This multi-part series is an explanation of and commentary on 2 Nephi 2. Lehi is talking to his son Jacob one last time before Lehi dies. He teaches Jacob how he, Lehi, knows that Jacob’s soul is redeemed. He then teaches Jacob how the way was prepared for all people to be able to choose to be saved through Christ.
I will present verses from 2 Nephi 2 then discuss what is being taught. This is the only full explanation of the law of opposition of which I am aware. Understanding this law helps us understand how we are able to knowingly choose between damnation and eternal life.
Introduction of the subject
1. And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.
2. Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.
I find it interesting that Lehi describes the behavior of Laman and Lemuel as rude and not wicked. Perhaps he was making specific reference to their behavior while on the ship. In 1 Nephi 18:9 Nephi says that his brothers “began to dance, and to sing, and to speak with much rudeness.” This is the only other place I know of where the rudeness of his brothers is mentioned.
The point of mentioning what Jacob suffered was to remind Jacob that it doesn’t matter what we suffer in this life if we are obedient to God, for he will “consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” The Lord has the capacity to take that which appears to have no virtue in it and create a blessing out of it. We are insulted, and he helps us learn patience and forgiveness. We are mistreated, and he helps us learn tolerance, etc.
3. Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.
This verse sounds vaguely like a patriarchal blessing. Jacob is told that because he knows of the greatness of God his soul will be blessed and he will live safely with his brother Nephi. He is also told that his life will be devoted to the service of God. That is the kind of statement that is rarely found outside of a priesthood blessing, like a Patriarchal blessing.
I am guessing that Jacob is probably not any older than somewhere in his teens, yet he has already seen the Savior and received revelations from Him. For this reason, because Jacob has been brought back into the presence of Christ, Lehi knows Jacob has been redeemed from the fall of Adam, which cut us off from the presence of God.
The Fall set the plan of salvation into motion
4. And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.
5. And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
6. Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
Lehi makes an interesting point. The Spirit (note the capital S), the Holy Ghost is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. What the Holy Ghost does in one generation is the same that he does in any other generation. His responsibility is to show us the way back to God.
Jacob is just as blessed as will be those who are alive when Jesus comes to live among them. There is no difference in the doctrines or the blessings between those who will live during the time of Christ and those who were or have been able to see him in different periods of time.
The way for men to be redeemed from the fall of Adam, meaning to be brought back into the presence of God was prepared even before the fall happened. The moment Adam and Eve fell from their state of grace, and were cut off from the presence of God in the garden of Eden, the plan was already in place to provide them with a way back to the presence of God. That path back to God is free to us. Christ paid the price for it, so salvation is free for everyone because of the price He paid.
The Savior’s role
7. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
8. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
9. Wherefore, he is the first fruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.
Christ offered himself, one who was innocent of any offense, as the sacrifice to God for our sins. What does it mean “to answer the ends of the law?” The end of the law means the reason or purpose of the law. The purpose of God’s laws could not be fulfilled, could not be answered, without an offering being made that would pay for his children’s sins. Christ was the one who made that offering. He placed himself on the altar of sacrifice in obedience to his Father and out of love for Him and for us. He suffered that we would not have to remain lost to our Father in Heaven.
Because of his sacrifice for us, those who are willing to be contrite (full of remorse for their sins), and who have broken hearts (are truly humble and willing to be led from here on out by the Spirit) can be saved by Him. The purpose of God’s laws, which is to qualify us to return and live in His presence once again, is the reason for Christ’s ultimate sacrifice. Only those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit can qualify for Christ’s forgiveness, and hence can fulfill the purpose of all the laws of God.
Is it any wonder that in verse eight Lehi states, “how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth?” It is absolutely necessary that everyone comes to know that the only way back home is through the merits and mercy of Christ through his atoning sacrifice and his resurrection. Without the resurrection we would remain spirits after death. If that happened we would become subjects of the devil forever, for Satan rules over the spirits, while Christ rules over those will or have had bodies and will be resurrected.
We say Christ is the “first fruits unto God” because he was the first to rise from the dead and be glorified. He is our example. He is our mediator.
These verses teach us the centrality and necessity of Christ’s atonement and resurrection. God gave all the laws necessary for us to be able to return to Him, but the laws themselves cut us off from God’s presence. Our disobedience and inability to make amends for our headstrong ways makes it impossible for us to fulfill the purpose of those laws, to answer the ends of the law. Only Christ’s atonement and resurrection were able to make the proper restitution for the breaking of God’s laws that permit us, through obedience to Christ’s commandments, to return to our Father in Heaven.
Next week, in the next part of 2 Nephi 2, we will exam in the next set of verses that discuss the importance of having opposition in all things.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.