Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 10-15 > Chapter 13-14
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The relationship of Chapter 13-14 to the rest of Chapters 10-15 is discussed at First Nephi 10-15. This chapter can be outlined as follows:
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- 1 Ne 13:12: Many Waters. According to LDS.org, this phrase occurs 24 times in scripture, including a dozen times in the Old and New Testament. In Hebrew, the word translated as "many" is rab, which can also be translated as great, much, mighty.
- 1 Ne 13:15: White. This could refer to the righteousness or the skin color of the Gentiles. (See Tvedtnes article below.)
- 1 Ne 13:20-29: On the Bible. In verse 20 Nephi sees a book carried among the Gentiles. Verse 23 tells us that this book is a record of the Jews which contains "the covenants of the Lord ... made unto the house of Israel" and "many of the prophecies of the holy prophets."
- It is curious that the angels speaking to Nephi talks about this book coming from "the mouth of a Jew" (vv 23, 24; emphasis added) in the singular.
- Verse 24 tells us that at the point it proceeded from the mouth of a Jew "it contained the fulness of the gospel. Verse 25 tells us that it goes from the Jews "in purity unto the Gentiles." It isn't clear from the text whether this Bible (if it is proper to call it that at this point in history) still contained the fulness of the gospel. But it is clear that it didn't have anything false in it. This seems to be the point of the phrase "in purity" (v 25).
- In any case, the blameworthy party for the missing parts of the Bible is identified in verse 26: the great and abominable church. The same point is then reiterated in verse 28. Verse 29 tells us that the things that were removed were "plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God" and that because these things were removed "many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them." 2 Ne 25:4, 7 makes a distinction between Nephi's plainness--in which no man can err--and Isaiah's--not plain to his people but plain to those filled with the spirit of prophecy. Here "plain unto the understanding of the children of men" seems closer to the former.
- One thing that is interesting about this passage is the distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. We get a picture of the Jews protecting the plain and precious pure word of God over a long period of time, then turning it over to the Gentiles and in a relatively short period of time the great and abominable church is formed and precious parts of the scriptures are lost.
- 1 Ne 13:26-27. Verse 26 says that it was those in the great and abominable church that took away the plain and most precious things from the gospel. Further it indicates that this church was formed after the things in the bible went forth from the hand of the twelve apostles. Further, verse 25 says that when these things went from the Jews unto the Gentiles they were pure "according to the truth which is in God." In sum verses 25 and 26 indicate that the plain and precious things were taken from the bible sometime after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, since the bible as we know it was not compiled until several centuries after the resurrection, it is difficult to determine from these passages exactly when the changes occurred or who was responsible for making the changes.
- 1 Ne 13:34-36: Sticks of Judah and Joseph. This passage addresses the relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. In Ezekiel 37 these two records are called the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph. The selection of these two tribes to author these records may be related to the Joseph Cycle of stories in Genesis 36-50. Those chapters show how Rueben, the oldest, tries to make things work out well but fails. Judah succeeds in his place. But the righteous and birthright son is Joseph. See the discussion of Reuben, Judah, and Joseph in Genesis 36-50. Throughout Israelite history in Canaan the three dominant tribes were Judah and the two tribes descended from Joseph: Ephraim and Manasseh.
- Verse 13:37 marks the first time in the Book of Mormon the use of the word Zion. This use makes part of a quoting of the Lord's words by the angel sent to guide Nephi through his prophetic vision of the last days. The context of the quote is directed as a beatitude, describing an element that will represent those possessing the Gift of the Holy Ghost, mainly those who seek to bring forth Zion. Whether the verse is referring to Zion in geographical context or theological as relating to the individual, it is not stated. But applying the termination Zion with the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 97:21, "This is Zion-the pure in heart", there is a principle and a promise made by the Savior that helps Zion-seekers understand where to find and/or bring it forth in their own homes and communities. This principle is that the Lord promises spiritual gifts to those who diligently strive to work and establish Zion, therefore Zion is found among spiritual gifts, and spiritual gifts are received by Zion-builders, mainly those pure in heart.
