2 Nephi 31
A Covenant Plan of Salvation
According to Larry Dahl, the doctrine of Christ as explained by Nephi in 2 Nephi includes the following elements:
1. Approaching the task "with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent" (2 Nephi 31:13)
2. Seeking understanding, to be "brought into the light," through prayer and effort (2 Nephi 32:4, 8-9)
3. "Repenting of your sins" (2 Nephi 31:13)
4. Being "willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism--yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water" (2 Nephi 31:13)
5. Receiving "the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost." (2 Nephi 31:13)
6. Pressing "forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men [and] feasting upon the word of Christ" (2 Nephi 31:20; 32:3)
7. Enduring "to the end" (2 Nephi 31:20)
8. Receiving the promise of eternal life (2 Nephi 31:20).
[Larry E. Dahl, "The Doctrine of Christ: 2 Nephi 31-32," in The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, The Doctrinal Structure, p. 356]
2 Nephi 31:6 The Lamb of God Did Fulfil All Righteousness in Being Baptized by Water:
According to Daniel Ludlow, the New Testament mentions the baptism of Jesus Christ, but the exact reasons why the Savior submitted to baptism are not made clear in the Bible except in the Savior's statement that He was being baptized in order "to fulfil all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15).
The Book of Mormon lists several reasons for the baptism of the Christ including the one given by the Savior himself on the eastern continent:
(1) "to fulfil all righteousness" (2 Nephi 31:5); in other words, the Savior was baptized in order to keep the commandments of the Lord.
(2) "He humbleth himself before the Father" (2 Nephi 31:7).
(3) He "witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments" (2 Nephi 31:7)
(4) "it showeth unto the children of men the straightness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them" (2 Nephi 31:9).
Although Nephi lived over 500 years before the birth of the Savior, yet he knew by the power of revelation that the Savior was going to be baptized. Furthermore, Nephi counseled his people to "do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter" (2 Nephi 31:17). This scripture indicates very clearly that baptism was practiced, at least among the Nephites, hundreds of years before the Savior was born.
Other evidence exists, in the scriptures and elsewhere, that baptism was also performed by other groups before the birth of Christ. The Jewish Encyclopedia indicates that baptism was a common practice in ancient Israel: "baptism was practiced in ancient Judaism (Hasidic or Essene), first as a means of penitence . . . to receive the spirit of God, or to be permitted to stand in the presence of God, man must undergo baptism" (Vol 2, page 499). Concerning the mode of baptism, the Encyclopedia says " . . . the [baptism] is only valid when performed by immersion in a natural fountain or stream or in a properly constructed [vessel]. This rule was, of course, also preserved in the temple at Jerusalem" (Vol. 1, pp. 68-69).
The fact that baptism was practiced in ancient Israel might help explain why the Savior was not criticized by the orthodox Jewish people when He was baptized. The Pharisees were very quick to criticize the Savior whenever He did anything which was contrary to their law. However, not a single word of criticism concerning the baptism of Jesus Christ is found in the entire New Testament! [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 153-155] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 9:23-24]
According to Cleon Skousen, the Hastings Bible Dictionary describes the Jewish baptism as part of their initiatory ordinance. A male candidate was first circumcised. This was followed in due time by baptism and the offering of a sacrifice. Female candidates were baptized and then they offered a sacrifice. For the baptism, each candidate was taken to "a pool, in which he stood up to his neck in water, while the great commandments of the Law were recited to him. These he promised to keep. Then a benediction was pronounced, and he plunged beneath the water, taking care to be entirely submerged" (see Vol. I, under "Baptism"). [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 1166-1167]
2 Nephi 31:8 After [Christ] Was Baptized with Water, the Holy Ghost Descended upon Him in the Form of a Dove:
Allen & David Richardson and Anthony Bentley note that the Book of Mormon was written by prophets who were conversant with Hebrew customs and language (1 Nephi 1:2). Part of the Hebrew language was a style of writing called "prophetic perfect." In the prophetic perfect style of writing, the prophet who speaks of the future describes the event as if it had already occurred. For example, "But behold I have obtained a land of promise" (spoken by Lehi while in the wilderness Valley of Lemuel before they left on their journey, 1 Nephi 5:5); "After [Christ] was baptized with water, the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove" (spoken by Nephi approximately 550 years before Christ's birth, 2 Nephi 31:8); "These are they whose sins [Christ] has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions" (spoken by Abinadi approximately 150 years before Christ's birth, Mosiah 15:12).
