2 Ne 26:1-2 Christ...shall show himself unto you, my children
In chapter 26, Nephi reviews some of the prophecies regarding the coming of Christ among the Nephites, the destruction of the wicked among the Nephites, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The content of this chapter closely parallels the content of his vision of the history of the world contained in 1 Ne 12-15. He also uses Isaiah 29 in this chapter, thereby explaining the relationship between Isaiah's writings and his vision.
The first thing that is referenced is the appearance of the Savior to the Nephites. This is recorded in 1 Ne 12:6, I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them. When Nephi says in verse 2, I have beheld...great wars and contentions among my people, he is referring to his vision where he saw the people of my seed gathered together in multitudes against the seed of my brethren; and they were gathered together to battle (1 Ne 12:15). This pattern of referencing this vision will continue for most of the chapter. Eventually, Nephi begins to weave in the prophecies of Isaiah 29. By doing so, he helps us to understand the meaning of some of these Isaiah passages.
2 Ne 26:3 signs given unto my people of his birth
Samuel the Lamanite prophesied of the signs of the coming of Jesus Christ. Five years prior to their fulfillment, he described the signs of his birth as follows, 1) great lights in heaven...one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day, 2) there shall a new star arise, and 3) many signs and wonders in heaven (see Hel 14:2-6).
The signs of his death and resurrection are 1) complete darkness in the land for 3 days, 2) terrible destructions-lightning, thunder, earthquakes, etc., and 3) the resurrection of many saints. See Hel 14:20-25.
2 Ne 26:3 the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground
The scriptures teach that the earth is a living being. Whether figurative or not, the earth experiences what we do as individuals-a baptism by water, a baptism by fire, a day of redemption, and a new, celestialized body. Therefore, it is the earth itself that cries to the Lord when the blood of the saints is spilt. As Enoch learned, And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face? (Moses 7:48)
2 Ne 26:4-6 all those who are proud, and that do wickedly...shall be as stubble
These three verses describe the destructions in the Americas at the time of the death and resurrection of Christ (compare to 3 Ne 8-9). We see that the destruction of the proud and wicked Nephites are a type for the way the wicked will be destroyed at the Second Coming of Christ. From this we learn that the signs in the heavens and the destructions upon the land were not subtle but catastrophic. We should expect nothing less than this with the Second Coming. As Malachi prophesied, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch (Mal 4:1).
2 Ne 26:7 O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people
Nephi first felt this pain when he saw the vision of the history of his people, I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall (1 Ne 15:5). The Lord feels this same godly sorrow for His wicked children. He explained to Enoch how the God of heaven was brought to tears by the wickedness of his children:
'And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
...The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;
And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them' (Moses 7:29, 32-34).
2 Ne 26:9-10 three generations shall have passed away (in righteousness)
Again Nephi learned this during his vision as recorded in 1 Ne 12:11. See 3 Ne 27:32 and 4 Ne 1 for the fulfillment of this prophecy.
2 Ne 26:11 For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man
B. H. Roberts
"When the Spirit of the Lord is withdrawn...darkness, like the blackness of night surges through the soul of man, and the sun of righteousness seems set for him, he is then made to feel what it means to sin against the law of God as it has been revealed unto his soul. When you think of the bitterness of that personal suffering, you will not marvel that when the heavy burden of a world's sin rested down upon the Son of God in Gethsemane--you certainly will not marvel that he sweat great drops of blood in his agony; nor wonder at his suffering on the cross." (Defense of the Faith and the Saints, p. 514)
Joseph Fielding Smith
"The Spirit of the Lord will not dwell in unclean tabernacles, and when the Spirit is withdrawn, darkness supersedes the light, and apostasy will follow. This is one of the greatest evidences of the divinity of this latter-day work. In other organizations men may commit all manner of sin and still retain their membership, because they have no companionship with the Holy Ghost to lose; but in the Church when a man sins and continues without repentance, the Spirit is withdrawn, and when he is left to himself the adversary takes possession of his mind and he denies the faith.
"It is possible for a man who has received a perfect understanding of the truth and has walked in the light of the Holy Spirit to fall away through transgression. But when he turns away, he still knows that he once had the light. The Lord has said of such: 'All those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power-They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born.' (DC 76:31-2)" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 309)
"Now, as I love the Saints for their faithfulness, I also feel remorse and sorrow for those who fail to have that kind of faith, for those who are not willing to do their part, for those who have discontinued attending their meetings. Brigham Young said that when we fail to attend our sacrament meetings and observe our prayers, the Spirit of the Lord will withdraw himself, and a spirit of darkness will come over us. Now there are a great many people in our midst who have ceased attending their meetings, and who do not observe their prayers. Some of them are near to us, some of them are dear to us, but the Lord does withdraw his Spirit.
