Jacob 4:2 whatsoever things we write upon anything save it be upon plates must perish and vanish away
The fact that the Nephite record was recorded on metal plates is a testimony that the work was commanded of the Lord. The Lord knew that the record must be preserved in its perfect form for translation by the power of God. Consider the difference between the record of the Book of Mormon-a perfectly preserved record, and the Dead Sea Scrolls-written on parchment that has suffered the effects of time and aging. Although written hundreds of years after the small plates of Nephi, the scrolls were found in thousands of pieces. The larger ones were put together like the pieces of a puzzle to restore the record. A considerable amount of time and effort goes into arranging the pieces, restoring the original lettering, and deciphering faded images. Joseph Smith didn't have to spend any time in such endeavors. The wisdom of the Lord had preserved the golden plates in a stone box. Of the thirteen people who witnessed the plates, none of them ever mentioned seeing any signs of aging or corrosion on the record, only that the characters themselves seemed to be of ancient origin.
Jacob 4:3 hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts
The appropriate response to receiving the word of God in the Book of Mormon is a feeling of great gratitude for those who took the time to laboriously engrave the characters on the plates in what must have been a very tedious process. Note the Lord's disgust with the Christian nations who received the Bible from the Jews but completely lacked this gratitude, what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles? (2 Ne 29:4) We should not be cavalier in our attitude towards the Book of Mormon. It was created for us at great pains and personal sacrifice by many great and wonderful men and should be received with thankful hearts.
Jacob 4:5 we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him
"The law of Moses was the type, Jesus the antitype; he was that toward which all creation looked and waited. The law was the symbol, Jesus the ultimate reality toward which it pointed. The law was the means, Jesus the end. These simple but pertinent verities are all but lost in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. Only through the clarifying and illuminating lenses of the Book of Mormon do we come to know that the law was anything more than a schoolmaster or teaching device. The law of Moses-including the intricate system of animal sacrifices-was the prophecy; Jesus was the grand fulfillment of the prophecy.
"'Behold,' Nephi stated, 'my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him' (2 Nephi 11:4). After having explained the need for 'the great and last sacrifice' of the Son of God, Amulek said, 'this is the whole meaning of the law [of Moses], every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal' (Alma 34:14)." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 34)
Jacob 4:5 Abraham...offering up his son Isaac, which is a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son
Many are familiar with the similarities between the story of Abraham and Isaac and the story of Elohim and Jehovah. What is sometimes underappreciated is how atrocious the practice of human sacrifice must have been to Abraham. Abraham had revolted from his father because of his father's idolatrous practices. While still in Chaldea, he knew that the idolatrous priest had sacrificed three virgins at one time...these virgins were offered up because of their virtue (Abr 1:11). Abraham himself was laid on the altar of the priest of Elkenah and narrowly escaped becoming a human sacrifice himself. Human sacrifice must have been a repugnant concept to him. It was these atrocities against which Abraham was rebelling when he sought to be a follower of righteousness (Abr 1:1).
Nevertheless, when Abraham receives the commandment from the Lord to offer up his son, Isaac, there is no wavering. He does not question the Lord even though the offering of Isaac was in many ways similar to all the pagan rituals of his father. He did not question. He proceeded with faith saying, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering (Gen 22:8).
Jacob 4:6 we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea
Jacob must have had faith as the grain of a mustard seed. This is how much faith it takes to move mountains, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matt 17:20). There were others with this great power:
1) The Brother of Jared, For the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin, Remove-and it was removed. And if he had not had faith it would not have moved (Ether 12:30).
2) To Nephi the brother of Lehi, the Lord said, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will...ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people...And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done (Hel 10:5-6).
3) Of Enoch Moses wrote, And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command (Moses 7:13).
Jacob 4:7 it is by his grace...that we have power to do these things
Jacob exercises the appropriate humility by not taking credit for the great power given to him. Were he to take credit himself, he would exhibit pride and would thereby lose his ability to command the elements. For the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness...when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride...the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man (DC 121:36-7). Also notice the similarities between the language of Jacob in this verse (the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace) and the oft quoted scripture in Ether, I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me (Ether 12:27). In summary, whenever the faithful, mortal man exhibits weakness, the grace of God is sufficient to make up the difference.
