That Jesus Is the Very Christ – 2 Nephi 26:12-13

12 And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;
13 And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.
(2 Nephi 26:12-13)

The title page of the Book of Mormon, which was written in about 400 A.D., lists three purposes of the book. The third of those is: “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” This sounds like a paraphrase of the passage above, which was written by the prophet Nephi nearly 1,000 years earlier.

What does it mean to say that “Jesus is the Christ?”

  • The name “Christ” is a transliteration of the Greek word Christós (Χριστός), which means “the Anointed One.”
  • The equivalent Hebrew word is Mashiach (מָשִׁיחַ), which is rendered in English as “Messiah.”

So: Christ = Messiah = the Anointed One.

Nephi’s father, Lehi, used the term “Messiah” extensively (See 1 Nephi 1:19, 1 Nephi 10:4-14.) His brother, Jacob, introduced the term “Christ,” saying that an angel had revealed it to him (2 Nephi 10:3). Nephi uses both terms.

To be “anointed” is to receive a position of power and authority through a ceremony which includes having oil smeared or rubbed on you (Oxford Dictionary, “anoint“).

The term “Messiah” only appears twice in the King James Version of the Bible (in Daniel 9:25-26), but the concept of an “anointed one” is pervasive. Ancient Israelites looked forward to a king who would be a descendant of David, and who would rule over Israel during a period of peace and happiness. Some of the passages which were most closely associated with this prophecy are in the very chapters from Isaiah which Nephi quoted in order to prove “the truth of the coming of Christ” (2 Nephi 11:4). For example:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:42 Nephi 12:4).

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, 2 Nephi 19:6).

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins (Isaiah 11:1-5, 2 Nephi 21:1-5)

After quoting these and other passages from Isaiah, Nephi explains that the scriptures would declare to the Jews that their Messiah has already come: “For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (2 Nephi 25:19).

In the passage above, he expands his audience. If the Jews need to know that Jesus is the Anointed One, the King who will preside over a time of peace and happiness, then the Gentiles need to know the same. Thus, Isaiah’s prophecies set up Nephi’s testimony. This Messiah which Isaiah testified would come was in fact the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today, I will be grateful for the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, who was chosen by our Father in Heaven to be the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. I will be grateful for my knowledge that Jesus is the very Christ.

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The Words Which He Shall Speak…Shall Be the Law – 2 Nephi 26:1

1 And after Christ shall have risen from the dead he shall show himself unto you, my children, and my beloved brethren; and the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law which ye shall do.
(2 Nephi 26:1)

For Nephi, obedience was not a static concept. To obey was not simply to learn a set of rules and then follow them forever. Rather, obedience meant following instructions given by God over time.

Think about his history:

  1. God commanded his family to leave their home and go into the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:2).
  2. God commanded him and his brothers to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates (1 Nephi 3:2-4).
  3. God commanded them to go back again to invite Ishmael and his family to join them (1 Nephi 7:1-2).
  4. God commanded them to continue their journey in the wilderness (1 Nephi 16:9).
  5. God commanded him to build a ship and to cross the ocean (1 Nephi 17:8).

Partway through that journey, when he said, “Thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us” (1 Nephi 5:20, 1 Nephi 16:8), we get the idea that he believes in continuing revelation. He recognizes that the Lord is guiding his family, and he is willing to follow the Lord’s directions as they come.

In the prior chapter, Nephi emphasizes to his descendants the importance of keeping the law of Moses until “the law is fulfilled in Christ” (2 Nephi 25:23-27). In the passage above, he instructs them to obey the words of the Savior Himself after His death and resurrection. (See also 2 Nephi 32:6.) The main message is clear: you will receive additional instructions/directions/commandments over time. Be prepared to adapt and to obey.

I love President Russell M. Nelson’s example of obedience to new instructions from God. In 1979, he attended a meeting where President Spencer W. Kimball asked the participants to pray for the people of China. President Kimball then said, “We should be of service to the Chinese people. We should learn their language. We should pray for them and help them.” That evening, President Nelson said to his wife, “President Kimball asked us in that meeting to learn Chinese! And I did not hear him say, ‘Everyone except Brother Nelson!’ So, would you be willing to study Mandarin Chinese with me?” That decision led to a number of new opportunities to serve (“Hope of Israel,” Worldwide Youth Devotional, 3 June 2018).

