This week in our review of the Book of Mormon, we’ll continue with chapters 5 to 12 of Helaman. Last week we saw how Nephi achieved the Zion/Jerusalem category of blessedness that we see in Isaiah’s Ladder to Heaven. This week we’ll see what Nephi did to achieve the next level to become God’s Sons/Daughters/Servant or God’s Elect. The period of Nephi’s ascent to achieve God’s Elect started when he obtained the judgement-seat at 3:37 to when he sees God at 5:36. It is this group of scriptures from 3:37 to 5:36 that we will evaluate this week.
In the person of Nephi the son of Helaman we have a singular account in the scriptures of how a person attains the “sealing power,” also called the “spirit and power of Elijah” and the “fulness of the Priesthood”. Other accounts exist in the scriptures of individuals who attained this power, such as Enoch, Moses, Elijah, John the Revelator, and the Three Nephites; but none is so explicit as to their background. How did they get to the point where the Lord endowed them with this extraordinary power? What were the struggles they endured, the tests of their faith they had to pass, that qualified them for this highest of all callings?
Nephi and the Ladder to Heaven
Last week, we saw Nephi achieve the Zion/Jerusalem level of blessedness. For those who haven’t read my last post analyzing Nephi’s ascent to Zion/Jerusalem, go HERE.
The next level or spiritual category that Nephi needed to ascend to obtain the sealing power is God’s Sons/Daughters/Servants or His Elect. We can see that in our summary below.
Achieving Sons/Daughters/Servants – God’s Elect
The second ascension that Nephi needs to achieve is the Sons/Daughters/Servants level of blessedness.
Ascending from the Zion/Jerusalem category are valiant souls who sanctify their lives by emulating Israel’s Savior-God and assimilating his attributes and perfections. Entering into individual compacts with him under the terms of the Davidic Covenant, they act as proxy saviors of others in the pattern of King Hezekiah at Assyria’s siege of Jerusalem. Proving loyal to Israel’s God through a descent phase of trials and afflictions, they are re-created in his image and likeness and inherit lands and posterities by an unconditional covenant. They serve as kings and queens to others of God’s people in bringing them into a covenant relationship with him, laying the groundwork for a transformation of the earth when Jehovah comes to establish his reign of peace.
Our analysis of the scriptures reveals the following process to achieve Sons/Daughters/Elect.
Nephi and Achieving Sons/Daughters/Servant/Elect
The primary function that we see here with God’s Elect is that they are in the mode of serving others in the way of leadership roles to communities or family organizations. Once they perfect their lives, they are serviceable to God, whom God calls His Servants. When we look at Nephi, Nephi obtains the judgement-seat at 3:37 – a clear indication that he has begun a new ascent. Moreover, during this period God calls Nephi, His Servant at 5:29,32. Another indication that Nephi is operating on a higher spiritual level. We also see the concept of “eternal life” referenced at 5:8, which is yet another key that Nephi is operating at an exalted state. All of these concepts between 3:37 to 5:36 point to the fact that Nephi is ascending the Sons/Servant/Elect spiritual category.
Before Nephi can effectively serve as God’s Servant to others, he must perfect his life by overcoming all types of sin, receive a fullness of gospel knowledge and cultivate the attributes of God, the Son. This phase of Nephi’s ascent indicates that the covenants Nephi has made with God here are conditional and temporary.
Purifies a Lineage of Sin
The last type of sin that Nephi would need to overcome are those kinds of dysfunctional behaviors that are passed down or inherited from ancestors. We see this concept in the scriptures when sins are visited on posterity to the third and fourth generations – Deu 5:9, Num 14:18. Having already overcome Universal and Personal Sin, Nephi would need to perfect his life further by overcoming these negative inherited behaviors.
We can pretty much guess that Nephi had very little to overcome in the way of inherited sin because he is the fourth generation of a line of righteous fathers – Alma, Alma the Younger and Helaman. Moreover, marriage and family are another aspect of perfection because it is these types of responsibilities that expose our weaknesses. Since, Nephi sat in the judgement-seat and would have been a high priest, he is required under the Law to be married.
Receives a Fullness of Knowledge
Our next aspect of perfection is to obtain a fullness of knowledge. As one becomes more like God, their knowledge of the gospel expands so they are more effective in bring souls to God. We see that here with Nephi when he teaches with power and authority – 5:17-19
17 And it came to pass that they did preach with great power, insomuch that they did confound many of those dissenters who had gone over from the Nephites, insomuch that they came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance, and immediately returned to the Nephites to endeavor to repair unto them the wrongs which they had done.18 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power and authority, for they had power and authority given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them—19 Therefore they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them, insomuch that there were eight thousand of the Lamanites who were in the land of Zarahemla and round about baptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers.
