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Lesson Plan for 2 Nephi 26-30


To begin, I share a quote from Elder Neal A. Maxwell that I shared at the beginning of the year. It is one of my favorites and a good reminder of how we should read and treasure the Book of Mormon:

"I need and want additional time [with the Book of Mormon]. For me, towers, courtyards, and wings await inspection. My tour of it has never been completed. Some rooms I have yet to enter, and there are more flaming fireplaces waiting to warm me. Even the rooms I have glimpsed contain further furnishings and rich detail yet to be savored. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights and design and decor dating from Eden. There are also sumptuous banquet tables painstakingly prepared by predecessors which await all of us. Yet, we as Church members sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry hall to the mansion.

May we come to feel as a whole people beckoned beyond the entry hall. May we go inside far enough to hear clearly the whispered truths from those who have “slumbered,” which whisperings will awaken in us individually the life of discipleship as never before." (1)

Starting in chapter 25 and within the chapters we read this week is Nephi's likening of Isaiah. These are Nephi's words to us in the more sacred portion of his record. After this, in chapters 31-33, we get Nephi closing us out for a few chapters and figuratively takes us through the veil. Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah are among those who have "slumbered", as Elder Maxwell has said, and have prepared "sumptuous banquet tables painstakingly" for us. Nephi likens Isaiah's words and calls this record, The Book of Mormon, A Marvelous Work and A Wonder. Modern translations of this phrase from Isaiah 29:14 say wonder upon wonder. I think that also describes the inexhaustible wonder The Book of Mormon is and is consistent with Elder Maxwell's words above.

In these chapters, Nephi begins to do something he hasn't really done previously. In Grant Hardy's Annotated Book of Mormon from Oxford Printing Press, he shows how Nephi doesn't just change or quote Isaiah in large portions in these chapters. Nephi begins to weave Isaiah through his own words. It is almost as if Nephi is waxing a little bit like Elder Bruce R. McConkie who once said of ancient prophets:

"In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets. True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word." (2)

It is, again, important to understand that this is what Nephi meant by likening the scriptures. If you analyze Nephi's words in chapters 25-30, you will find him recounting all the things he saw in his vision in 1 Nephi 11-14 but going into much more detail. You will find a maturity in Nephi's words who has now had several decades to think about his revelations and has had several decades to read Isaiah off the brass plates and realize just how similar Isaiah's revelatory words mirrored his own experiences. Nephi is probably at least halfway through his reign at this point and has wrestled with the notion that he and his people are alone on this new continent and how his split family would be redeemed. Isaiah speaks about a remnant of scattered Israel that will save the Lord's covenant people. Nephi speaks about a lost remnant, the posterity of his brothers, the Lamanites, who will also contribute to the salvation of the Lord's covenant people. For most of these chapters, Nephi is likening Isaiah chapter 29 by reworking it to fit his revelatory experiences. That is the important nuance between Nephi's and Isaiah's words; namely, Nephi is repurposing Isaiah's words about lost and scattered Israel around the posterity of his brothers. We don't often think enough about that, but it is one of the plain purposes of the Book of Mormon spelled out on the title page and throughout the record.


This was in last week's reading, but I think it is worth visiting as it is one of the most quoted and discussed scriptures we have. Nephi has begun talking about this Marvelous Work and Wonder, or wonder upon wonder, and how his teachings to his people are Christ-centric, including the Law of Moses.

READ 2 NEPHI 25:23

"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."


What role does grace play in us "working out our own salvation"?

What often goes unnoticed in this verse is that this is Nephi quoting his brother Jacob from chapter 10.

READ 2 NEPHI 10:24

"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."

Jacob's words might give us a sense of what Nephi means when he said we are saved by grace "after all we can do." It sounds like the "all we can do" is to be reconciled to God. This gets further clarified when we look at the converted King of the Lamanites' words hundreds of years later.


"11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain."