Jacob 4:8 despise not the revelations of God
Neal A. Maxwell
"The perspective-yielding truths of the Restoration did not come by research, debate, or discussion, nor by communiques from councils. Direct, divine revelation was required, and precisely for the reasons Jacob gave: 'Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.' (Jacob 4:8.)
"We cannot determine by using radio telescopes, for instance, that there is a plan of salvation operating in the universe, helpful as radio telescopes are for astrophysical purposes. Salvational truths are obtainable only by revelation.
"The faith-yielding truths flowing from the 'miraculous miracle' have come in rich abundance, in 'good measure,' like a harvest basket whose contents are 'pressed down, and shaken together, and running over' (Luke 6:38). In fact, as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has pointed out, more books or pages of scripture have come to us through Joseph Smith than from any other prophet-more even than from Moses, Luke, Paul, and Mormon combined! (Letter to author from Jeffrey R. Holland, February 18, 1986.)
"Many more scriptural writings will yet come to us, including those of Enoch (see D&C 107:57), all of the writings of the Apostle John (see Ether 4:16), the records of the lost tribes of Israel (see 2 Nephi 29:13), and the approximately two-thirds of the Book of Mormon plates that were sealed: 'And the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth' (2 Nephi 27:11). Today we carry convenient quadruple combinations of the scriptures, but one day, since more scriptures are coming, we may need to pull little red wagons brimful with books." (A Wonderful Flood of Light, p. 17-8)
Elder Alvin R. Dyer
"Again Moroni, another Book of Mormon prophet, speaks of those who would deny revelation.
'And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.
For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?' (Mormon 9:7-9.)
"The revelations from God are a great expediency in leading man unto eternal life and exaltation. Yet in every age where God's will has been expressed unto his people, there have been those who have failed to obey and who have in some instances rebelled against the revealed word of God." (Conference Reports, Oct. 1959, p. 22)
Jacob 4:9 earth was created by the power of his word
Some of the fundamental questions of the creation are "what is the process by which the creation takes place?" or "how exactly is it done?" That God the Father created the heavens and the earth by his Son, Jesus Christ is clear enough. But what did the pre-mortal Jehovah do? Did he physically gather unorganized matter, mold it with his hands and produce life in a cosmic test-tube? Obviously not! The scriptures tell us exactly how it was done-by the power of his word.
This phrase has two implications. First, the scriptures clearly demonstrate that "the Word" is another synonym for Jesus Christ. The most famous scripture which teaches this is John 1:1-3, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. Therefore, God the Father created the earth by the power of his word-or by the power of Jesus Christ.
The second and less obvious implication is that the process of creation takes place by the power of the spoken word. How did Jesus Christ gather the elements? He simply commanded that the unorganized matter become earth. The power of his priesthood had force over the elements which obeyed his every command in the creation. This pattern of creation is apparent from the book of Abraham, And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed...And the Gods saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good (Abr 4:18, 21). How much more simply could it be stated? The process of creation is to order the elements to combine into land, sea, sun, moon, atmosphere, plants, animals, etc. Once commanded, the elements respond to the priesthood of the great Creator, and obey as commanded. As Jacob states, God was able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created.
Jacob 4:10 seek not to counsel the Lord
A very common tendency among self-righteous Mormons is to question the way the Church handles its affairs. This insubordination, when expressed, is effectively seeking to counsel the Lord.
Boyd K. Packer
"Some among us would rather criticize the Lord and His church than concentrate on the problems. That is a symptom of impenitence.
"Follow the Brethren.... If you don't understand a problem or a position of the Church, restrain your tongue. Check the mote in your own eye before you criticize.... There is nothing in your lives that will destroy you if you will follow the Brethren. Enough evil doesn't exist in the world, even if it were brought together and focused on you, to destroy you except you consent to it." (Lucille C. Tate, Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower, p. 158)
Harold B. Lee
"Mark well those who speak evil of the Lord's anointed, for they speak from impure hearts. Only the 'pure in heart' see the 'God' or the divine in man and accept our leaders and accept them as prophets of the Living God...
