BMGD #11: 2 Nephi 31-33

March 5, 2012 | no comments
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My apologies for the weird formatting.  WordPress obviously hates me.  (Seriously–I tried to put spaces between the verses and my notes and I even pressed really, really hard on the “enter” key but nothing!)

CHAPTER 31
  1 And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you, my beloved brethren. And I cannot write but a few things, which I know must surely come to pass; neither can I write but a few of the words of my brother Jacob.
Again, we get the extreme self-awareness of the BoM record.  Why was this such a big theme?  (The cynic would say:  you could have actually told us something in this verse instead of telling us that you were out of time/space/energy to tell us something.)
  2 Wherefore, the things which I have written sufficeth me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying.

Webster 1828 “plain”:

1. Smooth; even; level; flat; without elevations and depressions; not rough; as plain ground or land; a plain surface.
2. Open; clear.
3. Void of ornament; simple; as a plain dress.
4. Artless; simple; unlearned; without disguise, cunning or affectation; without refinement; as men of the plainer sort.
5. Artless; simple; unaffected; unembellished; as a plain tale or narration.
6. Honestly undisguised; open; frank; sincere; unreserved.
7. Mere; bare; as a plain knave or fool.
8. Evident to the understanding; clear; manifest; not obscure; as plain words or language; a plain difference; a plain argument.
9. Not much varied by modulations; as a plain song or tune.
10. Not high seasoned; not rich; not luxuriously dressed; as a plain diet.
11. Not ornamented with figures; as plain muslin.
12. Not dyed.
13. Not difficult; not embarrassing; as a plain case in law.
14. Easily seen or discovered; not obscure or difficult to be found; as a plain road or path.
What do you think Nephi meant by “plain” here?  (See also the final sentence of v3 for some help on what “plain” might mean.)
What’s going on with “sufficient” here?  Does it mean “enough”?
 3 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.

Do you see a conflict between Nephi delighting in plainness and delighting in Isaiah?
In what way(s) does the second sentence relate to the first sentence?
Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
The gospel is clear and plain. It answers the most complex questions in life, yet even a young child can comprehend and apply it. Apr 07 GC
Jim F.:  “Given the highly figured language in works such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the importance of types in the Old Testament as well as the Book of Mormon, how can Nephi say that the Lord works plainly?”
The final line of this verse strikes me as enormously important as an interpretive key for reading the scriptures and understanding revelation (whether individual or to the prophet). The point, as I see it, as that all communication from God is “according to the language and understanding” of humans and therefore, limited and partial.
4 Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.

Skousen thinks it should be “sin” and not “sins” here.
Why do you think Nephi chose “prophet” to describe John the Baptist here?  Does that word make you think of his role any differently?  Why does he not call him by name?
Nephi chooses to describe the Lamb as “taking away the sins of the world.”  Is this linked to the fact that we are talking about the Lamb’s own baptism here?  If so, how?
Brant Gardner has a great analysis of what “baptism” would have meant to Nephi here.
 5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!

Do you read Nephi as saying that Jesus did need to be baptized?  (See the following few verses.)
Is “holy” a synonym for “perfect” in this verse?  What else might it mean?
What does “yea, even by water” suggest to you?  Why is that phrase here?  (NB the similar use at the end of v6.)
 6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?

What work is “my beloved brethren” doing in this sentence?
  7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.

Is the first question a rhetorical question?
Wouldn’t humbling himself be part of being holy?   (Here, Nephi seems to see it in opposition.)
What work is “according to the flesh” doing in this verse?
It seems that, when talking about Christ’s baptism, we usually emphasize the “setting an example” aspect of it and don’t mention as much the idea Nephi introduces here of witnessing of his own obedience.  What do you make of that idea?
  8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.

It would perhaps have been more natural for Nephi to say, “after he will be baptized . . . will descend upon him.”  Why do you think Nephi spoke of this event as if it had already happened?  (Or do you read that as an artifact of translation?)
What does “in the form of a dove” mean?  If it means that the Holy Ghost looked like a dove, why was this done–wouldn’t it have been confusing to people?  Is the dove related to the dove in the Noah’s ark story or the OT sacrifices that used doves?
  9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.

