2 Nephi 26
A Covenant Plan of Salvation
2 Nephi 26:3 Signs Given unto My People:
In 2 Nephi 26:3 Nephi states: "And after the Messiah shall come there shall be signs given unto my people of his birth, and also of his death and resurrection . . ." According to McConkie and Millet, the promise of a sign of confirmation is typical of divine instruction. The Old Testament establishes the pattern . . . [In the New Testament], Luke's Gospel begins with Gabriel's striking Zacharias dumb as a sign of the verity of the birth of a child of promise to him and his aged wife (Luke 1). Christ himself decreed that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon would be the sign of the Father's work--the work of gathering in the last days (3 Nephi 21:1-7). In his instruction to Joseph Smith, Moroni promised him a sign by which he might know that all that had been promised him would come to pass: many would seek to overthrow his work, but it would increase the more it was opposed (Messenger and Advocate 2:199). Events of such transcendent magnitude as the birth, death, and resurrection of the Messiah must not go unnoticed and unannounced. (See Helaman 14:1-6; 3 Nephi 1:8.) [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 300-301] [See the commentary on 3 Nephi 21:1-7]
2 Nephi 26:4 All Those Who Are Proud, and That Do Wickedly, the Day That Cometh Shall Burn Them up, Saith the Lord of Hosts, for They Shall Be As Stubble:
According to Sterling Allan, Nephi uses wordings in his record which are intentional parallels of other scriptures written by the prophets. Let us consider an example from Nephi's writings which shows intentional correlations in revealed writing. This example witnesses that the parallels in the Book of Mormon are meant to foreshadow the events of our day. Consider the following verses from 2 Nephi 26:
Great and terrible shall that day be unto the wicked, for they shall perish; and they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground against them.
Wherefore, all those who are proud, and that do wickedly, the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, for they shall be as stubble.
And they that kill the prophets, and the saints, the depths of the earth shall swallow them up, saith the Lord of Hosts; and mountains shall cover them, and whirlwinds shall carry them away, and buildings shall fall upon them and crush them to pieces and grind them to powder.
And they shall be visited with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and all manner of destructions, for the fire of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts. (2 Nephi 26:3-6)
If one was not aware of the context of these verses, he would most likely thing that they were talking about the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming. But the context is of the destruction of the wicked Lehites on the American continent. Nephi was pointing out the "signs" that would mark the "death and resurrection" of "the Messiah" (2 Nephi 26:3). He concluded this prophecy lamenting, "O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people! For I, Nephi, have seen it. . . ." (2 Nephi 26:7)
The reason we originally would have thought that these verses spoke of the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming is because of the language used. In the first phrase Nephi used the words, "Great and terrible." These words are used elsewhere in the scriptures to describe the latter-day scene (see Joel 2:11, 1 Nephi 12:5). The reason stated for the destruction--"They cast out the prophets, and the saints . . ."--is also spoken of in latter-day prophecy (see D&C 87:7).
2 Nephi 26:4 & 6 repeat a verse found in the Old Testament, Malachi 4:1, which is given in the context of the latter days. Compare the wording used in Malachi with that used by Nephi in these two verses:
M/4:1 all the proud
26:4 all those who are proud
M/4:1 and all that do wickedly
26:4 and that do wickedly
M/4:1 the day that cometh shall burn them up
26:4 the day that cometh shall burn them up
26:6 the day that cometh shall consume them
M/4:1 saith the Lord of hosts
26:4 saith the Lord of Hosts
26:6 saith the Lord of Hosts
M/4:1 shall be stubble
26:4 shall be as stubble
26:6 shall be as stubble
Five entire phrases within the three verses being compared are virtually identical in their wording. It cannot be said that Nephi "quoted" Malachi, because Malachi was born around 100 years after the death of Nephi. Malachi could not have had access to Nephi's writings because they were separated by an ocean of water. When the resurrected Lord appeared to the Nephites and quoted from Malachi, he confirmed that "the Father had given unto Malachi" His words (3 Nephi 24:1). Here, then, is an example of direct revelation being responsible for a correlation.
