2 Ne 1:3 I have seen a vision, in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed
"While Lehi and his company were still wanderers in the Arabian wilderness, the Lord gave him the promise that he would receive word of the destruction of Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 17:14) Now, after their arrival in America, the Lord gave them a vision in which the fate of that city was revealed." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 232)
It is only by revelation from God that Lehi could know of Jerusalem's destruction. It is only by revelation that Lehi could know that if his family had stayed in Jerusalem, they would have been destroyed. Many of the rich and wise were killed but many, like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azaraiah were preserved by the Babylonians, the king spake unto Ashpenaz...that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science (Dan 1:3-4). The Lord knew that Lehi would not be preserved as Daniel would be, had he remained in Jerusalem.
2 Ne 1:4 a land which is choice above all other lands
In the allegory of the olive tree, the land of promise is referred to as a good spot of ground (Jacob 5:25). See also Ether 2:7-12. The reasons why this is such a choice land is described in the next several verses.
Joseph Fielding Smith
"The Book of Mormon informs us that the whole of America, both North and South, is a choice land above all other lands, in other words-Zion. The Lord told the Jaredites that he would lead them to a land 'which is choice above all the lands of the earth.'...
"When the Lord began to lead the family of Lehi to this land, he said to them: 'And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands' It is generally understood that they landed in South America, and that their nations, the Nephites and Lamanites, dwelt in South and Central America during the greater part of their sojourn here. At any rate, the time of their civilization was principally spent in the south and not in the region now comprising the United States. This proves beyond the possibility of doubt that the choice land was South as well as North America, and while the City New Jerusalem, which the Book of Mormon tells us is to be built on this land that is choice above all other lands, will be in Jackson County, nevertheless, if one accepts the Book of Mormon, one must accept the whole hemisphere as the land of Zion." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 73)
Spencer W. Kimball
"This America is no ordinary country. It is a choice land, 'choice above all other lands' (q Ne.2:20). It has a tragic and bloody past, but a glorious and peaceful future if its inhabitants really learn to serve their God. It was consecrated as a land of promise to the people of the Americas, to whom God gave these great promises:
'It will be a land of liberty to its people' (2 Ne 1:7).
'They shall never be brought down into captivity' (2 Ne 1:7).
'And there shall be none to molest them' (2 Ne 1:9).
'It is a land of promise' (1 Ne 2:20).
'It shall be free from all nations under heaven.'
'There shall be no enemies come into this land.'
'It shall be free from bondage' (Ether 2:12).
'There shall be no kings upon the land' (2 Ne 10:11).
'I will fortify this land against all other nations' (2 Ne 10:11).
'He that fighteth against Zion shall perish' (2 Ne 10:13).
"But these promises, glorious though they be, desirable as they are, can come only '...if they will but serve the God of this land who is Jesus Christ...' (Ether 2:12). There is only one way. That infallible cure is simply righteousness, obedience, Godliness, honor, and integrity. There is no other cure. Mountains of arms and ammunitions will not guarantee safety, for enemies can also build fortifications and missiles and bomb shelters. If we would but believe the prophets! For they have warned that if the 'inhabitants of this land are ever brought down into captivity and enslaved, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land' (See 2 Ne 1:7). (Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, Oct. 1961, pp. 30-31 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 6-7)
2 Ne 1:5 the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever
"Different portions of the earth have been pointed out by the Almighty, from time to time, to His children, as their everlasting inheritance. As instances-Abraham and his posterity, that were worthy, were promised Palestine, Moab and Ammon-the children of righteous Lot-were promised a portion not far from the boundaries of the twelve tribes. The meek among the Jaredites, together with a remnant of the tribe of Joseph, were promised the great western continent...In the resurrection, the meek of all ages and nations will be restored to that portion of the earth previously promised to them. And thus, all the different portions of the earth have been and will be disposed of to the lawful heirs..." (Journal of Discourses 1:332-333 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 80)
2 Ne 1:7 if it so be that they shall serve him...it shall be a land of liberty unto them
Mark E. Petersen
"...We Americans must learn that [our nation] can continue to exist only as it aligns itself with the powers of heaven. If we turn our back upon the Almighty, even by ignoring him, we jeopardize our national future. If we deliberately oppose his purposes, we place ourselves in danger of destruction. These stern facts have been taught to Americans from the beginning of our national history, starting with our first President, George Washington. He realized and he publicly announced that we obtained our independence through an act of providence, since we were far too weak to gain it by ourselves. Knowing this, he warned that if we are to survive as a free and independent nation, we must obey the Almighty God who brought us into being. Abraham Lincoln, another inspired President, said virtually the same thing, warning that if we fail to obey the commandments of God, we shall go down to ruin....It is no imaginary ruin that faces our nation if we reject Jesus Christ, as Lincoln pointed out so dramatically. And it is possible that our greatness can be buried in profound obscurity if we refuse to turn to God." (Conference Report, Apr. 1968, pp. 59, 61, 62 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.81)
2 Ne 1:13 shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound...which bind the children of men
The Savior taught, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin (Jn 8:34). When a man hardens his heart and sins, Satan wraps him gently and quietly in his chains of hell (Alma 12:10-11) Satan waits in anxious anticipation for any opportunity to bind us with his great chain. Moses saw Satan, and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced. These chains both pull the individual down into the eternal gulf and they remain tightly bound to the individual in hell, or spirit prison, the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day (Moses 7:57).
