Book of Mormon Lesson 11 (2 Nephi 31–33)
THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST
The final chapters of Nephi’s writings are some of the most powerful in all of scripture.
These are not the words of Joseph Smith. These are the words of an aged and wise and poetically-gifted prophet. At the time Joseph Smith translated these words he “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon.”1
These final words of Nephi rival the final words of Moroni in their power and consequence for readers. We cannot read and reject this witness without profound jeopardy to our salvation. And we cannot accept and believe the words of Nephi without it changing our lives forever.
● Nephi delighted in plainness (2 Nephi 31:1–3). As Nephi began to close his record he apologized for only including on the plates a small portion of his teachings and those of his brother Jacob (vv. 1–2). He wished to conclude with what he called the “doctrine of Christ” and to explain it with plainness.
— Nephi said: “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (v. 3).
— This is an important concept to understand—that God uses the language of the person to whom he is speaking so they will be better able to understand him. He spoke to Joseph Smith in 19th-century English—using words with particular meaning to the place and time of the revelation. When he said “let virtue garnish they thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45), he used the word garnish at a time when it meant to infuse something with something else, like putting garlic in mashed potatoes to permeate them with that flavor. To us today in the 21st century, garnish means to decorate, like when we put a sprig of parsley on a plate to make a meal look more colorful. We might, therefore think that the Lord meant we should include virtuous thoughts among those that occupy our minds, when what he was really saying was that our thoughts should be permeated with virtue—a small but important difference.
● Nephi explained “the doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:13, 15; 3 Nephi 11:31–40). It includes:
—Believing in Christ.
—Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
—Enduring to the end.
Baptism and the Holy Ghost
● Nephi said Jesus was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (2 Nephi 31:4–7). which means:
—He humbled himself before the Father (v. 7).
—He entered a covenant with the Father to obey His commandments (v. 7).
—He entered the gate by which everyone gains access to the celestial kingdom (v. 9).
—He set an example for the rest of us to follow (v. 10).
— “Baptism was practiced in ancient Judaism (Hasidic or Essene), first as a means of penitence . . . to receive the spirit of God, or to be permitted to stand in the presence of God, man must undergo baptism.”2 “. . . this [baptism] is only valid when performed by immersion in a natural fountain or stream or in a properly constructed [vessel]. This rule was, of course, also preserved in the temple at Jerusalem.”3
— President Joseph F. Smith said that to “fulfil all righteousness” is to “fulfil the law”.4
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “This is something of which uninspired men have no comprehension. Truly, he was the Lord Omnipotent before the world was; truly, he was like unto the Father in the pre-mortal life; truly, he was the Son of God here on earth—and yet, with it all, as with all the spirit children of the same Father, he too was subject to all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s plan. He also was born on earth to undergo a mortal probation, to die, to rise again in immortal glory, to be judged according to his works, and to receive his place of infinite glory in the eternal kingdom of his Everlasting Father.”5
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Baptism is a sign to God, to angels and to heaven that we do the will of God, and there is no other way beneath the heavens whereby God hath ordained for man to come to Him to be saved, and enter into the Kingdom of God, except faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins, and any other course is in vain; then you have the promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost.”6
● Reasons why we need baptism: (2 Nephi 31:9, 13, 17; D&C 20:37, 71–74)
— To receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 13).
— To receive a remission of sins (v. 17).
— To enter the gate for the path to eternal life (v. 17).
— To receive membership in the Lord’s Church (D&C 20:37, 71–74).
— We must “follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God” (v. 13).
● Things the Holy Ghost does for us: (2 Nephi 31:14, 17–18; 32:5–8; 33:1–2)
— Baptizes with fire unto the remission of sins. (31:17).
— Empowers us to “speak with . . . the tongue of angels” (31:14).
— Witnesses of the Father and the Son (31:18).
— Shows men “all things” they must do to obtain eternal life (32:5).
— Stops utterance of prophets because of men’s unbelief (32:7).
— Teaches us to pray (32:8).
— Carries the word of power into hearts of listeners (33:1–2).
● Sometimes we may feel the influence of the Spirit and not be aware that what we are experiencing is from the Holy Ghost. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a ‘still small voice.’ And while we speak of `listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling.’ Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear.”7
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e). those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.”8
— We learn over the course of time to discern when these whisperings to our minds are of God, in particular when they are accompanied by the manifestations of the Spirit to our hearts (D&C 8:2).
— Members of the Church who have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost are so accustomed to having these and the many other blessings of the Holy Ghost with them that they may tend to take them for granted—that is, until they lose this gift by some means, when it becomes very clear to them that they are missing a great blessing.
Pressing Forward and Enduring to the End
● How to obtain eternal life: (2 Nephi 31:19–21)
—Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ—a fixed determination to follow and serve him.
—Maintain a perfect brightness of hope—believing that our efforts will not be in vain and we will obtain the eternal life we seek.
—Love God and all men, with all that this means in our hearts, minds, and behaviors.
—Feast upon the words of Christ— not just read them but study carefully and ponder what they teach us. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “We need to feast upon the words of Christ in the scriptures and as these words come to us from living prophets. Just nibbling occasionally will not do. (2 Nephi 31:20 and 32:3). Feasting means partaking with relish and delight and savoring—not gorging episodically in heedless hunger, but partaking gratefully, dining with delight, at a sumptuous spread carefully and lovingly prepared . . . over the centuries.”9
—Endure in doing these things to the end.
—The promise is sure if we do these things: “Behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (v. 20).
● This is the doctrine of Christ, and there is no other way or name by which we can obtain exaltation (2 Nephi 31:21).
— The words of Christ will tell us all things that we must do (2 Nephi 32:3).
— Elder Boyd K. Packer said to CES Instructors, “And there you have it your commission, your charter, your objective. . . . You are to teach the scriptures. . . . If your students are acquainted with the revelations, there is no question personal or social or political or occupational that need go unanswered. Therein is contained the fulness of the everlasting gospel. Therein we find principles of truth that will resolve every confusion and every problem and every dilemma that will face the human family or any individual in it.”10
● “Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life,” the Lord said (D&C 84:85).
— We must search and pray for understanding (2 Nephi 32:7–9).
— We must pray always and “not faint” (v. 9).
— We should pray over everything we do, in the name of Christ.
— In so doing, we may seek God’s consecration of our efforts.
NEPHI’S FINAL WITNESS
● Nephi’s words will be “of great worth” to the righteous, but the wicked will be angry because of them (2 Nephi 33:1–5). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Men who have no principle of righteousness in themselves, and whose hearts are full of iniquity, and have no desire for the principles of truth, do not understand the word of truth when they hear it. The devil taketh away the word of truth out of their hearts, because there is no desire for righteousness in them.”11
● Nephi expressed his love of Christ, who he calls “my Jesus” (2 Nephi 33:6–9).
● He also expressed his love for all of us—Lamanite, Jew and Gentile.
● Nephi testified that his words are the words of Christ (2 Nephi 33:10–11).
● We will stand face to face with him at the judgment day.
● Nephi’s final farewell and warning to the world (2 Nephi 33:13–15).
1. Emma Smith, quoted in Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (Oct. 1879): 51.
2. The Jewish Encyclopedia, 2:499.
3. The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1:68–69.
4. In Conference Report, Apr. 1912, 9.
5. “The Mystery of Godliness,” address at Brigham Young University 15th Stake Fireside, January 6, 1985.
6. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 198.
7. In Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 77; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 60.
8. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 151.
9. Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward , 28.
10. Address to full-time educators in the Church Educational System, October 14, 1977.
11. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 96.