Thursday, March 28, 2013

2 Nephi 31: The Plain of Our Endurance

Nephi's winding down his written record, and he's only got three chapters left to say anything else he needs to say.  Here's what he spends chapter 31 on.

Delighting In Plainness
Take a look at verse 3:
For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men.  For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.
Um, no.

Nephi's soul delights in plainness?  Then why did he just spend like a dozen chapters quoting Isaiah, who may have the distinction of being the least plain of the Old Testament prophets?  And if God speaks to men "according to their language" so they can understand, why would God ensure that a book of scripture written specifically for the modern age feature so much Isaiah, riddled with ancient references?

And beyond that, this verse flies in the face of an old adage championed by members of many religions,  including Mormonism:  God works in mysterious ways.  But according to Nephi, God works with plainness.  What you see is what you get with the Mormon god, right?  The Mormon god doesn't do things like deny an entire race priesthood blessings and then reverse his decision without explanation.  The Mormon god doesn't make sure his church keeps its financial information as private as possible.  The Mormon god doesn't avow a milk-before-meat missionary effort.  The Mormon god works in broad daylight with all information offered openly and up front.  At least that's what the religion's primary book of scripture seems to claim.

Marathon, Not a Sprint, Blah Blah Blah
As Nephi very un-plainly repeats himself multiple times during this chapter, he stumbles upon a key teaching of Mormonism--enduring to the end.

This is something that I actually kind of like about Mormonism.  I think enduring to the end makes a lot more sense than the I've-accepted-Christ-so-now-I'm-saved thing.  When best explained, Mormon theology is kind of a clever balancing act between works and faith--because you need both to reach the highest degree of glory in Mormon heaven.  But, sadly, this is not best explained in the Book of Mormon.  Observe verses 19 and 20:
And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path [baptism], I would ask if all is done?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
It seems that Nephi has oddly emphasized the grace aspect of baptism and downplayed its role in the enduring-to-the-end part.  Just a few chapters ago, in 2 Nephi 25:23, it was "by grace...we are saved, after all we can do."  Now, the story is that Christ's grace allows us to be baptized by fire and by the Holy Ghost...and then we have to endure to the end.

Seems to me that grace is jumping around on Nephi's timeline a bit.

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