Carlos E. Asay
"Shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound indicates the need to overcome bad habits, even the seemingly little habits that grow into strong 'chains of hell.'" (Ensign, May 1992, p. 41 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 83)
Marvin J. Ashton
"Who among us hasn't felt the chains of bad habits? These habits may have impeded our progress, may have made us forget who we are, may have destroyed our self-image, may have put our family life in jeopardy, and may have hindered our ability to serve our fellowmen and our God. So many of us tend to say. 'This is the way I am. I can't change....'Lehi warned his sons to 'shake off the chains' because he knew that chains restrict our mobility, growth, and happiness. They cause us to become confused and less able to be guided by God's Spirit...Samuel Johnson wisely shared, 'The chains of habit are too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken' (International Dictionary of Thoughts, p. 348)....Living a life of righteousness is a chainbreaker. Many of us today are shackled by the restrictive chains of poor habits. We are bound by inferior self-images created by misconduct and indifference. We are chained by an unwillingness to change for the better....Shaking off restrictive chains requires action....It requires commitment, self-discipline, and work. Chains weigh heavily on troubled hearts and souls. They relegate us to lives of no purpose or light. They cause us to become confused and lose the spirit....These chains cannot be broken by those who live in lust and self-deceit. They can only be broken by people who are willing to change. We must face up to the hard reality of life that damaging chains are broken only by people of courage and commitment who are willing to struggle and weather the pain....To change or break some of our chains even in a small way means to give up some behavior of habits that have been very important to us in the past....Even if our present way of life is painful and self-destructive, some of us...become comfortable with it. Those who are committed to improvement break chains by having the courage to try." (Ensign, Nov. 1985, pp. 13-5 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 83-4)
2 Ne 1:14 hear the words of a trembling parent
Lehi is only days from death. This amounts to his deathbed testimony or sermon. The content, as expected, is a last minute plea to his wayward sons. Lehi has lectured them several times in the past but to little avail. Nephi has previously recorded, he did exhort them then with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words (1 Ne 8:37). Lehi longed for the day when his sons would return to the Lord, like the prodigal son. He longed to celebrate their return, to "kill the fatted calf" for them. Unfortunately, this day never came.
2 Ne 1:15 Why would a righteous man like Lehi say, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell?
The only reason any of the righteous in spirit paradise were lucky enough to escape the chains of hell was because they had faith in the Holy One of Israel and repented from their sins. Otherwise, they would have been doomed to suffer with the devil and his angels, our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery (2Ne 9:9). Lehi understood what would have happened to all of God's creation without the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ.
Because of this infinite atonement, almost all the wicked will eventually be redeemed from hell. To be resurrected with a telestial body constitutes redemption from hell. A soul redeemed from hell has, in this sense, been saved. It is the sons of Perdition which, although they will be resurrected, will not be resurrected with any glory whatsoever. Of these the scriptures say, the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power; Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord after the sufferings of his wrath. For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb (DC 76:37-39).
2 Ne 1:15 I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love
"To be redeemed is to be atoned. From this it should be clear what kind of oneness is meant by the Atonement--it is being received in a close embrace of the prodigal son, expressing not only forgiveness but oneness of heart and mind that amounts to identity, like a literal family identity as John sets it forth so vividly in chapters 14 through 17 of his Gospel...
"This is the imagery of the Atonement, the embrace: 'The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love' (2 Nephi 1:15). 'O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies!' (2 Nephi 4:33). 'Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you' (Alma 5:33)." (Approaching Zion, pp. 567, 559)
2 Ne 1:20 Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land...
This is the great promise to all those who inhabit this land of promise. It applied to those who lived before the flood. It applied to the Jaredites. It applied to the Nephites, Lamanites, and Mulekites. It applies to the current inhabitants of North and South America. It is repeated many times in the Book of Mormon because the people keep forgetting the promises of the Lord. Like the covenant given to the children Israel by Moses (Lev 26), this promise was associated with a blessing and a cursing. The history of the Book of Mormon shows the fulfillment of both portions of the promise. At times the people are prospered, at times they are cut off from the presence of the Lord. The Book of Mormon acts as a voice of warning for us--to remind us what happens to those who live on this land and neglect to keep the commandments.
