1 Ne 14:1 What are these stumbling blocks?
"The stumbling blocks spoken of by the angel appeared to be of two types: (1) the ignorance and uncertainty which came as a result of the loss of the plain and precious truths from the Bible; and (2) the Book of Mormon and the message of the Restoration themselves which would serve as stumbling blocks to the impenitent and hard-hearted of the latter days. In the meridian of time Paul wrote: 'We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness' (1 Corinthians 1:23)." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 106)
1 Ne 14:2 The Gentiles who harden not their hearts shall be numbered among the house of Israel
Latter-day saints who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and receive the necessary ordinances to join the kingdom of God receive the promise that they shall be numbered among the house of Israel. The significance of this statement begins with the promises made to Abraham. Because of Abraham's great faith and obedience, even that he would offer his son Isaac, the Lord promised him, That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (Gen 22:17-8). Those who understand the true meaning of the promise of eternal life and eternal increase understand that seed multiplied as the stars of the heaven is an eternal and not merely a mortal promise. Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies, means that the Lord will bless them, prosper them, and protect them from political oppression. In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed is fulfilled in several respects. First, the house of Israel will do the genealogy and temple work for the dead and perform temple ordinances for the returning ten tribes, becoming saviors on mount Zion, And there shall they (the 10 tribes) fall down and be crowned with glory, even in Zion, by the hands of the servants of the Lord, even the children of Ephraim (DC 133:32). Second, the Savior of the world and most of the prophets were to come through the lineage of Israel. Third, the gospel will be brought to the world primarily through the house of Israel. Fourth, the world has been blessed by the contributions to art, science, inventions, industry, philosophy, politics, etc. made by the descendants of Abraham.
Other promises related to the covenant made with Abraham are to be had in the temple of God. John the Revelator explained that those who are sanctified by Jesus Christ are made kings and priests unto God (Rev 1:6). This phrase could be rendered kings and priests in the house of Israel for it is through the house of Israel that the Lord establishes his church and reigns in his kingdom, for now and for all time. All of these promises that are part of the Abrahamic covenant are available to every member of the church. They are promises with incredible eternal consequence which are often under appreciated.
Joseph Smith taught that there was an actual spiritual transformation which purges out the old blood, "the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150) See also Rom 9:6-8, DC 103:17, and the Bible Dictionary on "Adoption."
1 Ne 14:3 that great pit, which hath been digged...by that great and abominable church...shall be filled by those who digged it
Satan has prepared a spiritual trap for the saints of God. Nephi sees that the Lord will preserve and protect the saints and that the great and abominable church will be cast into the pit. Nephi more vividly explains how this happens in chapter 22 of 1 Nephi:
And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood.
And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.
For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men (1 Ne 22:13-15).
The secret as to how the wicked will be destroyed is said to be because they shall war among themselves. This is interesting because John the Revelator uses the same imagery of a pit to preface his discussion of the wars he sees occurring in the last days. See Rev 9:1-11, 11:7, 17:8-18. Finally, after Satan makes war with the saints, an angel casts Satan into the bottomless pit for a thousand years, And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled (Rev 20:1-3).
1 Ne 14:3 not the destruction of the soul
Some denominations teach that at death, there is no spirit. The body is placed in the grave and the spirit of the individual does not exist until the resurrection. This comes from the incorrect interpretation of some scriptures in Ecclesiastes. For example, For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten (Eccles 9:5). This means that a dead man has no more earthly rewards and that the living will not remember them forever. Later in the same book, the principle that the spirit lives on after death is clearly taught, Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it (Eccles 12:7). The Book of Mormon teaches what should be an obvious principle, that the spirit or soul is not destroyed but awaits the resurrection in either spirit paradise or hell.
