Does the Lord prepare a way or not?

October 2, 2006    By: Jacob J @ 9:20 am   Category: Scriptures

Time for another quick scripture poll. How do you reconcile the apparent disagreement between these two verses:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Ne. 3:7)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings. (D&C 124:49)

Obviously, these two verses seem to be at odds with one another. The verse from the D&C seems to be saying that the work was no longer required specifically because it was hindered by enemies and not by the lack of faith or effort on the part of the “sons of men.” On the flip side, Nephi seems to be saying that the situation decribed in D&C 124:49 will never occur since the Lord will always provide a way to prevail over enemies who attempt to hinder the Lord’s commandments from being fulfilled.

My question is, how do you reconcile these two verses? Is one right and the other wrong (in which case, which is which)? Or is there a way to resolve the apparent conflict in their messages and make them both true at the same time?

36 Comments »

  1. I’ll take the voice of the Lord over the writings of Nephi.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 2, 2006 @ 9:59 am

  2. To the question in the title, Yes.

    Comment by HP — October 2, 2006 @ 10:42 am

  3. Maybe Nephi overstated his point a bit?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 2, 2006 @ 10:57 am

  4. Nephi expresses the attitude we should have. The Lord reserves the right to change the instructions.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 2, 2006 @ 11:30 am

  5. Very interesting. Perhaps Nephi’s statement implies “or until the Lord no longer commands.” In other words, his assumption is that the Lord will provide a way. Nephi will keep trying until the Lord says “stop.”

    After all, when the Lord commands, we should do. And if the Lord commands us to stop something, then we stop. If he commands us to do something, then we do.

    I don’t think the two scriptures contradict each other. If anything, the D&C provides us more insight into how the Lord works.

    Comment by dp — October 2, 2006 @ 1:03 pm

  6. If God came to me and told me to get the records, I’d figure He had a plan.

    But God tells me stuff all the time to do, like love my neighbor and I don’t see Him spelling it out there.

    I think there is a difference between a job God gives us to do and the commandments.

    Comment by annegb — October 2, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

  7. Eric (#4),

    That is a good spin on it. Previously I have been of the J. (#1) and Geoff (#3) attitude.

    Annegb,

    Good point about generic commandments like “love your neighbor.” I would point out, though, that both scriptures were given with reference to a specific task. “Go get the plates from Laban” in the case of Nephi; “Go build a temple in Jackson County” in the case of D&C 124.

    Comment by Jacob — October 2, 2006 @ 4:06 pm

  8. The Lord does prepare a way for us to accomplish all his commands in the process of time. Sometimes those purposes cannot be fulfilled in the present, but must wait for futurity. A true divine purpose is never revoked, because he has power unto the fulfilling of all his words. But that power takes time. His purposes shall all be fulfilled, every jot and tittle as the scripture says.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 3, 2006 @ 8:58 am

  9. D&C 124:49 is a challenging verse, especially when considered together with verse 53: And this I make an example unto you, for your consolation concerning all those who have been commanded to do a work and have been hindered by the hands of their enemies, and by oppression, saith the Lord your God.

    I don’t see this as a question of eventual fulfillment, as Mark suggests, because v. 49 says the work would be required no more. Instead, it appears to be a testing. I think we can assume that God knew the enemies would prevent construction of the temple, so what was the purpose of the commandment to build it? Perhaps it was to build anticipation for the ultimate construction of the temple in Nauvoo and to prepare the Saints for that. Perhaps it was merely to test their faith. Verse 50 suggests it might have something to do with judgment of those who hindered the work. In any of these senses, we could say that they accomplished the thing that was commanded, although they didn’t actually build the temple.

    Comment by jonathan n — October 3, 2006 @ 11:51 am

  10. Mark,

    I agree with Jonathan’s response. I see no reason to believe God does not change his mind at times, thus revoking previous decrees.

    Jonathan,

    I think we can assume that God knew the enemies would prevent construction of the temple, so what was the purpose of the commandment to build it?

