Saturday, July 22, 2017

Covenant Book, Part 7: Gentile Rejection

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And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever. 
—2 Nephi 29:14

In 3 Nephi 16, Christ finishes His statement to the twelve by discussing the role of the latter-day gentiles. He explains how Plan B will operate.
7  Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.
Notice that the fulness of “these things” shall come to the latter-day gentiles. This refers to what Christ mentioned in verse 4 concerning the fulness of His ministry among, not only the Nephites, but also among the other scattered tribes to whom He ministered. We do not yet have the fulness of any of these records, though we can expect to in the future. His word will be gathered in one.
8  But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles—for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them 
9  And because of the mercies of the Father unto the Gentiles, and also the judgments of the Father upon my people who are of the house of Israel, verily, verily, I say unto you, that after all this, and I have caused my people who are of the house of Israel to be smitten, and to be afflicted, and to be slain, and to be cast out from among them, and to become hated by them, and to become a hiss and a byword among them—
Christ speaks of the unbelieving of the gentiles. Remember, “unbelief” is not the same as disbelief. “Unbelieving” gentiles are religious—holding to false traditions and believing a false gospel. The Father pronounces a wo upon them due to this state of unbelief—because it causes the gentiles to reject truth and persecute God’s covenant people. It is always the most religious who oppose God.

There is a dual fulfillment of this statement. First, the gentiles came forth on the face of this land and scattered the prior inhabitants, including Lehi’s bloodline. The American Indians were indeed smitten, cast out, slain and hated. They became a hiss and a byword. Then, as if in a great chiasmus, after the initial restoration of the gospel, the proud gentiles to whom it came now cast out, hate, and spiritually slay those who believe Christ’s word and seek to recover their status as covenant Israel in our day. The “remnant” has become a hiss and a byword among both LDS and some post-LDS gentiles.

Ironically, the gentiles who repent, become covenant Israel—only to be persecuted by their fellow gentiles.
10 And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.
The Father recognizes that the proud gentiles will refuse what He offers. They will reject the fulness of the gospel, and engage in gross sin—including the “secret abominations” that always trigger destruction. Therefore, the fulness of what He offers will be “brought from among them.” This is a curious turn of phrase. He didn’t say “I will take it away from them.” The statement that He will bring the fulness “from among them” literally means that among the gentiles there will be some few—a remnant, if you will—who will gratefully accept the fulness of what the Father offers. These will be brought from among the gentiles and, in due time, gathered into a holy city, comprised of those who have received the Father’s covenant. The fulness will then be found nowhere among the gentiles.
11  And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them. 
12  And I will show unto thee, O house of Israel, that the Gentiles shall not have power over you; but I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel, and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel.
The gentiles will have no power over Zion. Those with whom the Father covenants become his family, and if they remain faithful to Him, He will protect them. Any who fight against God’s family fight against God himself, and will come to ruin.
13-15  But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel. And I will not suffer my people, who are of the house of Israel, to go through among them, and tread them down, saith the Father. But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.
All are invited to repent and turn to Christ. All are invited to receive God’s covenant and become His people. Those who reject His invitation will be trodden down by those who accept it. In this statement, Christ paraphrases language of Micah 5:8—a destruction theme to which the Lord will return, and which is becoming increasingly relevant in our day.
16  Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance.
“This people” doesn’t refer to the Nephite 12 to whom Christ is speaking. It doesn’t even refer to the general Nephite multitude looking on. Rather, it refers to those about whom Christ has been speaking—those covenant people identified as the House of Israel in the last days who will inherit this land as part of the covenant—they who will receive the fulness of the gospel, accept God’s covenant, and enjoy gathering and protection.

Christ finishes this portion of his message by quoting Isaiah 52:8-10 (3 Nephi 16:17-20):
And then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say: 
Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing, for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.
This is a fascinating and meaningful prophecy by Isaiah. It refers to the dual-Zion restoration of Israel in the last days, with two holy cities—Jerusalem and New Jerusalem, or Zion—established and peopled by those who God has accepted as His own. It is the culmination of the Father’s purpose in remembering and honoring His covenant to Abraham.

An alternate translation from the Hebrew can be rendered as follows:
Those who are waiting and watching will cry out; they will all raise a cry together and shout for joy because they will see the Lord face to face when he returns to Zion. Explode with shouts of joy together, ruins of Jerusalem, because the Lord has had a change of heart toward his people and has bought back his family, Jerusalem. The Lord has shown his holy power appearing among the Gentiles, and all the world shall see the victory of God. 
The “watchmen,” or “those who are waiting and watching,” bring to mind Christ’s statements in the Testimony of St. John:
He that treasures my teachings, and stands ready, watching for every communication I send him, is he who shows love for me. To those who show love for me, my Father will show love to them, and I love all those, and I will personally minister to them. 
Judas (not Iscariot), asked, Lord, how is it you will manifest yourself to us, but not to the world?  
Jesus answered and said to him, If a man loves me, he will stand ready, watching for every communication I will send to him; and my Father will also love him, and we will come visit him, and continually abide by his side.  
Whoever claims to love me but does not stand ready, watching for every communication I will send, indeed does not love me. These teachings are not from me, but come from the Father who sent me.  
Those who watch for every communication from the Lord surely treasure His word and seek more of it. This is a good reason to support the current effort to recover and accept the most complete, accurate gathering of scripture possible. It shows we treasure and value His word. Ultimately, it shows we love Him. And, as Christ pointed out, Zion will begin among a group of cast-out gentiles who will repent, value the fulness of the gospel, receive the Father’s covenant, and become Israel.

Isaiah’s Summary

The verses Christ quotes from Isaiah 52 summarize the final outcome of God’s work. This is the very Isaiah passage the priests of King Noah attempted to use against Abinadi when they tried him for his life (Mosiah 12:22-24). The priests’ failure to understand this passage proved their perverted and wicked status (Mosiah 12:25-27). Abinadi taught a masterful sermon centering on these passages, ultimately relating it to the atonement of Christ and the very foundations of the Father’s plan to redeem mankind (Mosiah 12-16).

Of course, truth often incites attacks, and it didn’t end well for Abinadi. His sermon incited the king and priests to put him to death (Mosiah 17:1). But Christ’s use of this Isaiah prophecy vindicates His servant Abinadi, and re-emphasizes the final outcome: God’s promises WILL be fulfilled. As gentiles of the last days, the choice is left to us. We are free to join with the few who treasure God’s word and are willing to become His people, or we can remain with the unbelieving many who will be trodden under foot, gathered into bundles, and burned at His coming. The choice is always ours, but the final outcome is certain.

And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.
—1 Nephi 13:37