What is the antecedent of “it” in this verse–the baptism?  The Holy Ghost?  Something else?
The principle here seems to be:  Jesus did not technically need to be baptized, but was in order to show us that there are no exceptions.  Does that strike you as a fair reading?  To what other situations might this principle be applied?  What do you do with situations where Jesus did not show us an example (such as:  marriage and parenting)?
The scriptures tend to make a big deal out of the justification for Jesus’ baptism.  How do you think things might have played out differently if he hadn’t been baptized?
  10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?

 Is this a rhetorical question?  What is its goal?  If we assume the intended answer is “of course not!” what does that tell us about the audience?
This verse conflates two ideas:  following Jesus and keeping the commandments.  What are the implications of that conflation?
11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

Having the Father speak is fairly unusual; why does it happen here?
Is this verse quoting another scripture (there doesn’t appear to be a direct quotation)?
The reference to “Beloved Son” and the fact that the Father is speaking seems to tie this statement to those made at Jesus’ baptism, but this statement is not identical to those.  What’s going on here?
Is there a useful parallel to v10, where the Son spoke to the children of men?  To whom is the Father speaking in this verse–the same audience or someone different?  In general, how does v11 relate to v10?
  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.

Does “came unto me” suggest that this was a direct revelation to Nephi?  Does it imply that the same thing is true of v11 (since he says “and also”) or isn’t true of v11 (since he makes the distinction here)?
Does “like unto me” mean that Jesus also gained the companionship of the Holy Ghost at his baptism?  How else might you interpret this?
The “like unto me” is very interesting–it speaks to the relationship of the mortal Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.  That isn’t a topic that we discuss much.  What light does this verse shed on that topic?  Why is it introduced at this point?
  13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the 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 tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

This is Nephi’s follow-up to statements from the Father and the Son.  What use does he make of those statements in his own statement?
Are these phrases 3 different things or 3 ways of saying the same thing:  with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy/deception, with real intent?
Why is fire a good metaphor for reception of the Holy Ghost?  Why is the baptism by water strictly literal but the baptism by fire (thankfully!) purely symbolic?
What does it mean to speak with the tongue of angels?  This passage (2 Nephi 31-32) is the only time that phrase is used in the scriptures.  (See 2 Ne 32:2-3 for more on this.) Why do you think that, in a discourse otherwise full of very basic, well-covered topics (baptism, repentance), Nephi introduces a new term?  How is having the tongue of angels related to the idea of praising God?  (Are they co-terminus?  Would that mean that you can’t praise God if you aren’t baptized?  Is it that baptism gives you a reason to praise God?)
 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.

Is it significant that it is the voice of the Son and not Nephi’s own words (cf. v13) speaking here?
Scan verses 12-14, looking for what the Holy Ghost does.
What would denying Christ mean?
Cynical take-away from this verse:  Therefore, I am better off not getting baptized.  Your response to the cynic?
  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.

I am very intrigued by the interplay of the voice of the Father, the voice of the Son, and the voice of Nephi alternating in testimony in this chapter.  Why do you think this happened this way, especially given that the voice of the Father is (by modern LDS reckoning) relatively rare in the scriptures?  What effect does it have on the reader?
Note, cf. v15, that the Father appears to be speaking to Nephi, words very similar to those given to Adam (Moses 6:52).
  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.

To what does “by this” refer in this sentence–I’m thinking maybe the words of the Father from v15?
It seems that Nephi should be making a much bigger deal about a direct revelation from the Father than he does here.  Why do you think he doesn’t?
Is it significant that the Father called the Son “beloved” in v15 and Nephi calls his brethren (=brothers and sisters) beloved in this verse?  And, do you take the brethren to be Nephi’s contemporaries, or all of his readers?
Note verses 13 and 16: revelation from the Father and the Son is followed by Nephi’s ‘I Know’ statements.
  17 Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

“For this cause have they been shown unto me” is a very interesting phrase:  it in effect erases Nephi from prominence and places the reader in relation to revelation.
What do you take from the references to “fire” in this verse and the verses before?  Why is it a good symbol here?
What has Nephi shared from the Savior’s ministry that would constitute “the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do”?  Is it just a reference to baptism?  I’m also very interested in the idea that they are told to follow Jesus’ example–of things Jesus would not do for 600 years.  Kinda makes your head spin.

