On at least two occasions, Nephi’s older brothers asked him if the scriptures were talking about spiritual things or about temporal things. Here’s how they asked the question after he read two chapters of Isaiah to them:
What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh?
(1 Nephi 22:1)
Years later, when Nephi’s younger brother Jacob taught his people, he took pains to emphasize that the prophecies and promises he was quoting relate not only to life after death but also to our mortal experience. These are not mere abstractions, and they are not exclusively about a future existence. They are relevant and they are practical. They are worth our attention right now. To make this point, Jacob repeatedly uses two phrases: “according to the flesh” and “in the flesh.” For example:
- “[The Lord] has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them” (2 Nephi 9:53).
- “The promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh” (2 Nephi 10:2).
- “When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance” (2 Nephi 10:7).
- “I will fulfil my promises which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh” (2 Nephi 10:17).
Today, I will remember that the promises and the prophecies of God are relevant to my daily life, not just to a future state.