2 Nephi 27

2016 notes:

There’s so much in here, but I have time to pick out only a couple of verses:

Wherefore, when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto thee, then shalt thou seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read, until I shall see fit in mine own wisdom to reveal all things unto the children of men.

(2 Nephi 27:22)

This one’s interesting because I suddenly realised it addresses a question I hadn’t thought about all that much (one of those “was this always in there?” moments). The question being why Joseph Smith had to give the plates back. The reason is given here :”that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read” (my emphasis). Never mind people attempting to retranslate the Book of Mormon itself: the concern given here is over the sealed portion, which the Lord has kept back at this time.

2020 edit:

This chapter (as did last chapter) includes a fair amount of Isaiah 29, although quoted without explicit markers (unlike, say 2 Nephi 12-24//Isaiah 2-14), but also significantly interspersed with Nephi’s own commentary and prophecy. Thus so in this case, where the chapter opens with an account of the wickedness of the nations in the last days and the forthcoming judgment to coincide with Christ’s second coming.

The chapter then moves on to talk about a forthcoming book:

And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered.

And behold the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof.

(2 Nephi 27:6-7)

This book is the records contained on the golden plates, of which an unsealed portion is translated and published as the Book of Mormon, with the rest to appear at some future date (vv. 9-11). Apparently there’s much more in it, for “they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof” (v. 10).

The chapter then gives an account of some words of the unsealed portion being taken to “the learned”, who is asked to read the words. The learned then requests the book, but when informed that they are sealed will state that they cannot read them (vv. 15-18). In contrast, they will be then delivered to one who is not learned, who shall simply say “I am not learned” (v. 19) and will be told:

Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.

(2 Nephi 27:20)

Now on one hand this is seen as a reference to the well-known account of Martin Harris taking some characters to Charles Anthon. As recounted in the Pearl of Great Price:

Sometime in this month of February, the aforementioned Mr. Martin Harris came to our place, got the characters which I had drawn off the plates, and started with them to the city of New York. For what took place relative to him and the characters, I refer to his own account of the circumstances, as he related them to me after his return, which was as follows:

“I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.

“He then said to me, ‘Let me see that certificate.’ I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, ‘I cannot read a sealed book.’ I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.”

(Joseph Smith- History 1:63-65)

Charles Anthon here is the learned man, while the unlearned man who does end up reading the words is Joseph Smith.

And yet there is more going on here. This passage is not just about these two men (and the Book of Mormon, and the witnesses). There is a wider theme here distinguishing between the learning of the world, that men have set up in stead of that of God, and the inspiration that comes from God. Thus this chapter has a broader application than this one episode, which is a type of the dilemma we all face in gain a greater understanding, especially of the things of God. Do we rely on our own learning, upon the mortal intellect alone? If so than no matter how learned or knowledgeable we are, we shall find the scriptures and other revelations and sacred matters of God a “sealed book”. Or do we humble acknowledge our deficiencies, in which case we are in a position to be blessed with God’s understanding and inspiration.

This is not to say that knowledge and learning are necessarily bad, far from it: “to be learned is good”, says Jacob, “if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:29). We are supposed to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). I am convinced that relying on faith alone risks just as much distortion as relying on study alone would. But, as discussed here and in The Book of Mormon & its relationship with the Bible, Book of Mormon prophets relied upon inspiration and their own revelatory experiences to understand the scriptures they read (the so-called “Hermeneutic of Revelation”), and read them with an eye of faith. They did not seek to understand them purely by their own or any other man’s intellect. One of the great sins of those preaching in the latter days is that they will, relying solely on their learning and their human wisdom, and excluding revelation and faith. Likewise, if we approach the scriptures purely from what might be termed an “academic” viewpoint, they will be sealed to us; we might learn many things about them, but we’ll miss the point (and I’ve see some very learned people do this with my own eyes and ears). “[T]he things of God knoweth no man, but [by] the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11), and cannot be forced open by human intellect alone.

Such earthly learning in insufficient to understand the things of God. Thus he will perform his “marvelous work” with his own power, in a way that will baffle those accounted wise and learned among men (note the recurrence of the same themes discussed in 2 Nephi 26):

For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.

And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him:

Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men—

Therefore, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, yea, a marvelous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid.

(2 Nephi 27:23-26)

 

2 Nephi 26

2016 notes;

And after Christ shall have risen from the dead he shall show himself unto you, my children, and my beloved brethren; and the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law which ye shall do.

