2 Ne 2:16-30

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Home > The Book of Mormon > Second Nephi > Chapters 1-5 > Chapter 2 > Verses 16-30
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Verse 16: Act for himself[edit]

This verse says that "man could not act for himself save it be that he was enticed." There seems to be a fundamental tension in this phrase since to "act for himself" suggests that man acts independently, yet the word "enticed" suggests that this acting is not independent, at least not completely independent.

This issue pertains to a fundamental theological question about the devil: does evil originate from the devil or is evil something that is "man-made" in the absence of God's presence? Verse 18 suggests that the devil plays at least some role in enticing us toward evil. This raises the following follow-up theological question which this passage seems uninterested in addressing: if evil originates from the devil, what or who "enticed" the devil to be evil?

Verse 21[edit]

Prolonged seems to be a reference to the fact that though God told Adam "in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," Adam does not die right away but is given time to repent. Note though that the subject here is not Adam but "the children of men." Since for Lehi here Adam represents all of us, this change is natural.

The second (and last) sentence in the verse requires some interpretation. Here we learn that the Lord showed unto us all that we were lost because of the Adam and Eve's transgression. It isn't clear what event is being referred to when the Lord shows this. It could be that the Lord shows us that we are lost if we don't repent by living a perfect life (though in Lehi's time that hadn't happened yet). It could be that simply giving the commandment to us to repent shows us that we are all lost if we don't, or it could be that along with the commandment the Lord taught Adam and Eve so that they were lost without repentance.

What does it mean though to say that we all are lost because of Adam and Eve's transgression? Does this mean that we would be punished for sins we don't accomplish because of our sins? These questions don't seem to be where Lehi is going with the point and he doesn't address it directly. Mormon in Moro 8:8 does deal with this question. See the exegesis there. In short, it is because of Christ that we aren't punished for our own sins. He takes away this "curse of Adam." And, though Lehi doesn't say this directly here, the point is the same. Lehi is telling us here as well about the situation we would be in without Christ--we all would be lost.

Verse 22[edit]

Verse 22 tells us that if Adam had not transgressed, he would have remained in the garden of Eden in the same state without end. The most natural reading of this seems to be that what Adam had to do in order to not remain in the same state without end, was to disobey God's law.

Some believe that there was a way for Adam and Eve to progress without disobeying the Lord's command. In that line of thinking it was the proper role for God to give Adam and Eve the fruit at the right time, and Satan was trying to usurp that role by jumping in and doing what God was supposed to do. The appeal of this belief is that it suggests that God did not put Adam and Eve in a position where it was best for them not to obey God. However, at least on the face of it, this verse would seem to argue against that line of thinking. Those who hold the belief, in spite of this verse, see Lehi's point here as explaining the necessity of gaining knowledge of good and evil. They read Lehi as saying that without gaining that knowledge Adam and Eve could not make progress. In that line of thinking, Lehi is misunderstood when we try to import his arguments here for the necessity of opposition, into an argument about whether God prepared a way for Adam and Eve to progress without disobeying his commands. See related exegesis on Moses 5:11.

Verse 26[edit]

  • Free. It is interesting that Lehi uses the word free two different ways in describing the atonement in this chapter. Here, the meaning is probably #1 in Webster's 1828 dictionary: "being at liberty; not being under necessity or restraint, physical or moral." See v. 4 for the other usage.

Points to ponder[edit]

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Verses 15-25[edit]

  • Why is the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden such an important scriptural story, so important that it is repeated for us more often than any other if we attend the temple regularly? If we think in types, how does their story give us a type for understanding our own lives?

Verse 16[edit]

  • "Or." Why is the word "or" used here? Wouldn't "and" make more sense? That is, to "act for himself" doesn't man need to be enticed by two things, not just one thing, as the word or seems to suggest?

Verse 17[edit]

  • Why does Lehi add, “according to the things which I have read"? Does this perhaps suggest that he wasn’t familiar with the story of Adam and Eve until he read the brass plates?
  • What did the devil seek that was “evil before God"? Are there times when we seek something similar? How?
  • "Needs suppose." Why does Lehi (or should we say Nephi?) use the word "suppose" here? Is he deducing what he is saying? showing some sort of logical structure in the material he is presenting? something else?
  • "An angel". Why does Lehi say "an angel" here (and "a devil"), but refers "that old serpent, who is the devil" in verse 18? What is going on here?

Verse 18[edit]

  • Why is the devil called “the father of lies"? Why use the metaphor of fatherhood? What is the devil’s lie? (Compare what he tells them with Gen 3:22 and Moses 4:28.)

Verse 23[edit]

  • This verse connects having children directly to the necessity of opposition, with being able to have joy and being able to sin. What explicitly is the connection? Why is it that if Adam and Eve could not have had children they could not have known what joy was (because they wouldn’t know misery) and they couldn’t have done any good (because they wouldn’t know sin)?
  • Why "would" Adam and Eve not have had children had they remained in the garden? This verse doesn't suggest the impossibility of that ("would" vs. "could") as I'd heard before.

