Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Lehi's Last Words, Part Two -- 2 Nephi 2

What Happens
"Redemption comes through the Holy Messiah—Freedom of choice (agency) is essential to existence and progression—Adam fell that men might be—Men are free to choose liberty and eternal life."
2 Nephi 2 Chapter Heading


Commentary
In our last episode, Lehi began his last words.  Here, he continues them, trying to give his children good advice so that they will follow God after he is gone.  He first speaks to Jacob, his "firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness" (verse 1).

He talks to Jacob first of the afflictions and sorrow that he has suffered at the hands of his brothers, and tells him that God will "consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain" (verse 2).  I think this whole idea is amazing.  It is similar to the make weak things strong idea.  God makes our trials into blessings, and through hardship and pain, we become glorious.  And that's all of life, right?  Instead of the unchanging Garden of Eden where they stayed as they were, we are in a world where change and growth became possible.  It's hard and painful to do those things, and so we often shy away and wish we could go back to the garden, but we're here for a reason... a good one. :)  So we can grow and learn and become more than we were before.

Lehi continues, saying that Jacob is redeemed and has seen his redeemer, which is amazing, and indicates that there is a lot of prophecy in this family.  I wonder though if there could be a lot of prophecy in every family if we were more willing to develop our own relationships with God more fully.

Then Lehi starts in on an awesome lesson for his son (and for us).  Part of this is the statement that "men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil" (verse 5).  That's a significant statement, at least in terms of what Laman and Lemuel had previously said, and what we so often think of as an excuse: "the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us" (1 Nephi 15:9).  ... He *does* help us know what is right and wrong, and if we ask he will tell us more, but we have to do our part too.  We have to at the very least, tune in and listen, rather than tuning God out and focusing on what we want.

Verses 6 and 7 talk about the atonement, and the thing that stands out to me here (although of course the atonement is awesome all by itself, all the time), is the phrase "unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered."  It's another participation step, just like the one from verse 5.  Verse 4 told us that "salvation is free" ... and it totally is, but just like free samples at Costco, no one is going to show up at our door to bring them to us just because they are free.  We have to go and get them... and we have to go and get salvation as well.  We have to be tuned in to it, and we have to be willing to accept it, because salvation, of necessity, changes us into sanctified people.  If we resist that change, unwilling to let go of pride and sinful behaviors, it can't change us.  God won't force us into heaven.  We have to want to be sanctified people.

Lehi continues, talking about how important it is for everyone to know about the atonement and salvation (verse 8-10), and then he mentions in verse 11 that "it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things."  This is amazing stuff, folks.  The whole opposition thing is similar to the idea mentioned above, of afflictions and gain, or what is talked about elsewhere in the scriptures, the idea of restoration.  Affliction and gain seem to be opposites, and what we do to others and what others do to us seem also to be completely separate... and yet, everything works together for God's purposes.  Our choices in life have to be real choices, both enticing, so we can decide what we really want, and grow into who we choose to be.

In verse 14 Lehi mentions "sons" plural, so we know that this lesson isn't just for Joseph, but that he was working to teach them all, and help them to make better choices.

Verse 16 says that we couldn't act for ourselves unless we were enticed.  I think this is interesting, and maybe shows how difficult it is for us to make choices.  If we could just keep on doing the same thing all the time, we totally would.  God has to set up enticing choices in our lives in order to get us to move, to choose, to become something more than netflix addicts, right?  And, for sure, the choices aren't always fun... but they get us up, and they help us make decisions, and remember that we want to be more.

Verse 21 talks about life as a probation, which is an interesting idea.  It includes the idea of limited freedom and of being monitored, which seems sort of restrictive, but also the idea of this as a step on the path to greater freedom and fewer restrictions, right?  The idea of an early release from prison matches up pretty well with escaping from sin and the corruption brought into the world by the fall (a corruption of course that also works for our gain).

Verse 22 tells us that if Adam hadn't fallen, there would have been no change... verse 23 adds, and no children, which means no us.  All this leading to verse 25: "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy."  That joy part gets me every time... so amazing.  The whole purpose of all of this is so that we can find joy.  Good purpose, eh?  I love the idea that everything that God does, all the time... his whole plan... is to help us find happiness.  How can you not want to participate in such a cool plan, really. :)

Verses 26 and 27 make some very clear points.  First, that we are free to act, and not to be acted upon, and that it is up to us to choose liberty and life, or captivity and death.  The first point emphasizes responsibility.  We can't blame our lives on anything someone else chose.  We are free to act... to overcome any actions of others and still choose.  And then the liberty/captivity and life/death thing is pretty stark.  Maybe it helps us to look at what we are choosing and what we are becoming, and where all of it is leading us.  Are we choosing captivity or freedom... life or death?

Lehi ends by urging his sons to look to Christ and choose life and the Holy Spirit over death and the will of the flesh.  He assures them that he is only concerned about their welfare.

Tune in next time as we continue reading the last words of Lehi, as he speaks to his son Joseph.