The Book of Mormon has more than one beautiful sermon on the Plan of Redemption, also known as the Plan of Salvation, the Purpose of Life, or the Great Eternal Plan. This plan gives us insight on the need for a Savior, who throughout time was known as the Messiah or Jehovah. Isaiah gives us additional names for him. We commonly refer to him today as Jesus Christ.
This first sermon comes from 2 Nephi 2. It is Lehi who is giving final blessings and words of wisdom to his children prior to his death. In this case he is speaking to one of his younger son’s named Jacob, whom by this time is likely a young grown man. The time setting is between 588 and 570 B.C. In transcribing to this document, I am taking it from the original publication of the Book of Mormon published in 1830. In this publication, it is the latter portion of 2 Nephi 1 of this original publication and begins at the bottom of page 62. I use the 1830 edition to avoid copyright issues and to provide historical backing for the book. Please note that the original publication did not have verses. Also, the chapters of the original version are much longer than the current version published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and therefore, the chapters also do not match. In brackets below, I state the current chapter and verse as published by the church. I have also given hard breaks for each verse as specified as a verse matching the current version from the church. This is strictly for readability. The original version has very long paragraphs.
[2:1] And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my first born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood, thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.
[2:2] Nevertheles(s), Jacob, my first born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.
[2:3] Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God.– Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer: for thou has beheld, that in the fulness of time, he cometh to bring salvation unto men.
Point 1: The Redeemer will come and he will bring salvation unto men.
As this was written about 600 years before the event would occur, Lehi was speaking of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, as a future event.
What does it mean to bring salvation to man?
The term salvation is not a universal term. Throughout the scriptures it often has different meanings. Some meanings are listed below:
- Salvation from experiencing eternal suffering for your committed sins as Christ has paid the ransom for justice applying the grace (gift) of mercy to you.
- Salvation is often referred to as living eternally with the Father in his Kingdom. This is truly the ultimate goal.
- Salvation in some contexts refers to the resurrection. You are saved from death as your soul and body shall be restored. In this context all men are saved as all will be resurrected. That is the gift of Christ given for keeping the first estate in the pre-earth life.
I find it interesting to note that Jacob’s redemption is not due to his own righteousness, but due to the righteousness of “thy Redeemer” – then Lehi points out the miracle which Jacob had experienced of beholding the Redeemer. Jacob had seen the Christ.
Definition: Behold – see or observe (a thing or person, especially a remarkable or impressive one). Source – Google lookup of word “Behold” taken from the Oxford Dictionary.
[2:4] And thou has beheld in thy youth, his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh: for the spirit is the same, yesterday, to-day, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.
Point 2. The blessing of the Atonement of Jesus Christ applies to all man.
It does not matter if a person were born or died prior to the coming of Jesus Christ on the earth. His atoning sacrifice is not limited to people who lived after Jesus was born, died, or resurrected. It is available to all who have lived on the earth – past, present, or future.
[2:5] And men are instructed sufficiently, that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law, no flesh is justified; or, by the law, men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law, they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law, they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
[2:6] Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah: for he is full of grace and truth.
[2:7] Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those which have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
Point 3. No law can save you. The only law required for salvation is to turn to the Messiah with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
The Law cannot save man. During the days of Lehi, the Law of Moses was is full effect. Yet even prior to the days of Moses, man had been instructed even from the days of Adam certain laws of God such as the Law of Sacrifice (Moses 5:5). This and other laws were given with multiple purposes in mind. First, as Lehi states, men are instructed sufficiently that they may know good from evil. That is one purpose of the law. The second reason is to point the way to Christ. Lehi states, “by the law, no flesh is justified; or, by the law, men are cut off”. This is because the Law cannot save you, neither the temporal law (Law of Moses, Law of Tithing), nor the spiritual law (consider the first four of the ten commandments). Why is it that the law cannot save us? It is very simple. Ever since the fall of Adam, man has individually been subject to sin, making us all unclean (This does not include small children). Once sin has made us unclean, we cannot be saved in our Father’s kingdom.
Redemption from sin is the only way that we can be saved from misery. This redemption comes only through the Messiah. For he offers himself as a sacrifice for sin but only for those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
So what is a broken heart? Consider using the term of breaking in a horse. A horse that is broken follows the will of the master. And as Jesus becomes our master, we will follow his will.
What is a contrite spirit? Contrite means to feel sorrow or remorse for sin or other shortcomings (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contrite). Do you recognize the wrongs you have committed? Do you greatly regret these actions you cannot take back? Are you willing to forsake all of your sins?
Only by offering our own sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, can we receive the atoning blood of Jesus which will cleanse our soul from our sins.