1 Ne 14:3 hell which hath no end
"Hell is that portion of the postmortal spirit world wherein the wicked suffer and repent and reconsider. It is also known as 'outer darkness,' a place of 'weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth,' this because of the wickedness of those who have suffered themselves to be led captive by Lucifer (see Alma 40:13-14). The 'lake of fire and brimstone,' whose flames ascend up forever and ever, is descriptive of the torment of conscience in this place (see Teachings, pp. 310-11, 357). Both paradise and hell have an end in the Resurrection. Hell is the gateway to the telestial kingdom. It is endless in the sense that those who experience it are subject to the punishment of God, whose name is Endless (D&C 19:10-12)." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 108)
1 Ne 14:7 a great and marvelous work
The "marvelous work and a wonder" doctrine comes from Isaiah, Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid....And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel (Isa 29:14,18-19). What is marvelous and a wonder is the work the Lord performs in the last days. Verse 18 above shows that the Book of Mormon plays a role in the process but is not the "marvelous work and a wonder." The phrase means that the Lord will build a kingdom in the latter days using the simple and meek of the earth. He will gather the tribes of Israel by a great missionary effort that will be successful because of the Book of Mormon and other latter-day scriptures. LeGrand Richards explains how crucial the ministry of Joseph Smith was to this process.
"Joseph Smith, or any other man, could not have obtained all this information by reading the Bible or studying all the books that have ever been written. It came from God. It is exactly what Isaiah promised the Lord would do when conditions upon the earth should become as Joseph Smith found them when he went into the woods to pray for light as to which of all the churches he should join....
"It truly is a marvelous work and a wonder. Can you conceive of anything that could be more marvelous or more wonderful?
"In the face of it all, the wisdom of wise men does perish. The world has no satisfactory explanation. In the Church Historian's Office in Salt Lake City are more than 20,000 volumes, large and small, each of which says something about the Prophet Joseph Smith. There are also some 2,000 pamphlets on the subject. Many of these publications represent attempts on the part of non-Mormon writers to explain the conundrum of Joseph Smith and the work he established, but all without avail. All these writings have been accumulated since the birth of Joseph Smith in 1805. In contrast, in the more than two centuries that have elapsed since the birth of George Washington, it is reported, there are only some 3,000 volumes written about him on file in the Library of Congress....
"We emphasized a statement published in the New York Herald, which we quoted in this chapter; 'Joseph Smith is creating a spiritual system, combined with morals and industry that may change the destiny of the race.' This statement was made in 1842, and at this writing, more than a century and a half later, it is evident, from the present accomplishments of the Church founded under his leadership, that this prognostication is sure to achieve a complete fulfillment.
"It is equally sure that the prediction of Josiah Quincy, previously quoted, will find its fulfillment:
"'It is by no mans improbable that some future textbook, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: 'Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet.'" (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, pp. 411-2)
1 Ne 14:10 there are save two churches only...the church of the Lamb...and...the church of the devil
"Nephi had already used the expression 'great and abominable church' in reference to a specific organization identified in his historical time as being more destructive and wicked than all other churches of its day. He used that same expression now in a broader or more general sense. In the context of his vision, the church or kingdom of God had again been established on the earth. With the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the restoration of priesthood and its keys, there was once again an organization on earth with the authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof; it is by divine testimony the 'only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth' (D&C 1:30), salvation being found in none other." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 109)
Bruce R. McConkie
"The titles church of the devil and great and abominable church are used to identify all churches or organizations of whatever name or nature -- whether political, philosophical, educational, economic social, fraternal, civic, or religious -- which are designed to take men on a course that leads away from God and his laws and thus from salvation in the kingdom of God...."
"Hence we find our Lord saying, 'He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.' (Matt. 12:30.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p.138)
1 Ne 14:10 she is the whore of all the earth.
The great and abominable church and the church of the Lamb are symbolized by women of differing moral purity. The great and abominable church is represented by a whore, and the church of the Lamb is represented by a bride adorned for her husband, That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness...And be adorned as a bride for that day when thou shalt unveil the heavens (DC 109:73-74).
