In the spring of 1820, Joseph Smith went to a grove of trees on his family’s farm in western New York to offer his first vocalized prayer expressing the anxiety he felt regarding the “the confusion and strife among the different denominations” of his day (see Joseph Smith-History 1:5-20). The different Christian religions located in his area were debating many matters of salvation with very opposing views. The debate began with the Methodists, who believed salvation offered by Christ could be attainable to any who accepted Christ and endured to the end. Opposed to this view, Presbyterians believed that salvation was limited to only those God had elected to be saved while all else would “suffer everlasting punishment in hell.” [i]
Joseph Smith admits that he was leaning toward the Methodists view of salvation while many in his family had adopted Presbyterianism. But he also expressed that “so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.” It was after two years [ii] of frustrating confusion that Joseph decided to go to the grove of trees to ask God which of all the religious sects were true. As a result of his prayer, Joseph saw of vision of God the Father, and Jesus Christ, who told him that none of the different religions then upon the earth were authorized by God. At that time, Joseph was “promise[d] that the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known unto [him].” [iii]
To begin the fulfillment of this promise, Moroni was sent to Joseph Smith who gave him the “keys of the stick of Ephraim” (D&C 27:5) [iv] authorizing him to translate the Book of Mormon which contains “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ “(D&C 20:8-9). [v] From the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith learned that salvation is available to all mankind. The message of the Book of Mormon states: “Wherefore, [God] commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. . . Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. . . and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Ne. 26:24, 33; emphasis added).
The Book of Mormon Exposes the Enemies of Christ
To bring mankind unto Christ is the purpose of the Book of Mormon. This has been emphasized by President Ezra Taft Benson who taught: “The Book of Mormon was designed by Deity to bring men to Christ.” [vi] On one occasion he explained that this is accomplished in two ways. “First, it tells in a plain manner of Christ and His gospel. It testifies of His divinity and of the necessity for a Redeemer and the need of our putting trust in Him. It bears witness of the Fall and the Atonement and the first principles of the gospel, including our need of a broken heart and a contrite spirit and a spiritual rebirth. It proclaims we must endure to the end in righteousness and live the moral life of a Saint.”
He then explained the second way the Book of Mormon brings men to Christ in these words: “Second, the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon is similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.” [vii]
2 Nephi 26-30
Many enemies of Christ are exposed throughout the Book of Mormon, Indeed, “the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil” are found in every book of the Book of Mormon. In line with this important purpose of the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26-30 discloses several aspects of Christ’s enemies.
These chapters are filled with prophecies ranging from Christ’s resurrection to His second coming and the great Millennial era. The chief interest of this section of Nephi’s writings, however, is the time period in which the Book of Mormon was to come forth to the world-the latter days! It is obvious that a book “designed by Deity to bring men to Christ,” would not go unchallenged by Satan. Indeed, in the last days, Satan would unleash every enemy possible to thwart the effects of the Book of Mormon. Among the enemies of Christ and the Book of Mormon exposed in these chapters are pride, false systems of salvation, hedonism, laxity towards sin, false teachers, apathy within the Church, the precepts of men, and Satan, himself. [viii]
The First Enemy-Pride
Though not listed in Alma’s triad of the most serious sins-denial of the Holy Ghost, murder, and adultery(Alma 39:5-6)-pride is perhaps the most serious of all sins. It seems that pride is the root of every abominable sin. Therefore, pride is the chief enemy of Christ.
In his land mark talk on pride, President Benson taught: “The central feature of pride is enmity-enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of my will and not thine be done.’ As Paul said, they seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.’ (Philip. 2:21.)”
Because of pride, many fall prey to serious sin. “Our will in competition to God’s will,” said President Benson, “allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled.” He continued, “The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 12:6.) They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works. Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard?heartedness, stiff?neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers.” [ix]
Pride was the cause of the downfall of the Nephites.
In 2 Nephi 26, Nephi prophesies of Christ’s appearance to the Nephites after his resurrection. As a result of this experience, Nephi observed that the Nephites would live in peace for three generations. Then Nephi foresaw that in the fourth generation, pride would begin to take hold of the hearts of the Nephites until it eroded their righteousness. In this condition, Nephi said, they will “sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell” (2 Ne. 26:10).