The question still has not been answered as to why Nephi is using terminology that pertains to the latter day destruction when the context says he is talking about the destruction of the wicked among his people anciently. Without an understanding of the concept of parallels, this might remain an enigma to us. With an understanding of parallels, the intention becomes quite clear here. Nephi is pointing out beyond doubt that (as President Benson put it), "The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior's visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior's second coming."169
In case we still are not sure that this was the intent of the prophet Nephi, yet another indicator follows. In verse two of the next chapter (2 Nephi 27), he uses five separate phrases that are nearly identical with phrases found in verse two of the preceding chapter. This time, he is speaking of "the last days," when people "upon all the lands of the earth . . . will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations" (2 Nephi 27:1). Compare his wording:
26:6 they shall be visited
27:2 they shall be visited
26:6 with thunderings, and lightnings
27:2 with thunder . . . and with storm
26:6 and earthquakes
27:2 and with earthquakes
26:6 the fire of . . . the Lord shall be kindled
27:2 and with the flame of devouring fire
26:6 saith the Lord of Hosts
27:2 visited of the Lord of Hosts
So in 2 Nephi 26 the context is set at the time of the destruction of the wicked among his people preceding Christ's appearance to them. Then in chapter 27 the context is established as being that time when the wicked will be destroyed before Christ's second coming. Yet the wording used in both instances is virtually identical. In these cases, we would have to say that this was done intentionally through the element of inspiration.
The Lord never comes right out and tells us directly that this is what He is doing, but when we become aware of it there is no doubt. This selective wording is pervasive throughout the canvas of the standard works. The immense cross correlation of scriptures--often from detached sources--into one great whole bears the signature of an omniscient God ("And now it came to pass that when Jesus had expounded all the scriptures in one, which they had written, he commanded them that they should teach the things which he had expounded unto them"--3 Nephi 23:14). By recognizing this technique, we then have a tool for receiving many insights hitherto unknown.
Critics of the Book of Mormon look upon the passages just discussed as "plagiarism;" that Joseph Smith merely copied these passages into the text from the Bible. However, as Nephi sates: "Behold, the righteous that hearken unto the words of the prophets, and destroy them not, but look forward unto Christ with steadfastness for the signs which are given, notwithstanding all persecution--behold, they are they which shall not perish. But the Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him" (2 Nephi 26:8,9). The reader should note that the phrases "Son of Righteousness" and "healing" are also found in Malachi 4:2, the verse immediately following the one Nephi quoted just six verses prior to this (2 Nephi 26:2 = Malachi 4:1 = 3 Nephi 25:1) Again, Nephi used wording that ties directly into the latter-day deliverance, even though he was talking about the deliverance of his own people, "until three generations shall have passed away." (2 Nephi 26:9)170 [Sterling D. Allan, The Vision of All, www.greaterthings.com/Books/Vision/Overview/nephis-wording.htm, Jan. 9, 2001] [See Vol. 6, Appendix C]
Note* As the reader will come to understand in the commentary on 2 Nephi 27, chapters 25-29 of 2 Nephi represent Nephi's likening of Isaiah 29 unto his people. Lest anybody think that Joseph Smith just plopped a section of Malachi or Isaiah into 2 Nephi 26:3-6, the reader should be aware that these verses, and especially the phrases in verse 4, lie at the heart of a complex prophetic chiastic structure. Donald W. Parry gives the following chiastic structure for 2 Nephi 26:1-9:
A. And after Christ shall have risen from the dead he shall show himself unto you, my children, and my
B. and the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law which ye shall do,
C. For Behold, I say unto you that I have beheld that many generations shall pass away,
D. and there shall be great wars and contentions among my people.
E. And after the Messiah shall come there shall be signs given unto my people of his birth,
and also of his death and resurrection; and great and terrible shall that day be
unto the wicked,
F. for they shall perish; and they perish
G. because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and
slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up
to God from the ground against them.