1 Ne 14:12 the church of the Lamb...its numbers were few...the saints of God were also upon all the face of the earth
Nephi saw our day. He saw a relatively small group on whom the power of the Lamb had descended (v. 14) who were spread all over the earth. This great dispensation of the fullness of times has been seen by many prophets. Moroni said, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing (Mormon 8:35). The latter days were also shown to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the brother of Jared, Enoch, Moses, Zechariah, John the Revelator, Paul, and many others.
1 Ne 14:14 the saints....were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory
Nephi compliments the latter-day saints in a few different passages. Here he testifies that the saints were armed with the power of God. Elsewhere, he explains that the members of the church would understand the words of Isaiah, for I know that they (the words of Isaiah) shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them. The Lord will not allow the kingdom of God to fail in this dispensation. Though individually we may not feel like we are armed with righteousness and with the power of God, collectively we cannot fail. Though the great mother of abominations gathers multitudes together to fight against the Lamb of God, still the kingdom will roll on.
1 Ne 14:15 there were wars and rumors of wars among all the nations
Joseph Smith helps us to understand which wars this phrase refers to. In the 87th section of the D&C, he records that the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place (DC 87:2). This statement is made in the section in which he prophecies of the Civil War. If the Civil War is the beginning of the wars and rumors of wars, then certainly this phrase has reference to WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Cold War, and many others. It probably also refers to wars which are yet to take place. Wars will continue until the Lord is done punishing the wicked, And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations; That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies (DC 87:6-7). This is the wrath of God spoken of in 1 Ne 14:16.
1 Ne 14:17 at that day, the work of the Father shall commence
The "work of the Father" referred to here has to do with fulfilling specific covenants made with the house of Israel. They include the return of the Jews to the land of their inheritance, the gathering of Israel (Isa 43:5-7), the building of a temple in Jerusalem (Isa 44:28), the promise that the Gentiles shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders (Isa 49:22). The Lord has promised Israel, I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children (Isa 49:25), and Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem (Isa 52:9). Not much progress had been made in the fulfilling of these covenants before the second world war. This places the timing of the events of verse 17 in the 20th century.
1 Ne 14:19-20 one of the twelve...shall see and write the remainder of these things
Nephi next sees the events which transpire directly preceding the Second Coming. He is told that John will record these events in the future. Many prophets have prophesied about the same events. In an unusual precedent, Nephi is not allowed to describe the events he sees next. Why would this be? There are a couple of reasons. First, apparently John was foreordained to perform this work. (By the way, this is probably the single best scriptural example of the doctrine of foreordination.) Secondly, the Lord in his wisdom does not give the world all of his mysteries. The book of Revelation is not meant to be understood by the wicked; it is written for those with the spirit of prophecy. If one does not have the Spirit, it is impossible to make sense out of the imagery contained in the Revelation. For those with the spirit of prophecy, it is not impossible to understand. Joseph Smith said, "The book of Revelation is one of the plainest books God ever caused to be written." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 290)
The timeline here is interesting. Nephi describes events that occur in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Next he is commanded to stop writing because the things he sees shall be written by the Apostle John. This would suggest that the events which take place during the seventh seal are near, even at the door (JS-M 1:39).
1 Ne 14:26 others...to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity
The brother of Jared was one of the "others" referred to. He was shown a vision of the history of the world which is contained in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon (Ether 3:25-7). Apparently, the brother of Jared wrote in such purity that the Lord would not allow us to have this record before some more events transpire and before we are ready, for there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared (Ether 4:4).
1 Ne 14:30 now I make an end of speaking [concerning the vision I saw]
This marks the end of Nephi's description of what he sees. To summarize, he sees the vision of the tree of life, he is given the interpretation of the dream, and he is shown a vision of the history of the world including the Savior's ministry, the early church, the history of the Nephites and Lamanites, the Apostasy, the Restoration, the last days, the destructions which attend the Second Coming and the Millenium.