will be obtained. 6)Richard G. Scott, The Transforming Power of Faith and Character, October 2010 General Conference

As we face various phases of life, and diverse challenges, the Spirit we feel as we study the scriptures can help us find answers to prayer.

You may be facing decisions regarding a mission, your future career, and, eventually, marriage. As you read the scriptures and pray for direction, you may not actually see the answer in the form of printed words on the page, but as you read you will receive distinct impressions, and promptings, and, as promised, the Holy Ghost “will show unto you all things what ye should do.” 7)Spencer J. Condie, Becoming a Great Benefit to Our Fellow Beings, April 2002 General Conference

What and how much we get out of the scriptures is entirely dependent on our spiritual maturity and preparation. Bruce R. McConkie says it this way:

Each pronouncement in the holy scriptures … is so written as to reveal little or much, depending on the spiritual capacity of the student. 8)Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985, p. 71

It is also important to remember that we can’t just read and expect the Spirit to come. We do need to make some effort.

The prophet Abinadi explained the role of the feelings that come from God to our hearts. He taught that we cannot understand the scriptures completely unless we apply our heart to understanding. 9)Walter F. González, Learning with Our Hearts, October 2012 General Conference

It is intended that we understand different scriptures in different ways based on our situation. If the message is the same every time we read a particular verse, it could mean we’re not seeking the guidance of the Spirit as we read. The Holy Ghost will reveal insights when we seek the guidance of the Lord. Said Elder Dallin H. Oaks,

Those who believe the scriptural canon is closed typically approach the reading of scriptures by focusing on what was meant at the time the scriptural words were spoken or written. In this approach, a passage of scripture may appear to have a single meaning and the reader typically relies on scholarship and historical methods to determine it.

The Latter-day Saint approach is different. Professor Hugh Nibley illuminates this in his essay “The Prophets and the Scripture.” He observes that “men fool themselves when they think for a moment that they can read the scripture without ever adding something to the text, or omitting something from it. For in the wise words of St. Hilary, … ‘Scripture consists not in what one reads, but in what one understands.’” Consequently, he continues, “in the reading of the scripture we must always have an interpreter” ( The World and the Prophets, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, 12 vols., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987, 3:202).

He concludes: The question is not whether or not one shall add to the word of the scripture—thousands of volumes of learned commentary have already done that—but whether such addition shall come by the wisdom of men or the revelation of God” (ibid., p. 206).

Latter-day Saints know that true doctrine comes by revelation from God, not by scholarship or worldly wisdom (see Moses 5:58 ). Similarly, the Apostle Paul wrote that we are not “sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” ( 2 Cor. 3:5 ). Rather than trusting in our own interpretations of written texts, we rely on God and the glorious “ministration of the spirit” ( 2 Cor. 3:8 ). Here we encounter a new meaning of Paul’s familiar teaching that true believers are “ministers … of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” ( 2 Cor. 3:6 ). 10)Dallin H. Oaks, Scripture Reading and Revelation, Ensign Jan 1995

How do we get that Spirit as we read? First we pray for it. Then, as Elder Scott said,

Pondering a passage of scripture can be a key to unlock revelation and the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Scriptures can calm an agitated soul, giving peace, hope, and a restoration of confidence in one’s ability to overcome the challenges of life. They have potent power to heal emotional challenges when there is faith in the Savior. They can accelerate physical healing. 11)Richard G. Scott, The Power of Scripture, General Conference Oct. 2011

I once had a teacher who would always tell us, “Every time you open the scriptures under the right circumstances, you open a conduit to heaven through which the Spirit can flow.”

I believe that.

References   [ + ]

Verse by Verse Commentary: 1 Nephi 1:11

And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 6.38.53 AMIt may seem a little odd that the Lord gave Lehi a vision where He gave Lehi a book to read about the destruction of Jerusalem, since, after all, it’s a vision, right? Couldn’t the Lord have just shown the destruction to Lehi? But Lehi wasn’t the only one given a book in a vision.

Ezekial also had a vision where he was handed a book.

9 ¶And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;
10 And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe. 1)Ezek. 2:9–10

In the revelation experienced by John the Beloved, John was given a book and told to eat it, probably symbolically suggesting the idea, “Devour the contents of this book. Make it part of you.”

