2 Nephi 25 – 30
The last chapters of 2 Nephi are, perhaps, the most important of his two books. This posting is about 2 Nephi 25-30. The next four postings, later this week, will be about the last three chapters of 2 Nephi and, finally, an overview of Nephi's second book.
2 Nephi 25–30
These chapters were two in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. What is now chapters twenty-five through twenty-seven was originally chapter eleven, and what is now chapters twenty-eight through thirty was chapter twelve.1 The original chapters and the subject matter are as follows:
2 Ne. XI (2 Ne. 25–27): Jews will return to the promised land and crucify Savior, be restored when they believe, Nephites keep law of Moses, Christ shall appear to Nephites, Nephites to be destroyed, speak from dust, gentiles will have false churches, apostasy in last days, Book of Mormon will be published, and the latter-day marvelous work and wonder.
2 Ne. XII (2 Ne. 28–30): the false churches in last days, apostasy, the devil to raging in hearts/minds, false doctrine, Book of Mormon being rejected by many, judgment will be out of the books, converted gentiles numbered among covenant people, Lamanites/Jews will believe, Israel restored and wicked destroyed
What were two chapters in the original edition of the Book of Mormon constitute Nephi’s exposition of Isaiah’s writings: an example of hermeneutics. The remainder of Nephi’s second book, today’s chapters thirty-one through thirty-three, are different than but related to his exposition of Isaiah. The transition to the last chapters of Nephi’s book is a repetition: Nephi says at the end of chapter thirty, “And now, my beloved brethren, I make an end of my sayings.” Then, he begins today’s chapter thirty-one with, “And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you my beloved brethren.” He calls his views of Isaiah sayings rather than prophesying, but prophesying is what his sayings are, so there may not be a substantive distinction between his characterizations.
Preparing an outline of this part of Nephi’s writing is profitable, but my outline is not included in this posting except for the following example. Everyone should do their own outline. Creating of the outline does two things. First, it forces the reader to focus on what is being said, and, second, doing an outline will provoke thoughts and insights otherwise missed. But an outline can divert attention from the picture just like a too close inspection of a painting reveals brush strokes rather than what was painted.
The foregoing introduction (the rubric is mine) is chiastic as I have outlined it, the turning point being the importance of understanding Isaiah, level d, and the key to understanding him: knowledge of the conditions of the Jews at the time Isaiah wrote, level e. The advances of our day—think about the internet and books delivered the next day by Amazon—enable anyone to learn about the Jews and appreciate what Isaiah was saying. What Isaiah said must be understood before it can be likened to today’s circumstances. It takes knowledge of the mise-en-scène and application of that knowledge to understand the information folded into Isaiah’s writings. It takes the same sort of focus to appreciate poetry because poetry is dense communication that sometimes has nothing to do with the words of the poem, the words being merely the vehicle to transport the reader to another place..
An outline like the foregoing example will result in a jumble of information obscuring, perhaps, the overall point Nephi makes. So the point, perhaps, can be better appreciated with a different sort of outline reflecting the sort of framework familiar to Nephi, a chiasmus like this:
This chiastic format clarifies the message Nephi is conveys. He wrote for the people of his day, but this part is for the latter-days reader. He wrote about the central importance of the Book of Mormon in the restoration of the gospel and the salvation of the righteous in the last days.
Nephi’s framework, although chiastic in general, is replete with indications of the urgency Nephi felt for his message, so the form gives way to apostrophe, the nonce being today’s people, in much the same way that someone moved with emotion and conviction will often from a particular as testimony and admonition encroaches on the pattern. Certainly, Nephi’s experience would have left him less committed to the structure of the written word than the message he was committed to convey, so the form is just a beginning place for analysis of this scripture.
What follows is a review of the individual subject areas starting with the center of the foregoing chiasmus and working outward to the bookends; the reason for this order is because the center is the central theme or main point.
The Book of Mormon. The exact center of this essay by Nephi is chapter twenty-seven, the paraphrase of Isaiah 29. This paraphrase of Isaiah is, itself, chiastic as Nephi writes it. Nephi certainly would have known the importance of this scripture, following as it does the so-called Isaiah Apocalypse, Isaiah 24–ch. 27, and just before the concluding chapters following this apocalyptic writing by Isaiah, Isaiah 28, 29 and 30. Isaiah, no doubt, understood the importance of the Book of Mormon in the latter days, but it is not clear whether this was an understanding he intended to convey by placing it at the center of the conclusion to his apocalypse. Unlike Isaiah, who was writing to the Jews, therefore, there is good reason Nephi chose the Book of Mormon for the centerpiece of his apocalypse as it eloquently foretells the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
The chiastic format of this chapter in the Book of Mormon, a chapter that adds substantially to the words of Isaiah as recorded in the Old Testament, is considered in the commentary on Isaiah 29, supra at 645. As discussed in conjunction with Isaiah 29, the changes to this scripture militate in favor of concluding that these additions were emendations by Nephi intended to be a likening of the scripture and a reformatting to conform to Nephi’s notions of style.