[2:8] Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may 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, which layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
Point 4. It is of great importance to teach the people of the world about this Plan of Redemption.
All people throughout the world need to know that we are all not worthy of the Father’s kingdom unless we rely on the merits, mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah.
At first, someone may wince at this statement as the living Jesus only ministered to the children of Israel (Matthew 15:24). But remember, Jonah was called to go to Ninevah and teach repentance to those people who were not the children of Jacob (Jonah 1:2). Salvation is for all the people of the earth to partake.
Point 5. The Holy Messiah will lay down his life.
This important point was not well understood even by the disciples of Jesus while he was living. They and others were looking for him to rule the earth. But Lehi already knew that the first coming of the Messiah will be the time he lays down his life prior to taking it back up again. His ruling over all the kingdoms of the earth was to be for another time at the end of the earth.
Point 6. The Messiah shall bring to pass the resurrection of the dead.
This resurrection was accomplished on the third day following his crucifixion. He was the first to rise in this the beginning of the first resurrection. After he rose, many others came from out of the grave as resurrected beings.
51. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
52. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53. And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Eventually we will all be resurrected. The first resurrection began with the death and resurrection of Jesus. This first resurrection will continue when Christ returns to the earth and shall continue through the millennium. At the end of the millennium, a second resurrection will occur for those who would not accept Christ and had to suffer for their own sins.
In days of old, Job also records that he also knew of the coming resurrection.
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
What is a Resurrection?
The concept is very simple. In your body is your spirit. When you die, your spirit leaves your body and the body decays. In a future day, you will resurrect meaning your perfected body and spirit will reunite.
[2:9] Wherefore, he is the first fruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him, shall be saved.
Point 7. If you believe on him, you will be saved.
The first fruits was an observance required of the Israelites as part of the law of Moses. The entire offering of the first fruits was a type for the coming of Jesus Christ and to look forward to the sacrifice that he would make.
Leviticus 23 : 9-20
9. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
10. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:
11. And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
12. And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord.
13. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.
14. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
15. And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:
16. Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.
17. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.
18. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord.
19. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.
20. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.
Wikibooks give a good summary of the meanings found in Leviticus 23. Wikibooks of the First Fruits.
The Significance of First Fruits
The firstfruit offering speaks of Messiah’s ascension and presentation of Himself in the Father’s House, the true tabernacle in heaven, in His resurrected, glorified body. The sheaf had been reaped from the earth and waved before Yahweh in the heavenly sanctuary when He arose from the grave and ascended to the Father on resurrection morning. He instructed Mirium not to touch Him prior to His presentation before the Father. See John 20:17
Passover had prophesied Messiah’s death on the stake, while the Sheaf offering prophesied the firstfruits of a coming harvest through Messiah’s resurrection from the dead. He was the representative sheaf of the harvest that was to come, the first of a kind, a second “Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:47). His presentation to the Father of the work of atonement secured the complete redemption and sanctification of the elect, the souls which the Father had given Him. (John 17:12) All He had promised them of being with Him where He was, glorified in the Father, was accomplished when He arose triumphant from the grave. (John 17: 1-10, 24)
After His presentation to the Father, He came and imparted to them the Spirit of truth which He had promised them, to make them one in Him, one body of believers indwelt by the Spirit. (John 20:19-22)
This impartation was the deposit of the Spirit which elevated them spiritually to be where He was positionally, in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6: 5). The outpouring of the Spirit upon them came fifty days later at Pentecost which anointed them with power to bring them, as a seed which had been planted, to perfection (Acts 2: 4). The assembly, which is His Body, is accepted in the Head, the Messiah. When He arose, we arose with Him as that firstfruit harvest, presented before the Father. (Colossians 2:12-13; Ephesians 2:7) It typified the spiritual resurrection of the believer, now reconciled to God, to walk in newness of life in Him.
The firstfruits offering in the temple consisted of the male lamb and the barley loaf with a drink offering of wine.
The burnt offering of the unblemished lamb represents the sacrificial offering of Messiah, the barley loaf made of a set measure of specially selected individual grains from the harvested crop, ground into fine flour mixed with oil, represents a corporate body of saints permeated by the oil of the Spirit to become one bread – one body indwelt by the Spirit. The disciples of Y’shua became that Body of believers after His resurrection, a barley loaf united by the Spirit, with the outpouring of the wine of the Spirit upon them.
“Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.” (John 12:24). Y’shua was that corn of wheat which planted His life in the earth to bring forth an abundant harvest.
[2:10] And because of the intercession for all, all men cometh unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of Him, to be judged of Him, according to the truth and holiness which is in Him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement;
Point 8. All shall stand before the presence of God to be judged.