How might understanding "all we can do" to be about repentance and reconciling ourselves change how we understand the grace of Jesus Christ?

The language of repentance and reconciliation is covenantal. If you remember from our studies about grace from Paul's words in the New Testament, it was understood anciently as a term for covenantal loyalty. Grace is what the patron would bestow upon the client for their loyalty. That grace took the form of protection, food, liberty, and other things. When it comes to our covenants with Jesus Christ, He asks us to keep ourselves, to the best of our ability, reconciled to Him so that we might abide in covenantal grace.

Elder Ulisses Soares has quoted Elder Bruce C. Hafen and said:

"Please remember that the Savior’s gift of grace “is not necessarily limited in time to ‘after’ all we can do. We may receive His grace before, during, and after the time when we expend our own efforts.”"(3)

Joseph Spencer elaborates on the implications this has for us and concretely defines grace:

"To realize fully that what saves is grace—God’s good will, expressed in the form of covenantal bonds—is to realize that whatever our excuse might be for holding out against God, it is a poor one. This, then, is the concrete meaning of salvation or deliverance by grace, as I think Nephi understands it: to be given to see that God still speaks, and to be given to receive what he says in full faith. All we can do is resist the temptation to hold out against the Spirit’s enticements and constraints."(4)

The "all we can do", therefore, is not to resist reconciliation with the Savior.

"The Learned... Sealed Book"

In chapter 26 Nephi continues to prophecy of Christ and more fully unpacks the prophecy that his people will be visited by the Savior hundreds of years later. Nephi also gives very moving comments in verses 24-33 about how the Lord denies NONE to come and partake of His goodness. This mirrors Jacob chapters 1-3 where Nephi's little brother has to teach a similar idea. Some forms of prejudice had arisen since the split of Laman and Lemuel from Nephi. Jacob plainly warns against this in his book, and Nephi here also appears to counsel against such.

We transition into 2 Nephi chapter 27 from here where Nephi really does a rework/likening of Isaiah chapter 29. In other words, Nephi reworks Isaiah's words here to become a prophecy about the Book of Mormon. He totally weaves Isaiah's words in and out of his own words.

READ 2 NEPHI 27:6-10

"6 And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered.

7 And behold the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof.

8 Wherefore, because of the things which are sealed up, the things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the wickedness and abominations of the people. Wherefore the book shall be kept from them.

9 But the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust, and he shall deliver these words unto another; 

10 But the words which are sealed he shall not deliver, neither shall he deliver the book. For the book shall be sealed by the power of God, and the revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the own due time of the Lord, that they may come forth; for behold, they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof."

NOTE: What follows comes from the scholarship of Joseph Spencer. A few items to note to make sense of the message Nephi is giving us:

1. There is a clear distinction in these verses and after between the book that is sealed and the words of the book. If read carefully, the book that is sealed is a reference to the entire Book of Mormon, more specifically, the Gold Plates. The gold plates are delivered to Joseph Smith who then delivers the words of the book to another.

2. Verse 10 makes the clarification that there is a sealed portion of words within the book that is sealed. A careful reading helps because we often assume that the word sealed is all about the revelation the brother of Jared received in the Book of Ether. Again, verse 10 gives us two different things that are sealed. Through chapters 27-30, most of the references to the sealed book are about how the gold plates were/are sealed from the world.

3. In verses 11-14 Nephi continues to draw the distinction between the sealed words of the book and the book itself. Verse 11 is a prophecy of how the sealed words will come forth at some point in the last days. Verses 12-14 are a prophecy about the gold plates being hidden from the world except for three and eight witnesses (and some others).

    In summary, there are three distinct things Nephi has discussed thus far:

    1. The words of the Book - the actual words of The Book of Mormon as translated by Joseph Smith

    2. The book that is sealed - the gold plates that are hidden from the eyes of the world

    3. The words of the book which are sealed - the literal sealed portion of the gold plates, which includes the brother of Jared's grand revelation.