Ask: What does this discourse on baptism mean to a room full of people who were baptized years or decades ago?  Is this something that you have crossed off of your list or does it mean anything to you?  My suggestion: baptism as a template for other actions (humility, obedience, setting an example)?

L. Tom Perry:

The ordinance of baptism by water and fire is described as a gate by Nephi (see 2 Nephi 31:17). Why is baptism a gate? Because it is an ordinance denoting entry into a sacred and binding covenant between God and man. Men promise to forsake the world, love and serve their fellowmen, visit the fatherless and the widows in their afflictions, proclaim peace, preach the gospel, serve the Lord, and keep His commandments. The Lord promises to “pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon [us]” (Mosiah 18:10), redeem His Saints both temporally and spiritually, number them with those of the First Resurrection, and offer life eternal. Baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost are the prescribed ways to enter the strait and narrow path to eternal life. Apr 08 GC

 18 And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

Skousen thinks the original was “straight” and not “strait.”
Perhaps this is a stretch, but I’m curious about the fact that Nephi is writing a section with three voices (Father, Son, Nephi’s) about three voices (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) wherein Nephi in effect disappeared himself from the text (v17).
  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.

I’m curious about “unshaken.”  (Maybe because I don’t know anyone who would say that their faith has never been shaken, at least a teeny bit.)
Notice all of Nephi’s rhetorical questions (v6, 7, 10, 19).  Why do you think that he used that
technique here?
Thinking about the word “wholly” here:  what would its opposite be:  relying on someone else’s merits?
 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.

I’m again struck by the idea of the Father speaking.

Why ‘perfect brightness’?  What does this image suggest?

 

Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

When I was a young boy, “endure to the end” meant to me mainly that I had to try harder to stay awake until the end of our Church meetings. Later as a teenager I progressed only slightly in my understanding of this scriptural phrase. I linked it with youthful empathy to the efforts of our dear elderly members to hang in there until the end of their lives.  Enduring to the end, or remaining faithful to the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout our life, is a fundamental requirement for salvation in the kingdom of God. This belief distinguishes Latter-day Saints from many other Christian denominations that teach that salvation is given to all who simply believe and confess that Jesus is the Christ. The Lord clearly declared, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7). Therefore, enduring to the end is not just a matter of passively tolerating life’s difficult circumstances or “hanging in there.” Ours is an active religion, helping God’s children along the strait and narrow path to develop their full potential during this life and return to Him one day. Viewed from this perspective, enduring to the end is exalting and glorious, not grim and gloomy. This is a joyful religion, one of hope, strength, and deliverance. “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).  Enduring to the end is a process filling every minute of our life, every hour, every day, from sunrise to sunrise. It is accomplished through personal discipline following the commandments of God. Oct 07 GC

Elaine S. Dalton:
In the Book of Mormon, Nephi tells us that we can “press forward” (2 Ne. 31:20). He says we not only can but must. Apr 03 GC
Neal A. Maxwell:

For a variety of reasons, brothers and sisters, today’s society seems to struggle in order to be hopeful. The associated causes and effects co-mingle ever so subtly. Our everyday usage of the word hope includes how we “hope” to arrive at a certain destination by a certain time. We “hope” the world economy will improve. We “hope” for the visit of a loved one. Such typify our sincere but proximate hopes. Life’s disappointments often represent the debris of our failed, proximate hopes. Instead, however, I speak of the crucial need for ultimate hope. Ultimate hope is a different matter. It is tied to Jesus and the blessings of the great Atonement, blessings resulting in the universal Resurrection and the precious opportunity provided thereby for us to practice emancipating repentance, making possible what the scriptures call “a perfect brightness of hope” (2 Ne. 31:20). Oct 98 GC