Nephi followed this prophecy with these words: “For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul” (2 Ne. 26:11). This statement anticipates the finale of the book of Mormon. President Benson noted: “The Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the Book of Mormon is the record of a fallen people.’ (D&C 20:9.) Why did they fall? This is one of the major messages of the Book of Mormon. Mormon gives the answer in the closing chapters of the book in these words: Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction.’ (Moro. 8:27.) And then, lest we miss that momentous Book of Mormon message from that fallen people, the Lord warns us in the Doctrine and Covenants, Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.’ (D&C 38:39.)” [x]
The Spirit of the Lord Will Not Always Strive With Man
How does pride and sin lead to the loss of the Spirit of the Lord? The answer is important to us as Latter-day Saints for we are told that before the second coming of the Lord the world will be as wicked as the Nephites became, or the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, or even as in the days of Noah (Luke 17:26-30). Recently, to the faculty of the Church Educational System, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve declared that time is already upon us. “The world is spiraling downward at an ever-quickening pace,” said President Packer, “I am sorry to tell you that it will not get better.” He then declared: “I know of nothing in the history of the Church or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that surrounds us now . . . . At Sodom and Gomorrah these things were localized. Now they are spread across the world, and they are among us.” [xi]
To understand how the Spirit of the Lord is lost, the importance of the Spirit of the Lord must first be understood. The Spirit of the Lord, also known as the light of Christ [xii] , is essential to man’s agency. In order for agency to exist, there must be opposing choices, knowledge of the consequences of the choices, and enticement by the choices. Speaking of this, President Harold B. Lee, said: “Father Lehi explained to his son that in order to accomplish that eternal purpose there must be opposition in all things, and that to every individual upon the earth there had to be given the right of free agency and also that there must be in the world the power to entice to do evil and the power to entice to do good.” [xiii]
Mormon taught that the light of Christ is the agent that entices men and women to do good (see Moroni 7:16-17). On the other hand, Lehi explained that it is the “the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate” that entices men and women to do evil (2 Nephi 2:29). Without the light of Christ there would be no agency. With no enticement for good, man would naturally give way to the enticement for evil. Therefore, the scriptures teach that the light of Christ “strives” to be with man (D&C 1:33; Genesis 6:3; Moses 8:17; 2 Nephi 26:11; Ether 2:15).
But the light of Christ may be lost. Men lose the light of Christ when their pride leads them to continually sin against the light. Speaking to the brother of Jared, the Lord said: “ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man; wherefore, if ye will sin until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Ether 2:15). In addition, the attitude of the sinner towards sin plays a major role in the loss of the Spirit. President George Albert Smith said: “The spirit of God continues to strive with men everywhere, as long as they make the effort to keep his commandments. When men abandon the truth, refuse to do the right, the Lord of necessity withdraws his spirit and men are left to the buffetings of the adversary.” [xiv] Likewise, President Spencer W. Kimball cautioned: “Conscience warns but does not govern. Conscience tells the individual when he is entering forbidden worlds, and it continues to prick until silenced by the will or by sin’s repetition.” [xv]
As one continues in sin, it becomes nearly impossible to repent. President Kimball wrote, “A man may rationalize and excuse himself till the groove is so deep he cannot get out without great difficulty. . . And if the yielding person continues to give way he may finally reach the point of no return.’ The Spirit will not always strive with man.'(D&C 1:33.)” [xvi] This is the most damnable aspect of continuing in sin. “Free agency,” declared President Marion G. Romney, “possessed by any one person is increased or diminished by the use to which he puts it. Every wrong decision one makes restricts the area in which he can thereafter exercise his agency. The further one goes in the making of wrong decisions in the exercise of free agency, the more difficult it is for him to recover the lost ground. One can, by persisting long enough, reach the point of no return. He then becomes an abject slave. By the exercise of his free agency, he has decreased the area in which he can act, almost to the vanishing point.” [xvii]
When a society as a whole reaches the point that the light of Christ no longer strives with them, then they are “ripe for destruction” (Alma 10:19; 37:28, 31; 45:16; Helaman 13:14). Such was the condition of the people in the days of Noah as well as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained: “Being a loving Father, though deeply devoted to our free agency, there are times in human history when He simply could not continue to send spirits to this earth who would have had virtually no chance. This was the case with Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plains.” [xviii] “The children born into these cities had no choice at all left to them.
