The following is a transcript to Wally’s video Lehi’s Farewell. If you prefer to watch the video, you may click here.
One of the greatest atonement chapters in all of recorded scripture is that final address given by Lehi to his son Jacob in 2 Nephi 2.
He says in verse 2, “Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain”. Jacob certainly had an abundance of afflictions. And Lehi knew from experience that when afflictions are combined with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are turned to our gain—to our benefit and growth.
While we said this chapter is addressed to Jacob, we have to suspect that Lehi hoped that other family members who were sitting by listening to this speech might be touched by the message as well.
Let’s think about Lehi’s message in this powerfully poignant moment. He says in verse 3, “I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer.” Let’s combine that with verse 5: “And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off.” The law does not make us righteous. In fact, it makes us unrighteous—it condemns us. So the core concept carried through this great chapter begins and continues through verse 6. “Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.” Then in verse 8: “Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know”– that we might know—“that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.”
One of the verses that is often misused from this chapter is verse 11. I think most of my life I misunderstood or underappreciated this verse. In it Lehi says, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” We often interpret this phrase to mean that there have to be difficulties, there have to be challenges in life. But I think Lehi means that there have to be opposites; there have to be choices. There must be good and evil, light and dark, goodness andevil. There must be self-sufficiency as opposed to God-dependency.
So Lehi sets up a great comparison where he shows that, if you take away those opposites—if you take away that choice—then all mortality just collapses into meaninglessness and stops existing. It is a wonderful line of argumentation that is carefully developed. So for instance, he talks in verse 15, about the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life. And then in verse 16, “Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.”
In fact throughout all of mortality we are enticed, enticed by God who says, “May I bless you? May I teach you? May I enlarge you?” We are also enticed by Satan who says, “May I make you feel self-sufficient? May I turn you away from God? May I turn you towards meeting your own needs?” This is a very powerful chapter.
May I recommend that you might want to read the commentary by Brent Gardner about this chapter, as well as other chapters in the Book of Mormon. He has written a series called Second Witness, which has six volumes that he calls an analytical and contextual commentary on the Book of Mormon. In that commentary where he talks about 2 Nephi 2, he shows how central that idea of opposites is.
Returning to Lehi, in verse 21 comes a great insight: “And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened…”
Heavenly Father knows that it will take us decades to learn to get past this terrible self-sufficiency that is so much a part of the human condition. And He grants us decades. Day after day, month after month, He invites. He says, “Please come to me and be rescued.”
And then in verses 26-27, the Messiah cometh. “And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon… Wherefore men are free.” But not free in a great American sense—free to do as we please. It means free to choose between those opposites. “All things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil…”
It’s a choice. It’s a choice between opposites. To, day in and day out, turn to Christ and say, “I’m desperate for your help.” Or, in the hands of Satan, keep depending upon ourselves.
One of the most familiar passages in all of scripture is verse 25. “But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy” (v. 24-25). Adam fell downward and forward to bring us here to earth. But our purpose, even as we suffer and struggle with affliction here, is to return to God and joy. And it can only happen in one way—by choosing to be changed through the atonement