Nephi & Being Saved (2 Nephi 31)

This morning I’m looking at Nephi’s “doctrine of Christ” in chapter 31 and what he might say there about salvation. He says,

11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall followthe Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongueof angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

Then he says later:
19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

Here is what he said in chapter 25. (Remembering the emphasis in chapter 31 on relying and feasting on the words of Christ, this first verse seems especially interesting and fitting:)
23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.

25 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.

26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

27 Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.

From what Nephi says in chapter 31, it seems he sees the basics of the gospel as repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and once you’ve received a remission of your sins and have that Holy Ghost, press forward and feast on His words and praise God and keep relying wholly on Christ. That’s the plan, the doctrine of Christ, the only doctrine of Christ. Therefore, when he here talks about the law, it seems to me that he sees it has supplementary, and he wants to make sure that the basic doctrine of Christ is not missed or overshadowed by the law. We are willing to do whatever God asks us to, and right now, for them, it was to keep the laws of the laws of Moses. But that in no way cancels out the basics of repentance, baptism, and Holy Ghost. The law of Moses is something to remind and point to the fact that we rely wholly on the merits of Christ. It supplements, not replaces, the doctrine of Christ. And he wants to make sure His people get that, both in his time, and also in the future time when Christ will come to teach His people.

Okay, after that little tangent, I’m still thinking of salvation. It seems from Chapter 31 that salvation is a matter of 1)wholly trusting Christ’s merits, 2)listening to whatever He asks, 3)this involves following His example in listening to whatever the Father asks, 4)this involves repenting and being baptized, 5)this sets up the opportunity to receive a remission of sins (I tend to hear the word remission as a relaxation/holding back/something’s currently gone with the potential of that being temporary, but checking I see that it can also mean that something is completely gone too), and 6)to receive the Holy Ghost.  It appears that to Nephi these are the ways of life for a Christian, but not salvation in and of itself. That seems to be something that comes once God announces to us that we have eternal life, and that comes if we continue on the path opened up for us by baptism and by walking along with the Holy Ghost in that path.

So, if those two chapters (31 and 25) were taken together, and that’s a big IF, then it would seem to me that “after all we can do” would be something like “after we listen to the Father and the Son and repent and be baptized, and after we receive the Holy Ghost, and after we remain in that path enduring to the end and praising God and doing whatever the Holy Ghost and the words of Christ tell us to do, then our faith in those merits of Christ that we have relied on wholly the entire time will come to fruition with salvation/eternal life in the Kingdom of God. According to chapter 31, we rely wholly on Christ before and after we enter the path. In fact, his point seems to be that of course we know we relied on Christ to get to the gate – we heard the words of Christ and we believed and trusted them and so we came to that point. Some, it seems, thought that was it – but he makes the point that we never stop relying on the merits of Christ, that baptism is not an end but a point, a “gate.” After we enter in we keep relying on the words of Christ, and if we are truly sincere in our faith and love of Christ we keep doing what we did before, which was to listen to the words of Christ. If we keep doing that, then one day we will hear those words of Christ say to us that we have eternal life. Salvation que salvation seems to me to be that end point when we are told we have eternal life. But, we rely wholly upon Christ’s words (I still think that emphasis on words is interesting, and I like how it might be playing out in 2 Ne 25), all the way – from birth till death. So more in the way I talk, I might say say it is by grace that we hear the word, it is by grace that we know to be baptized, it is by grace that we are baptized, it is by grace that we receive the Holy Ghost, it is by grace that he keeps giving us more words to feast on, and it is by grace that we receive eternal life, having stayed on that path. We need Christ, His words, an His grace to get started, to enter through the gate, and to stay on that path. And it is by His grace that He will eventually bestow upon us the blessing of Eternal Life.

So it seems to me one possible and probable reading of the way Nephi writes about salvation. And if that is the case, then I think one could read 2 Ne 25:23 as saying that we know it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do, which is to repent, be baptized, and listen to the Holy Ghost as we endure to the end along the path. But looking at his writings I think it’s abundantly clear that grace is also how we got started on that path and how we endure. It is just also how we eventually receive the gift of eternal life, which I think is what Nephi means by salvation.

My thoughts so far anyway.


4 responses to “Nephi & Being Saved (2 Nephi 31)

  • Karen

    Other verses in 1 & 2 Nephi on salvation:
    1 Ne 13:37 & 40 (salvation comes after enduring to the end)
    Nephi likes to use phrases from Isaiah, like “rock and salvation,” especially when he uses the full word “salvation”
    1 Ne 22:31 (endured to the end… saved)
    2 Ne 2 (Lehi) definitely talking about salvation from sin, not temporal..
    See 2 Ne 9 and 10 for Jacob’s take

    So, I think again I’d say for Nephi, being saved is something that happens at the end, and you are saved in the Kingdom of God. It comes after enduring to the end. Follow Christ now, which means faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost, and keep having faith, and then salvation is what comes at the end of your life.

  • Karen

    Jacob’s verse on grace that sounds similar to 2 Ne 25:23 is crucial to consider, too. This is 2 Ne 10:24-25:

    Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

    Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen.

    First, I think it is important to note that we do is orient ourselves, or reconcile ourselves, to God’s will.

    Second, I think it’s worth noting that even after we are received in the kingdom of God, we praise him “through grace divine.” What we do, even then, after the “final” moment where we are saved, is by grace.

  • Karen

    So I think I see King Benjamin as outlining the first steps – the have faith/reconcile yourself to God’s will part of things. Benjamin is getting his people to the point of making a real covenant that will stick – where his people will hopefully not only enter the gate but endure to the end, too

  • Karen

    I kind of like comparing 2 Ne 25:23’s line “after all we can do” with King Benjamin’s words in Mosiah 2:21-24. It makes what Nephi says something like “after all we could possibly do”

    21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

    22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

    23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

    24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

    I think it’s a nice reading of the idea of grace in general, but perhaps not a good reading of what Nephi himself was saying. I think so far it seems more likely that Nephi means by “after all we can do” is to be reconciled – in response to knowing Christ’s grace – and then continue to live in light of that grace (ie, endure to the end).

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