    I am not sure that is such a safe assumption. While it seems obvious that there would be enemies, I don’t assume it was a foreknown by God that they would succeed. I don’t believe the future is set, so I hold open the possibility that God adjusts his instructions as things play out, often having various contingency plans to deal with various possibilities. It seems like a stretch to say they accomplished the thing that was commanded when there is no temple in Jackson County (although I did follow your argument for why you would say that).

    Comment by Jacob — October 3, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

  11. When we as individuals do all that we can, though we as a group have not, the Lord accepts our efforts. There are times I’ve seen that happen.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — October 4, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  12. It reminds me of the glurge about the Lord asking someone to push a rock. He wasn’t able to move the rock but it wasn’t what the Lord asked him to do–he got this great tan and buff muscles because all the Lord asked him to do was push. It’s an eye-roller for me, but seems inspirational for others.

    Comment by Téa — October 4, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

  13. Tea,

    Are you comparing the commandment of building the temple to pushing a rock? Not sure I follow.

    Comment by Jacob — October 4, 2006 @ 12:08 pm

  14. Jacob,
    The Saints certainly found out what they were made of in the face of extremity in their failled attempts to build Zion. I think Tea is saying that even commandments that the Lord knows we are incapable of fulfilling may build character and growth.

    Comment by Doc — October 4, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

  15. Jacob, to me they aren’t the same, but apparently enough people out there like that rock story because it keeps getting passed around. It also made me think of the Zion’s Camp video the Church made, though my lame-ometer doesn’t go off on that one…

    The basic premise is similar to Jonathan’s #9 in that God asks us to do something but it’s for a different purpose (build a temple leads to greater determination to do so in Nauvoo and Utah, fight for Saints in Missouri leads to Zion’s Camp refining future leaders of the Church, God tells you to be a cop so in the process of failing that you’ll find your true career path).

    The question then becomes does God prepare a way for a specific purpose by directing us to do something else that doesn’t/won’t happen?

    Comment by Téa — October 4, 2006 @ 4:18 pm

  16. Ahhh, I see the point now, thanks. Yea, I guess I am of the opinion that God told them to build a temple because he actually wanted a temple there. This position is harder to maintain if you believe God already knew everything that would happen and knew they would fail before he commanded it.

    I hand’t heard the story about the rock before, but your comment reminds me of the scripture in Abr about God sending us to earth to “prove us now herewith.” For the people who think God already knows what we will do, they have to come up with some reason for why he says he is testing us when, in fact, he already knows how we will do on the “test.” This is one of the reasons I hate the notion that God knows the future (besides the obvious crimp it puts on free will), it means we have to re-interpret all the places where God says things which assume an open future.

    Comment by Jacob — October 4, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

  17. I think the Lord was demonstrating that though there was indeed enough strength to establish Zion then and there, the degree of obedience necessary was lacking:

    There is even now already in store sufficient, yea, even an abundance, to redeem Zion, and establish her waste places, no more to be thrown down, were the churches, who call themselves after my name, willing to hearken to my voice.
    (D&C 100:75)

    As that was not the case:

    But first let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible unto all nations;
    That the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ; therefore, let us become subject unto her laws.
    (D&C 105:31-32)

    And indeed:

    Behold, this is the blessing which I have promised after your tribulations, and the tribulations of your brethren-your redemption, and the redemption of your brethren, even their restoration to the land of Zion, to be established, no more to be thrown down.

    Nevertheless, if they pollute their inheritances they shall be thrown down; for I will not spare them if they pollute their inheritances.

    Behold, I say unto you, the redemption of Zion must needs come by power; Therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel.

    For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be.
    (D&C 103:13-18)

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 4, 2006 @ 8:27 pm

  18. God does know the future, more or less, but he does not know it by “seeing” it as if it already happened, but more by projecting what he knows will happen, according to the power that he has until the fulfilling of all his words.

    He knows everything he knows about the future through a combination of planning, anticipation, persuasion, and other influence. He could hardly know much more than we know without a manifest capacity to keep his plan on course by whatever means necessary and appropriate. For example, theoretically Joseph Smith could have fallen, and not fulfilled his mission. The possibility was a real one.