2 Ne 1:21 arise from the dust, my sons, and be men
D. Todd Christofferson
The prophet Lehi pled with his rebellious sons, saying, "Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men" (2 Nephi 1:21; emphasis added). By age, Laman and Lemuel were men, but in terms of character and spiritual maturity they were still as children. They murmured and complained if asked to do anything hard. They didn't accept anyone's authority to correct them. They didn't value spiritual things. They easily resorted to violence, and they were good at playing the victim.
We see some of the same attitudes today. Some act as if a man's highest goal should be his own pleasure. Permissive social mores have "let men off the hook" as it were, so that many think it acceptable to father children out of wedlock and to cohabit rather than marry. Dodging commitments is considered smart, but sacrificing for the good of others, naive. For some, a life of work and achievement is optional. A psychologist studying the growing phenomenon of what he calls "young men stuck in neutral" describes this scenario:
"Justin goes off to college for a year or two, wastes thousands of dollars of his parents' money, then gets bored and comes home to take up residence in his old room, the same bedroom where he lived when he was in high school. Now he's working 16 hours a week at Kinko's or part time at Starbucks.
"His parents are pulling their hair out. 'Justin, you're 26 years old. You're not in school. You don't have a career. You don't even have a girlfriend. What's the plan? When are you going to get a life?'
" 'What's the problem?' Justin asks. 'I haven't gotten arrested for anything, I haven't asked you guys for money. Why can't you just chill?' "
How's that for ambition?
We who hold the priesthood of God cannot afford to drift. We have work to do (see Moroni 9:6). We must arise from the dust of self-indulgence and be men! ("Let Us Be Men," Ensign, Nov. 2006, 46)
2 Ne 1:22 the eternal destruction of both soul and body
"This expression does not have reference to the annihilation of the body and spirit of the wicked. Such an interpretation would contradict many passages of scripture, the better part of which have been spoken by Nephite prophets. The Book of Mormon is most emphatic that the resurrection is universal and that it consists of the inseparable union of body and spirit. (See Alma 11:44-45; Alma 40:19-23.) The body and soul could properly be thought of as having been destroyed in the sense that they come forth in some resurrection other than the first or celestial resurrection. Such was Lehi's meaning in this instance (see 1 Nephi 14:3)." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 189)
2 Ne 1:23 put on the armor of righteousness
Paul taught about the armor of righteousness, Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph 6:13-17). See also DC 27:15-18).
The "armor of righteousness" is thought of as a New Testament doctrine even though Isaiah hints at it in Isaiah 59:17. Here we see another instance in which the language and doctrine of the Book of Mormon more closely resembles the New Testament than its contemporary, the Old Testament. This is not an anachronism because a careful study of the Old Testament reveals that "New Testament" ideas were known to the prophets, like Abraham, Isaiah, Moses, Elijah, etc., but the plain and precious truths were not described in plain and precious ways because the Jews preferred to have a riddle. But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14)
2 Ne 1:26 his sharpness was the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him
The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow (DC 6:2). There are times when using the word with sharpness is appropriate, especially when the audience is particularly wicked. Jacob grieved that he had to speak with such boldness to the wicked of his day (Jacob 2:6), Mormon used the sharpness of the word until it had no more effect among his people (Moroni 9:4), the Savior offended the scribes and Pharisees because he called them to repentance (Lu 11:37-54), the Savior even used sharpness with Peter when he said, Get thee behind me Satan (Matt 16:23). In the last instance, the Lord was chastening Peter for suggesting that He should not go through with His death and resurrection--the things which would bring about the Atonement. This is what the Savior came into the world to do. Peter's spiritual shortsightedness was appropriately chastised by the Lord.
In using sharpness, we would do well to follow the counsel found in DC 121:41-4:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile--
Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
Laman and Lemuel's response to Nephi's sharpness was like that among Mormon's people, they accused him of being angry with them. Mormon wrote, when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me (Mormon 9:4). And so it is that the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center (1 Ne 16:2).
2 Ne 1:29 But if ye will not hearken unto him I take away my first blessing
The blessing and birthright were traditionally given to the oldest son under the patriarchal order. This practice was modified at times in particular situations:
"A patriarch could bless his offspring by calling upon the powers of heaven. As he gave the birthright blessing to one of his sons, for instance, the keys and powers of the priesthood were extended to the next generation. In the patriarchal order, under the law of primogeniture, these priesthood rights normally were to be given to the eldest son." (D. Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 1138)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Lineage alone does not guarantee the receipt of whatever birthright privileges may be involved in particular cases. Worthiness, ability, and other requisites are also involved. Jacob prevailed over his older brother Esau because 'Esau despised his birthright.' (Gen. 25:24-34; 27; Rom. 9:10-12.) The Lord placed Ephraim (the younger) before Manasseh to fulfil his own purposes (Gen. 48); and Nephi, junior in point of birth to Laman and Lemuel, was made a ruler and a teacher over them, a circumstance that became the cause of much contention for many generations. (1 Ne. 2:22; 16:37-38; 18:10; 2 Ne. 5:3; 19; Mosiah 10:11-17.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 88)