Cultivates the Seven Attributes of Messiah
Our last aspect of perfection is to cultivate the seven attributes of the Messiah. A person does not see God in mortality unless in some measure he has become like Him. We have two incidents in our reading this week of Nephi seeing Yehovah. Once at 5:36 then again when Nephi receives the sealing power in chapter 10.
Reaching the Full Stature of the Messiah/Christ
We see that Paul indicates in Ephesians 4 that the goal of Believers is to reach the full measure of the stature of Messiah/Christ. When a Believer achieves that state, they become a King and Priest after the example of the Messiah, and function as proxy-saviors.
A Davidic King
Those who reach this level of righteousness enter into the Davidic Covenant, whom God choses to rule and reign with Him. Those who become Davidic Kings establish the laws of God, judge righteously and execute righteous judgment. When we look at Nephi occupying the judgment-seat, he is functioning under the Davidic Covenant as a judge over his people. Another tell-tale sign that Nephi is functioning under the Davidic Covenant is that the right to rule is passed from father to son, which is what happened here when Helaman passed the judgement-seat to his son Nephi at 3:37.
Integral to the Davidic Covenant is marriage because this covenant passes from father to son. Since the Davidic Covenant is everlasting, then marriage here is also everlasting. Women who become God’s Daughters/Handmaidens/Elect rise with their husbands to serve others.
A Priest after the Order of Melchizedek
Under the order of God, political and religious functions are fused in the leadership of righteous men. Men who are God’s Elect are High Priests and they covenant with God to be perfect, teach the laws of God to the people, are accountable and answerable for the transgressions of the people and administer priesthood ordinances to the people. Integral to the Davidic Covenant is the office of high priest.
We also see this fusion of political and religious functions in the judgement-seat that Nephi holds.
Another aspect of reaching the full stature of Messiah is to serve as proxy-saviors/deliverers. To be a suitable proxy-savior, one must have achieved a level of perfection much like the concept of an unblemished, perfect lamb. Suitable human proxies must be righteous perfected men who have favor with God who petition God to save those on lower spiritual levels from physical death, which we see with Abraham and Lot, Moses and Israel, and King Hezekiah and his people.
One of the interesting things that happens here with Nephi is that we should see Nephi function as a proxy-savior at 5:9-12, but instead what we see is a reiteration of the redemption of Messiah/Christ, who is a perfect example of proxy-salvation. Nephi here is either concealing an experience where he served as a proxy-savior or that he was fully willing to perform this saving function.
Seeing God, The Son
The climax of being God’s Sons/Daughters/Servant/Elect is to prove one’s loyalty to God under distress, receive a calling and election that is made sure and to see God, the Son whom seals their covenants.
A Second Baptism of Fire
In the pattern of descent before ascent, those who ascent to higher levels of blessedness must prove their loyalty to God under distress and the closer one comes to God the more difficult these tests are. Here with Nephi we see such test when he is cast into prison by the Lamanites – 5:21,22
21 And it came to pass that they were taken by an army of the Lamanites and cast into prison; yea, even in that same prison in which Ammon and his brethren were cast by the servants of Limhi. 22 And after they had been cast into prison many days without food, behold, they went forth into the prison to take them that they might slay them.
Calling and Election Made Sure
Those who have perfected their lives, reached the full stature of Messiah and proved their loyalty to God under all conditions have their covenants with God changed from conditional and temporary to unconditional and everlasting. These have their exaltation made sure, inherit a place in the realm of the Father and lead with Messiah in the eternities – 2 Peter 1:10. Typically, this occurs when God declares to a person that they have eternal life. We see taught by Nephi, son of Lehi, at 2 Nephi 31:20.
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.
Though we don’t see this explicitly set out here with Nephi that he received eternal life. Most likely this promise was made to Nephi at 5:33 when marvelous words were spoken.
33 And also again the third time the voice came, and did speak unto them marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls did tremble again, and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder.
Knowing God, the Son
The culmination of becoming God’s Sons/Daughters/Elect is to receive the Second Comforter even the physical presence of Yehovah-Yeshua Himself. We see that here with Nephi at 5:36.
36 And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld.
Next week, we'll wrap up our review if Nephi's ascent as he ascends to the Seraphim/Angel level of blessedness and receives the sealing power.