    But it would make no sense for the Lord to choose someone who would not repent under chastisement. The Lord knew what Judas was going to do ahead of time – he may very well have known the day he chose him. Surely Judas must have had some good qualities deserving of his call, but the Lord knew he would break under pressure – thus he uses the anticipated weaknesses, sins, and errors (which he cannot change) to both condemn the wicked and fulfil his own purposes in the redemption of all.

    That capacity is amazing to me – anticipate for the worst horrors imaginable that a just judgment might come upon the wicked and then incorporate and anticipate them in the plan of redemption, turning them upside down like a pancake. We are like clay in the Master’s hands – rebellious clay, but clay nonetheless. God is not the author of iniquity, but he turns it to his own purposes on a regular basis, according to the same power that he knows a future that does not exist yet.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 4, 2006 @ 8:48 pm

  19. Mark,

    I am with you on the parts about God planning, anticipating, persuading, influencing. I am with you on the possibility that Joseph Smith could have fallen. I am with you on God turning iniquity to his own purposes on a regular basis.

    However, I don’t see any reason to think Jesus (or even the Father) knew what Judas would do when he first called him. I would like to know by what mechanism he could figure something like that out. You said that he knows what will happen by “projecting what he knows will happen,” which I cannot make heads or tails of. Surely Judas had free will, which means he could have done what he did, or he could have done something different.

    Comment by Jacob — October 4, 2006 @ 9:22 pm

  20. I’m drawn to Stephen’s(Ethesis) take on this. (comment #11)

    With that idea in mind, I find it interesting that it is only when Nephi does the job alone (without the help of his brothers) that he succeeds.

    Comment by Jack — October 4, 2006 @ 9:22 pm

  21. Interesting discussion. I think it’s related to the problem of God giving Adam and Eve a commandment that he knew they would break and, according to some General Conference talks, for which they would be praised (see here for some quote and links).

    I like the solutions proposed (though I think there is more to be thought out here—that is, the issue’s not resolved in my mind): Nephi’s point is that we need to have faith that we need to do our best to fulfil whatever God asks.

    Comment by Robert C. — October 6, 2006 @ 11:28 am

  22. Atleast as far as D&C 124:49 and Independence Missouri, I think it is important to note it is predicated by D&C 63:26-32.

    However, As D&C124:49 is also incorporated into the concept of polygamy, the question still holds. I wonder if a similar concept as in D&C 63 could be applied there as well..

    Comment by Matt Witten — October 9, 2006 @ 7:31 am

  23. From General Conference messages that reference this verse we glean:

    “The Lord does not expect anything of you that you cannot do.” [1]

    “we can do the things the Lord has commanded”[2]

    “Lord, have faith, and it will work out. The Lord never gives a commandment without providing the means to accomplish it”[3]

    “We can do what we’re supposed to do.”[4]

    “Becoming a people which is collectively pure in heart is not an impossible dream or an idealistic goal. We know this because the Lord has commanded us to become such”[5]

    “With a promise like that, there is really no excuse for us to fail [the obligations of priesthood].”[6]

    “the Lord never has, nor will he require things of his children which it is impossible for them to perform.”[7]

    “When we are told to do a thing, we should go to work believing, as Nephi says, that God never gives a commandment unto the children of men save he prepares a way whereby they shall fulfill that commandment. He never yet sent a man to do a work without giving him power to accomplish it. We can do these things if we will.”[8]

    “God has declared that He will require nothing at our hands but what He will enable us to perform. If He asks and requires duties of us that are difficult for us to perform, looking at them naturally, He will give us power to accomplish them. But unless we are worthy, and use all the energy and intelligence that we possess naturally, the promise on His part will not be fulfilled, because it is made on conditions that we do our part.”[9]

    1. ? Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Live in Obedience,” Ensign, May 1994, 39
    2. ? Jeanne Inouye, “Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 96
    3. ? Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Single Adult Brethren of the Church,” Ensign, May 1988, 51
    4. ? Elaine Cannon, “Agency and Accountability,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 88
    5. ? Marion G. Romney, “Living Welfare Principles,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 92
    6. ? Robert L. Simpson, “Our Fundamental Obligation: The Priesthood,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 86
    7. ? Discourse by Elder Lorenzo Snow, delivered at the General Conference, Salt Lake City, Monday Morning, April 7th, 1879.
    8. ? Discourse by Elder George Q. Cannon, delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, August 10, 1873.
    9. ? Discourse by Elder Joseph F. Smith, delivered in the Tabernacle, Ogden City, Nov. 12, 1870.

