2 Ne 27:1 all the lands of the earth...will be drunken with iniquity
According to the justice of God, the wicked cannot be destroyed until certain conditions are met. These conditions are that the people have reached such a state of wickedness that the Lord is justified in punishing them and that they have been sufficiently warned by the prophets. Both of these conditions will have been met prior to the destruction of the wicked in the last days.
We can see a pattern in the many other societies who have been destroyed by the Lord. First, was the flood, And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen 6:5). Obviously, Noah was the prophet of warning. This pattern was repeated with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Jews in the meridian of time, the Jaredites, the Nephites at the time of the coming of Christ, and the Nephites prior to their ultimate destruction.
What is remarkable about Nephi's prophecy is that in the last days all the lands of the earth will reach such a state of wickedness that they will be ripe for destruction. Paul accurately described the state of being drunken with iniquity:
2 Ne 27:3 all the nations that fight against Zion...shall be as a dream of a night vision
Nephi continues to borrow from the prophecies of Isaiah, see Isa 29:8. He prophesies that those who contend against Zion will be like a thirsty man whose thirst is never quenched or a hungry man whose hunger is never satisified. Elsewhere, Isaiah make it clear that the day will soon come when the Lord will fight Zion's battles, I will contend with him that contendeth with thee (Isa 49:25). The D&C teaches that the fame of Zion will spread because of the power of the Lord which will preserve it:
The day will come when Zion, or the New Jerusalem, will become so powerful, both spiritually and politically, that it will strike fear into the hearts of the wicked. Verse 14 of 1 Nephi 22 reads, "all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed." This doctrine was sometimes boldly and tactlessly declared by the early saints in Missouri. This contributed to the paranoia and hatred which was so easily engendered among the Missourians of the early 1830's.
2 Ne 27:7-11 in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof
Nephi understands that Isaiah's reference to the words of a book that is sealed (Isa 29:11) refers to the golden plates. The sealed portion of these plates has engendered some speculation. What is contained in the sealed portion? When will we get to read that sealed portion? The Book of Mormon answers both of those questions. First of all, Nephi explains that the sealed book contains a revelation covering the events of the entire world's history, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof. This is exactly how Moroni explains it in Ether 3:27:
The brother of Jared had such faith that he was given this revelation-a history of the inhabitants of the earth from beginning to end. It would contain all things...which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth (v. 11). Had this revelation been translated by Joseph Smith, we would likely have a much clearer picture of the events that are to transpire at the time of the Second Coming. Instead, they are given to us in the figurative language of John the Revelator. The brother of Jared's words would have been written to our understanding and would contain the great power that Moroni prayed about, the things which he (the brother of Jared) wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them (Ether 12:24).
Nevertheless, the Book of Mormon was written to go forth to a wicked world, and the things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the wickedness and abominations of the people (v. 8). Therefore, some of the most holy and sacred revelations must be withheld until the world is ready. This is why Nephi couldn't record all of the vision which he saw (1 Ne 14:25), it is why the other Nephi couldn't record those things which Christ prayed for them (3 Ne 17:17), and it is why Paul couldn't speak of the words which he heard when he was caught up to the third heaven, he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2 Cor 12:2-4).
"Paul ascended into the third heavens, and he could understand the three principal rounds of Jacob's ladder-the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms, where Paul saw and heard things which were not lawful for him to utter. I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 304)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Now the Lord has placed us on probation as members of the Church. He has given us the Book of Mormon, which is the lesser part, to build up our faith through our obedience to the counsels which it contains, and when we ourselves, members of the Church, are willing to keep the commandments as they have been given to us and show our faith as the Nephites did for a short period of time, then the Lord is ready to bring forth the other record and give it to us, but we are not ready to receive it. Why? Because we have not lived up to the requirements in this probationary state in the reading of the record which had been given to us and in following its counsels." (Conference Report, Oct. 1961, pp. 19-20 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 156)
2 Ne 27:12 three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God
There is a significant difference between what the three witnesses experienced and what the eight witnesses saw. The scripture says that the three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God. This means that rather than Joseph Smith just showing them the plates, they were given the privilege of seeing Moroni, of hearing a voice from heaven proclaim the truth of the record, of beholding the Liahona, sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate (see commentary on how the 3 witnesses received their witness). The eight witnesses, in contrast, saw the plates, but the witness was not given by the power of God. Rather it was given according to the will of God (v. 13).