Angela Crowell noted the following in her article entitled "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon":
The Prophetic Perfect is a common usage in the language of the prophets. The prophet so transports his mind ahead that he describes a future event as if it had been already seen or heard by him. This happens in making promises or threats, and also in the language of contracts.182
[Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson, and Anthony E. Bentley, Voice from the Dust-500 Evidences Supporting the Book of Mormon, p. 268]
2 Nephi 31:8 In the Form of a Dove:
[See the commentary (Andrew Skinner) on Helaman 8:14]
2 Nephi 31:16 Unless a Man Shall Endure to the End . . . He Cannot Be Saved:
Dennis Largey notes that, historically, Christians have supported divergent views of the doctrine of perseverance, or endurance to the end. . . . which necessarily includes a discussion of the influence of and the balance between God's grace and man's works . . . Joseph Smith concluded that "the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible" (Joseph Smith-History 1:12).
However, the doctrine taught in the Book of Mormon about enduring to the end is clear: "Unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved" (2 Nephi 31:16). . . .
The doctrine of endurance to the end is taught twenty-two times in the Book of Mormon in teachings by Christ, an angel, and seven prophets. The doctrine spans the entire Book of Mormon time period and probably was taught in the plates of brass as well. The requirement of endurance to the end appears consistently in context with the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. One could easily make the case that the Book of Mormon teaches that there are five first principles and ordinances of the gospel, the fifth being enduring to the end. [Dennis L. Largey, "Enduring to the End," in Doctrines of the Book of Mormon: The 1991 Sperry Symposium, pp. 57-59]
2 Nephi 31:21 The Only True Doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Which Is One God Without End:
Barry Bickmore writes that the Bible contains four propositions about God that every Christian denomination must reckon with in its theology.
(1) First, is that the Bible contains several strongly monotheistic statements. When Moses says, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4), he means, as the Muslims say, "There is no God but God." This view also finds support in God's statement to Isaiah that, "I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me." (Isaiah 43:10) This tradition is continued in the New Testament as, for example, when Jesus prayed to the Father he said, "And this is life eternal: that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent." (John 17:3)
(2) Second, there is a person called the Father, who is identified as God. The example of Christ's "high-priestly prayer," quoted in part above, should be ample evidence of this fact.
(3) Third, there is a person called the Son in the New Testament, namely Jesus Christ, who is called God. Clearly identifying Jesus as "the Word," John wrote, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) Here Jesus is presented as God, but also as distinct from the Father, hence the phrase, "and the Word was with God." There are numerous other examples of this throughout the New Testament.
(4) Fourth, there is a person called the Holy Spirit who is identified as God. That the Holy Spirit is God is shown by Peter's accusation of Ananias, "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost" . . . Thou has not lied unto men, but unto God." (Acts 5:3-4) The New Testament also teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person, distinct from the Father and Son: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26; see also Acts 13:2)
Naturally, these propositions present a problem. Are there three Gods or one? For Latter-day Saints, it is acceptable to say both that there is one God, and that there is a plurality of Gods, depending on the context. Quoting Joseph Smith, "I have always declared [that] . . . these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods." (Joseph Smith, in TPJS 370). Yet in the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi preached the way to salvation, or "doctrine of Christ" was the "only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end." (2 Nephi 31:211) What is the nature of this "oneness"? In Jesus' great Intercessory Prayer (see John 17), He asked that His disciples would be made one in Him as He was one in the Father. [Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith & Early Christianity, pp. 77-78]