(2 Nephi 26:1)

Nephi’s particularly talking of Christ’s post-resurrection appearance to the Nephites here, but it applies to us too. I find myself thinking that – though I believe in Christ and try to follow him – how often do I actually treat and think of his words as law?

And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;

(2 Nephi 26:12)

Part of this section addresses the fact that both Jew and Gentile have gotten Christ wrong in some regards. At a time when people increasingly do not believe in the divinity of Christ, I think this verse – and the accompanying message – apply more than ever. It also surprises me when I have met young members of the Church who, while accepting Christ as their Saviour and talk of their “elder brother”, seem to have difficultly understanding him as their God. But this is one of the key messages of the Book of Mormon, as stated on the title page: “that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD”. He is not just a great teacher, or a perfect man, or the Messiah, or our Saviour, or an examplar, though he is all of these things. He is also our Lord and our God. And thus, as Nephi says in the preceding chapter:

And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.

(2 Nephi 25:29)

2020 Edit:

Several things stood out to me today.

One was Nephi once again showing a strong emotional reaction to events in the far future (in this case the devastation that would occur in connection to the death of Christ amongst his people):

O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people! For I, Nephi, have seen it, and it well nigh consumeth me before the presence of the Lord; but I must cry unto my God: Thy ways are just.

(2 Nephi 26:7)

Once again it’s interest that his perspective was such, and his visions of these events were vivid enough, that they made the sort of emotional impact one would expect of contemporary events (and indeed that Nephi often doesn’t seem to react as strongly to his present).

Then there’s the statement in verse 8 (which goes along with similar statements in verses 3 and 5):

But behold, the righteous that hearken unto the words of the prophets, and destroy them not, but look forward unto Christ with steadfastness for the signs which are given, notwithstanding all persecution—behold, they are they which shall not perish.

For Nephi’s people approaching the calamities that would accompany his first coming to them (i.e. his post-resurrection appearance), a crucial factor determining one’s safety (and I’m sure this is not speaking in a purely physical sense; that is there isn’t necessarily a guarantee of physical safety here, but on the other hand even more is offered) was one’s reaction to the prophets: those who cast out, stone and kill  the prophets (vv. 3, 5) will face destruction, while those who do not, but listen to them and look forward “with steadfastness” for Christ will not perish. I think it is undoubtedly the case that there is a type in Christ’s appearance to the Nephites for that which is to come in the future.

I also found (although perhaps partly because it relates to topics I’ve already thought about) the following verse sticking out:

And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.

(2 Nephi 26:20)

There’s several elements here, a listing of various errors that the Gentiles of the last days and their churches will often fall into. A number of these themes will return as a running theme in this passage (meaning 2 Nephi 25-30), but two which catch my attention in particular are:

  1. “they put down the power and miracles of God” – while the Book of Mormon does address the topic of atheism (for example, with Korihor in Alma 30), something it seems to spend even more time warning against is what I sometimes dub “practical atheism”: that is, beliefs that may acknowledge the existence of God, but which deny his power, the existence of miracles or that he is prepared to actively intervene in our lives. It should be noted that the first vision likewise addresses this point, with Christ warning Joseph Smith against those that ‘“… teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”’
  2. They “preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning”: they will set up their own learning as the content of their teaching (in contrast to, as 2 Nephi 25-30 addresses, the knowledge available from God). Jacob in 2 Nephi 9 of course condemns those who are learned but do not hearken to the counsel of God; the error here is in some respects even more pernicious, that some will set up their learning and teach it as if it were the counsel of God. And some will do this to “get gain” (priestcraft), and to “grind uponthe face of the poor”. It’s interesting that these are two items, suggesting that simply getting gain isn’t enough for those it is talking about; they not only seek to enrich themselves, but also to deprive others (something that, unfortunately, rings true with human psychology: unfortunately we only tend to think of ourselves as rich or prosperous not when we are, but when we’re doing so compared to other people).

The next few chapters will build upon these themes.

 

 

Jacob 6

Several years ago I began a series of posts related to my personal reading of the Book of Mormon, in which I would pick out something that struck me through that read through. As happens, other pressures meant that while I continued reading, the posts stopped just after Jacob 5. I don’t think that’s a complete coincidence considering the approximately 20,000 words that I wrote on that chapter and the surrounding passages, for The Book of Mormon and its relationship with the Bible. At the time it doubtless seemed a tad exhausting, and I certainly felt I’d written a lot about it.