Such was the conformity in wickedness that babes could be born free, but not remain agents unto themselves.” [xix] Likewise, President John Taylor taught: “Because in forsaking God, they lose sight of their eternal misery on many. And hence the inhabitants of the old world, and of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, because it was better for them to die, and thus be deprived of their agency, which they abused, than entail so much misery on their posterity, and bring ruin upon millions of unborn persons.” [xx]
False Systems of Salvation
Another enemy exposed by Nephi is false systems of salvation. “For it shall come to pass in that day [when the Book of Mormon shall come forth] that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord, when the one shall say unto the other: Behold, I, I am the Lord’s; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord’s; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord-And they shall contend one with another; and their priests shall contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance” (2 Ne. 28:3-4).
Among these churches are those who teach that the work of the Lord is finished and salvation is in the hands of man. Nephi warned of their teachings: “they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men; behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work” (2 Ne. 28:5-6).
Such religions deny the necessity of modern revelation. Recall that shortly after the Joseph Smith received the first vision, he confided with a Methodist minister who had been influential in his life. Upon hearing Joseph’s account of the vision, “he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them” (Joseph Smith-History 1:21).
Another prevalent enemy of Christ Nephi foresaw in the latter-days is hedonism-the doctrine of self-gratification and pleasure seeking as the sole good in life. “Yea, and there shall be many which shall say,” Nephi warned, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us” (2 Ne. 28:7). Such people do not view what God has declared sinful as inappropriate. Rather, such activities are considered normal and acceptable behavior. This attitude leads to a life of indulgence, debauchery, and dissipation. Unless changed, those who continue in hedonism will eventually drive away the light of Christ leaving the person in a state of darkness, unhappiness, and misery.
Laxity Towards Sin
In a closely associated way, there are those who express hedonistic attitudes toward sin but with a false view of God’s punishment. Nephi recorded: “And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God??he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (2 Ne. 28:8).
This enemy is found both within and without the Church. Of those within the Church, Elder Dallin H. Oaks noted: “We are concerned that some people have a very lax attitude toward sin. Some young people say, I’ll just have a few free ones, and then I’ll repent quickly and go on a mission (or get married in the temple), and everything will be all right.’ Young people are not the only ones with a lax attitude toward sin. We know of mature members of the Church who commit serious transgressions knowingly and deliberately, relying on their supposed ability to repent speedily and be as good as new.’ Such persons want the present convenience or enjoyment of sin and the future effects of righteousness, in that order. They want to experience the sin but avoid its effects. The Book of Mormon describes such persons: And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God-he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.’ (2 Ne. 28:8.) The attitudes and positions of such persons are exactly opposite those of the Savior, who never experienced sin, but whose atoning sacrifice subjected him to all of its anguish.” [xxi]
Such views as hedonism are the mainstay of many false teachers, both Christian and non-Christian. Nephi warned, “Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark. And the blood of the saints shall cry from the ground against them. Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up” (2 Ne. 28:9-12).
Nephi’s warnings of false teachers in the last days should not be slighted. Elder M. Russell Ballard delivered this warning: “As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is our duty to be watchmen on the tower, warning Church members to beware of false prophets and false teachers who lie in wait to ensnare and destroy faith and testimony. Today we warn you that there are false prophets and false teachers arising; and if we are not careful, even those who are among the faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter?day Saints will fall victim to their deception. . . . When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those who espouse an obviously false doctrine or presume to have authority to teach the true gospel of Christ according to their own interpretation. We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church endorsement to their products and practices.
Beware of such.” [xxii]
President Joseph F. Smith gave this counsel to the Church: “We can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the Priesthood, which is the channel that God has appointed through which to make known His mind and will to the world. ? And the moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan, and render themselves liable to become servants of the devil; they lose sight of the true order through which the blessings of the Priesthood are to be enjoyed; they step outside of the pale of the kingdom of God, and are on dangerous ground. Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the Priesthood, you may set him down as an imposter.” [xxiii]
Apathy Within the Church
Another destructive enemy of Christ comes from within the Church-the enemy of Apathy. Nephi foresaw the latter-day Church and saw the destructive nature of apathy: “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well??and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (2 Ne. 28:21).