- 1 Ne 13:37. Isa 9:6 refers to the Messiah as "The Prince of Peace." The word for peace in Hebrew used here is shalowm whose root is shalam which has the dual meaning to make whole or complete; to be repaid or recompensed. When Christ speaks of being perfect in Matt 5:48 and Matt 9:21, the Greek word for perfect here (teleios) also has a dual meaning of complete. Thus, when Nephi (quoting Isaiah) says how beautiful upon the mountains shall they who "publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy" be, "publishing peace" can be lexicographically linked to proclaiming the gospel of the Atonement which allows us sinners to be complete.
- 1 Ne 14:7. Verse 14:7 tells us about a time when a great and marvelous work will come among the children of men. The angel tells Nephi that this work is everlasting and then explains what that means. It is everlasting because the work will either convince people toward peace and life eternal or it will deliver them to being in the captivity of the devil. This work is the preaching of the restored gospel on the earth. So then, in verse 10, when the angel speaks of there only being two churches and that whoever doesn't belong to the church of the Lamb of God belongs to the church of the devil, the angel is speaking from the context of this great and marvelous work.
- The discussion of Isa. 29:11-14 explains that the phrase 'a marvelous work and a wonder' appears to refer specifically to the Book of Mormon rather than to the Restoration as a whole.
- As verse 7 indicates, it is this great and marvelous work which divides the people into two groups. Verse 10 then isn't applicable to someone who has never heard about the gospel. It is however applicable to us. For us, as verse 10 makes clear, there is no place for a middle ground: whichever of us doesn't follow the Lamb of God belongs to the church of the devil.
- Given that the angel's description of the 'two churches' to Nephi follow directly after verse 8, in which the angel asks Nephi if he remembers the 'covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel', I'm going to venture out on a limb here and suggest that the idea of a church is explicitly tied to the idea of a covenant or covenants. In other words, to be a part of a church at all, one must enter into an agreement of some kind with somebody else, in this case the choice being between the 'Lamb of God' or the 'devil'. What's interesting to note is that the angel says 'whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church...' which makes it sound as though there's no scenario where somebody can be 'in between' the two, so to speak. It also implies that there is no choice of whether we want to be a part of the great and abominable church, other than choosing to join the church of the lamb of God. In other words, we are already by default a part of the church of the devil until we *join* the other one. What about that church is so compelling to mankind, that the statement can be made that all belong to it unless they join the church of the Lamb of God? Is it entirely a question of covenants? The Atonement?
- 1 Ne 14:4. Verse 14:4 tells us that it is according to the captivity of the devil and the justice of God that those who dig a pit (i.e. a trap) for others will themselves fall into the pit they dug. In this case those who built the pit will be lead down to hell--as this was the purpose for which the pit was dug (verse 3).
- 1 Ne 14:5. In verse 14:5 the angel shows Nephi that ultimately it doesn't matter to a person's salvation whether they were born into the house of Israel (see also 2 Ne 26:33). The angel makes this clear by first reminding Nephi that, as he has seen, someone not born into the house of Israel, if they repent, will be saved and then, that all men must repent or they will perish. In other words, regardless of whether someone is born into the house of Israel, if they repent, they will be saved and if not, they will perish.
- 1 Ne 14:10. In thinking about verse 10, we may wonder about people who are good but haven't had the opportunity to know about the Savior. It doesn't seem right to say that people who don't even know about the Savior belong to his church. But, if we read verse 10 by itself, it would suggest that such a person belongs to the church of the devil. That doesn't seem right either. To resolve this dilemma, we have to read verse 10 in context.
- 1 Ne 14:18-30: The end of Nephi's account. The remainder of this vision will not be written by Nephi, but will instead be written by the apostle John in the book of Revelation. This helps to place the end of Nephi's account as still being located within the sixth seal or sixth thousand years.
