As always, consult the official Gospel Doctrine Manual in your preparation. Below are a few ideas I use when I teach my Religion 121 class.
2 – “not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history” Would we describe the Book of Mormon as a history? Probably not. The history is “upon other plates” (see verse 3).
4 – “preaching which was sacred or revelation which was great” Engraven the “heads” or, footnote 4b, the “dominant important items” upon these plates.
8 – “suffer his cross” Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Any great affliction or trial that comes upon the saints does in itself constitute a cross they must bear as part of their obligation to overcome the world….Saints are to carry the cross of service and consecration, the cross of devotion and obedience” (Mormon Doctrine, 173).
13-14 – “I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names” Jacob calls them Nephites and Lamanites. The further we progress through the Book of Mormon, the more the designations Nephites and Lamanites are an indication of affiliation and belief rather than lineage and birth. Jacob says he will call those who are seeking to destroy the Nephites, “Lamanites,” and those who are friendly to the people of Nephi, “Nephites.”
Hugh Nibley taught:
The Book of Mormon is careful to specify that the terms Lamanite and Nephite are used in a loose and general sense to designate not racial but political (e.g., Mormon 1:9), military (Alma 43:4), religious (4 Nephi 1:38), and cultural (Alma 53:10, 15; 3:10-11) divisions and groupings of people. The Lamanite and Nephite division was tribal rather than racial, each of the main groups representing an amalgamation of tribes that retained their identity (Alma 43:13; 4 Nephi 1:36-37). (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd ed. [Deseret Book, FARMS, 1988], 215.)
15 – “indulge … in wicked practices”
Concubines: “David and Solomon are mentioned in the Book of Mormon but not in positive terms. Jacob warned the Nephites against attempting to justify their immoralities via reference to the practices of David and Solomon, each of whom eventually displeased the Lord through taking unauthorized plural wives (Jacob 1:15; 2:23-24).” – Robert L. Millet, The Power of The Word, p. 22 .
16 – “lifted up somewhat in pride” Wealth is often a red flag in the Book of Mormon, indicating an upcoming downturn in the “pride cycle.” Sadly, wealth often brings comparisons, then pride.
3 – “weighed down with much more desire and anxiety” This was not a talk that Jacob was excited to give – it was a burden to him.
5 – “I can tell you concerning your thoughts…” Sins begin in our thoughts; Proverbs 23:7, As he thinketh in his heart, so is he. Someone once said, “a man becomes what he thinks about all day long.”
To illustrate, when Alma the Younger talked to his son Corianton, he did not begin by condemning him for breaking the law of chastity – He began by explaining where the sin started, in Corianton’s mind and heart (see Alma 39:2-3): Alma began, “This is what I have against thee:”
- You boasted in thy strength and thy wisdom (You thought, “I can handle it”)
- You forsook the ministry (You weren’t where you were supposed to be)
- You went after the harlot Isabel (You were with the wrong crowd – Elder Robert D. Hales taught, “A friend is someone who makes it easier to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
8-9 – “the pleasing word of God” Jacob laments that some have come to hear the word which “healeth the wounded soul,” but instead his words may “enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded.” The word of God can range from that truth which encourages and heals, to that truth which hurts, and calls to repentance. Elder Dallin H. Oaks began one of his General Conference addresses with this introduction:
My fellow holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and also our young men, I wish to speak to you today about pornography. I know that many of you are exposed to this and that many of you are being stained by it. In concentrating my talk on this subject I feel like the prophet Jacob, who told the men of his day that it grieved him to speak so boldly in front of their sensitive wives and children. But notwithstanding the difficulty of the task, he said he had to speak to the men about this subject because God had commanded him (see Jacob 2:7 -11). I do so for the same reason. In the second chapter of the book that bears his name, Jacob condemns men for their whoredoms (Jacob 2:23, 28). He told them they had broken the hearts of [their] tender wives, and lost the confidence of [their] children, because of [their] bad examples before them (Jacob 2:35). What were these grossly wicked whoredoms? No doubt some men were already guilty of evil acts. But the main focus of Jacob’s great sermon was not with evil acts completed, but with evil acts contemplated (“Pornography,” Ensign, May 2005, 87).
13 – “because some of you have obtained more abundantly” C.S. Lewis has written: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man….It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” — Mere Christianity, (New York: Macmillan, 1952), pp. 109-110.
16 – “let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!” Pride destroyed the Jaredites, pride destroyed the Nephites, and it will destroy us too if we do not heed this warning (See D&C 38:39).
17 – “be familiar with all” The word “familiar” means, “like family”
18-19 – “the intent to do good” Jacob lists four ways to use wealth: clothe the naked, feed the hungry, liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and afflicted. It is interesting to note that this exact same list, in the exact same order, appears in King Benjamin’s speech:
“I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).
22 – “a grosser crime” President Ezra Taft Benson taught:
The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality. This, the Prophet Joseph said, would be the source of more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for elders of Israel than any other. (See Journal of Discourses, 8:55). (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 277).
