Sunday School Lesson 4

Lesson 4: 1 Nephi 12-14 (25 January 2004)

In chapter 12 Nephi sees the future of Lehi’s descendants: apostasy and destruction, though a remnant will remain. In chapter 13 he sees the future of the Gentiles: apostasy and restoration, though not all will come to the restoration. In chapter 14 he sees the last days: the Gentiles who accept the Gospel will be numbered with the children of Lehi and the abominable church will be destroyed.

Chapter 13

Verse 3: To whom does “Gentiles” refer?

Verses 7-8: What do you make of the fact that the description of the abominable church’s desires focuses much more on material wealth than on sexual sin?

Verse 9: What does it mean that the abominable church destroys and enslaves the saints “for the praise of the world”? How is the word “saint” being used here? How does the abominable church destroy and enslave the saints?

Verse 23: The angel says that the Bible contains the covenants of the Lord and some of the prophecies of the prophets, and he repeats that they are important because it contains the covenants of the Lord. What covenants is he referring to? Why are they important to Lehi’s people?

Verse 25: If the Bible went forth from the Jews in purity, what does that suggest about when or how things might have been removed from the record? What does it mean to say that the book went forth “in purity”? In this case is purity the same as completeness? as accuracy? or does the angel mean something else? Does “in purity” modify the book or the way that it was transmitted or . . . ?

Verse 26: Does this verse tell us that the abominable church is abominable because it has taken away plain and precious parts? Are “many parts which are plain and most precious” and “many covenants” two different things that have been removed, or is this a case of parallelism in which the second item in the parallel tells us what the first item means? In what ways could one remove a covenant from the Bible?

Verse 29: Many stumble because the plain things have been removed from the book. Is that stumbling apostasy or something else?

Verses 30-31: At the end of verse 30 and in verse 31, the Lord promises that he will not allow the Gentiles to utterly destroy the seed of Nephi and his brethren. Why would Nephi find such a promise comforting rather than disheartening?

Verses 36-37: The writings of the Book of Mormon contain “the gospel [. . .] and my rock and my salvation” (verse 36). Why does the Lord describe the gospel as “my rock”? In what other ways does he use “rock” and how might it be related to his use here? (Compare, for example, Matthew 16:18.) Why does he describe the gospel as “my salvation” rather than just “salvation”? What does it mean to bring forth Zion (verse 37)? Is the last part of the verse (“and whoso shall publish peace . . .”) parallel to the first part, making “bring forth Zion” and “publish peace” parallel? What does it mean to publish peace?

Verse 40: Are the last records referred to here those of the Book of Mormon, or are they all of the scriptural revelations of the latter-days? How do the last records restore the plain and precious things that have been removed? Can we use the later records to figure out what things were removed from the earlier ones? The verse says that the records “shall make known the plain and precious things” and that they “shall make known [. . .] that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father.” Are these two things intended to be parallel in meaning?

Chapter 14

Verses 1-2: What are the stumbling blocks that will be removed? Why is the promise that believing Gentiles will be numbered among the descendants of Lehi? What does that mean to us? In other words, so what?

Verse 3: The punishment of those who have dug the pit is that they will be thrown into it. What does this mean? Is this related to the idea that sin is its own punishment? (See, for example, Romans 1:24; Mosiah 2:36; Helaman 14:30; and Mormon 4:5 and 9:3.) What does the idea that sin is its own punishment rather than that punishment is something imposed by God teach us about the character of God?

Verse 8: When the angel asks Nephi whether he remembers the covenants with the house of Israel, what is he asking? What covenant or covenants does he have in mind? How is that relevant to Nephi’s purpose for writing his record (1 Nephi 1:20)? to this vision? What does it mean to remember the covenants? Does it mean the same thing for a human being as it does for God? (See, for example, Leviticus 26:42-45.) What is the connection between remembrance and faithfulness, between faithfulness and obedience? Given your answer to that question, what is the angel asking Nephi?

Verses 9-10: Having just asked Nephi whether he remembers the covenants, the angel immediately shows him a vision of the abominable church (verse 9). Why? What does that vision have to do with remembering the covenants? Does verse 2 help us understand who constitutes the church of the Lamb (verse 10)? How do we know which church we are in? Is 1 Nephi 12:7-8 relevant? Are there reasons we might have to judge which of the two churches a person other than ourselves is in?

Verse 23: Nephi says that the John’s revelation was “plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.” However, in 1 Nephi 15:3 he says that Lehi’s revelation was “hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord.” Does this mean that Lehi’s revelation is, in itself, more difficult to understand than John’s or is something else going on here?

7 comments for “Sunday School Lesson 4

  1. Adam Greenwood
    January 18, 2004 at 9:15 pm

    Chapter 13:8

    Sexual sins are grave without question. So are the lusts of the coin.

    Here’s my A. S. (amateurish speculation) in response to the question:

    1) It could be that the great and abominable church could well have sinned more through sex than wealth, but as a matter of historical accident its development went the other way.

    2) It could be that the fallout of sexual sins radically destabilize organizations or cultures, whereas sins of wealth and ambition are compatible with, maybe even sustaining of, organization life.

    These two answers presume that the great and abominable church approximates an actual organization, which I’m not sure is true.

  2. January 18, 2004 at 11:34 pm

    Adam, your last remark puts the finger on the problem. There are lots of reason–in the text–to believe that the abominable church isn’t a particular organization. But “A.S.” is quite welcome since these are only amateurish questions. But in a church of amateurs I suspect we ought not to be looking for more.

  3. Adam Greenwood
    January 19, 2004 at 10:23 am

    If the Great and Abominable is just another term for the World or the Devil’s Kingdom–if it isn’t an organization–then neither of my explanations make sense and we’re left to wonder why, if sexual sins are abominable above all but murder and denying the Holy Ghost, the Devil doesn’t emphasize them more. Here are a few more A.S.:

    1) Maybe sexual sins, because they’re more abominable, are harder to inculcate. Maybe societies and cultures, or even individual consciences, tend to have defenses against widespread sexual riot that they don’t have against widespread greed and ambition.

    2) As C.S. Lewis suggests in the Screwtape Letters, because sexual sins are physical sins, they offend the Devil in some way, so he uses them less than he might.

  4. Grasshopper
    January 19, 2004 at 10:53 am

    Or maybe because, as we have discussed elsewhere, it is easier to deceive people into thinking that material prosperity is a sign of God’s approval and blessing than it is to deceive them into thinking that promiscuity is a sign of divine favor.

  5. greenfrog
    January 20, 2004 at 12:21 pm

    What do you make of the fact that the description of the abominable church’s desires focuses much more on material wealth than on sexual sin?

    Perhaps the emphasis is intended to reflect that actions pertaining to aggregation of material wealth is of greater concern to God than sexual sin is.

  6. Adam Greenwood
    January 20, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    Grasshopper’s idea strikes me as good.
    Greenfrog’s idea I disagree with. What do you do with the verses in Alma that set up a hierarchy of sins, with sexual sin right up there at the top?

  7. January 22, 2004 at 1:18 am

    Adam, what do you do with scriptures like Ezekiel 16:49 which say that the sin of Sodom was not sexual sin, but being rich and idle, and not caring for the poor? Of course Jude 7, on the other hand, says it was burned for sexual sin. And James (2:10) says that to sin in one point of the law is to be guilty of violating all its points. It seems to me that deciding on the hierarchy of sins turns out to be difficult, if not impossible.

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