Security is something everyone wishes to have. There is nothing wrong with that. “The real issue,” said Elder Charles Didier, “has always been where and how to find righteous security as opposed to carnal security.” Continuing, he said, “we will call righteous security spiritual security.” [xxiv] Carnal security is trust in things of the world rather than the things of God. When that happens, the centrality of God in our lives is replaced with things that really cannot offer true security in the end. Those caught up in a false sense of security fail to discern the continual danger of the natural man. Nor do they sense the urgency of the atonement. Thus, President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Zion is to be in the world and not of the world, not dulled by a sense of carnal security, nor paralyzed by materialism. No, Zion is not things of the lower, but of the higher order, things that exalt the mind and sanctify the heart.” [xxv]
Carnal security produces a laxity in spiritual things that lends to small sinful habits that are overlooked as serious. As with the attitude expressed earlier, they “justify in committing a little sin”-sensing no great concern. Small sins lead to bigger iniquities with stronger chains that bind. Thus, the unsuspecting are led “carefully down to hell.” The danger of this enemy was described perfectly in C. S. Lewis’s, The Screwtape Letters: “It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. . . . Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” [xxvi]
The Precepts of Men
Nephi warned of another aspect of apathy within the Church. “Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more! And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall. Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have” (2 Ne. 28:25-30; emphasis added).
Three times Nephi warned of an attitude in the latter-day Church that expresses, “we have received enough of the things of the Lord”-desiring, instead, to follow the precepts of men! Members of the Church caught up in this attitude are content with their level of understanding of the gospel. Neither do they want further light and knowledge from God on any subject. Rather, they prefer to listen to and follow the precept of men. Such members will desire marriage, for example, but prefer to follow the precepts of men regarding when, where, and how! They want children but will listen to the voice of the world that tells them to have their children when it is most convenient to their life style rather than according to the Lord’s time table.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell warned of the dangers of this kind of attitude in these words: “Events and circumstances in the last days make it imperative for us as members of the Church to become more grounded, rooted, established, and settled (see Col. 1:23; Col. 2:7; 2 Pet. 1:12). Jesus said to His disciples, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you’ (JST Luke 14:28). If not so settled, the turbulence will be severe. If settled, we will not be tossed to and fro,’ whether by rumors, false doctrines, or by the behavioral and intellectual fashions of the world. Nor will we get caught up in the talk show’ mentality, spending our time like ancient Athenians in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing’ (Acts 17:21). Why be concerned with the passing preferences of the world anyway? For the fashion of this world passeth away’ (1 Cor. 7:31).” Such members of the Church, he said, “give of their time yet withhold themselves, being present without giving of their presence and going through the superficial motions of membership instead of the deep emotions of consecrated discipleship.” [xxvii]
These members of the Church, as Joseph B. Wirthlin warned, “may believe sincerely that their testimony is a raging bonfire when it really is little more than the faint flickering of a candle. Their faithfulness has more to do with habit than holiness, and their pursuit of personal righteousness almost always takes a back seat to their pursuit of personal interests and pleasure.” [xxviii]
Following the precepts of men does not lead to true happiness but to the inevitable confusion, disillusionment, and eventual destruction that the practices of men as always produced.
Therefore, Nephi warned, “Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 28:31).
Satan-The Ultimate Enemy of Christ
Finally, Nephi describes the chief enemy of Christ as Satan, “the enemy of all righteousness” (Acts 13:10; Mosiah 4:14; Moroni 9:6). Satan’s goal is to “grasp” all men “with his everlasting chains” (2 Ne. 28:19). Satan uses many tactics in his war against God’s children. Nephi listed just a few.
(1) Satan stirs men “up to anger” (2 Ne. 28:19). Anger is a secondary emotion, always triggered by primary emotions such as pride, jealousy, etc. Anger darkens the mind and leads to other sins. In the last days, Nephi admonished, Satan will “rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good” (2 Ne. 28:20).
(2) Satan pacifies and lulls the unsuspecting “into carnal security” believing that they are safe and secure through carnal means but are not secure in righteousness (2 Ne. 28:21). With a false sense of security, Satan gradually lures them into small sinful habits that eventually and unsuspectingly led to greater habits. Before they are aware, they are caught in a trap nearly impossible to get out of without great humility and repentance.
(3) “Others,” Nephi says, are flattered by Satan who “telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none??and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Ne. 28:22).