H. Wherefore, all those who are proud, and that do wickedly, the day that
cometh shall burn them up,
H' saith the Lord of Hosts, for they shall be as stubble.
G' And they that kill the prophets, and the saints,
F. the depths of the earth shall swallow them up, saith the Lord of Hosts;
and mountains shall cover them,
and whirlwinds shall carry them away,
and buildings shall fall upon them
and crush them to pieces
and grind them to powder.
E' And they shall be visited with thunderings,
and all manner of destructions.
for the fire of the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall
be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts.
D' O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people!
C' For I, Nephi, have seen it, and it well nigh consumeth me before the presence of the Lord;
but I must cry unto my God: Thy ways are just.
B' But behold, the righteous that hearken unto the words of the prophets, and destroy them not, but
look forward unto Christ with steadfastness for signs which are given, notwithstanding all
persecution--behold, they are they which shall not perish.
A' But the Son of righteousness shall appear unto them;
and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him, until three generations shall have passed away . . .
[Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 100-101]
2 Nephi 26:4 The Day That Cometh Shall Burn Them up:
Millet and McConkie write that here in 2 Nephi 26:4 Nephi quotes again from the prophet Zenos (cf. 1 Nephi 22:15, 23), just as Malachi would do some two hundred years hence (see Malachi 4:1):
For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned. (1 Nephi 22:15)
For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. (Malachi 4:1)
In this case, however, Nephi applies Zenos's prophecy of the destruction of the wicked at the time of the second coming of Christ to the cataclysms preceding his appearance to the Nephites. In so doing, Nephi utilizes one of his own cardinal principles of scriptural interpretation, that of likening the scriptures and making application of one oracle to separate but related events. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 301]
2 Nephi 26:16 Their Voice Shall Be As One That Hath a Familiar Spirit:
In Nephi's predictions concerning the last days, he prophesies that after his seed has dwindled in unbelief, and has been smitten by the Gentiles, and has been brought down low in the dust, those who shall be destroyed "shall speak unto them out of the ground . . . and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit" (2 Nephi 26:16). Some might recognize the phrases which Nephi uses as similar to those found in Isaiah 29:1-4 and wonder if Nephi's usage is correct because the words "familiar spirit" are used in the King James Version of the Old Testament to designate witchcraft.
A study by Robert Cloward (see Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, 1998) has found that the translators of the KJV took great liberties in construing statements about "them that have familiar spirits" as referring to spirit mediums, even when that is not always intended in the Hebrew. One should note that the Hebrew expression translated "familiar spirit" more correctly refers to a ghost. ["Book of Mormon Answers" in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 7/1, November 1998, p. 74]
2 Nephi 26:22 He Leadeth Them By the Neck with a Flaxen Cord:
Nephi notes that the devil "leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord" (2 Nephi 26:22). Flax is the oldest of textile fibers, and is used to make fine linen (The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, vol. 1, p. 509). If a flaxen cord is made of thin light strands (Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual, 1999, p. 43), and if leading one about with a cord around his neck implies bondage or slavery, then the message here is that the devil very cleverly leads people about with a thin light cord according to their seemingly innocent prideful indulgences and unpunished secret acts until he has firmly secured their bondage with heavier "chains" or with weightier matters. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 26:25 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters (Illustration): The Dan River in northern Galilee. Just as the waters of the Dan River, the chief tributary to the Jordan River, have brought life for thousands of years to hundreds of thousands of people, so does Jesus Christ being spiritual life to all who come to him, the living waters. Photograph by Arnold H. Green. [Donald W. Parry, Visualizing Isaiah, p. 94]
2 Nephi 26:26 Synagogues:
According to William Adams, the term synagogue (including the plural) occurs twenty-five times in the Book of Mormon. The first is found in a sermon by Nephi: "Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? (2 Nephi 26:26)
This passage is only a few decades from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem. Hence it appears that he and his family brought the already existing concept with them to America. This passage also suggests that synagogues were used for worship in Nephi's day. This raises the question: How did Nephites worship? A number of later passages describe visitors preaching and teaching in synagogues (see Alma 16:13; 21:4,5,16; 26:29; 32:1; Moroni 7:1). Public discussions of scripture topics in the synagogues were evidently a part of that teaching and preaching (see Alma 21:5,11). Prayer apparently was also a part of the worship (see Alma 31:12-14 on Zoramite worship). This last passage also suggests that synagogue worship was held on only one day of the week and that people had the misconception that God could be worshiped only on that day and only in a synagogue (see Alma 32:2,5,9,10,12; 33:2). Other aberrant synagogue worship practices are mentioned in a sermon given by Jesus in 3 Nephi wherein he denounced public almsgiving and loud praying both in synagogues and in the streets (see 3 Nephi 13:2,5).