However, it is my conviction that we can always learn more from reading the scriptures, that we can never – except at the perfect day – say we have learned everything from any particular passage, especially since the Lord may well use such passages to teach us things that the human authors never had in mind. And since I’ve always intended to return to the series (and have briefly from time to time) and finish it, that includes those chapters I might have written a lot about elsewhere, like today’s.

There is much that could be said about Jacob 6, especially as it relates to Jacob 5, but what stood out for me today as I read it comes in the very first verse:

And now, behold, my brethren, as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive tree, must surely come to pass.

That last phrase – “must surely come to pass” – really stood out. Sometimes those things which are prophesied of seem so distant or far off from every day life. But, no matter how long it will take for them to happen, they will be fulfilled. Sometimes that requires waiting longer than thought: when reading this I thought of 3 Nephi 1, where despite being given a time-frame, many thought the time had already passed, and those who still kept faith with the prophecy faced extermination from those who did not. It seems some times that faith in such things is tested to the very brink, and then beyond some. And yet, all such things “must surely come to pass”.

The prophecy that Jacob is referring to here, of course, is particularly about the restoration of Israel, and then the end of the world (v. 2):

And the day that he shall set his hand again the second time to recover his people, is the day, yea, even the last time, that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power, to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh.

I’ve commented to some people before that the Book of Mormon is principally focused on the gathering of Israel, and the accompanying judgment upon the Gentile nations, rather than the Second Coming itself and those events that immediately precede it (see, for example, Nephi being commanded to leave writing about the latter to John the Revelator in 1 Nephi 14:18-25). And that’s true, but the Book of Mormon does talk about end of the world, and while distinct, the two events are linked: the gathering of Israel and everything accompanying it will be a necessary precursor to the Second Coming that will follow. And while some people have perhaps focused too much on such events, it is at the same time important to keep this in mind. This world – and the culture, and habits, and entertainments and so on built around it – will end. If we want anything we do to be of lasting value, we must build for another.

I’m also slightly intrigued by the mention that the servants of Lord (depicted as the servants of the Lord of the vineyard in Jacob 5) will both nourish and prune the vineyard. It’s easy to see things like the work of the Church, especially in things like missionary work, to be part of nourishing the vineyard (and in Jacob 5 itself, transplanting the various branches about). But what form will the pruning take, and what part will the servants of the Lord play in that?

2020 Edit:

I’ve commented before that sometimes, when going over these posts I’ve made previously, I’ve found the same elements sticking out to me when reading much later. The same is true today, even down to the very phrase “must surely come to pass” (v. 1). The inevitability of prophecy – at least of those that aren’t conditional – is awe-inspiring, and can be hard for people to believe. It can be difficult to look at the world around us and imagine it being much different. And yet things can change, in most unexpected ways. A year ago, I did not anticipate that in six months I’d be returning to university to study the sciences (indeed, it was about a week from a year ago today that I discovered that the opportunity even existed). Several months ago, I did not anticipate that the city I was living in would be about to enter lockdown due to a virus, with mass social isolation and huge economic impacts even setting aside the disease itself. I anticipated that there would be widespread pestilence at some stage (both from prophecy, and historical precedent), but I didn’t anticipate it would happen in a matter of months, where suddenly it’s not clear whether I’ll even sit my “first” year exams.

Things change, in ways we often cannot expect or anticipate, and can do so with bewildering speed. And yet prophecy can mark out sure events, hundreds or even thousands of years before they happen, and what’s more help us to realise in all of life’s events what is truly at stake, and that God is at the helm. Thus Jacob used Zenos’ prophecies to teach his own people, although they were far more remote from their fulfilment then we are. For wherever we are in the great chronicle of prophecy and history, and whether such events will happen next week or a century hence, they can teach us that what we obtain in this life is of little import, but what we do with this life has eternal consequences and shapes our immortal soul.

Thus Jacob taught his own people:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.

Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die?

For behold, after ye have been nourished by the good word of God all the day long, will ye bring forth evil fruit, that ye must be hewn down and cast into the fire?

(Jacob 6:5-7)

And:

O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.

O be wise; what can I say more?

