Again, there’s so much that could be looked at in this chapter: the Lord’s condemnation of the Gentiles for forgetting the Jewish roots of the Bible; the universal scope and eternal nature of revelation; being judged by scripture (again); and the literary gathering of Israel’s scripture that is to accompany Israel’s literal gathering.
It’s the last verse that stuck out this time though:
And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.
There’s lots of times in the Book of Mormon where fighting against Zion or against the house of Israel is predicted to lead to a comeuppance. What caught my eye was this concept of “fight[ing] against my word”. We cannot literally fight against the word of God, so reading it this time caused me to reflect on what forms that fighting might take. Outright opposition to the Gospel is an obvious one, but I wonder if this includes other, perhaps less obviously hostile reactions we might have. Perhaps it includes disbelief, and perhaps it includes disregard, when we know it may tell us something we won’t like to hear. Perhaps it even includes simple ignorance, where that ignorance is the result of complacency and a lack of exertion to study God’s word. I think there may be a variety of reactions that constitute inwardly fighting against believing or obeying or even reading God’s word. But as this chapter emphasises, any of that is not going to do us any good. God will vindicate his words, and we will be judged by our willingness to adhere to them.
It may be worth pointing out that this is the only chapter to even use the word “Bible”, where it appears first in the mouths of those who will reject God’s word. It’s not a term the Book of Mormon employs elsewhere, and doesn’t appear to be particularly favoured, especially not if it embodies a concept of the word of God that is complete and finished and contained only in one book. This chapter argues against that concept, both against the notion that the Bible in particular represents the sole word of God, and against the very concept that there will ever be an end to God’s words. Thus verses 12-13:
For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
Here it is made plain that God has spoken to more nations than those addressed in the Bible, and specifically that he will (or has, from our point of view) speak to the Nephites, and will (or has?) spoken to the lost tribes of Israel, and all three of those collections shall be shared. We have the first two; we appear to be awaiting the third.
The earlier verse 9, however, goes beyond this, declaring that there will never be an end to God’s words:
And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
Aside from these general prophecies and principles, however, I was also struck by the beginning of verse 2, where the Lord is speaking:
And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi…
We’ve seen how emotionally affected Nephi is by the events that will befall his descendants, even those centuries hence. And yet this strikes me as a very personal reassurance by the Lord. Yes, these promises concern God’s overall plan for the entire human race, and concern principles of God’s capacity to speak that are of universal import. But the Lord is speaking them to Nephi to reassure him that the promises the Lord has made to Nephi personally will be fulfilled. It is a comforting thought, that amidst all these centuries and world-spanning prophecies, the Lord is also concerned for the feelings of one of his servants.