- 1 Ne 14:23: The things which were written. In the phrase "the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men," the "things that were written" could be read either as referring to the things which were written by John, the "apostle of the Lamb" (v. 24), or as referring to the things which were written in the Bible, "the book . . . proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew." If the latter view is adopted, the grammatical structure of verse 23 would be taken as significant in that the preceding verse (v. 22) and subsequent verse (v. 24) are talking about John, as is the beginning of verse 23; however, on this view, the material following the first semicolon would be taken as a modifying tangent about the book in which John's revelation is recorded, and so the final clause of the verse would be taken as a continuation of this tangent describing the book that John's revelation is found in rather than John's revelation itself. Furthermore, this verse may be alluding back to 1 Ne 13:28-29 where "plain and precious things" are described as being taken away from the Bible.
- Verse 23 provides commentary on the nature of the revelations written by John. They are "just and true", "plain and pure", "precious" and "easy to the understanding of all men". These descriptors are self-explanatory, and, upon reflection, it seems an easy enough step to further assert that prophetic writings in general follow this pattern. That is certainly the case with modern revelations. Most would agree Joseph Smith's revelatory writing, for instance, are generally simple and straightforward, yet somehow manage to be inspiring and persuasive to so many notwithstanding their simplicity.
- Perhaps a qualification for a good prophet is the ability not to get too much in the way of the message by letting rhetoric and personality creep in. While Joseph seemed to display plenty of both in his social communications, it would be fair to say that his revelations generally do not.
- 1 Ne 14:30. The following can be confusing. Nephi writes: "if all the things which I saw are not written, the things which I have written are true." The construction here ("if ..., ...") suggests a logical if-then connection between the two halves of this quote. But that is confusing because this interpretation leads to a nonsensical reading, something like: you can know that the things which I have written are true because I didn't write down everything I saw.
- Instead of reading the "if" as suggesting some logical if-then connection, we might read it more like the way we use "though" today. That gives us something like: though I wasn't able to write everything I saw, what I was able to write is true. Even so the connection between the two halves may seem like a stretch. One way to bring them a bit closer would be to see Nephi as trying to respond to the perceived disappointment the reader will have in not getting to know everything Nephi saw. In that case we might see Nephi's statement "the things which I have written are true" as either a consolation (at least you got to know part) or as a reminder to us to focus on what we got to know rather than on what we didn't.
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Prompts for life application
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- 1 Ne 14:12. This verse tells us the numbers of the church are relatively few. Do we as members properly remember that we will need to be the few and strong who will uphold God's kingdom?
Prompts for further study
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- 1 Ne 13:1: What visual representation did Nephi see of these massive geopolitical entities?
- 1 Ne 13:2: Why is this the only place where a Book of Mormon prophet talks about nations and kingdoms?
- 1 Ne 13:4: How was Nephi able to see that the religious organizations had been transformed into a new church?
- 1 Ne 13:5: By "church" does this mean what we would call a religious movement vs a single church?
- 1 Ne 13:5: What does it mean for the church to be abominable?
- 1 Ne 13:5: How does this great and abominable church bring the "saints of God...down into captivity"?
- 1 Ne 13:5: What does it mean to bind down and "yoketh...with a yoke of iron"?
- 1 Ne 13:6: How does the devil found a church? Don't other people have to do it for him?
- 1 Ne 13:7: What do harlots have to do with the great and abominable church?
- 1 Ne 13:8: What should we make of the fact that the description of the abominable church's desires focuses much more on material wealth than on sexual sin? Is it significant that the material wealth is mentioned first, and that the harlots are mentioned in what seems to be the same breath?(Cf. Jacob 2:22)
- 1 Ne 13:9: What does it mean that the abominable church destroys and enslaves the saints “for the praise of the world"? How is the word “saint” being used here? How does the abominable church destroy and enslave the saints?