With these distinctions and definitions from Nephi in mind, let us read the meat of the prophecy. We are going to get other additions and key phrases as well:

READ 2 NEPHI 27:15-22

"15 But behold, it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: Read this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them.

16 And now, because of the glory of the world and to get gain will they say this, and not for the glory of God.

17 And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed.

18 Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it.

19 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned.

20 Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.

21 Touch not the things which are sealed, for I will bring them forth in mine own due time; for I will show unto the children of men that I am able to do mine own work.

22 Wherefore, when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto thee, then shalt thou seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read, until I shall see fit in mine own wisdom to reveal all things unto the children of men."

NOTE: the use of the phrase "the learned" is plural, especially in light of the plural pronoun, they, used in verse 20. This insight comes from Elder Neal A. Maxwell in the Book of Mormon Institute student manual, see here. The definite usage of the learned in the plural sense does not occur in Isaiah chapter 29.

This is an example of Nephi likening Isaiah, which means literally changing the tenses and meaning of words/phrases to fit whatever message Nephi wants to convey. Therefore, Nephi's talk of the learned, according to Elder Maxwell, refers to a mindset more than it does specifically to just Professor Charles Anthon. (5) It is totally accurate and ok to interpret this as a prophecy of Martin Harris taking the Book of Mormon characters to Dr. Anthon, but there is more here to be discovered, obviously.


Let's liken Nephi's words who was likening Isaiah's words. What application might this have for us? How might we guard against becoming like they who are the learned who refuse to read the words of the book because we would very much like to have the sealed book?

In verse 15 we could put ourselves in both positions. We at times can be the learned or the ones whom the words of the book were given to take to the learned. The Lord continues to explain why he has sent the words of the book forth and not the book (the gold plates itself).

READ 2 NEPHI 27:23-26

"23 For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.

24 And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him:

25 Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men—

26 Therefore, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, yea, a marvelous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid."

The Lord quotes Isaiah 29:13-14 to Nephi but adds in learned in verse 26. Therefore, the Lord is playing along with Nephi's likening here.


What reason does the Lord give for sending the words forth but not the book? How can we read the Book of Mormon with Faith and a belief in miracles? How do we not tire of this sealed book and treasure the words to be a wonder upon wonder?

Joseph Spencer has commented:

"It's not just that we only get the words, it's that we only get the words, but there are witnesses who have seen the book. That should sound really familiar to any Christian. This is exactly the situation with Christ's resurrection. Early Christians are going around saying, this guy rose from the dead. They're like, really? Where's the evidence? Well, some people saw the body. It's exactly our situation with the plates. We have 12 men who saw the plates, Joseph plus three witnesses, plus eight witnesses, 12, and a woman named Mary, exactly the situation from the New Testament. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It's the exact same situation. So, God seems to be rebooting Christianity through the plates. Just as there's an empty tomb, there's an empty box at Cumorah, and you have to take these witnesses' words, and then go read the book and see what happens... [In verses 26-27], The way Nephi is explaining it, God is deliberately trying to overturn the Latter-day intellectual culture. The people who complain about the Book of Mormon say, surely, your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay. The Book of Mormon is supposed to turn things upside down, or as it's put in verse 26, "The wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish." (6)

Many of the details in 2 Nephi 27 mirror the details of Christ's resurrection. Here is a non-exhaustive list of parallels: 

The Book of Mormon is a resurrected book. It is the story of Christianity rebooted. Is it any wonder President Ezra Taft Benson once said, "The Book of Mormon is... the keystone of the doctrine of the Resurrection" (Oct 1986 GC)?