Beyond these listed by Nephi are a multitude of devises that have tricked, seduced, and caused many to fall into his snares that have ruined their lives. The First Presidency has described Satan is these terms: “He is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods. There is no crime he would not commit, no debauchery he would not set up, no plague he would not send, no heart he would not break, no life he would not take, no soul he would not destroy. He comes as a thief in the night; he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” [xxix]
“A Great Division“
Despite the best efforts of Satan, the Book of Mormon did come forth as prophesied and has been the means of bringing many to Christ. As Nephi foresaw, it is “as the voice of one crying from the dust” (2 Ne. 33:13; 26:15-16) that initiated a “marvelous work and a wonder” (2 Ne. 27:26; see also 25:17) in the latter days to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ. That marvelous work and a wonder is the gospel of Jesus Christ administered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [xxx]
Nephi prophesied that through the instrumentality of the Book of Mormon, the remnants of Lehi in the last days shall be “restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers” (2 Ne. 30:5). The Jews also will “begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ shall also become a delightsome people” (2 Ne. 30:7). Then “the Lord shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth” (2 Ne. 30:8).
With the gathering of Israel from among the nations of the world, “a great division among the people” will commence. Nephi observed, “For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire” (2 Ne. 10). Of this, a latter-day revelation states: “And until that hour there will be foolish virgins among the wise; and at that hour cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked; and in that day will I send mine angels to pluck out the wicked and cast them into unquenchable fire” (D&C 63:54).
In the great proclamation issued by the Quorum of the Twelve issued on 6 April 1845, the following was said of this “great division”: “As this work progresses in its onward course, and becomes more and more an object of political and religious interest and excitement, no king, ruler, or subject, no community or individual, will stand neutral. All will at length be influenced by one spirit or the other; and will take sides either for or against the kingdom of God, and the fulfillment of the prophets, in the great restoration and return of his long dispersed covenant people.” [xxxi] In the October 1988 General Conference, President Benson spoke of this separation in these terms: “I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested.” [xxxii] Elder Bruce R. McConkie noted that this division has already begun: “The polarization that will gather the righteous into one camp and the wicked into another has already commenced, and these processes shall continue until the Lord comes.” [xxxiii]
Though this division may appear to be frightening, Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke of the optimistic side of this great separation: “Yes, there will be wrenching polarization on this planet, but also the remarkable reunion with our colleagues in Christ from the City of Enoch. Yes, nation after nation will become a house divided, but more and more unifying Houses of the Lord will grace this planet. Yes, Armageddon lies ahead. But so does Adam?ondi?Ahman!” [xxxiv]
The Great Millennium
The great division between good and evil will eventually end with the destruction of the wicked upon the second coming of Jesus Christ, initiating the great Millennial era. Nephi ended the prophecies of 2 Nephi 26-30 by speaking of the peaceful circumstance of the next estate for the righteous: “then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the 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” (2 Ne.
During this existence, the righteous shall be privileged to dwell with Jesus Christ for “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (2 Ne. 30:15). Because of the presence of the glorified Jesus, the righteous will be taught great things, “yea, all things shall be mad known unto the children of men. There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed” (2 Ne. 30:16-17; cf. D&C 101:32-33).
One of the great blessings experienced during the Millennium is that “Satan shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more” (2 Ne. 30:18).
Joseph Smith taught that the purpose of the restoration of the Book of Mormon and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was to prepare a people for the great Millennial reign of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith learned this from Moroni. Said Joseph: “This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the Millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation.” [xxxv]
From 2 Nephi 26-30, we learn that Satan would oppose both the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the Church with great force. Further, we are informed of the various tactics of Satan and the enemies of Christ that we face in these very important times that we live in. A knowledge of the enemies of Christ is essential in the present war every member of the Church faces. It is my prayer that through this forewarning, we all might avoid the destruction that Satan has laid before us and find peace in an ever increasing wicked world.
[i] . For a discussion of the beliefs of the different denominations at the time of Joseph Smith, see, Milton V. Backman, Jr., Joseph Smith’s First Vision (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971, 1980), pp. 90-111; also Milton V. Backman, Jr., American Religions and the Rise of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1970). Since the time of Joseph Smith, many of the doctrines of the various contending religious denominations, such as the Presbyterians, have changed reflecting a more universal salvation for mankind.
[ii] . Joseph Smith was fourteen years old at the time of the First Vision (see Joseph Smith-History 1:7). However, in his 1832 recital of the First Vision, Joseph Smith records that he was twelve when he began to be concerned about religion: “At about the age of twelve years my mind became seriously impressed with regard to the all important concerns for the welfare of my immortal Soul which led me to Searching the Scriptures . . .” (Backman, Joseph Smith’s First Vision, p. 156; spelling and capitalization are original).