(Jacob 6:11-12)

 

2 Nephi 30

And now behold, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you; for I, Nephi, would not suffer that ye should suppose that ye are more righteous than the Gentiles shall be. For behold, except ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall all likewise perish; and because of the words which have been spoken ye need not suppose that the Gentiles are utterly destroyed.

For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel.

(2 Nephi 30:1-2)

I’ve mentioned before that a key theme of the Book of Mormon – including 2 Nephi 25-30 – is the restoration of Israel and conversely judgment upon the Gentiles who have oppressed them. Yet these verses help correct any misapprehension we may have of that: Israel will be restored, collectively. On an individual scale, however, it is personal repentance and faith that make the difference. We will not be saved based on who our ancestors were, nor on what our nationality is, nor on nominal membership of the Church; we cannot be complacent and think everything is okay because we belong to the “right” group. We are all going to be held accountable, for God is just. Likewise He mercifully extends his salvation to all, on the same conditions.

2020 edit:

A significant part of this chapter starts quoting, without citation markers from Isaiah 11 (quoted earlier explicitly in 2 Nephi 21). Yet we see here how it all ties in, both with what Nephi is saying in this chapter and in capping what has been taught in previous chapters. Thus after speaking of God restoring Israel and beginning his work, Nephi moves onto quoting – with some interpolations – those parts of Isaiah 11 speaking of the Lord coming in judgment, and then the paradisical state of the millennium (2 Nephi 30:9-14//Isaiah 11:4-8). And then he continues by quoting Isaiah 11:9, which is likewise speaking of this paradise:

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Wherefore, the things of all nations shall be made known; yea, all things shall be made known unto the children of men.

There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed; there is no work of darkness save it shall be made manifest in the light; and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed.

Wherefore, all things which have been revealed unto the children of men shall at that day be revealed; and Satan shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more, for a long time. And now, my beloved brethren, I make an end of my sayings.

(2 Nephi 30:15-18)

Notice how verse 15 (quoting Isaiah 11:9) introduces this idea that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord”, and then Nephi riffs on that theme: thus all things shall be made known, all secrets shall be revealed, and all things which have been revealed will be revealed. In 2 Nephi 25-30 generally, there’s been this thread of knowledge, and a tension between the learning of men and the knowledge that comes from revelation from God. Thus Isaiah is difficult to understand, but plain to those filled with the spirit of prophecy. There is the sealed book that the learned man cannot read, but which the unlearned can by the will of God. Then there’s been the problem of men relying on their own learning, and teaching it as doctrine, rather than the knowledge that comes through the Holy Ghost. Here, however, he points to this promised paradise as being an age in which revealed knowledge will fill the earth, in which all things can and will be made known, and which will be so freely available it is compared to the oceans. If mankind rejecting revelation and relying on their own learning has been amongst the causes of the spiritual ills besetting the last days, one of the conditions of the millennial age is that revealed knowledge will flow like water.

2 Nephi 23

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.

And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces; and her time is near to come, and her day shall not be prolonged. For I will destroy her speedily; yea, for I will be merciful unto my people, but the wicked shall perish.

(2 Nephi 23:19-22//Isaiah 13:19-22)

It’s not been unknown for believers in Western nations to see their nation as inheritors of or as a new Israel. This is perhaps best known in the case of the United States (so much so that commentators have assumed – wrongly – that the Book of Mormon is in the same tradition), but it’s also appeared in different forms in England (such as during the Commonwealth).

Yet I can’t help but feel (and believe the Book of Mormon’s own passages support this) that when the Book of Mormon quotes such passages of Isaiah as above, it is treating Western nations not as the new Israel, but the new Babylon or Assyria. Which cities, after all, are the Babylon or Nineveh of our times? Which cities are “the glory of kingdoms” today?

Such passages should and must be taken as a warning, especially against placing any confidence or finding any security in such current greatness. Nineveh and Babylon were glorious and mighty in their day, but such worldly glory and power were fleeting. It will be fleeting for us, too.

2020 Edit:

It may be of interest to note that one of the basis by which many biblical scholars claim to distinguish between “first” and “second” Isaiah (chapter 40 onwards) is that in the first the enemy is Assyria, and in the second it is Babylon. Yet in both this chapter and the chapter following, it is Babylon that receives the most prominent mention.

There are some passages here too that speak more in terms of a cosmic disaster, of the sort that is perhaps more clearly associated with the second coming:

Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.

And I will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible.

