33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
(2 Nephi 26:33)
Yesterday, I wrote about Nephi’s declaration that all people need to know that Jesus is the Christ, and that He will manifest Himself to everyone who believes in Him. Later in the same chapter, he emphasizes this point by listing several characteristics which do not affect our relationship with God. Nephi tells us that God welcomes all of His children that come to Him, without regard to race (“black or white”) or gender (“male or female”). And he includes a third distinction: “bond or free.” What did he mean by that, and what are the implications for us?
We know that, at least from the time of King Benjamin, slavery was illegal among the Nephites. (See Mosiah 2:13, Alma 27:9.). Also, it seems unlikely that any of Nephi’s people were slaves. Nephi was certainly familiar with slavery. He reminded his brothers at least twice of the bondage of the children of Israel to the Egyptians (1 Nephi 17:24-25, 1 Nephi 19:10), and just two chapters earlier, he quoted a prophecy from Isaiah about the eventual deliverance of his people from bondage in Babylon (2 Nephi 24:3). But considering that his people probably had no direct experience with bondage, it’s worth considering whether this characteristic could have other meanings.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that the word bond “means more than slavery. It means being bound (in bondage) to anything from which it is difficult to escape.” He then suggested a number of different forms of bondage we might experience: physical or emotional afflictions, addictions, harmful customs or traditions, and erroneous ideas (“All Men Everywhere,” General Conference, April 2006). With this more expansive definition in mind, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that we’re all in some form of bondage. What a comfort it is to know that God invites us to come unto Him in spite of these limitations, and that He will not turn us away.
Today, I will be grateful for the knowledge that Heavenly Father loves all of His children. I will pray with confidence, knowing that He will not turn me away in spite of my limitations. I will treat other people with respect, knowing that they are all His children and that He loves them just as He loves me.