And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey.

And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.

And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. 2)Revelation 10:9-11

Also in John’s vision, the very book of life was opened, and mankind as individuals were judged from the both the book of life and other books of scripture:

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 3)Revelation 20:12

By this time, Lehi had learned to take such dreams very seriously. Plus, being able to clearly read words is an additional proof that this is a vision, and not just a dream. In a dream, reading anything is terribly difficult, if at all possible. Reading these words had a profound effect on Lehi. They filled him with the Spirit and caused his heart to both mourn for Jerusalem and rejoice in the goodness of the Lord.

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References   [ + ]

1. Ezek. 2:9–10
2. Revelation 10:9-11
3. Revelation 20:12

My Journey Coming Unto Christ

I used to think of coming unto Christ as a one time thing. I used to wonder if I was yet fully converted to Christ, or if I was just going through the motions. But the more I explored my own efforts to come to know the Savior, and the more I read the scriptures, the more I came to see that conversion is as less of a destination, and more of a journey. And there are so many levels to the journey. At least it’s been that way for me.

My journey began when I was a child. I knew I was starting to make effort to come to Christ when I was baptized. I think that was about the time I really started thinking seriously about spiritual things. I had a short attention span, but I wanted to do what was right. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy journey, and I knew that I didn’t know how to get where I was going, but I started.

Since then, my journey has continued uninterrupted. I have climbed steep hills, fallen and recovered from my injuries, learned the terrain, mastered the terrain (until it changed into new, unfamiliar terrain), and constantly sought the direction of my personal guide.

The scriptures and the words of the living prophets are more than just a map on my journey. They’re a survival handbook, a first aid manual, an atlas, a motivational allegory, a field guide to all the plants, animals, weather patterns, and elements I may encounter, and best of all, they contain thousands of messages from my guide.

I can’t say the journey has always been easy, but it’s been an incredible adventure so far, with plenty of fascinating discoveries, breathtaking landscapes, incredible sunsets, starry nights, and hope-filled mornings to keep me going.

But the journey really took on the most meaning when I realized that Christ wasn’t the destination at the end of my journey. I traveled a long time before discovering that He wasn’t at some distant end, but rather with me on the journey.

Sometimes He’s a few steps behind, or just out of sight, trusting me to do the navigating. Other times He’s blazing the trail before me, with me as close as possible behind, but more often than not, He’s beside me, encouraging me, teaching me. I get injured so easily, frustrated so often, and tired so quickly. But rather than patting me on the back sympathetically and telling me it’s okay that I’m so weak, He helps me stand, and then walks on, saying, “Let’s keep going.” And He never lets up, which is hard, but good, because if it had just been me, I’d have given up long ago.

And I’m still learning. Every time I understand one thing better, I learn how little I know about another. Sometimes He teaches me directly, other times He points me to the scriptures and prophets, and often He lets me learn things on my own. He’s made this journey infinite times over. He knows what I’m capable of, and He’s leading me there.

For me, it’s no longer about coming to Him, but rather about following Him, trusting Him, and never leaving Him.

And I never will leave Him.

Verse by Verse Commentary: 1 Nephi 1:10

And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.

Obviously, the twelve following Jesus was His twelve apostles. As far as the records go that we have, prophetic mention of the twelve apostles prior to their mortal lives is rare. There is only one example in the scriptures besides this one that I can find. It’s in Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life (and the future of America):

18 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

19 And I looked and beheld a man, and he was dressed in a white robe.

20 And the angel said unto me: Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

21 Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been. (1 Nephi 14:18-21)

We know from other sources of modern revelation, such as the temple, that the twelve apostles have always had an important role in the Lord’s kingdom. Actually, when you read the old testament and the Book of Mormon, you find that the prophets of the Book of Mormon are remarkably well informed about the gospel of Jesus Christ. They knew about the Savior, by name, they knew what He would do. They knew that the law of Moses pointed their minds toward Christ, and that He would suffer and die for their sins.

It’s possible, even likely that many of the biblical prophets knew, through prophecy, every bit as much as Nephi and His people about Jesus and His gospel, but that the translation of the records over the centuries lost those precious truths. We know that there were many such truth’s lost in the transcription and translation of their books, so this lost information about the twelve apostles may have been among them.