    Comment by Aaron — October 9, 2006 @ 10:51 am

  24. Matt,

    What connection do you see to polygamy? How would you sum up the D&C 63 principle, and how does it answer the question of the post?

    Aaron,

    I assume all these quotes make reference to 1 Ne. 3:7 rather than D&C 124:49. Do you think D&C 124:49 calls into question all of these conclusions we draw from 1 Ne 3:7 (illustrated in all your quotes)?

    Comment by Jacob — October 9, 2006 @ 11:09 am

  25. D&C 63 says go to Zion, purchase the land and live in harmony with your neighbors, if you don’t you do it the right way, you will get your butts handed to you and move from place to place losing many members and lives along the way. I’d say that the members failed to keep the commandment here and suffered the consequences. While the saints were diligent, and went to work with all their might in Missouri, they did have failings among them.

    The Connection with Polygamy is that Wilford Woodruff (I believe) quoted this scripture (D&C 124:49) in connection with the First Manifesto on occasion. Of course, I have no citation for this.

    Comment by Matt Witten — October 9, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

  26. As for 124:49 citations:
    “We cannot always expect to succeed, but we should try the best” -BKP Oct 2004

    other citations were too old to be online…

    I got all this from: http://scriptures.byu.edu/

    Comment by Matt Witten — October 9, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

  27. To go along with my statements regarding D&C 63, let’s look at 124:49 in context:
    45 And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.
    46 But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them.
    47 And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord.
    48 For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations
    , which you practise before me, saith the Lord.
    49 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their adiligence, and their enemies come upon them and bhinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to crequire that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.
    50 And the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord God.
    51 Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings of those whom I commanded to build up a city and a house unto my name, in Jackson county, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord your God.

    From the context, It seems to me that that those who “hindered [the] work” seem to be the saints themselves who refused to “hearken”.

    Therefore, The Institution of Mormonism failed, while there may have been some who were obedient, which I believe D&C 124:49 is referring too, judging by context. It reminds me of Joshua and the Battle of the city at Ai.

    Comment by Matt Witten — October 9, 2006 @ 1:14 pm

  28. Matt,

    Thanks, that helps me understand your comment much better. I quite enjoyed your version of D&C 63. I was going to check to see if the reader’s version of the D&C uses the phrase “butts handed to you.” lol

    But, I disagree with your reading of D&C 124 (#27). You are saying that the bolded portions apply to the saints and that it is the saints who hindered the work, but it seems to be saying the opposite to me. Suspiciously, the key seems to be in the only two verses you didn’t add bolding to;

    49 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and bhinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to crequire that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.
    50 And the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord God.
    51 Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings of those whom I commanded to build up a city and a house unto my name, in Jackson county, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord your God.

    The question is, what does the “Therefore” in verse 51 refer to. Verse 51 says that God accepted the offerings of those he commanded because of enemies who hindered the way. Why did God decide to accept their offerings? Certainly not because they did it in the wrong way (as in 46-48), but because they were working with all there might and ceased not in their diligence (vs 49). So, I take these verses to be saying the opposite of what you take them to mean.

    Comment by Jacob — October 9, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

  29. I think they’re both right, depending on the situation, the context.

    Comment by annegb — October 9, 2006 @ 7:10 pm

  30. Jacob, I’m not disagreeing with you, I guess I’m just seperating the saints into two groups, good saints and bad saints. The good saints are released from their obligation due to the bad saints, who are punished.

