“O How Great the Goodness of Our God”

2 Nephi 6–10

LDS manual: here


To encourage readers to partake in all that life has to offer


Oh, no. Are we into the part where they start quoting Isaiah?

2 Nephi 6:4 And now, behold, I would speak unto you concerning things which are, and which are to come; wherefore, I will read you the words of Isaiah.


And the worst bit: it’s not even the right kind of Isaiah. Remember, Isaiah wasn’t one person, he was three people writing at different times.

  • Proto-Isaiah, chapters 1–39, writing about the 8th century BCE
  • Deutero-Isaiah, chapters 40–55, writing about 550–539 BCE
  • Trito-Isaiah, chapters 56–66, writing about 500-401 BCE

So does the Book of Mormon quote the wrong Isaiah? Yep:

2 Nephi 6:18 And I will feed them that oppress thee, with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.


Isaiah 49:26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

Nephi and Jacob wouldn’t have had access to those writings, as they were written too late. But Joseph Smith (or another author) didn’t know this, and dutifully copied them into the book.

Of course, the real problem goes way beyond Isaiah. In making his explanation of Christianity, Jacob has to pull a lot of text from the New Testament and from sermons and speeches that were going around the Christian community of Joseph Smith’s day. Check out this post by churchistrue for more explanation.

Main ideas for this lesson

Believe or die

First the bad news: God’s going to allow the Jews to get killed because they don’t believe in him.

2 Nephi 6:10 And after they have hardened their hearts and stiffened their necks against the Holy One of Israel, behold the judgments of the Holy One of Israel shall come upon them. And the day cometh that they shall be smitten and afflicted.
6:11 Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance.

6:15 And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, and by tempest, and by earthquakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine. And they shall know that the Lord is God, the Holy One of Israel.

Blaming Jewish people for their own persecution is so old and tiresome.

That goes for everyone else. If you don’t believe, God will burn you.

2 Nephi 9:16 And assuredly, as the Lord liveth, for the Lord God hath spoken it, and it is his eternal word, which cannot pass away, that they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still; wherefore, they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire; prepared for them; and their torment is as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end.

But if you do believe, then everything’s great.

2 Nephi 9:18 But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.
9:19 O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.

Which he created.

2 Nephi 9:24 And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.
9:25 Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him.
9:26 For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.

Ask: Does this sound like the Mormon view of the afterlife?

Mormon theology downplays the idea of a fiery hell with literal torment. But this would have been news to Nephi / Jacob, who spend many verses detailing the pains of the damned.

The best explanation, I think, is that the Book of Mormon contains Mormonism 1.0, but this would get updated later. Apparently God didn’t have the foresight to get it right the first time.

Being learned

There are parts of Mormonism that are kind of inspiring, as far as learning goes. Latter-day Saints are encouraged to learn “Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass”, and so on. They’re taught about the unity of spiritual and temporal knowledge.

And yet, when it comes to learning, there’s a strict hierarchy, with religious obligation at the top.

2 Nephi 9:28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
9:29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.

Knowledge must always be subordinate to faith. But why? Why must the Book of Mormon regard knowledge as subversive to faith?

And the answer: Well, because it is.

The church promotes false teachings about the origin and age of the earth, the history of the world, and the makeup of the people and language of the Americas, to name a few. Knowing the facts about these things evaporates faith, except for someone with a great tolerance for cognitive dissonance who can believe mutually incompatible things.

And so facts must be kept on the leash. Facts must be cherry-picked to support faith, never to challenge it. Such is the nature of faith.

It's called faith because it's not knowledge

Are the Q15 liars?

Jacob tells us about liars.

2 Nephi 9:34 Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.

One of the perennial questions in ex-Mo-world is: Do the top church leaders know that the church is not true? Are they, to put it bluntly, liars?

The more charitable view says that they really do believe that they’re special witnesses of Jesus, and they believe the whole thing.

I take the other view. How could they believe that they’re “special witnesses of Jesus” when they know they have the same kind of witness that any believer has?

And why would they say things like Russell Ballard said at a recent Fireside?

“Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, ‘Don’t worry about it!’ Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue. Gone are the days when students were protected from people who attacked the Church.”

Those were good times.

And this:

“It was only a generation ago that your young people’s access to information about our history, doctrine and practices was basically limited to materials printed by the church. Few students came in contact with alternative interpretations. Mostly, our young people lived a sheltered life. Our curriculum at that time, though well-meaning, did not prepare students for today – a day, in which students have instant access to virtually everything about the church from every possible point of view.”

This is someone who knows that facts are not amenable to his faith. No wonder they teach that learning should be carefully kept in check. Someone who has the facts on their side has no need to express such “intellectual reserve”.

Someone who knows all of this, and continues to teach his faith, is spreading lies.

I think they know, and they’re having to scramble.

Cake or death, pt 2

Again, we’re presented with a false dichotomy:

2 Nephi 10:23 Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves — to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.
10:24 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.

Again, it reminds me of the great script: Kissing Hank’s Ass. Do you want a million dollars, or do you want to get the shit kicked out of you? So simple!

And so depressing. God could have set up the system any way he wanted, but he set up a system where you’re not capable of saving yourself. You’re dependent on him. Deviation from his will results in (from these chapters) hellfire. So you’d better resign yourself — sorry! reconcile yourself — to his will, and try to fight your flesh for as long as you live.

Life offers us many more choices than salvation or damnation. Real life offers love, art, learning, food, relationships, and fun. Let’s enjoy all that life offers.