Today, I will follow Nephi’s example of obedience to ongoing direction from God. I will remember that God will guide me through my life experiences if I will listen to His voice and follow His instructions.

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His Name Shall Be Jesus Christ – 2 Nephi 25:19-20

19 For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err. And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved.
(2 Nephi 25:20)

Names are important. When we use a person’s name with respect, we honor them. When we use their name inaccurately or disrespectfully, we disparage them. No wonder one of the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses was “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

Writing nearly 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Nephi provides an unequivocal testimony:

  • The Messiah will come.
  • His name will be Jesus Christ.
  • “There is none other name…whereby man can be saved.”

It’s fitting that he would preface that last statement by making reference to the brass serpent. When the Israelites had been bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness, Moses was commanded to make a brass serpent and lift it up on a pole. Anyone who had been bitten needed only to look up to it, and they would live (Numbers 21:4-9). Alma later explained that many of the people refused to look, “because they did not believe that it would heal them” (Alma 33:20).

Just like the act of looking at a sculpture, using the name of Jesus Christ correctly and respectfully might seem inconsequential. But as President Russell M. Nelson has taught, the way we use the name of Jesus Christ has a significant impact on our ability to receive His power:

As Latter-day Saints, we refer to His mission as the Atonement of Jesus Christ….
It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases, such as “the Atonement” or “the enabling power of the Atonement” or “applying the Atonement” or “being strengthened by the Atonement.” These expressions present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (“Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2017).

More recently, President Nelson has emphasized the importance of calling the Church by its proper name for the same reason:

What’s in a name? When it comes to the name of the Lord’s Church, the answer is “Everything!” Jesus Christ directed us to call the Church by His name because it is His Church, filled with His power.

President Nelson promised us blessings if we would use the name of the Savior, and of His church, correctly:

My dear brothers and sisters, I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen. We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord (“The Correct Name of the Church,” General Conference, October 2018).

Today, I will use the name of Jesus Christ accurately and respectfully. I will remember that, as Nephi testified, “there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ,… whereby man can be saved.”

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The Lord Hath Founded Zion – 2 Nephi 24:32

32 What shall then answer the messengers of the nations? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.
(2 Nephi 24:32, Isaiah 14:32)

Zion is the name of an ancient city established by Enoch which was taken up to heaven (Genesis 5:24, Moses 7:69). An important characteristic of that city is that “there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). They took care of each other. It was a safe and supportive society.

In the passage above, Isaiah summarizes the lesson to be learned from the prior chapters, in which he prophesies the destruction of the Babylonian and Assyrian Empires, the conquerers and scatterers of Israel: “The Lord hath founded Zion,” he says, “and the poor of his people shall trust in it.” Wealth and worldly power may result in oppression for a time, but these will not last. God’s Zion will emerge from the ashes when these temporary foundations crumble.

The prophet Joseph Smith said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object.” Elder D. Todd Christofferson has explained that we must do three things to establish Zion:

  1. “Become unified in one heart and mind”
  1. “Become…a holy people”
  1. “Care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us” (“Come to Zion,” General Conference, October 2008).

Today, I will do what I can to help God establish Zion in the world. I will be a peacemaker and a unifying influence. I will avoid corrupting influences and seek to be holy. And I will take action help people who are poor and the needy.

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Fallen from Heaven – 2 Nephi 24:12-20

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.
15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and shall consider thee, and shall say: Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?
17 And made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof, and opened not the house of his prisoners?
18 All the kings of the nations, yea, all of them, lie in glory, every one of them in his own house.
19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and the remnant of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet.
20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land and slain thy people; the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned.
(2 Nephi 24:12-20, Isaiah 14:12-20)

It is so hard to avoid hubris. A little prestige, a position of authority, a small amount of wealth can so easily go to our heads and give us the illusion of far greater power than we actually have. We also have the illusion of permanence: we think this influence will last forever. Other people don’t help: their praise can fortify our delusion and bolster our arrogance. No wonder President James E. Faust gave the following advice to Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf when he was called to serve as a general authority of the Church:

He said, “They will treat you very kindly. They will say nice things about you.” He laughed a little and then said, “Dieter, be thankful for this. But don’t you ever inhale it.” (“Pride and the Priesthood,” General Conference, October 2010).