"I want to bear you my testimony that the experience I have had has taught me that those who criticize the leaders of this Church are showing signs of a spiritual sickness which, unless curbed, will bring about eventually spiritual death. I want to bear my testimony as well that those who in public seek by their criticism to belittle our leaders or bring them into disrepute, will bring upon themselves more hurt than upon those whom they seek thus to malign. I have watched over the years, and I have read of the history of many of those who fell away from this Church, and I want to bear testimony that no apostate who ever left this Church ever prospered as an influence in his community thereafter. (In Conference Report, October 1947, p. 67.)" (Brent L. Top, Larry E. Dahl, and Walter D. Bowen, Follow the Living Prophets, p. 167-8)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Church members will live in this wheat-and-tares situation until the Millennium. Some real tares even masquerade as wheat, including the few eager individuals who lecture the rest of us about Church doctrines in which they no longer believe. They criticize the use of Church resources to which they no longer contribute. They condescendingly seek to counsel the Brethren whom they no longer sustain. Confrontive, except of themselves of course, they leave the Church but they cannot leave the Church alone. (Ensign, May 1996, p. 68.)" (Cory Maxwell, The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p. 68)
Jacob 4:11 be reconciled unto him [that] ye may obtain a resurrection
This wording is curious because it implies that the individual must be reconciled unto God in order to be resurrected. That is not what Jacob means at all. We know that all mankind will be resurrected without so much as lifting a finger. What Jacob is saying is that we must be reconciled unto God in order to receive the resurrection of the first-fruits, ye may obtain a resurrection...and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God. This phrase, "first fruits", applies only to the recipients of the Celestial kingdom. Therefore, Jacob is exhorting us to be reconciled unto God so that we can obtain the glorious resurrection of a celestial heir. Speaking of the "first fruits", the D & C says, They are Christ's, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God (DC 88:98).
Jacob 4:13 the Spirit speaketh the truth...things as they really are, and of things as they really will be
Joseph Smith is credited with revealing the definition of truth, And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come (DC 93:24). These 19 words give the answer to one of the most fundamental questions to face philosophers. Pilate asked the same question of the Savior, What is truth? (John 18:38) Unfortunately, Pilate did not wait for an answer but went to consult with the Jews. We should not be surprised that the same doctrine had been revealed to the Nephite prophets for they had communed with the Almighty and learned of those truths that only the Spirit teaches.
Jacob 4:14 the Jews were a stiffnecked people...and sought for things that they could not understand
This scripture is of paramount importance. So many have wondered why the writings of Isaiah are so obscure and difficult to understand. The prophecies of Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, or Zechariah can also be difficult. Why couldn't these prophets give their message in language that is easy to understand? The answer is given by Jacob. Such was the manner of prophecy among the Jews. They actually sought for things that they could not understand. As always, the Lord granted their request, because they desired it.
Jacob also gives a classic description of how it is that the Jews could have misunderstood the meaning of their own law to the point that they could reject the Holy One of Israel. He says that their blindness came by looking beyond the mark. The "mark" that they should have been looking to was Jesus Christ. The Jews were great at keeping some of the most minute statutes associated with the Law of Moses, but having looked beyond the mark, they did not understand to what purpose the Law was given. Hence the importance of Jacob's previous statement, we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him (v. 5).
Joseph Fielding McConkie explains the phenomenon of looking beyond the mark which was prevalent among the Jewish intellectuals:
"So rigid did the literal and ceremonial become that righteousness was overshadowed by legalism and salvation became the reward for outward conformity. Pharisaism and scholasticism ruled supreme. God himself was said to spend three hours a day in the study of law.
'All liberty of thought was abrogated; all Gentile learning was forbidden; no communion was allowed with the human intellect outside the Pharisaic pale. Within the circle of Rabbinism the Jew was 'the galley-slave of the most rigid orthodoxy.' The yoke of the Romans was not so exacting as that of the Rabbis, which dominated over a man's whole existence and intruded itself into the most trivial actions of life. The weak were tortured by the knowledge that they could not so much as wash their hands or eat a meal without running the risk of deadly offences. The 'ordination' of the Rabbis made them oracles for every subject and every action, from the cleaning of the teeth to the last prayer in which the dying commended their souls to God.' (Farrar, Frederic W. History of Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., 1961., pp. 60-61.)