I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

Therefore, I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.

(2 Nephi 23:9-13//Isaiah 13:9-13)

The textual variations in verse 15 likewise push interpretation to a wider setting (and place, as is typical for the Book of Mormon, a greater emphasis on pride):

Every one that is proud {found} shall be thrust through; yea, and every one that is joined to the wicked {unto them} shall fall by the sword.

(2 Nephi 23:15//Isaiah 13:15, underlined text is substituted in the BoM for text in curly bracked as found in the KJV)

All of which points to this prophecy having wider application that Babylon alone (although Babylon is indeed in ruins, and has been for many centuries). As I indicate in my original post, this is a warning not just for Babylon, but one we should take seriously too.

2 Nephi 21

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

(2 Nephi 21:9//Isaiah 11:9)

2 Nephi 25-30 have a lot more to say about this topic before recapitulating parts of Isaiah 11 in 2 Nephi 30, but just reading this verse today brought this to mind again. One of the keys to the future millennial state described in Isaiah 11 is knowledge. I guess one doesn’t typically thing of peace, including between the different parts of creation (v.6-8) as a result of knowledge, but that is what is described here. Of course, this is not simply academic knowledge, but “the knowledge of the Lord”, and 2 Nephi 25-30 have a lot more to say about that.

2020 Edit:

In 2 Nephi 21//Isaiah 11, the focus shifts somewhat. Previously much of what we have been reading has covered all manner of incidents from the time of Isaiah, with the ultimate fulfilment being Christ and the events around him. Here, however, the focus seems squarely on the figure of Christ, the gathering of Israel and the millennial condition he will bring about.

Note, however, that Isaiah continues to elide time together, so that we read the following in verses 2-4:

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;

And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.

But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

Much of this can be regarded as applying to Christ’s first appearance, his mortal ministry. Yet in verse 4 it moves on to speaking of how “he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked”. This can really only apply in full to the Second Coming.

Likewise, the next few verses clearly speak of the Millennial state, and yet these verses are placed in front of those speaking of the gathering of Israel (which chronologically, based on other revelation, at least in part precedes that state):

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

(2 Nephi 21:6-9//Isaiah 11:6-9)

In essence, it is perhaps no surprise that the people at the time of Christ expected a great deliverer who would rescue them from tyranny by slaying the wicked and bringing about this idyllic state. It would be natural to conflate Christ’s first and second appearance, because Isaiah does so too. The difference is that in Isaiah’s case it’s intended to be hard to understand (see 2 Nephi 16//Isaiah 6 and 2 Nephi 25:4), and per 2 Nephi 25:7-8, only fully understood in the last days after they have all be fulfilled.

2 Nephi 19

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

… For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of government and peace there is no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.

(2 Nephi 19:2, 6-7//Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

I’ve spent some time (okay, a lot of time) on this blog lamenting particular developments in the world. And I’m pessimistic about the current future of Western civilization. But the message of the gospel is ultimately one of hope, on both a personal and a collective level. Through Christ, each of us personally can be saved from sin and death, and He promises to “wipe away every tear” of his people (Revelations 21:4), and make right all our sorrows. Collectively, there will come a time when He will reign, and the Earth will be at rest, and governed in peace and justice. Bad stuff may happen in the meantime, but these too will pass; while the immediate future may sometimes be dim, God’s light will shine, and will shine forever. And if we are faithful, we will be blessed to walk in that light forevermore.

2020 edit:

As is true, really, for all of these chapters, 2 Nephi 19//Isaiah 9 shows the same trait that Isaiah displays of speaking in such a way that his words are applicable to multiple different situations, separated by thousands of years, at the same time. Thus on one hand he’s addressing the situation the nation of Judah faces there and then, with Israel (the Northern kingdom) and Syria allied against it, and promises deliverance for Judah and judgment on those that oppose it. His words about a forthcoming ruler can surely apply in part to the next king, Hezekiah, who would indeed be one of the greatest and most righteous kings that Judah would ever have. There have likewise presumably been many situations since affecting Israel to which these words can be applied. But of course the complete fulfilment of these verses, the antitype to the type, the one who would be a “great light” (beginning in the tribal lands of Zebulun and Naphtali – which includes Nazareth – and Galilee), who would be the one who would be rightfully called “the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”, is Christ, both on his mortal ministry and in his reappearance and forthcoming millennial rule yet to come.