8. "O How Great the Goodness of Our God"
Jacob teaches that Jesus redeems us through giving us commandments and allowing us to make covenants with him. Jacob's hope in Christ solves the problem of our lost and fallen state in mortality.
Jacob's Testimony: Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ Offers Redemption from Temporal Death and Spiritual Death
In blessing his son Jacob, Father Lehi said, "It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things" (2 Nephi 2:11). Jacob's landmark exposition in 2 Nephi 9 of the ways of life and death is an extensive meditation on the desires of men and women in mortality and how they lead to either spiritual life in Christ or death through the devil. As this chart clearly shows, Jacob focuses on the inward state of the souls who choose one or the other of these two sharply divergent paths.
There are many long and extensive explanations of the Atonement found throughout the Book of Mormon. This article focuses on Jacob's discourse, recorded in 2 Nephi 9, as the basic text, supplemented with information from other chapters that contain the revelations of God on this subject.
An encyclopedia entry explaining the basic tenets of the Mormon "Plan of Salvation".
In 2 Nephi 9, Jacob preaches ten "woes" to the Nephites. The regular occurrence of things occurring ten times in the scriptures tends to relate to perfection, especially divine completion. Welch approaches this phenomenon through ten topics: perfection, worthiness, consecration, testing, justice, reverence, penitence, atonement, supplication, and ascension into the holy of holies or highest degree of heaven. The significance of the number ten in the ancient world relates to the tenfold occurrences in the Book of Mormon.
Rau discusses the various tenets of Jacob's sermon that highlight the power of Christ in our lives. He does so by first contextualizing Jacob's sermon and exploring reasons why Jacob may have felt compelled to deliver such a discourse. Despite Jacob's various hardships, he finds solace in Christ's power and urges his people to likewise hold fast onto Christ's mercy, power, and integrity.
In Jacob's sermon, he lists out ten woes for his people. John W. Welch compares these woes with the ten commandments given to Moses and proposes that Jacob had these commandments in mind when he gave his sermon. These ten woes essentially outline the basic tenets of the Nephite religion and give the people precepts to live by.
Jacob declares that the Holy One of Israel is "the keeper of the gate." John Gee explores this concept and explains that the idea of a cosmic gate keeper is a concept deeply ingrained in the ancient Near East. Not only do medieval Jewish texts allude to the idea of a guard keeping the gate of heaven, but we find this idea prevalent also in Egyptian, Hellenistic, and Christian texts. This gate keeper guards admittance to the supreme deity in question. This gate keeper may be encountered in a vision of the heavenly court, in a deceased soul's journey in the afterlife, or in a temple liturgical setting.
2 Nephi 9 describes a great division in mankind between the few who walk in the way of life and the many who walk in the way of death. This division results from the response of each individual to Christ or to the voice of God during probation. Men either hearken to the voice of Christ and progressively acquire spiritual life or they hearken to the voice of the devil and progressively descend into spiritual death. This dualistic conception of reality underlies the entire Book of Mormon. An understanding of this paradigm is critical, both in order to assimilate the essential message of the Book of Mormon on life and death and to understand its theological relationship to the Doctrine and Covenants.
Welch lays out the teachings of ten Book of Mormon prophets and presents the idea that Nephite religion consisted of seven basic tenets. Each of these ten prophets preached from these seven basic doctrines during their ministry. Jacob specifically in 2 Nephi 9 preaches of Christ with references to the temple and the priestly cult, due to Jacob's role as high priest.
The Lord Remembers His Covenants with His People
A careful reading of the commentary of Jacob helps to illustrate how useful the Book of Mormon is in interpreting Isaiah. Jacob's commentary sheds great light and understanding on Isaiah's prophetic picture of the latter days, particularly as it relates God's fulfillment of his promises to the house of Israel.
At the time Jacob gave his speech in 2 Nephi 6-10, the Nephites had already been driven from two lands of inheritance and felt an ongoing concern of being cut off from God's promises. Belnap illustrates that Jacob's speech answers these concerns through emphasizing and expounding on the covenantal relationship made possible by God acting as the Divine Warrior. Jacob quotes Isaiah passages in his discourse and in some instances makes his own additions to emphasize important aspects. He illustrates how the Divine Warrior provides the hardships, knowledge, and power for an individual to become a divine warrior, and he discusses the Divine Warrior's defeat over the monster of Death. The promises made by the Divine Warrior can provide hope and assurance to all.