Neal A. Maxwell:
Only the acceptance of the revelations of God can bring both direction and correction and, in turn, bring a “brightness of hope” (2 Ne. 31:20). Real hope does not automatically “spring eternal” unless it is connected with eternal things! Oct 94 GC
  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.
Given the different roles and “speaking parts” Nephi has assigned to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in this chapter, what do you think Nephi meant by “one God” in this verse?
This verse refers to “the doctrine of Christ” as did v2.  Does that mean that v2 and v21 are bookends and the material in the middle is the doctrine of Christ?  (Quentin L. Cook in his Apr 09 GC talk takes it that way; see footnote #27.  See also Boyd K. Packer, Apr 05 GC.)
General question:  I’m curious as to how what is taught in this chapter would have been practiced among the Nephites, who were still living the Law of Moses.
CHAPTER 32
  1 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?
Wouldn’t 31:32 have told them what to do after entering in the way?
The idea of a speaker anticipating an audience reaction and then responding to it is fairly rare in the scriptures.  (Perhaps it actually happens more often, but it is rarely recorded in the text.)  Why do you think Nephi felt the need to include this verse in the record?
Wouldn’t Nephi have wanted them to be pondering what the next step in their spiritual journey would be?  Why does he sound vaguely ticked that they are doing just that?  Isn’t pondering gospel teachings in your heart a good thing?
Many NT scholars think that “the way” is a semi-technical term–it should probably be capitalized (some translations actually do this) and it may have been understood as either the name of the (a?) early Christian movement and/or a summation of what we might call the plan of salvation.  Might Nephi be using “the way” in a similar way (ha!) here.

  2 Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?

He is referring to 31:13-14 here.
Why would remembering their ability to speak with the tongue of angels address the audience’s concern from v1?
 3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
What does it mean to speak with the tongue of angels?  What is the connection between speaking with the tongue of angels and having the Holy Ghost?
Robert D.  Hales:
If you and I are to feast upon the words of Christ, we must study the scriptures and absorb His words through pondering them and making them a part of every thought and action. Oct 98 GC
Do you feel like the words of Christ tell you everything that you should do?  Should they?
  4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
Are you surprised by “of Christ” as opposed to “of God” or “of the Father” here?
Does this verse suggest that Nephi’s words cannot be understood unless you ask and knock?

Larry E. Dahl:
It is interesting that 2 Nephi tells us we must be “brought into the light” (32:4). The implication of this is that we do not “come” into the light on our own, we are “brought” in—we are dependent upon something outside ourselves. That something is the Spirit of the Lord.  Citation
Compare this verse with verse 1–Do they seem contradictory to you?  If not, how do you reconcile them?
  5 For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

In v3, we saw that the words of Christ will tell us everything we should do.  In this verse, the Holy Ghost will show us everything we should do.  Is that a significant difference, and, if so, what might we learn from it?
If you take this verse as a summation or restatement of v2-5, then what is it telling you about the tongue of angels?  About the role of the Holy Ghost?
Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
Through the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, every member of the Church can receive “the words of Christ” directly (2 Nephi 32:3), at any time or place. This personal divine guidance helps us to remain valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ and endure to the end of our days. Isn’t this wonderful! Oct 07 GC
David A. Bednar:
The Holy Ghost operates in our lives precisely as the Liahona did for Lehi and his family, according to our faith and diligence and heed. Apr 06 GC
Sheri L. Dew:
To these remarkable privileges I add one other. Nephi taught this: “If ye will … receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:5). What a remarkable privilege and promise! Lorenzo Snow said that it is the “grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint … to have the manifestations of the spirit every day of our lives … [so] that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark” (in Conference Report, April 1899, 52). And his sister Eliza R. Snow declared: “You may talk to the [Saints] about the follies of the world … till dooms day, and it will make no impression. But … place them in a position where they will get the Holy Ghost, and that will be a sure protection against outside influences” (Woman’s Exponent, 15 Sept. 1873, 63). We have been promised the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead and hence the privilege of receiving revelation for our own lives. We are not alone!  Oct 98 GC
Neal A. Maxwell:
In a “wheat and tares” world, how unusually blessed faithful members are to have the precious and constant gift of the Holy Ghost with reminders of what is right and of the covenants we have made. “For behold, … the Holy Ghost … will show unto you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:5.) Whatever the decibels of decadence, these need not overwhelm the still, small voice! Some of the best sermons we will ever hear will be thus prompted from the pulpit of memory—to an audience of one! Apr 93 GC
 6 Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.