Like so many passages in Isaiah, the passage above refers to multiple events. It describes the future downfall of the king of Babylon. It also depicts Satan’s fall from his pre-earth status as “an angel of God Who was in authority in the presence of God” (D&C 76:25-29).

More broadly, it serves as a warning to those who become proud because they assume their worldly power is permanent.

In the poem “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, a traveler tells of an old crumbling statue he found half-buried in the desert. The following words were inscribed on the base: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings; look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” The traveler contrasts this audacious declaration with the scenery which provides a silent rebuttal:

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Today, I will avoid letting worldly honors and praise go to my head. I will remember to keep in perspective all of my blessings and accomplishments. Above all, I will remember that all worldly power is temporary, but that Heavenly Father’s power and glory is eternal.

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Every Man’s Heart Shall Melt – 2 Nephi 23:6-8

Belshazzar's Feast

Belshazzar’s Feast by Rembrandt

6 Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
7 Therefore shall all hands be faint, every man’s heart shall melt;
8 And they shall be afraid; pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.
(2 Nephi 23:6-8, Isaiah 13:6-8)

Faith in God can help us avoid being paralyzed by the challenging experiences we face.

In the passage above, the prophet Isaiah predicts the panic which would overwhelm the people of Babylon more than 150 years later when their powerful empire was invaded in 539 BCE.

The painting above, which is in the National Gallery in London, depicts the terror of the king of Babylon, who was holding a celebration when a heavenly hand wrote the following words in Hebrew on the wall: “MENE” (מְנֵ֥א), “MENE” (מְנֵ֥א), “TEKEL” (תְּקֵ֥ל), “UPHARSIN” (וּפַרְסִֽין). The prophet Daniel, who was in captivity in Babylon, interpreted the message for the Babylonian king:

  • “MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.”
  • “TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”
  • “PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:26-28).

That night, King Belshazzar was killed, and his kingdom was conquered by the Persian Empire.

Isaiah’s description of these events depicts the fear experienced by people who base their confidence on worldly things, such as wealth, prestige, and organizational structures, and who fail to place their faith in God. Their feasts and celebrations may persist for a while, but eventually their foundation will crumble. Their hands will “be faint,” their hearts will “melt,” and their faces will be “as flames.”

In contrast, those whose faith in God is strong will be able to withstand difficult challenges without a loss of confidence. President Russell M. Nelson has shared a personal experience which illustrates this principle:

On a recent flight, our pilot announced that we would encounter turbulence during our descent and that all passengers must fasten their seat belts securely. Sure enough, turbulence came. It was really rough. Across the aisle and a couple of rows behind me, a terrified woman panicked. With each frightening drop and jarring bump, she screamed loudly. Her husband tried to comfort her but to no avail. Her hysterical shouts persisted until we passed through that zone of turbulence to a safe landing. During her period of anxiety, I felt sorry for her. Because faith is the antidote for fear, I silently wished that I could have strengthened her faith….
One of the realities of mortal life is that our faith will be tested and challenged. Sometimes those tests come as we face what appear to be life-and-death encounters. For this frightened woman, a violently rocking plane presented one of those moments when we come face-to-face with the strength of our faith (“Let Your Faith Show,” General Conference, April 2014).

Today, I will strengthen my faith in Jesus Christ. I will remember that faith in God can help me avoid the panic which might otherwise overcome me when I face difficult experiences.

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Call for Questions

During 2019, I’ve decided to organize my study around questions. Please help me by submitting one or more questions which I can study and write about next year. These questions can range from very specific (the meaning of a specific verse or phrase) to the very general (how to be a better parent, for example). See a list of some of the questions on my list so far, and submit your own by visiting my questions page.
Thanks for your help!

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