"...And when people walk in darkness, they cannot love the brethren; they cannot love the Lord; they cannot love the people; they cannot love this great Latter-day cause, the greatest movement the world has ever known, aside from the great atonement of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." (Conference Report, Oct. 1950, p. 151)
Sterling W. Sill
"Repentance is God's cure for every disease that plagues our lives. As repentance is postponed, the sinner becomes more willful, and any upward change becomes more difficult. If this Godly gift is not used, it may lapse into impotence, and the soul may be lost.
"Through Noah the Lord said, 'My spirit shall not always strive with man. . . .' (Gen. 6:3.) And someday when it may be too late, we may discover that repentance is the most thrilling, exciting, uplifting of all possible activities." (Conference Report, Oct. 1964, p. 112)
2 Ne 26:15 the Lord God shall have camped against them round about
Nephi is quoting Isaiah 29:3 which reads, I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. Without Nephi's help it would be difficult to determine that this passage had reference to the persecutions that the native American Indians suffered at the hands of the Gentiles. Nephi is going to make frequent references to Isaiah 29 and also his vision. He saw the same persecutions as referenced in 1 Ne 13:31.
2 Ne 26:16 for those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground
Again Nephi references Isaiah 29 and his vision, see 1 Ne 13:39. The Book of Mormon is obviously the vehicle by which those who are dead will speak out of the ground. The phrase, their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit, could be interpreted to have a double meaning. First, in Isaiah's day, a person with a familiar spirit was someone who claimed to be able to speak with the dead. The voices of the ancient prophets, then, are heard in the pages of the Book of Mormon. Second, the Book of Mormon has a "familiar spirit" to all those filled with the Spirit of God. Through the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost, the righteous recognize the divine nature of the Book of Mormon. It is "familiar" in the sense that it carries the same spirit of truth and righteousness that the Bible does.
2 Ne 26:17 written and sealed up in a book
See Isaiah 29:11.
2 Ne 26:18 their terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away
Nephi explains that the phrase, their terrible ones, can refer to the mighty and proud of his people who were destroyed in the great and last battle of the Nephites. It also refers to those of the Nephites and Lamanites who had dwindled in unbelief (v. 17). Interestingly, he again gives us great insight into a less well understood verse of Isaiah, Isa 29:5.
2 Ne 26:19 smitten by the hand of the Gentiles
"The story of the invasion of America by Europeans in the 16th century, is a tragic illustration of the truth of this prophecy. Witness the appearance in Mexico of Cortez with his 450 Spaniards and 1000 Tlascalan allies. From the very first of his contact with the natives, strife and slaughter ensued....Spanish cannon swept the streets with terrible effects. Some idea of the losses of the Aztecs can be formed from the fact that the battle and the retreat cost Cortez 750 of his 1250 white soldiers and 4000 of his 5000 Tlascalan allies.
"But Cortez came back. On April 28, 1521, he began a siege of the city, which Dr. John Fiske compares to the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, on a smaller scale, of course. On August 18, Cortez was master of the situation. But then the city was a ruin. A new era had been inaugurated, in which the natives lost their culture, their literature, and arts, and were, practically, buried in the 'dust.'
"The first contact of the natives of Peru with the Spaniards under Pizarro and Almargro-both of whom were finally murdered in a feud between themselves-was a duplicate of the so-called conquest of Cortez. We shall not here repeat the almost incredible stories of cruelties perpetrated on the Indians by some of the early invaders. Suffice it to say that this prophecy was literally fulfilled. The Indians were everywhere sorely 'smitten by the hands of the Gentiles.'" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 386)
2 Ne 26:20-21 many churches among the Gentiles
Nephi describes the Gentile churches saying, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning. How similar are the words of the Savior to Joseph Smith in the sacred grove, they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof? (JS-H 1:19) See also Isa 29:13.
Joseph Smith described the envyings and strifes of the religions of his day, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued-priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions (JS-H 1:6).
2 Ne 26:22 there are also secret combinations
Again the parallels with the 29th chapter of Isaiah continue. 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 26:22 he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord
A flaxen cord is a soft cord, one that is easily broken. Often the soft flaxen cord is hardly noticed when first placed around the neck. However, with time the grip of Satan strengthens until one is bound with strong cords and led to eternal destruction. "The safest road to Hell...is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without turnings, without milestones, without signposts." (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. xi) In other words, "By small sins are great sins brought to pass." (compare 1 Ne. 16:29)
If only we would recognize the flaxen cord for what it is. When Satan puts such cords around our necks, they can be easily broken if they are noticed. However, as he progressively places stronger cords around our necks, his grip over our souls strengthens-we become choked as to the things of the Spirit. Elder Carlos E. Asay said, "The first wrongdoing is like a single strand of flaxen thread; it is easily broken and thrown aside. But each time the wrong is repeated another strand is intertwined around the first, and on and on it goes until an almost unbreakable cord of multi-strands is woven. 'The chains of habit,' said Samuel Johnson, 'are too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.'" The Road to Somewhere: A Guide for Young Men and Women [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 94.)" Eventually, Satan binds us with his chains of darkness which we cannot, by ourselves, remove. Unlike the breakable flaxen cord, these chains of darkness require the assistance of others, priesthood leaders and the Savior's atonement, in order to break free.