    But thinking on it further, my solution doesn’t exactly gel quite right for me yet. I’m afraid this isn’t one of those “God told me so answers.”

    Heh. May we should “ask gramps?”

    Comment by Matt Witten — October 9, 2006 @ 8:56 pm

  31. Matt,

    I actually have leaned toward the solution you are describing for some time too. I suspect that the whole group was needed to pull off the divine promise but that some of the saints dropped the ball. So I always assumed that section in section 124 was addressed to the saints who did their part telling them that they were off the hook because building zion is a team sport and they did their part but some of their team mates fumbled the ball.

    (I was too lazy to write that out earlier Jacob… ;-) )

    Comment by Geoff J — October 9, 2006 @ 9:25 pm

  32. Matt, Geoff,

    I buy that as a fairly reasonable reading. I agree with the point about “team zion” even if it turns out that is not what the Lord had in mind when he gave us that verse. I am a bit uncomfortable with the idea of “and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work” referring to the less valiant of the saints, but you could be right.

    Comment by Jacob — October 9, 2006 @ 9:36 pm

  33. Jacob,

    Sorry, my language was a little vague. I tend to agree that absolute foreknowledge of the freely willed choice of another individual is untenable. However, there is a quite a bit of evidence that the Lord projects what will happen to an amazing degree of accuracy. Exactly what that degree is would require a quantitative argument I cannot give.

    All I can say is that it seems that being embedded in a body makes individuals much more stable and predictable than they would be without a body. A person builds his character over a lifetime, and from a divine perspective I imagine its changes in any given circumstance are quite predictable given that persons past history. An individual’s past (over however many eons seems determinant enough that the Lord had a very good picture of who the very wicked people would be even before they were born.)

    But he can only condemn people for actual sins, not projected sins. And indeed if he has a hope of redeeming serious sinners, he must let them learn from their own mistakes and the judgment that comes upon them in consequence thereof. Alma implies that the righteous suffer even unto death that a righteous judgment could come upon the wicked. And why should the Lord care about the latter unless it was a necessary part of the plan for their eventual salvation?

    Deuteronomy implies that there was a house of Israel in heaven, composed of the most righteous or most capable. However, many scriptures also imply that the body of Israel was proud, and in anticipation of their rebellion a plan was laid to scatter them among all nations – and to exalt the humble, by humbling the proud.

    And so the Lord could pre-plan the history of the earth by sending individuals to different nations and families at different times, knowing what they are capable of, and planning for the redemption of all – the righteous knowing he will be able to persuade them to do his will, and the wicked knowing that he will not, thus he writes them into the plan and prepares a way for their eventual redemption, through hell if necessary.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 9, 2006 @ 10:45 pm

  34. Mark,

    To bring it back to how this question arose on this post, I still don’t see any reason to suppose the commandment to build the temple in Jackson County was given with God’s full knowledge that it was a doomed effort from the beginning. I prefer to believe that when God gives us a commandment, there is at least the possibility that we can do it.

    Comment by Jacob — October 9, 2006 @ 11:10 pm

  35. Jacob:
    I don’t think that reading gets the full picture either. I think there are probably three groups: The good saints, the saints who “hindered the work”, and the enemies. This ties more in with what I understand in D&C 63 and brings to mind those scriptures in the Book of Mormon where Nephi is told that his posterity will be scourge by the posterity of Laman and Lemuel if they fall away.

    Anyway, Thanks for positing such an intersting question. If only all the Bloggernacle were as stimulating.

    Comment by Matt Witten — October 10, 2006 @ 7:24 am

  36. It’s easy, Nephi gives a declaration, and D&C gives a revelation. The revelations are always true, the declarations of men are not. Nephi is wrong, it’s that simple. Nephi is just giving us a belief of his, which is wrong. The Lord is NEVER wrong. I believe every revelation in the Church 100%. But I don’t believe all of the declarations. Wilford Woodruf said “I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” This declaration is wrong also, and so are many declarations, but none of the revelations are wrong in the least tiny bit.

    Comment by Rodney — June 6, 2007 @ 7:29 pm

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