- 1 Ne 13:10: Did Nephi and the New World prophets abandon the Old Testament practice of naming Seas?
- 1 Ne 13:10: What does Nephi mean by "many waters"? Can we presume that he means "the ocean" or is there something else going on here?
- 1 Ne 13:10: Is this the first intimation that Nephi might have that they will have to cross the ocean to get to their land of promise?
- 1 Ne 13:11: How long did God stay angry with the Lamanites after they rejected his gospel and killed off the Nephites?
- 1 Ne 13:12: Could this "man among the Gentiles" be a role that was filled by many individuals from Europe who came to the New World in the early days of initial contact?
- 1 Ne 13:13: Is Nephi saying the Holy Ghost had to work upon these Gentiles in order for them follow the Lord's will?
- 1 Ne 13:15: If the Europeans were killing the Lamanites and stealing their land, then why did they remain favored of the Lord?
- 1 Ne 13:16: Were the Europeans more humble than the indigenous peoples they encountered?
- 1 Ne 13:17: Did Nephi use the image of mother Gentiles because he believed that ethnicity was transmitted from mother to child?
- 1 Ne 13:18: Does this history apply only to the Indigenous Peoples of North and South America, or does it include what happened to Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders as well?
- 1 Ne 13:19: Are the Gentiles in this vision primarily British or does the term also include the French and the Spanish?
- 1 Ne 13:20: Was Nephi accustomed to equating plates, records, and books at this point (see 1 Ne 10:15)?
- 1 Ne 13:20: Was Nephi accustomed to equating plates, records, and books at this point (see 1 Ne 10:15)?
- 1 Ne 13:21: Was the angel really asking about the what the book contents meant or was he continuing the biblical tradition of finding "meaning" in visions (see Dan 8:15, 1 Ne 11:17, and 1 Ne 11:21)?
- 1 Ne 13:22: Why didn't Nephi guess that there was a connection between the brass plates in his possession and the book he saw?
- 1 Ne 13:23: Why is the singular wording, "a Jew," used in the first sentence of this verse?
- 1 Ne 13:23: The angel says that the Bible contains the covenants of the Lord and some of the prophecies of the prophets, and he repeats that they are important because it contains the covenants of the Lord. What covenants is he referring to? Why are they important to Lehi’s people?
- 1 Ne 13:23: The word "covenants" is used here in the singular, and yet is never used in the plural in the Old Testament (at least "covenants" never turns up in the KJV according to this search, though it shows up a couple times in the New Testament). Why does Nephi use the plural form of the word covenants and how does this relate to and differ from the meaning we should take from the Old Testament passages concerning covenant(s)?
- 1 Ne 13:23: What can we learn about the nature, purpose(s), and character of the Bible from Nephi's description of it here?
- 1 Ne 13:23: Not so many. Is this saying that the Bible does not contain as many records as the plates of brass, or is there another way to read this?
- 1 Ne 13:23: Why are the covenants that the Lord made with Israelites "of great worth unto the Gentiles"? Were other covenants made with other people (e.g., the Jaredites)? Would other such covenants be significant to the Gentiles?
- 1 Ne 13:24: How much did Nephi witness and how much was elaboration from the angel?
- 1 Ne 13:25: If the Bible went forth from the Jews in purity, what does that suggest about when or how things might have been removed from the record? What does it mean to say that the book went forth “in purity"? In this case is purity the same as completeness? as accuracy? or does the angel mean something else? Does “in purity” modify the book or the way that it was transmitted or . . . ?
- 1 Ne 13:26: To whom does "they" refer to in the phrase "they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious"? Is "they" the Jews who Jacob tells us "despised the words of plainness"? Or, is "they" the Gentiles since verse 25 tells us that "these things [went] forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles"?