'The hedge was made; its construction was regarded as the main function of Rabbinism; it excluded all light from without and all egress from within; but it was so carefully cultivated that the shrine itself was totally disregarded. The Oral Law was first exalted as a necessary supplement to the Written Law; then substituted in the place of it; and finally identified with the inferences of the Rabbis.' (Farrar, Frederic W. History of Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., 1961., p. 62.)" (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Gospel Symbolism, pp. 217-8)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Jacob speaks of ancient Judah as having rejected the words of its prophets...Intellectual embroidery seems to have been preferred to the whole clothing of the gospel-the frills to the fabric. In fact, one can even surmise that complexity was preferred over plainness by some because in conceptual complexity there might somehow be escape, or excuse, for noncompliance and for failure. In any event, this incredible blindness which led to the rejection of those truths spoken by prophets and which prevented the recognition of Jesus for who he was, according to Jacob, came 'by looking beyond the mark.' Those who look beyond plainness, beyond the prophets, beyond Christ, and beyond his simple teachings waited in vain then, as they will wait in vain now. For only the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us of things as they really are and as they really will be. There is more realism in the revelations than in reams of secular research, for secularism is congenitally shortsighted. Without revelation and its absolute anchors, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would also follow the fads of the day, as some churches have done; but as Samuel Callan warned, the church that weds itself to the culture of the day will 'be a widow within each succeeding age.' This is but one of the marks of the 'true and living' Church: it is spared the fruits of faddism" ("On Being a Light," address delivered at the Salt Lake institute of Religion, 2 Jan. 1974, p. 1 as taken from the 1981 Book of Mormon Institute Manual, p. 131)
Hugh Nibley contrasts the Jews interest in difficult scripture with the lack of interest prevalent among the Latter-day Saints. This scathing commentary is too insightful to be left out of this discussion.
"Yet Joseph Smith commends their (the Jews') intellectual efforts as a corrective to the Latter-day Saints, who lean too far in the other direction, giving their young people and old awards for zeal alone, zeal without knowledge--for sitting in endless meetings, for dedicated conformity and unlimited capacity for suffering boredom. We think it more commendable to get up at five a.m. to write a bad book than to get up at nine o'clock to write a good one--that is pure zeal that tends to breed a race of insufferable, self-righteous prigs and barren minds. One has only to consider the present outpouring of 'inspirational' books in the Church that bring little new in the way of knowledge: truisms and platitudes, kitsch, and clichés have become our everyday diet. The Prophet would never settle for that. 'I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness. . . . It has always been my province to dig up hidden mysteries--new things--for my hearers.' It actually happens at the BYU, and that not rarely, that students come to a teacher, usually at the beginning of a term, with the sincere request that he refrain from teaching them anything new. They have no desire, they explain, to hear what they do not know already! I cannot imagine that happening at any other school, but maybe it does. Unless we go on to other new things, we are stifling our powers." (Approaching Zion, p. 75)
Jacob 4:15-17 the Jews...will reject the stone upon which they might build
Apparently, the brass plates of Laban contained the Psalms. Jacob is quoting Psalms 118:22 which states, The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. (Note that Jacob uses the phrase 'the head of their corner'-leaving out the word "stone." This underscores the significance of italicized words seen in the Bible. When a Bible word is italicized, it means that there was no representation for that word in the original text and that the translators placed it there so that the phrase would make more sense. Thus we see that Jacob, quoting from the brass plates, did not include the word, not because it is not helpful, but because it was not represented in his copy of Psalms.) This scriptural passage is transcendent because it prophecies that the Jews will reject the Savior. Granted the language is not plain and simple but the meaning is unequivocal. The stone is Jesus Christ. It is rejected by the builders-the Jews. Yet the rejected stone is to become the head of their corner, the chief cornerstone, or the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.