What is the doctrine of Christ?  Just v5?  Everything in ch31 and the addendum in v2-5 of this chapter?
Why doctrine “of Christ” and not just doctrine or doctrine “of God”?
What new (or, more precisely, “more”) doctrine was given after Christ was manifest?
Do you read the “you” in this verse as Nephi’s immediate audience (who, of course, will be deceased when Christ visits the New World) or Nephi’s extended and more general audience?
Should this verse–particularly the claim of “no new doctrine”–impact how you understand the rest of the Book of Mormon?  Do you read this verse to say that some of this discourse was new doctrine to the Nephites?
  7 And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

What does it do to the audience to know that Nephi would have said more if the Spirit hadn’t stopped him?  (My thought:  it is a very interesting illustration of the principle just taught in v5.  Interesting, because it is not what the audience and Nephi wants.)
I wouldn’t have expected Nephi to say here that he was left to mourn.  It almost sets the Spirit up as the ‘bad guy’ (i.e., Nephi wanted to say more to help them, but the Spirit wouldn’t let him).  Then we get the end of the verse, where Nephi seems to wash his hands of the whole thing (see comment below).  What’s going on in this verse?
Are unbelief/wickedness/ignorance/stiffneckedness four different things or four ways of saying the same thing?
I can’t help but think of writer-reader dynamics when I read a verse like this.  A cynic would say that Nephi is blaming the audience for failed communication when Nephi, if he were more humble, might be a touch more apologetic or at least consider the idea that a communication failure might be partially his responsibility.  Compare Mormon 8:17 (“And if there be faults they be the faults of a man.”) or the title page (“And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”).  Consider also 33:1, where Nephi says that he isn’t “mighty in writing.”  What do you make of Nephi’s statement in this verse–is he unfairly abdicating responsibility for his audience’s spiritual welfare?
  8 And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
Again, I have the same thought as v1:  I thought pondering was good–why is Nephi seemingly against it here?  Is he setting up pondering and praying as opposite here–with pondering being a poor alternative to praying?
If we take this verse and v1 as bookends on the idea of pondering, how might we read the material in the middle?
Is Nephi introducing an entirely new concept here with the references to prayer, or is this just another way of saying the same thing that he has been saying?

  9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
Webster 1828 “faint”
1. To lose the animal functions; to lose strength and color, and become senseless and motionless; to swoon; sometimes with away.
2. To become feeble; to decline or fail in strength and vigor; to be weak.
3. To sink into dejection; to lose courage or spirit.Let not your hearts faint.
4. To decay; to disappear; to vanish.
Is fainting the result of not praying?
What work is “unto the Lord” doing in this verse?
What significance do you draw from Nephi teaching his people to “pray unto the Father in the name of Christ” in the time before Christ’s mortal ministry?
Consecrate (W1828:  “To make or declare to be sacred”) is an interesting word:  what would it look like for your performance to be consecrated?  Does “for the welfare of your soul” (re)define “consecrate”?
Ezra Taft Benson:
We are told to “pray always.” (2 Ne. 32:9; D&C 88:126.) This means that our hearts should be full, drawn out in prayer unto [our Heavenly Father] continually.” (Alma 34:27.)   Apr 77 GC
CHAPTER 33
  1 And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.

Nephi here says that he was mighty in speaking.  Normally, prophets feel that they are not good speakers, and frequently have spokesmen.  Why do you think Nephi was different?
The second half of this verse could be read to suggest something like this:  “When you speak by the Holy Ghost, people hear the Holy Ghost.  But when you write, not so much.”  Is that what Nephi was trying to say?  Is that true?  What general principles do you draw from this verse?
David A. Bednar:
Please notice how the power of the Spirit carries the message unto but not necessarily into the heart. A teacher can explain, demonstrate, persuade, and testify, and do so with great spiritual power and effectiveness. Ultimately, however, the content of a message and the witness of the Holy Ghost penetrate into the heart only if a receiver allows them to enter. Learning by faith opens the pathway into the heart. Citation
 Marion G. Romney:
Nephi said on one occasion that “when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost, the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men” (2 Ne. 33:1). I am persuaded that one of the deepest truths, the most glorious principles, revealed to the world through the restoration, by the Lord, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, was the doctrine that every man and every woman and every boy and every girl who has reached the age of accountability (D&C 18:42) and has joined the Church may have the spirit of the Lord, that is, the gift of the Holy Ghost, to guide him through his life. I mean by this direct communication with, revelation from, God our eternal Father.  Apr 44 GC
 2 But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.