[iii] . This is not found in the 1838 recital of the First Vision recorded in Joseph Smith-History but is found in the 1842 recital known as the Wentworth Letter (see History of the Church, 4:536).
[iv] . Bruce R. McConkie said that Moroni “placed the plates in the prophetic hands and gave the youthful Joseph the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim’ (D&C 27:5; see also JS-H 1:29-60).” (“This Final Glorious Gospel Dispensation,” Ensign, Apr. 1980, p. 22)
[v] . Some are bothered by the concept that the Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel when several other doctrines and ordinances believed by the Church are not found within its pages. However, the Savior defined the gospel in the following terms: “Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel” (3 Ne. 27:20-21; emphasis added). The Book of Mormon teaches these doctrines over and over. Concerning the fulness of the gospel taught in the Book of Mormon, Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “This does not mean that the Book of Mormon contains a full explanation of every principle of the gospel. What it means, President Benson has explained, is that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation’ (Ensign, Nov. 1986, p. 6).” (“Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Mar. 1994, p. 61)
[vi] . Ezra Taft Benson, “Keeping Christ in Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 1993, p. 5; also “Joy in Christ,” Ensign, Mar. 1986, p. 5.
[vii] . Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, p. 3; emphasis added; also Ensign, May 1975, p. 64.
[viii] . For an excellent discussion of these chapters, see Dennis L. Largey, “Enemies of Righteousness,” Ensign, Dec. 1989, pp. 7-11.
[ix] . Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, p. 4.
[x] . Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, p. 4.
[xi] . Boyd K. Packer, “The One Pure Defense,” Address to CES Religious Educators, 6 February 2004, Salt Lake Tabernacle (2004 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.), p. 4.
[xii] . See Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, Compiled by John A. Widstoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1919.), p.60-61; Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974), p.115; Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, 3 Vols. Compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56), 1:50-51; McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), p.257.
[xiii] . Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, October 1945, p.46; emphasis added.
[xiv] . George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel With Others (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1948), p.29; also, Conference Report, Oct. 1916, p.48; emphasis added
[xv] . Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball. Compiled by Edward L. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982), p.162; emphasis added.
[xvi] . Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), p.86.
[xvii] . Marion G. Romney, “The Perfect Law of Liberty,” Ensign (Nov 1981), p. 45.
[xviii] . Neal A. Maxwell, Sermons Not Spoken (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985), p.91.
[xix] . Neal A. Maxwell, Look Back at Sodom: A Timely Account from Imaginary Sodom Scrolls (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975), p.
[xx] . John Taylor, The Government of God (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1992), pp.52-53.
[xxi] . Dallin H. Oaks, “Sin and Suffering,” Ensign, July 1992, p. 70.
[xxii] . M. Russell Ballard, “Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, p. 62.
[xxiii] . Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939), pp. 41-42.
[xxiv] . Charles Didier, “Spiritual Security,” Ensign, May 1987, pp. 25-26.
[xxv] . Spencer W. Kimball, “Becoming the Pure in Heart,” Ensign, Mar. 1985, p. 4.
[xxvi] . C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillan, 1961), pp. 64-65
[xxvii] . Neal A. Maxwell, “Overcome Even As I Also Overcame,” Ensign, May 1987, p. 70.
[xxviii] . Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Spiritual Bonfires of Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 34.
[xxix] . Messages of the First Presidency, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75), 6:179.
[xxx] . Spencer W. Kimball stated: “During the unfolding of this Smith?flower; during the brief ripening years of this fruit of the loins of that other Joseph of Israel, the world is preparing for the greatest event since the meridian of time. The triplet infants, Liberty, Freedom, and Justice, are contending for life; a small colonial nation is struggling to its feet; the people from many lands, squirming in the melting?pot,’ are firming up, suffering labor pains toward the birth of a divine new program, a marvelous work and a wonder,’ the restoration of the gospel in all Its far?reaching detail” (Faith Precedes the Miracle (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975), p.326); see also Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards (Salt Lake City: The Improvement Era, 1941), p.24; Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, 1:195; The Restoration of All Things (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1973), p.101.
[xxxi] . James R. Clark, ed. Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1833-1989 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1965-1975), 1:257.
[xxxii] . Ezra Taft Benson, “I Testify,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 87.
[xxxiii] . Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), pp.521?522.
[xxxiv] . Neal A. Maxwell, “O, Divine Redeemer,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, p. 10.
[xxxv] . From the Wentworth Letter written by Joseph Smith and recorded in History of the Church, Vol.4, p.536.