2 Ne 27:13 none other which shall view it, save it be a few
This has reference to the eight witnesses and Mary Whitmer. The eight witnesses, as described above were allowed to handle the plates and view the characters. This is in contrast to the three witnesses who did not handle the plates but had the pages turned for them by the angel Moroni (see commentary on how the 3 witnesses received their witness)..
The story of Mary Whitmer is interesting. She had been making great sacrifices in the Whitmer home to allow the work to progress. One day, while wearily performing her labors she saw the angel Moroni who showed her the plates. The story is told by her daughter who had inquired of Joseph as to the location of plates:
"I saw something which led me to the belief that the plates were placed or concealed in my father's barn. I frankly asked Joseph if my supposition was right, and he told me it was. Sometime after this, my mother (Mary) was going to milk the cows, when she was met out near the yard by the same old man (judging by her description of him) who said to her: 'You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tired because of the increase of your toil; it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.' Thereupon he showed her the plates. My father and mother had a large family of their own, the addition to it therefore of Joseph, his wife Emma and Oliver very greatly increased the toil and anxiety of my mother. And although she had never complained she had sometimes felt that her labor was too much, or at least she was perhaps beginning to feel so. This circumstance, however, completely removed all such feelings and nerved her up for her increased responsibilities." ("Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith," Millennial Star 40 (9 Dec 1878):772-73 as taken from Testimony of the Book of Mormon Witnesses by Preston Nibley)
It is remarkable to note that Mary Whitmer was the only woman to behold the plates. Even Emma, who acted as a scribe and was an untiring support of Joseph's work, never saw the plates unless they were covered in some way. The only members of the prophet's family who ever saw the plates were Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith who were only allowed to see them as part of the group of eight witnesses.
2 Ne 27:15-19 The Charles Anthon story
Nephi is much more clear in his prophecy of the Charles Anthon encounter than is Isa 29:11-12. Look at the following passage, the Lord God shall say unto him (Joseph Smith) to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another (Martin Harris), that he may show them unto the learned (Charles Anthon), saying: Read this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them. Martin Harris recorded the following history:
"I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyric, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.
"He then said to me, 'Let me see that certificate.' I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying, that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him, he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, 'I cannot read a sealed book.' I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation." (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 20)
Neal A. Maxwell
"This is not solely a reference to professor Anthon, since the plural pronoun they is used (2 Ne 27:20). The reference suggests a mind-set of most of the learned of the world, who by and large, do not take the Book of Mormon seriously. Even when they read it, they do not really read it, except with a mind-set which excludes miracles, including the miracle of the book's coming forth by the 'gift and power of God.'" (First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, BYU Religious Studies center, p. 9 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 157)
2 Ne 27:22 seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me
Investigators often ask about the current whereabouts of the golden plates. If Joseph Smith had found an ancient record, it should be displayed like the relics of King Tut, or any other archeological site. What is misunderstood, is that the Book of Mormon was delivered and translated by the power of God. The Lord makes it clear that the sealed portion is not to go forth to the world until it is time, in his infinite wisdom, to reveal all things unto the children of men (v. 22). In order to protect this sealed portion, Joseph Smith was required to return the plates to Moroni when he was done translating the unsealed portion. Even if Joseph had been able to show the plates to the world, they would not have believed his message, Behold if they will not believe my words, they would not believe you, my servant Joseph, if it were possible that you should show them all these things (the plates, etc.) which I have committed unto you (DC 5:7).
Joseph Fielding Smith
"The question has been asked many times of our elders: Where are the plates? Does the Church have in its possession the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith?
"When the answer is given that the plates were received again by the Angel Moroni, who through the centuries since they were hid up unto the Lord has been their special guardian, the reply is generally made: What a wonderful aid it would be to your people in convincing the world of the truth of your story if you could show the plates to prove that Joseph Smith really had them.
"Perhaps it is natural for a man who hears for the first time the story of Joseph Smith and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to propound such a question and to think that the plates, if they had been placed in some museum where the public could examine them, would have added much to prove the authenticity of the Prophet's story. With deeper reflection we discover that this would not have been the case, for it is not the way the Lord proves his truth, now or at any other time. However, in surprise, and in some cases with an incredulous smile, the propounder of this question turns away feeling that such an answer as he has received is an admission that Joseph Smith never had the plates and practiced a fraud upon the public.
