Nephi identifies four doctrines taught by false churches in the last days.
The first one is found in verse 5. This false doctrine teaches men that "there is no God today," that He has "done his work" and that He has given his power to men. Notice the half-truths mixed with lies. I can understand where this notion that there is no God today comes from. The scriptures refer to this as a falling away … where the priesthood and the prophets were taken from the earth and men lived in spiritual darkness for a long time (2 Thes. 2:3). But what this false doctrine fails to understand is that after the Apostasy came the Restoration wherein God restored the priesthood to the earth again. God has conferred the priesthood on man, but He has not given it away to man.
The second false doctrine is found in verse 6 where Nephi warns us false churches will deny that miracles are from God. Notice that this false doctrine does not deny the existence of miracles, but it tries to take God out of the miracles. Even in the days preceding the coming of Christ to the Americas, the people widely viewed and accepted the miracles and signs, but they denied the power from whence they came (see Helaman 16:20-23, 3 Nephi 7:18-20).
The third false doctrine is explained in verse 7. This one is often quoted because it seems to be widely believed and practiced today. Many think that this life is a joyride. The doctrine of "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us," is a popular false doctrine among the Godless. If a person does not believe in God, then he thinks it will not matter what he does in this life. Sadly, today's "entertainment" news broadcasts are full of examples of this lifestyle. The reality is that it will not be well with these people when they die. They will face their Maker and realize the error of their reasoning. Yes, we can be merry in this life, but that is not the purpose of this life. Are we actively serving others? Do we care for our family? Are we drawing nearer to Christ and His teachings? These are the things we ought to focus on.
The last false doctrine that will be taught in the last days is a variant on the previous. Verse 8 sadly describes the irrational thinking of those who feel that they can live a reckless life while fearing God. The crux of this reasoning is found at the end of the verse. These people think that they will be beaten "with a few stripes, and at last … be saved in the kingdom of God." In verse 23, Nephi correctly describes the condition of those who do not truly repent. "Yea, they are grasped with death, and hell; and death, and hell, and the devil, and all that have been seized therewith must stand before the throne of God, and be judged according to their works, from whence they must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment." Those who think that they can sin a little and be given a slap on the hand fail to understand the purpose of the Atonement. They do not have a broken heart and contrite spirit. Until they truly repent, "endless torment" awaits them.
The Humble Followers of Christ
Nephi also warns that “all have gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ” and they too, in many instances are led away by the precepts of men. To me, this means that no one is invincible to the false doctrines of man. We must always be vigilant in reading the scriptures, sincerely praying daily, attending our Church meetings and going to the temple and listening to the counsel of the Prophet and our ecclesiastical leaders. In doing the small and simple things (Alma 37:6, Numbers 21:6-9, 2 Nephi 25:20, Alma 33:19-22), we will become the humble followers of Christ. If we fail to do these simple things, we will become more susceptible to the false doctrines of men.
The Tactics of Satan
In my original Book of Mormon commentary journal, I wrote of three tactics Satan uses to lead the hearts of the children of men away from the straight and narrow path.
- Contention (v. 20). Satan will rage in the hearts of men and stir them up to anger against that which is good. And we can take that a step further. Those who are defending good will fall into the trap of getting caught up in contention with others. They will get so caught up; they will forget what they are defending. I never quite understood the desire of some missionaries to "Bible bash." The spirit was hardly ever present in a Bible-bashing contest. "Only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge" (D&C 121:41-42) should we convince people of the truth.
- Carnal Security (v. 21). The devil will tell people that “all is well” and that there is no need to be on guard. Later in verse 25, the Lord says, “wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!” I have never really understood why the Lord said that. Perhaps the response to the phrase “all is well” is, “not all is well in Zion! Are we going to sit in our comfortable home while our brothers and sisters (spiritually) perish?” This reminds me of the story of Brigham Young and the saints in Utah. The winter had come and the saints were in a conference in the tabernacle. Brigham Young got up and spoke to the congregation and told them that there was a party of saints stuck in the mountains because of the cold and they needed to be rescued. He told the saints what they needed to do and they did not wait until Monday. They went home that very night and prepared for the rescue and retrieved the stranded group of saints (to read a great article and the complete story, read James E. Faust, "Go Bring Them In from the Plains," Ensign, July 1997, 2). This is what we need to do – be vigilant in Zion. This is why we have home and visiting teachers. There is plenty of work to do in Zion. We need to be careful that we are not lulled into carnal security.
- “I am no devil” (v. 22). Satan will try to persuade men that there is no devil. Once people think there is no devil, they will begin to think there is no evil, no law and no punishment. They will also be lulled away into carnal security. They will think nothing is wrong or amiss and they will let down whatever guard they had.
In verse 30, the Lord tells us that we will receive line upon line, precept upon precept. This is how we will receive revelation. God will give us a small thought here and there. Once we understand, he will add a little more. This repeats until we have received the full light and knowledge God has prepared for us. The Gospel is wonderful!
The Lord's Mercy
Continuing with the references to the Lord's endless mercy, we read in 2 Nephi 28:32, "I will be merciful unto them, said the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts."Again, the Lord will always forgive those who repent. But Satan will show no mercy. Unless we "speedily repent," (Alma 30:57) Satan will weave his flaxen cords around our necks until they are too strong to break (2 Nephi 26:22) at which point he will "speedily drag [us] down to hell" (Alma 30:60).