Is Nephi, in v1-2, trying to make the point that people are more receptive to things spoken by the Spirit than things written by the Spirit?  Is that true?
Does this verse suggest that the default setting (if you will) is to be receptive to the Holy Spirit and that it requires an active rejection (“hardening the heart”) to refuse the Spirit?
Note that in this verse, Nephi uses “Holy Spirit” instead of “Holy Ghost” as he has up until this point.  Is that significant?
  3 But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.
This is a very evocative picture of Nephi crying into his pillow.  Why do you think he chose to share this?  How does it nuance your picture of Nephi as a person?

  4 And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.
Skousen says that “will be made” was “will he make” and “persuadeth them to believe” was “persuadeth men to believe.”
Compare 32:9, which uses virtually the same language (“ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee”). But note that in 32:9, the consecration is personal (unto thee), whereas here it is communal (of my people).
Follow the verbs in this verse used for the results of Nephi’s writing:  persuade, make known, speak, persuade (to believe and endure).  What do you make of that sequence?
Is Nephi saying that enduring to the end is life eternal?  How else might you parse this verse?
  5 And it speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth; wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil.
Note that the appropriate response to harshness here is not anger.

  6 I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.

 “My” before “Jesus” is a little unusual; why do you think Nephi phrased it that way?
What would glorying in Jesus look like?
7 I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat.

Nephi thinks that charity (this verse) is compatible with telling people that if they are angry with what he has written, it is because they have the spirit of the devil (v5).  Do you agree?
What is the relationship between the two halves of this verse?  (In other words, having charity and meeting people at the judgement seat?)
  8 I have charity for the Jew—I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came.

Do you take this verse to mean that all BoM references to “Jews” means “inhabitants of Judea” and excludes Lehi and his descendants?  If so, how would you read BoM references to “Jews” differently?
  9 I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.

Looking at v7, v8, and v9, is it right to conclude that Nephi sees the world divided into three groups:  Jews, Gentiles, and “his people”?
Is “day” (as opposed to “days”) of probation significant here?
  10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.
NB the “ye” (second person plural).  Nephi was speaking directly to the readers here.  This is fairly unusual in this scriptures.  It makes demands on the readers, beyond the norm.
I suspect that “ends of the earth” is a synonym for “Gentiles” in this verse.
How would you respond to someone who claimed that if you didn’t believe in Nephi’s writings that it meant that you didn’t really believe in Christ?
  11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

How literally do you read this verse?
Does this verse have anything to say about issues related to the inerrancy of scripture?
How (=in what ways) does Nephi expect his audience to be able to “judge” whether these are the words of Christ?
What does “with power and great glory” mean in this sentence?  That is, does it lead us to expect a dramatic witness of the truthfulness of Nephi’s words?
What does “at the last day” mean in this sentence–that the witness will come then?  Or something else?
Do you expect to literally see Nephi at the bar, or is this more symbolic?
Why do you think Nephi mentions his weakness in this context?
  12 And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.

Something about “many of us, if not all” cracks me up.
  13 And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.

How does “House of Israel” relate to Nephi’s categories of Jew, Gentile, and “my people” above?  Why does he use that term here?
 14 And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day.
Something about “respect” (as opposed to, maybe, “obey” or “heed”) catches my attention in this verse.  Why do you think Nephi chose that word?
NB that in this verse at least, Nephi does not seem to consider himself a Jew.

  15 For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen.
In what sense did Nephi “seal” his words?
General thoughts:
(1) The “farewell discourse” is a fairly well established genre in the scriptures.  If you read these chapters as Nephi’s farewell discourse, do you interpret them differently?  How is Nephi’s address similar to and different from Lehi’s?
(2) Think about all of the different ways that Nephi gets revelations (angels, visions, scriptures, prophets, Liahona, father and mother, God the Father, the Son, others?).  Here he has a conversation with the Father and the Son.  It might be an interesting exercise to mark all of these and think about various avenues for revelation.
(3) This would be the appropriate moment to reflect on Nephi’s writings as a whole.  Is there a discernible structure?  Is there a theme?  Is there change over time?  Do you read his writings differently knowing that he’s writing decades after the events described in 1 Nephi?  Does his choice of topics surprise you?  (Grant Hardy notes that there is virtually nothing written about Nephi’s kingship [or, for those who don’t think he was actually king:  leadership] or children.)
(4) If someone asked you, “What is the doctrine of Christ?” how would you answer based on this week’s reading?
Additional Resources:
The Power of Plainness” by Marvin J. Ashton

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