There are some that believe that the references to the book may include other scriptures, as well. Certainly, the references to the sealed record coming forth at some time in the future, verses 27:11 and 27:22, indicate that there is going to be something more than what is known today as the Book of Mormon when the sealed portion of the plates are translated. At minimum, however, the scripture refers to the Book of Mormon.
Conditions in the Latter Days. On either side of the discussion about Book of Mormon, Nephi discusses the conditions that will exist in the latter days. In the scriptures before the references to the Book of Mormon, Nephi touches briefly on the fact that the remnants of the Lamanites will be smitten by gentiles who are, meaning will be, (1) proud, (2) stumbling as manifest by the many churches they will have built up, (3) disparaging of the power and miracles of God, (4) puffed up in their own wisdom and knowledge, (5) seekers of riches who disregard the poor, (6) promoters of envy, strife and malice, and, finally (7) proponents of secret combinations that are led by the devil. 26:19 – 22.
Nephi digresses after this recitation of the conditions that will afflict the latter-day people by confirming that none of these conditions are of the Lord because the Lord does not work in darkness or do things that are the antithesis of charity, including murder, lying, theft, taking the name of God in vain, envy, malice contention and whoredom. It is noteworthy that Nephi follows the same paradigm used by Isaiah who brackets the revelation about the Book of Mormon, Isaiah 29, with a discussion of the drunkenness, using Isaiah’s metaphor, of the people that leads them both to reject the prophets and to be scattered, the Book of Mormon being the key to their gathering.
The chiastic format of Nephi’s writing results in the conditions of the latter days being described both before and after the discussion about the Book of Mormon found in 2 Nephi 27. However, there is more elucidation of the teachings and doctrines to be espoused in the latter days in the second half of this discussion. Nephi addresses the many churches; the lax doctrine with its eat, drink, and be merry approach; the pride and the robbing of the poor; the learned who will be puffed up in their knowledge and the sense of complacency the devil will inspire in the hearts of men.
This sort of complacency and license is not unique to those blessed with the gospel; Plato addressed the condition that destroys the moral fiber of society:
Yes, he said; the lawlessness of which you speak too easily steals in.
Yes, I replied, in the form of amusements; and at first it appears harmless.
Why yes, he said, and there is no harm; were it not that little by little this spirit of license, finding a home, imperceptibly penetrates into manners and customs; whence, issuing with greater force, it invades contracts between man, and from contracts goes on to laws and constitutions, in utter recklessness, ending at last, Socrates, by an overthrow of all rights, private as well as public.
Is that true? I said.
That is my belief, he replied.
Then, as I was saying, our youth should be trained from the first in a stricter system, for if amusements become lawless, and the youths themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into well-conducted and virtuous citizens.2
After describing the general conditions that will exist in the latter days, Nephi, in chapter twenty-nine, points out particularly the unwillingness of many of the gentiles in the latter days to accept the fact of additional scripture.
Nephi’s Vision of the Righteous. The next subject considered in the chiasmus of Nephi in this last exposition is the righteous both at the time of the coming of Christ among the Nephites and during the last days, those to whom the Book of Mormon would come. The reference to the peace following the Savior’s visit among the Nephites is short, v. 26:9, but the reference to the conversion of the gentiles and the missionary effort they will take to the remnant of Nephi’s people is more lengthy, v. 29:2 – 9.
The Covenant People. The next point of the chiasmus is the covenant people. Before the discussion of the Book of Mormon Nephi discusses the reasons for keeping the law of Moses, vv. 25:24 – 27, but afterward he notes that the covenant people are those hat covenant with the Lord, meaning those that believe in the Lord, repenting of their sins, vv. 30:2.
Destruction of the Wicked. Either side of the chiasmus also discusses the destruction of the wicked. Nephi describes the scattering of the Jews, v. 25:15, as a result of their wickedness and a means of purging the wicked elements unlike the destruction of the righteous during the meridian of time, the prophecy is that the righteous will prevail and the wicked will be destroyed in the last days, v. 30:11 – 15. In fact, Nephi refers to the millennial reign as the result of the peace following the conversion of the gentiles in the last days, id., leaving the clear inference based on other scriptures that this will be a result, in part, of the second coming of the Lord.
Revelation of All Things. At the beginning of this chiasmus Nephi talks about the inability of his people to understand many of the doings of the Jews on account of the fact that they did not understand the ways of the Jews, v. 25:1-3. At the end of the discourse, he observes that all things will be revealed at the end of the world, a revelation that will have the effect of binding Satan so he will have no power, vv. 30:16 – 18.
Conclusion. There is no conclusion drawn in this essay because, of course, a conclusion was not a part of he rhetorical forms used at the time. As a result, the reader of this scripture is left to form their own conclusion. At a minimum, the reader should conclude that the Book of Mormon is an important aid in the education of the righteous at the last day; indeed, the book should be of paramount concern to all those seeking to do the will of the Lord.