"EXISTENCE OF PLATES WOULD NOT PROVE DIVINITY OF BOOK. It is well in considering this matter to remember the words of the Lord to Isaiah: 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.'(Isa 55:8)
"If the Lord had followed the thoughts of men and had commanded Joseph Smith to place the plates in some repository where they could have been inspected by the curious public, it would have led to endless disputations. Enemies of the Church would not have been convinced and would have contended most bitterly that the plates were spurious. No one could have read them for the characters engraved on them are unknown to the savants of the present age.
"The Lord does not convince men of his truth by placing before their eyes and in their hands tangible evidence, as a lawyer may do before the court, marking it exhibit A and exhibit B, and then expect it to be accepted. The Lord expects the searcher after truth to approach him with a contrite spirit and with sincerity of purpose; if he will do this and keep the commandments of the Lord, he shall receive the witness through the Holy Spirit and shall know the truth." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 227-8)
2 Ne 27:25 Forasmuch as this people draw near to me with their mouth
Nephi prophesies of the first vision for he declares the very words that the Lord will tell Joseph Smith at that time. This passage describes well the state of religion in the days of Joseph Smith. It also refers to the hypocrites in the days of Christ, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me (Matt 15:8).
This scripture also demonstrates the importance of what is in our hearts, not what comes out of our mouths. The person who is fake and phony in conversation, exhibiting a kindness that is more pretended than real, aptly demonstrates this principle. It doesn't matter how nice a person is if he or she is not willing to lift a finger to help another person. Members of the church are commonly guilty of this. They draw near to their fellowmen with their mouth but their hearts are far from them.
It should be noted that from verse 25 to the end of the chapter, Nephi is quoting the last half of Isaiah 29.
2 Ne 27:27 wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord
We learned from the last chapter that Isaiah was apparently describing secret combinations when he described those that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? And who knoweth us? (Isa 29:15) That these secret combinations are founded by the devil is well established in the Book of Mormon. See also 1 Ne 14:9.
2 Ne 27:28 Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field
"As a proof of the Divine power and interest in human affairs, Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field; and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest. That is to say, the fertility and productiveness of the country will be so great, with the blessings of God, that there will seem to be no difference between a natural forest and an artificial park. All will have the appearance of a well cultivated garden.
"This has been corroborated in our own day. In less than 25 years, the actual development of Palestine, agriculturally, commercially and intellectually, is the marvel of history. The Jews in Palestine, as the Latter-day Saints in America, have, literally, turned a desert into a garden. They have brought money, knowledge, idealism, and the type of people settled there is the best human material available for the building up of a country. Of the 400,000 Jews in Palestine about 10,000 are said to be immigrants from America. They have contributed much, particularly through investments, toward development of the orange groves, shipping and commercial companies and industries." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 400)
2 Ne 27:29 the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness
The Book of Mormon is certainly available in braille and on audiocassette so that the deaf and blind can understand the message of the Book of Mormon. However, this is not what Isaiah is prophesying about. Rather, he understands that the spiritually deaf will hear the word of the Lord and the spiritually blind will see the light of the gospel as taught in the Book of Mormon.
2 Ne 27:35 They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding
"Oh, how my heart has been pained within me when I have seen the blindness of the Christian world, and I knew that many of them were sincere! I knew they desired to know the truth, but they scarcely knew whether to turn to the right or to the left, so great were the errors that were taught in their midst, and so strong the traditions which they had imbibed, the fear of the Lord being taught them by the precepts of men instead of by inspiration and the power of the Holy Ghost. 'They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding' when this book comes forth, and 'They that murmur shall learn doctrine.'
"It would seem, then, that there is something connected with doctrine in the contents of this book, or the people could not learn doctrine therefrom and have their errors done away. But those who have read this book will bear me record that their minds have been forever set at rest in regard to doctrine, so far as the ordinances of the kingdom of God are concerned. Those who erred, and did not know whether sprinkling, pouring or immersion was the true method of baptism, now know? Why? Because the Book of Mormon reveals the mode as it was given to the ancient Nephites on this continent. So in regard to every other principle of the doctrine of Christ--it is set forth in such great plainness that it is impossible for any two persons to form different ideas in relation to it, after reading the Book of Mormon." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 15, p. 187)