The standing before him for judgement will result in the fulfilling of the Law of God which shall either inflict the affixed punishment or result in the opposite of the punishment which shall be happiness.
The judgement will be done by Jesus.
John 5 : 22
For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
[2:11] for it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass; neither wickedness; neither holiness nor misery; neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body, it must needs remain as dead, having no life, neither death nor corruption, nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
[2:12] Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of nought; wherefore, there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God, and his eternal purposes; and also, the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
[2:13] And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness.– And if there be no righteousness, there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness, there be no punishment, nor misery. And if these things are not, there is no God. And if there is no God, we are not, neither the earth: for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
Point 9: Opposition is a natural law and without it, there would be no God.
There is righteousness and happiness, there is punishment and misery. This is an eternal law. Without opposition, there would have been no purpose for the creation. Without this opposition, the plan of salvation would not exist. God would not exist.
[2:14] And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things, for your profit and learning: for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them is; both things to act, and things to be acted upon;
[2:15] and to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after that he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter;
[2:16] wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man, that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself, save it should be that he were enticed by the one or the other.
[2:17] And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose, that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from Heaven; wherefore, he became a Devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
[2:18] And because he had fallen from Heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind.–Wherefore, he sayeth unto Eve, yea, even that serpent , which is the Devil, which is the father of all lies; wherefore he sayeth, Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil
[2:19] And after that Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit, they were driven out from the garden of Eden, to till the earth.
Point 10: We are given free agency to act for oneself.
God created the heavens and the earth and he created Adam and Eve. He placed them in the garden. In the garden he created two trees – opposite in nature. One was the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is given for the righteous. If you partake of the Tree of Life, you are given eternal life. The other tree, opposite in nature, was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve were commanded not to partake of that fruit. They were told that the day they partake of it, they would die. Yet, they were able to make their own decision.
Satan, who was cast out of heaven for rebellion was now the opposite of righteousness. Anything he could do to cause man to turn from God was his goal. So he persuaded them to partake of the fruit. And by breaking God’s law, they were now made unclean. They also suffered a spiritual death that day for after they were cast out of the garden, for they were cut off from the presence of God. They were also cut off from the Tree of Life because had they partaken of the Tree of Life while caught in their sin, they would have lived forever and thwarted God’s plan. Eventually, Adam and Eve would repent. But the world for man was changed forever, for sin was brought into the world.
[2:20] And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth.
[2:21] 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, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he shewed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
Point 11: We live in a probationary state where we must repent or be lost.
Because God is merciful, he did not condemn Adam for all eternity for his transgression of the law. He gave Adam (and Eve) a time to repent.
During the days of Moses, the Ark of the Covenant was built which had two cherubs sitting on top of the mercy seat. This mercy seat was symbolic of Adam and Eve, having been cast from the garden, being given an opportunity to repent so that they could once again enter into the presence of God.
President Russell M Nelson in a talk on Repentance shared the following in the April 2019 General Conference.
Recently I have found myself drawn to the Lord’s instruction given through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation.” This declaration is often repeated throughout scripture. It prompts an obvious question: “Does everyone need to repent?” The answer is yes.
Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.
The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means “change.” The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”
Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.
Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
[2:22] And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed, he would not have fallen; but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created, must have remained in the same state which they were, after that they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
[2:23] And they would have had no children; wherefore, they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery: doing no good, for they knew no sin,
[2:24] But, behold, all things have been done in wisdom of Him who knoweth all things.
[2:25] Adam fell, that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
Point 12: The entire Plan of Redemption is so that we can have joy.
It is important to note the the teaching that Adam and Eve would not have had children save it were for the fall is a new doctrine taught in the Book of Mormon. It is doctrine not found prior to this teaching coming forth.
Everything changed after the fall. Verse 22 talks about the changes in the earth that took place. The extent of these changes have not been revealed to us and hypothesizing on the complete meaning is probably not productive.
[2:26] And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he might redeem the children of men from the fall. 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, save it be by the punishment of the law, at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
[2:27] Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which is expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great mediation of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the Devil: for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
[2:28] And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit,
[2:29] and not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the Devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.
[2:30] I have spoken these few words unto you all, my sons, in the last days of my probation; and I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet. And I have none other object, save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls.– Amen.
How beautiful are the closing words of Lehi’s sermon to his son Jacob. I these last five verses, he reiterates some the most important of his teachings to his son. These include the following:
- The Messiah will come to redeem man from the fall.
- When we are redeemed, we are made free and are given knowledge.
- We are free to choose between the opposites of good and evil.
- Choosing evil results in being captivated by the devil.
- Look to the savior. Hearken to his commandments. Choose eternal life.
- Joy is the outcome.