This week’s lesson provides us with witnesses of Joseph Smith’s mission and his standing before the Lord and among the prophets of all dispensations. It also gives us lessons in placing our faith and trust in the Lord then concludes by detailing the creation of the Lamanites as a people and how the Nephites were able to live “after the manner of happiness.”
Reading Assignment: 2 Nephi 3 – 5
Additional reading: Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:24–38; Bible Dictionary, “Joseph, Son of Rachel,” 716–17.
The sacred mission of Joseph Smith
We all know of the sacred mission of Moses, he who was called of God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. He was the great law giver, and served as the type for the Christ that would come many hundreds of years later. There are few in the Old Testament who can rival the stature of Moses in reputation and accomplishments in our current scriptures.
What 2 Nephi 3 shows us is that Joseph, who was sold into Egypt by his brothers, and eventually became second only to Pharaoh himself, had many more prophecies than we have mentioned in the Old Testament. The Lord told Joseph about Moses, so Joseph knew that his children’s children and those of his extended family would become slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. He also knew of a “choice seer” the Lord would raise up in the last days to bless the lives of his descendants in the Americas (2 Nephi 3:5), a continent Joseph had never been to.
The Lord told Joseph of Egypt that there would be a branch of his family that would be broken off and taken to a promised land. The descendants of this branch of his family would be blessed by this seer and the work the Lord would have him do, that would convince his descendants of the truthfulness of the word of God. He also knew that the seer’s name would be the same as his (Joseph’s) name, and that his father would carry the same name. Here are the verses in 2 Nephi 3:7 – 11.
7 Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.
8 And I will give unto him a commandment that he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him. And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work.
9 And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel.
10 And Moses will I raise up, to deliver thy people out of the land of Egypt.
11 But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.
Note the accolades heaped on the head of Joseph Smith in this passage. He would be great, like Moses, who is easily considered the greatest prophet of the Old Testament. He would be a “choice” seer, which we learn in the Book of Mormon is greater than a prophet. He will bring the word of God to Joseph of Egypt’s posterity. On top of that, his work will convince Joseph’s posterity that the word of God given to them by Joseph Smith is, in fact, the word of God. The word of God they had already received, as referenced by the last phrase in the quote, “which shall have already gone forth among them,” refers to the Bible.
So Joseph Smith would bring them scripture that would convince them that the Bible they already possessed was true. Such would be the power of the revelations and work of Joseph Smith.
Miracles confirm faith
To those who do not believe Joseph is a prophet, the words of 2 Nephi 3 just serve to show that he wrote himself into his own narrative so as to build himself up to be greater in the eyes of his people. To those who already have a testimony of the prophet Joseph and his work, 2 Nephi 3 is a testament of his greatness and a confirmation of his place among the greatest of all prophets. This is always the way of miracles. They do not convert the unconverted, but confirm the faith of those already believing.
There is power in the priesthood
The lesson manual spends all its energies in this chapter on talking about the Psalm of Nephi, but I would like to skirt that for a moment and talk about a couple of other points also found in this chapter. The first is found in 2 Nephi 4:5 – 7. Lehi brings in Laman and Lemuel’s children and tells them that the principle of righteous training we always hear about in the Old Testament is sound doctrine. He intimates that if a child is trained correctly at home, if they depart from it they do so through rebellion. He certainly had done all in his power to teach his own sons right from wrong. So, through his priesthood, he has obtained a blessing from the Lord that if these children are not obedient to the commandments, the Lord will turn the responsibility for their wickedness upon the heads of their parents for not teaching them as they should have. This same promise is made in the Doctrine and Covenants 68:25. Here are the verses from 2 Nephi 4.
5 … for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it.
6 Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents.
7 Wherefore, because of my blessing the Lord God will not suffer that ye shall perish; wherefore, he will be merciful unto you and unto your seed forever.
This is why the Lamanites could be as wicked as they pleased and the Lord still promised they would eventually believe the gospel message. Their parents had deliberately taught them to hate all that was good and righteous. Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael who followed them have to answer for the wickedness of all those generations of lost souls. This must have caused Lehi tremendous sorrow.
Learning to live after the manner of happiness
Do you ever feel like the gates of hell are wide open before you, with a big neon sign and falling confetti that shouts, “Welcome Home?” There are times when we worry about our sins and are not sure how to get those gates to shut before us. Here is Nephi’s reason for believing the gates of hell would remain shut before him (2 Nephi 4:32).
32 May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!
The question is, how do we gain a broken heart and a contrite spirit?
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ. No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 106; or Ensign, May 1987, 85).
If we want to keep our soul safe from the ravages of sin, we need to understand our need for our Savior. To understand our need for our Savior, we need to understand “the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind.” We have to seek to understand the plan of salvation and how it is all built to pave our way back to our Father in Heaven. Only then will we gain a sense of our awful plight in this universe without the saving influence of our Savior.
I know I didn’t touch the final chapter in this lesson, but there is just too much to cover. I didn’t even touch on the Psalm of Nephi.
This is my recommendation, that you seek for a sense of urgency from the Lord to understand the nature of the salvation offered through Christ. Study the doctrines found in the chapter just previous to this lesson in 2 Nephi 2. In that chapter you will find the whole plan of salvation laid out for you. It explains how the laws of God work, why we need a Savior, how the Savior fulfills an essential and pivotal role in the plan of happiness, and why we have to navigate so much evil in order to become the best we can be.
Once you have a better understanding of these doctrines, and feel a greater need to draw close to Christ for the safety he offers to our souls, it will be easier to understand how blessed we are to have had a prophet the likes of Joseph Smith. Without the restoration he ushered in, and the revelations he had, all of humanity would have suffered needlessly. But God, in his mercy and love has given us his gospel again, and once again the human race has a hope of learning what we need to learn to go home to God. By keeping the commandments revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and subsequent prophets, we too can learn to live “after the manner of happiness.”
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