Therefore, the miracle of the resurrection and the miracle of The Book of Mormon are linked. We are being asked like the Gentiles of Christ's day to adjust our spiritual epistemology in order to grow in Faith:

"When a person refuses to exercise faith—to have a hope in that which is unseen but true (Alma 32:21)—he thereby denies himself access to the spiritual world, another realm of reality. His vision of things is at best deficient and at worst perverse; he does not see things “as they really are” (see Jacob 4:13; D&C 93:24). He is a scientist with insufficient data; his methodology is limited by his approach and his conclusions must surely be suspect... Those who rely exclusively upon human sensory experience and human reason to come to the truth cannot find a place in their tightly-enclosed epistemological system for such matters as spirit and revelation and prophecy" - Robert L. Millet (7)

It is my opinion that Nephi and the Lord have masterfully crafted what we have here in 2 Nephi chapter 27 to help us "shake off" the worldly grip of how we are to obtain spiritual knowledge (see 2 Nephi 28:19).


With Nephi and the Lord's discussion in chapter 27 ingrained in our minds, we can more readily see Nephi's transition into his prophecies about false ideas and false christs that shall prevail in the last days. President Joseph Fielding Smith once said to read 2 Nephi 28 carefully because what it says "is said of members of the Church" just as much as those outside it (The Way to Perfection, p. 203).

1. Priests that teach with their learning AND deny the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:4)

2. God has already done his work (28:5)

3. Do not believe in miracles (28:6)

4. Eat drink and be merry (28:7)

5. God will punish us a little bit and then save us in our sins (28:8)

6. They rob the poor (28:13)

7. All the churches have gone astray because of pride, abominations, and whoredoms. Only a few humble followers of Christ remain and even they in many instances err because they are taught by the precepts of men (28:14)

8. Many shall say, "All is well in Zion" (28:21)

9. Teach that there is no punishment for the wicked or there is no devil (28:22)

10. Many shall say, "we have received, and we need no more!" (28:27)

Point 10 appears to be a stickler for Nephi because he then spends the last several verses of chapter 28 and all of chapter 29 talking about it.

READ 2 NEPHI 28:27-31

"27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!

28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.

29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!

30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost."


These questions come directly from the CFM manual: How does God want me to feel about and respond to His word? Why are people sometimes “angry” about receiving more truth from God? (2 Nephi 28:28). Do I ever feel this way? If so, how can I change? What does it mean to receive God’s word? How can I show Him that I want to receive more of His word? 

It might be sort of chilling to consider that many of the Lord's covenant people will become just as guilty of not wanting more of the Lord's words as those who declare, "A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible." (see 2 Nephi 29:3) The Lord appears to mock this kind of thinking and calls those who think this way "fools" in chapter 29. Jacob, Nephi's brother, teaches all this rather plainly when he counsels those of the Lord's covenant people to "despise not the revelations of God" (see Jacob 4:8).

In some possible interesting word play (from what is known of the Hebrew and Egyptian language), Matthew Bowen points out that Nephi is doing exquisite word play with the Hebrew root yāsap all throughout chapters 25-30, particularly chapters 28-29. This is the same root the name Joseph comes from and means "may God add or gather or take away." (8) Nephi was probably keenly aware of Joseph of Egypt and Joseph Smith's roles in the last days, therefore, this word play was Nephi's way of showing how Joseph Smith and Joseph of Egypt are prototypes of being added upon in our day. 

As if he had read these exact chapters in 2 Nephi, in his first talk as President of the Church, President Russell M. Nelson said:

"Does God really want to speak to you? Yes! “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course … as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.”

You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church. Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true.

I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that “if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”

Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!”" (9)

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the renowned professor at Harvard Divinity School, wrote in 1838:

"The stationariness of religion; the assumption that the age of inspiration is past, that the Bible is closed; the fear of degrading the character of Jesus by representing him as a man; indicate with sufficient clearness the falsehood of our theology. It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake. The true Christianity, — a faith like Christ's in the infinitude of man, — is lost." (10)

Nephi's plain words of prophecy are alive and well in our day. The Restoration is a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. 


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights. I enjoy the deeper dive into CFM with the additional references. Thanks again BJ!


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