- 1 Ne 13:26: Does this verse tell us that the abominable church is abominable because it has taken away plain and precious parts? Are “many parts which are plain and most precious” and “many covenants” two different things that have been removed, or is this a case of parallelism in which the second item in the parallel tells us what the first item means? In what ways could one remove a covenant from the Bible?
- 1 Ne 13:26: Is there a difference between proceeding forth from the "mouth" of a Jew or from the "hands" of the Apostles?
- 1 Ne 13:27: If they had such an evil agenda, then how was so much good left in the Bible?
- 1 Ne 13:28: Does "the book" of verses 24 and 28 refer to what we call the Bible today, or could it refer to something else?
- 1 Ne 13:29: Many stumble because the plain things have been removed from the book. Is that stumbling apostasy or something else?
- 1 Ne 13:30: At the end of verse 30 and in verse 31, the Lord promises that he will not allow the Gentiles to utterly destroy the seed of Nephi and his brethren. Why would Nephi find such a promise comforting rather than disheartening?
- 1 Ne 13:31: How does the extinction of many tribes not count as destruction?
- 1 Ne 13:32: Is this vision saying that the Gentiles were both spiritually blind and filled with the power of God?
- 1 Ne 13:33: Why does mercy for the Gentiles come at the cost of death and destruction for the Lamanites?
- 1 Ne 13:34: What kind of stumbling did the Europeans and Americans experience between 1492 and 1830?
- 1 Ne 13:35: Did Jesus appear unto the Nephites and not unto the Lamanites?
- 1 Ne 13:36: The writings of the Book of Mormon contain “the gospel [. . .] and my rock and my salvation” (v. 36). Why does the Lord describe the gospel as “my rock"? In what other ways does he use “rock” and how might it be related to his use here? (Compare, for example, Matt 16:18.) Why does he describe the gospel as “my salvation” rather than just “salvation"?
- 1 Ne 13:37: What does it mean to bring forth Zion? Is the last part of the verse ("and whoso shall publish peace . . .") parallel to the first part, making “bring forth Zion” and “publish peace” parallel? What does it mean to publish peace?
- 1 Ne 13:38: Why did Nephi think that all his direct descendants were exterminated by the Lamanites?
- 1 Ne 13:39: How conscious was Nephi of the fact that he was helping to produce these "other books"?
- 1 Ne 13:40: Are the last records referred to here those of the Book of Mormon, or are they all of the scriptural revelations of the latter-days? How do the last records restore the plain and precious things that have been removed? Can we use the later records to figure out what things were removed from the earlier ones? The verse says that the records “shall make known the plain and precious things” and that they “shall make known [. . .] that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father.” Are these two things intended to be parallel in meaning?
- 1 Ne 13:40: What does it mean to be "saved" in this context?
- 1 Ne 13:41: Was this a recognition or subversion of the law of witnesses?
- 1 Ne 13:42: Which nations have not yet received this manifestation?
- 1 Ne 14:1-2: What does the phrase "the house of Israel shall no more be confounded" mean (verse 2)? The structure of verses 1 and 2 suggest that whether this happens depends on whether the Gentiles hearken to (verse 1) and harden not their hearts against (verse 2) the Lamb of God. Why is it that the house of Israel being no more confounded depends on whether the Gentiles accept the message of our Savior?
- 1 Ne 14:1-2: What are the stumbling blocks that will be removed? Why is the promise that believing Gentiles will be numbered among the descendants of Lehi? What does that mean to us? In other words, so what?
- 1 Ne 14:3: The punishment of those who have dug the pit is that they will be thrown into it. What does this mean? Is this related to the idea that sin is its own punishment? (See, for example, Rom 1:24; Mosiah 2:36; Hel 14:30; and Morm 4:5 and Morm 9:3.) What does the idea that sin is its own punishment rather than that punishment is something imposed by God teach us about the character of God?
- 1 Ne 14:4: Is this an example of God and Satan working together?
