This is part three in the three part series looking at 2 Nephi 2. In the first week’s post we learned of the necessity of the atonement and resurrection. In the second post we learned about the effects of the atonement and resurrection and the need for opposition in all things. This week we will talk about the nature of our probationary state we call mortality.
Just as I did last week, I will give the verses from 2 Nephi 2 then follow them up with discussion of the points of doctrine contained in those verses.
Our ability to act for ourselves
14. And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
15. And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
16. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
Verse 14 says there are two categories of things created that we know about. There are those things created with the ability to act for themselves, which includes God’s children. There are also things created that cannot act for themselves, but exist to be acted upon. These things do not have a will of their own.
As we discussed in the previous post, the ends of the laws of God, the purpose of those laws, is to create a way for us to become like our Father. In order for this to happen he had to implement the law of opposition in all things. So once all things had been created here in mortality, two trees were introduced into the garden of Eden. One tree kept Adam and Even as eternal beings who would never die, the other changed their nature and made them mortal so they would physically die. Partaking of the fruit also introduced spiritual death or separation from God.
Note in verse 16 that we are told that man had to choose to leave his state of immortality to become mortal. He had to act for himself. He could not act or choose for himself if he was not presented with two extreme opposites. In this case, immortality or death.
The need for Satan
17. And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
18. And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.
19. And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth.
20. And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth.
As part of being able to use our moral agency there must be a counterpart to our Savior. We call him Satan. God did not create the Savior any more than he created Satan. Both were his children, and both were on opposite ends of the spectrum of goodness. Satan never actually did evil in the sight of God until he was refused at the grand council in heaven and rebelled against God and all that He stood for. He tried to turn the family of God against our Father and take His throne or position of power. This is what caused his expulsion from heaven.
That was the turning point where Lucifer became a devil and actually became an enemy to God. The stage was now set for God’s children to be able to choose between pure good and pure evil. We have the Savior on one hand and all he stands for, and Satan on the other, with all he stands for. When we come into mortality we must choose whose side we are on. Both are enticing us to join them. The choice is ours.
Satan, not knowing the mind of God thought he was creating some grand disruption in the plan of God by getting Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit. What he did however, was to further God’s plan. God does, after all, know the end from the beginning. He had prepared for Satan’s attempt and had all things in readiness to use his ruse to our advantage. Because of Adam’s fall the Lord provided us with a Savior to redeem us from that fall.
The importance of our probationary period
21. And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
22. And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
24. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
The Lord knew Adam and Eve would eventually eat the fruit they were commanded not to touch. He blessed them with a period of time in which they could repent and learn obedience to the Spirit he sent them. The Spirit teaches all of us how to behave so we can return to our Father in Heaven. He reveals the true character of God to us by teaching us how to think, feel, and behave like God.
Verses 22 and 23 again point out that having opposition available to us is essential to our progression and our very ability to become like God. Without opposition they would have remained in their state of innocence making no progress, remaining like little children forever.
The way of exaltation
25. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
26. And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
27. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
The purpose of Adam’s fall was to create the need for a Savior. Jesus saves us from the fallen state created by Adam and Eve’s choice to enter into mortality so they could fulfill God’s first commandment, which is the first commandment we all receive when we are sealed in the temple, and that is to multiply and replenish the earth.
Lehi says that men exist that we might experience joy. To this end our Father could not leave us in our fallen state. We needed saving. Our Savior came, and because of his payment of our debt to God, we are now free to choose good or evil.
We could choose good without the Savior in our lives, but it wouldn’t have done us any good. Without the Savior’s atonement we would have all remained cut off from the presence of the Lord. All it takes is one selfish and wrong act and our fate is sealed.
But because Christ came and fulfilled his promise to pay our debt, when we choose to obey and follow the Spirit our sins are forgiven and forgotten. Our souls become clean from the stain of sin. Now when we choose good it actually makes a difference. For we can progress and become more like God. When we make a mistake it is not the end of the world because we can repent and the mistake is forgiven by our Father.
Without the Atonement forgiveness is only a concept. With the Atonement forgiveness can be a reality and a path to exaltation. We still need to have complete freedom to choose evil over good, but with the Atonement when we choose good over evil the Spirit can refine our souls and make us holy.
Because of the Atonement of Christ we are truly free to choose liberty and exaltation or captivity and damnation. We can have anything we want. We can choose any amount of blessing we want and God will give it to us. Come judgment day there will be no one who can say their judgment is not just, because we really will be given exactly what we chose to have. He will only be rewarding good for good and evil for evil. Our choice.
Look to the Mediator
28. And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;
29. And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
30. I have spoken these few words unto you all, my sons, in the last days of my probation; and I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet. And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls. Amen.
Let’s start with the last verse. Lehi’s sole purpose in this whole discourse was to teach his sons the importance of choosing good over evil. He wanted them to understand, if you will, the rules of engagement in mortality. It is important to know why we do what we do so we can do it better.
He tells his boys that he has personally chosen to do good, “according to the words of the prophet.” All he wants is for his sons to be happy.
Verses 28 and 29 reiterate the lessons the rest of the chapter lead up to. If we choose evil then Satan becomes our leader and we literally give him control over our behavior and our eternal welfare. He rules over us.
If we choose good then we submit willingly to the commandments of God and follow the directives of the Spirit who teaches us of God’s ways and shows us how to experience godly things like forgiveness, tolerance, patience, long suffering, charity, and so forth. In other words, the Spirit will teach us the ways of happiness, that same happiness experienced by our Father and by Christ.
Just reading through this chapter can be daunting. There are times Lehi appears to be speaking in circles, though he really isn’t. If you haven’t already read the other two posts I would encourage you now to go back and start from the beginning and do a study of all 30 verses of this chapter.
This is one of my most cherished chapters in all of holy writ. The whole plan of salvation is laid out before our eyes, but not just that. In this chapter the reason for evil in this life is explained. We now understand why it is necessary for all of us to be able to choose the one over the other. We now know what the results will be come judgment day because of those choices.
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.