Carlos E. Asay
"Sin is the older and uglier brother of bad habit. Sin, like habit, can enter our lives in a seemingly innocuous way. It can begin small and occupy only a corner of our lives. Yet, if left unattended, countenanced, and allowed to flourish, it can consume our souls.
"An ancient American prophet understood perfectly this concept of which I speak. He referred to the devil as the founder of sin and works of darkness and warned: 'He [the devil] leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever' (2 Nephi 26:22).
"Those who become followers of the evil one do not generally reach their captive state with one misdeed; they lose their freedom one sin at a time-one error after another-until almost all is lost. Flaxen cords are transformed into awful chains of steel as they allow themselves to follow the downward course. Each easy step away from the line of goodness and truth makes it more and more difficult to recover.
" (In the Lord's Service: A Guide to Spiritual Development [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 74.)
2 Ne 26:24 he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him
Some have criticized the Book of Mormon because it sounds too much like the New Testament. They ask, how could Old Testament era prophets speak with the same words and phrases that the New Testament writers did? They proclaim that the Book of Mormon is full of doctrinal anachronisms. We can see with this phrase, that a very similar phrase is found in the New Testament, And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (Jn 12:32).
We do not have to worry about these apparent anachronisms because we understand that Nephi saw the ministry of Christ in vision (1 Ne 11:27-8). We can even look to the Old Testament to show that other prophets wrote the exact words which Jesus spoke during his mortal ministry. The book of Psalms contains many of the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ and some of the phrases that Jesus spoke while on the cross. Is that an anachronism or just evidence that the psalmist saw the Savior being crucified? See Ps 22:1; 22:7-8; 22:16-18; 31:5; 34:20; 69:19-21.
2 Ne 26:25 Come unto me...buy milk and honey, without money and without price
Nephi again borrows from the prophecies of Isaiah. This passage, found in Isa 55:1, discusses how the blessings of the gospel can be obtained without money or material wealth. Although Nephi is using this passage to demonstrate that the Lord invites all to come unto him, the following explanation is useful. From the 1981 Old Testament Institute Manual:
"The invitation to come unto Christ and obtain those gifts without money and without price suggests not that they can be obtained without effort, however, but that one does not need the goods of this world to obtain them.
"Elder Marion G. Romney explained what price is required:
'When earth life is over and things appear in their true perspective, we shall more clearly see and realize what the Lord and his prophets have repeatedly told us, that the fruits of the gospel are the only objectives worthy of life's full efforts. Their possessor obtains true wealth-wealth in the Lord's view of values....
'I conceive the blessings of the gospel to be of such inestimable worth that the price for them must be very exacting, and if I correctly understand what the Lord has said on the subject, it is. The price, however, is within the reach of us all, because it is not to be paid in money nor in any of this world's goods but in righteous living. What is required is whole hearted devotion to the gospel and unreserved allegiance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints....A half-hearted performance is not enough.'" (Conference Report, Oct. 1949, p. 39 as recorded in the O.T. Institute Manual, p. 203)
2 Ne 26:29 priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world
When we hear a term like "priestcrafts" we are likely to think first of the impure motives of religious leaders of other denominations. Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained that this term just as accurately describes those within the Church who set themselves up as a light to the world with the intention of gaining the praise of the world.
Dallin H. Oaks
"Focusing on the needs of the students, a gospel teacher will never obscure their view of the Master by standing in the way or by shadowing the lesson with self-promotion or self-interest. This means that a gospel teacher must never indulge in priestcrafts, which are 'that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world' (2 Ne 26:29. A gospel teacher does not preach 'to become popular' (Alma 1:3) or 'for the sake of riches and honor' (Alma 1:16). He or she follows the marvelous Book of Mormon example in which 'the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner' (Alma 1:26). Both will always look to the Master." (Conference Report, Oct. 1999)
"'Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.' That's very interesting when he says, 'They seek not the welfare of Zion.' He's talking about somebody who is in Zion in that case who sets himself up for a light and wants to get gain and praise. Well, I know lots of businessmen and others who have had a free ride on the Church. That's done quite commonly. They set themselves up for a light. Many of them have been high priests-bishops, stake presidents, etc. My father was one of them; he cashed in on it. It's sad. But you'll find that in every church, too. We might as well be frank about these things. How do we deal with these people? The next verse makes it clear. You should have charity; you don't judge them at all. Of course not."(Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Lecture 21, p. 335)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Priesthood and priestcraft are two opposites; one is of God, the other of the devil. When ministers claim but do not possess the priesthood; when they set themselves up as lights to their congregations, but do not preach the pure and full gospel; when their interest is in gaining personal popularity and financial gain, rather than in caring for the poor and ministering to the wants and needs of their fellow men -- they are engaged, in a greater or lesser degree, in the practice of priestcrafts.