- 1 Ne 14:5: The angel reminds Nephi of three things he already knows (1) that if they gentiles repent, they will be saved (2) about the covenants the Lord made unto the house of Israel, and (3) that whoever doesn't repent will perish. What is the reason for reminding Nephi of this second item?
- 1 Ne 14:6: Why are the gentiles specifically targetted in v. 6, given that in v. 5 (and as we know) no one who doesn't repent can be saved?
- 1 Ne 14:7: What kind of temporal destruction awaits the wicked?
- 1 Ne 14:8: When the angel asks Nephi whether he remembers the covenants with the house of Israel, what is he asking? What covenant or covenants does he have in mind? How is that relevant to Nephi’s purpose for writing his record (1 Ne 1:20)? to this vision? What does it mean to remember the covenants? Does it mean the same thing for a human being as it does for God? (See, for example, Lev 26:42-45.) What is the connection between remembrance and faithfulness? between faithfulness and obedience? Given your answer to that question, what is the angel asking Nephi?
- 1 Ne 14:8: To which covenants specifically does the angel refer?
- 1 Ne 14:9-10: Why does he remind Nephi of covenants before discussing the great and abominable church?
- 1 Ne 14:9-10: Having just asked Nephi whether he remembers the covenants, the angel immediately shows him a vision of the abominable church (v. 9). Why? What does that vision have to do with remembering the covenants? Does v. 2 help us understand who constitutes the church of the Lamb (v. 10)? How do we know which church we are in? Is 1 Ne 12:7-8 relevant? Are there reasons we might have to judge which of the two churches a person other than ourselves is in?
- 1 Ne 14:10: What does it mean to "belong" to one of the churches (verse 10)? Would it be possible to belong to one of the churches and not know it, or does it need to be a conscious decision?
- 1 Ne 14:11: Is this related to the cursing of the waters that happened in the last days (see D&C 61:14)?
- 1 Ne 14:12: Why have a quarter of all Polynesians worldwide become Latter-day Saints if the Church was never supposed to be more than few in numbers?
- 1 Ne 14:13: Is this a reference to the battle of Gog and Magog?
- 1 Ne 14:14: Why is Nephi apparently drawing a distinction between Latter-day Saints and the Lord's covenant people?
- 1 Ne 14:15: Is God opposed to war or does he instigate it as a punishment for the people who will not obey him?
- 1 Ne 14:16: Will the Latter-day Saints and covenant people of the Lord be members of nations that do not belong to the mother of abominations?
- 1 Ne 14:17: Did the wrath and the restoration both begin in the early 1800s?
- 1 Ne 14:18: If angels usually tell people to "behold" something, then why did this angel change the protocol and tell Nephi to "look"?
- 1 Ne 14:19: Why does the Old Testament say nothing about its angels being dressed in white robes?
- 1 Ne 14:20: Where did Joseph Smith get the idea to introduce quotations with a colon if the Bible only used commas for this purpose?
- 1 Ne 14:21: Did John have to find words to describe what he saw or was he given the words that needed to be written?
- 1 Ne 14:23: Nephi says that the John’s revelation (or the Bible itself--see lexical note below) was “plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.” However, in 1 Ne 15:3 he says that Lehi’s revelation was “hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord.” Does this mean that Lehi’s revelation is, in itself, more difficult to understand than John’s or is something else going on here?
- 1 Ne 14:24: Where did Nephi learn to use a word like "apostle" if it appears nowhere in the Old Testament?
- 1 Ne 14:25: Why was Nephi not allowed to become a second witness to what John would see and write?
- 1 Ne 14:26: Is this the only place in the scriptures where the purpose for sealing scriptures is explained as not physical protection but as purity preservation?
- 1 Ne 14:27: Why did Nephi say the apostle's name "was" John, rather than "would be" John?
- 1 Ne 14:28: Was Nephi forbidden in verse 25 from writing down what he heard, or was it just what he saw?
- 1 Ne 14:29: Was Lehi forbidden, like Nephi was, from recording the full contents of his vision?
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