Verse 24[edit]

  • Does v. 14 shed any light on what this verse means by "knoweth all things"? Does v. 18 shed any light on what it means to say that God knows all things?

Verse 25[edit]

  • Isn’t there a sense in which this is a restatement of v. 23? If so, each might help us understand the other. Does this verse tell us what Adam intended to do in falling or what the Lord intended him to do? Is the word "Adam" being used here of only Father Adam, or is it being used as it is used in Gen 1:27, "God created man [adam] in his own image, male and female created he them"?

Verse 26[edit]

  • Are redeemed. Why does Lehi use the present tense here: “They are redeemed from the fall"? How does redemption make us free? Lehi seems to equate three things, being free, knowing good and evil, and acting for oneself rather than being acted upon. How are those the same? What understanding of free agency does Lehi seem to have here?
  • Free, yet a servant of Christ? In 1 Cor 7:22-23, Paul says that since Christ has "bought [us] with a price" we are free ("a freeman"), but then goes on to say "he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant." In what sense does Christ make us free if a disciple of Christ becomes his servant?
  • Is knowledge a result of tree or atonement? Does the phrase "knowing good and evil" continue the "because" clause, implying such knowledge is a result of the redemption of the fall, or did knowledge of good and evil obtain as a result of partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?

Verse 27[edit]

  • Why interlude in vv. 11-26? In this verse Lehi returns to a theme he took up in verses 6-10, the Messiah. Why was the interlude in verses 11-26 necessary?
  • According to the flesh. What does it mean to be free “according to the flesh"? Is that different than being free to act rather than to be acted upon? Lehi says “all things are given them which are expedient unto man.” Then he says that we can choose life through Christ or death through the devil. Is that the choice to which “all things [. . .] which are expedient” refers? What does this verse tell us about free agency?
  • Misery of devil. Why is the devil miserable? Does the answer to that say anything about [[2 Ne 2:25|v. 25]?

Verse 28[edit]

  • When Lehi began, he was speaking to Jacob. Now he is speaking to all of his sons (cf. v. 30). How would you explain that?
  • Earlier Lehi referred to Christ as the Redeemer. Now he refers to him as the Mediator (here and in v. 27). Why?
  • Are “hearken unto his great commandments” and “be faithful unto his words” parallel? Does the word “hearken” suggest anything that “obey” might not?

Verse 29[edit]

  • Verse 28 spoke of choosing “eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit.” Here Lehi speaks of choosing “eternal death, according to the will of the flesh.” How would you explain what those two according-to phrases mean? Lehi says that the will of the flesh has evil in it. What is that will? (Compare [[Mosiah 3:16|Mosiah 3 v. 16 and 19.) How does the will of the flesh give the devil power to take us captive?

Verse 30[edit]

  • Lehi says he has “chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet.” What does he mean by saying that he has chosen the good part? What does “according to the words of the prophet” add to what he says? Is he referring to a specific prophecy or to something else?


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Verse 16[edit]

  • Act for himself. See this comment and surrouding discussion at the T&S blog regarding this issue.

Verse 25[edit]

"In order to have joy, you need to understand that, as a child of your Heavenly Father, you inherited divine traits and spiritual needs—and just like a fish needs water, you need the gospel and the companionship of the Holy Ghost to be truly, deeply happy. Because you are the offspring of God (see Acts 17:28), it is incompatible with your eternal nature to do wrong and feel right. It cannot be done. It is part of your spiritual DNA, as it were, that peace, joy, and happiness will be yours only to the degree you live the gospel.
  • Robert D. Hales, "To Act for Ourselves: The Gift and Blessings of Agency," Ensign, May 2006, pp. 4–8. Elder Hales states: "Sometimes we forget that our Heavenly Father desires that each of us have this joy. Only by yielding to temptation and sin can we be kept from that joy. And yielding is exactly what Satan wants us to do."

Verse 26[edit]

  • Is knowledge from tree or atonement? See this comment posted by Jacob (and follow-up comment #85) for an argument why the knowledge of good and evil is a result of the atonement.

Verse 27[edit]

"Just as a fish in a mountain stream must be careful of the lures placed in its path to avoid being pulled away from the water, so must you and I be wise in order to avoid being pulled away from a happy, gospel-centered life. Remember that, as Lehi observed, the devil 'seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself' and obtains 'power to captivate' (v. 29) us when we involve ourselves in unclean and evil things. Thus, do not be deceived into even nibbling at unworthy things, for Satan stands ready to set the hook."
"Choose to reject feelings of shame for sins you have already repented of, refuse to be discouraged about the past, and rejoice in hope for the future. Remember, it is Satan who desires that we be 'miserable like unto himself.' Let your desires be stronger than his."


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