A related term in the Book of Mormon is church. However, the two hundred plus occurrences of church / churches in the Book of Mormon seem to point to a movement or organization rather than a building. The single exception is 4 Nephi 1:41, wherein the word churches seems to refer to structures that people could adorn.
Perhaps one can gain perspective on Book of Mormon synagogues by studying biblical synagogues. One aspect of our understanding of biblical synagogues that has been reevaluated in the light of new research is the view that synagogues did not exist until after the Babylonian captivity. Lee I. Levine, a leading scholar on the history of the synagogue, has suggested that synagogues did exist before the Babylonian captivity in the form of chambers in the city gates.171 Such gates have been excavated by archaeologists at such important Old Testament sites as Beersheba,172 Gezer,173 Lachish,174 and Megiddo.175 Each of these has:
1. at least one chamber (which is nearly square) lined with stone benches around the interior walls (the benched chamber at Lachish has two tiers of benches,
2. a single doorway, and
3. a niche perhaps used as storage for ritual or sacred items (where there is enough of the original wall left to determine it).
Levine concludes that since later synagogues closely mirror the architecture of the gate chambers, these chambers may well have been the original synagogues. This conclusion is supported by a number of biblical passages that indicate that the city gate and its vicinity were the hub of a community's life. The gate area served as:
1. the market place (see 2 Kings 7:1),
2. the general court (see Genesis 23:10,18; Deuteronomy 17:5, 21:19 and 22:24; Ruth 4:1-12; Jeremiah 38:7; Daniel 2:48-49; and Esther 5:9,13; 6:10,
3. the royal court (see 2 Samuel 18:4 and 19:8; and 1 Kings 22:10, which equals 2 Chronicles 18:9), and
4. a place of worship (see 2 Kings 23:8 and Nehemiah 8:1).176
If Levine is correct, then, before the captivity, a town's or city's social activities centered around the city gate, and it seems reasonable that these social activities included Sabbath worship in a chamber of the gate that resembled later synagogues and functioned similarly.
Unfortunately, in the Book of Mormon the worship aspect of synagogues is mentioned only incidentally, while other functions were apparently not considered germane to the overall objective of the Small Plates or Mormon's abridgment. [William J. Adams Jr., "Synagogues in the Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 9, Num. 1, pp. 6-13 ] [See the commentary on Alma 16:13, 21:4-5, 31:12]
2 Nephi 26:29 Priestcraft:
According to Daniel Ludlow, the word "priestcraft" is used in the Book of Mormon to refer to the teachings of those people who would make a craft (or business) out of being a priest (or religious leader) to the people. Nephi indicates one danger of priestcraft is that such professional religious leaders would be more concerned with teaching those things which were popular and acceptable unto the people than they would in preaching the word of God. Thus they seek to "get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion" (2 Nephi 26:29). [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 146]