"Apostasy is born of priestcrafts (2 Ne. 10:5; 3 Ne. 16:10; D. & C. 33:4), for those who engage in them follow vain things, teach false doctrines, love riches, and aspire to personal honors. (Alma 1:12, 16.) Men are commanded to repent of their priestcrafts (3 Ne. 30:2), and eventually, in the millennial day, these great evils will be done away. (3 Ne. 21:19.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 593-4)
2 Ne 26:30 charity is love
The fact that charity is the pure love of Christ is well known. This topic will not be dealt with in detail in this chapter. It will become an important topic in the writings of Moroni. The following quote should suffice for now.
Bruce R. McConkie
"Above all the attributes of godliness and perfection, charity is the one most devoutly to be desired. Charity is more than love, far more; it is everlasting love, perfect love, the pure love of Christ which endureth forever. It is love so centered in righteousness that the possessor has no aim or desire except for the eternal welfare of his own soul and for the souls of those around him. (2 Ne. 26:30; Moro. 7:47; 8:25-26.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 121)
2 Ne 26:31 the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish
The enormous growth of the Mormon Church has created an interesting explosion of Mormon cultural paraphernalia. Books, videos, music, accessories, you name it, it has been produced and tailored to the "Mormon market." There are members of the church who seem to see no conflict with making money off this cultural phenomenon. The writings of Nephi warn the members of Zion about their motives in such endeavors. The quote of Hugh Nibley, as recorded above, is uniquely candid and honest.
A good example of performing ones labors in Zion with pure motives is seen in the work of Elder LeGrand Richards. A great lover of missionary work, Elder Richards donated all the proceeds of his Marvelous Work and a Wonder to the general missionary fund of the Church. The preface of his book states, "This book has been prepared and published without any monetary remuneration to the author. It is dedicated to the great missionary work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which is so dear to the author's heart." He also put pressure on publishers to keep costs down, thereby making the book available to a greater audience at a low price (personal communication). Elder Richards clearly had pure motives in his labor in Zion.
2 Ne 26:33 he inviteth them all to come unto him...black and white, bond and free, male and female
Nephi understood that the Lord loves all his children. The doctrine that salvation should be offered to all of God's creations is foreign to the traditional Jewish thought. So much of the Law of Moses tried to separate the children of Israel from the Gentiles (in order to keep them from practicing the idolatry of their neighbors and in an attempt to help them understand the difference between clean and unclean, holy and unholy). This tradition led to an ethno-centrism which produced ill feelings toward anything Gentile. For Nephi to look beyond this tradition shows that he was more influenced by the Spirit of the Lord than he was by his upbringing among the Jews.
"For any people to believe that it is the only people in whom God is interested, or helps, or that we have special merit because of our color, race, country or beliefs, that is, that we are inherently superior and loved by God without regard to the lives we live is one of the great fallacies and barriers to peace. This is a fallacy whether in an exploded myth of an Aryan race of supermen, or disguised in more subtle form in our own consciousness. We must not be guilty of such a fallacy." (Harris, Franklin S. Jr., The Book of Mormon: Messages and Evidences, p. 20)
James E. Faust
"I hope we can all overcome any differences of culture, [and] race....In my experience, no race or class seems superior to any other in spirituality and faithfulness....Spiritual peace is not to be found in race or culture or nationality, but rather through our commitment to God and to the covenants and ordinances of the gospel." (Ensign, May 1995, pp. 61,63 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 155)
M. Russell Ballard
"Our Father in Heaven loves all of His children equally, perfectly, and infinitely. His love is no different for His daughters than for His sons. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, also loves men and women equally. His atonement and His gospel are for all of God's children. During His earthly ministry Jesus served men and women alike: He healed both men and women and He taught both men and women....for example, faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost are requirements for all of God's children, regardless of gender. The same is true of temple covenants and blessings. Our Father's work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39). He loves us all equally, and His greatest gift, the gift of eternal life, is available to all." (Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 89 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 154-5)