27 – “one wife; and concubines he shall have none”
From modern revelation we understand why Jacob condemned David and Solomon for having married many wives and concubines without the Lord’s approval. It is a sin to take plural wives when God has not specifically commanded it. Abraham, for example, had plural wives and was not condemned because God commanded it (see D&C 132:37-39). – Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 156
28 – “I, the Lord God, delight in … chastity…” Elder Mark E. Petersen taught: “Humanity will rise or fall through its attitude toward the law of chastity.” (Conference Report, April 1969)
30 – “If I will … raise up seed unto me…” A scriptural explanation behind authorized plural marriage.
Bruce R. McConkie: Plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation. Nephi and his people were denied the power to have more than one wife and yet they could gain every blessing in eternity that the Lord ever offered to any people. In our day, the Lord summarized by revelation the whole doctrine of exaltation and predicated it upon the marriage of one man to one woman (D&C 132:1-28). Mormon Doctrine, 578.
35 – “Broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children.” Since families are important to God, we know that Satan will attack the family.
President Thomas S. Monson: Men should take care not to make women weep, for God counts their tears. (Favorite Quotations from the Collection of Thomas S. Monson [Deseret Book, 1985], 209.)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell: Consider this sobering forecast: “About 40 percent of U.S. children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live.” (USA Weekend, 2/26/95, 6-7) Some estimate this will rise to 60 percent. This same commentator has written, “Fatherlessness is the engine driving our most urgent social problems, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to domestic violence (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1995, 67.)
1-2 – “I would speak unto you that are pure in heart” Jacob takes a break from talking to those who were in trouble, and spoke to the pure in heart – they only got two verses, but what verses! Pray unto God, and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love, forever! Sometimes teachers have to spend more time talking to those on the edge than to those securely in the fold. For example, Alma’s counsel to his righteous son Helaman comprises Alma 36 and 37. Alma to his righteous son Shiblon, Alma 38. Alma to his son Corianton, who is in big trouble, Alma 39, 40, 41 and 42.
5 – “the Lamanites … are more righteous than you” they have kept the commandment to have one wife. Interesting…even if they’re not converted, they’re blessed for the commandments they keep.
12-13 – “I … spake many more things” Jacob gives us only a fraction of his words…why would he preserve this message on pride and immorality for the latter-days?
12 – “Telling them the awful consequences” Elder Neal A. Maxwell: A person’s individual will thus remains uniquely his. God will not override it or overwhelm it. Hence we’d better want the consequences of what we want! (If Thou Endure It Well [Bookcraft, 1996], 51.)
1-2 – “things which we write upon plates must remain” Why the Nephites kept records on plates.
3-4 – “learn with joy … concerning their first parents” Yet another reason for scriptures
7 – “God showeth us our weakness” Notice the word is “weakness” not “weaknesses,” also notice the footnote to Ether 12:27.
10 – “Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand” Elder Lynn G. Robbins expressed a similar idea in October 2014 General Conference:
“Which way do you face?” President Boyd K. Packer surprised me with this puzzling question while we were traveling together on my very first assignment as a new Seventy. Without an explanation to put the question in context, I was baffled. “A Seventy,” he continued, “does not represent the people to the prophet but the prophet to the people. Never forget which way you face!” It was a powerful lesson. (Elder Lynn G. Robbins, “Which Way do You Face?”)
In addition, President Harold B. Lee taught:
A man came in to see me and said that he had heard that some man appeared mysteriously to a group of temple workers and told them, “You had better hurry up and store for a year, or two, or three, because there will come a season when there won’t be any production.” He asked me what I thought about it, and I said, “Well, were you in the April conference of 1936?” He replied, “No, I couldn’t be there.” And I said, “Well, you surely read the report of what was said by the Brethren in that conference?” No, he hadn’t. “Well,” I said, “at that conference the Lord did give a revelation about the storage of food. How in the world is the Lord going to get over to you what He wants you to do if you are not there when He says it, and you do not take the time to read it after it has been said?” The Lord is going to keep His people informed, if they will listen. As President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., said in a classic talk, “What we need today is not more prophets. We have the prophets. But what we need is more people with listening ears. That is the great need of our generation.” (Stand Ye In Holy Places, p.159-160).
13 – “The Spirit … speaketh of things as they really are” Footnote 13c takes you to the Doctrine and Covenant’s definition of truth:
Doctrine and Covenants 93:24: “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” Elder David A. Bednar gave a classic talk about confusing the “virtual world” of the internet with things “as they really are” – here’s the link.
14 – “looking beyond the mark” Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “That is to say, they took the plain and simple things of pure religion and added to them a host of their own interpretations; they embellished them with added rites and performances; and they took a happy, joyous way of worship and turned it into a restrictive, curtailing, depressive system of rituals and performances. The living spirit of the Lord’s law became in their hands the dead letter of Jewish ritualism.” (Mortal Messiah 1:238; see also 2:392.)
17 – “How … can [they] ever build upon it?” This verse, and Jacob’s rhetorical question at the close of Jacob 4 is very important, because it is the “Q” of a “Q and A,” and the “A,” is Jacob 5, the longest chapter in the Book of Mormon – Zenos’ allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees. The short answer is Jacob 5:63, and long answer is next week’s lesson 🙂