Come Unto Christ
In verse 7, Jacob mentions how they labored diligently to persuade people to come unto Christ and partake of the goodness of the Lord that the Nephites (and the saints today) might enter into his rest.
Firstly, no one can be forced to Christ. Only by "persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge" (see D&C 121:41-42) can we convince people to come unto Christ. In our fast-paced, on-demand world, we tend to be impatient with our children or anyone who fails to grasp the importance of the Gospel quickly. We must remember to have patience and long-suffering and we must humble ourselves and take the time to really love those whom we serve. When we fill our schedules to the hilt, we may lose track of the importance of taking the time to understand, to listen and to love. Only when we take the time to understand, listen and love can we hope to persuade those we love to come unto Christ.
"Partaking of the goodness of the Lord" not only is an event that can happen in the life to come, but it can happen in this mortal life. In John 10:9-11 Christ said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good Shepard: the good Shepard giveth life for his sheep."
Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a wonderful talk in the April 2006 General Conference entitled "The Abundant Life." In that talk he said, "The abundant life is a spiritual life. Too many sit at the banquet table of the gospel of Jesus Christ and merely nibble at the feast placed before them. They go through the motions—attending their meetings perhaps, glancing at scriptures, repeating familiar prayers—but their hearts are far away. If they are honest, they would admit to being more interested in the latest neighborhood rumors, stock market trends, and their favorite TV show than they are in the supernal wonders and sweet ministerings of the Holy Spirit." (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Abundant Life,” Ensign, May 2006, 99–102)
I think this is what Jacob was trying to convince the Nephites … that a life as a disciple of Christ is much more rewarding than a life spent in the pursuit of riches and lusts.
If we choose the abundant life and we prove to be worthy servants on this earth, then we will be received into heaven and there find rest from all our trials and troubles in this world. But if we are not diligent in keeping the commandments and tempt God, then he will swear in his wrath that we will not enter into his rest. The children of Israel provoked the Lord by tempting him. Consequently, the Lord decreed that the children of Israel would not enter into the Promised Land and were made to suffer for 40 years in the wilderness and were given the lower law (the Law of Moses). Not until the first wicked generation was completely dead did the children of Israel enter the Promised Land. Moses was not even permitted to enter in the Promised Land.
We can apply this counsel on a national or personal level. If we rebel against God (or apostatize) then we will be “cursed” unless we repent quickly and thoroughly. If we do not, then God will curse us or we will be left alone to fend for ourselves and end up in Satan’s power. We only live this life once. We cannot go back and correct our mistakes and sins. We have to live with our actions. I think this is why we feel such urgency from Jacob’s words in this chapter. He doesn’t want the Nephites to be cursed or to have the Lord swear in his wrath that they will not enter into his rest. Instead, he counsels them to view the death of Christ and suffer his cross.
Magnify Our Office
Ezekiel 33:2-9 clearly explains the role of a prophet of God. He is to warn the people. If he fails to warn the people, then he is found guilty. Jacob felt the urgent need to preach repentance to the Nephites as he saw them begin to "indulge themselves" and seek riches of the world (v. 15-16).
Earlier we read where Jacob tells the Nephites that he has done his best in teaching them and trying to turn them to repentance. In 2 Nephi 9:44 he tells them, "Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood."
As a missionary, we often quoted Jacob 1:19 in zone conference. Usually when we quoted that scripture, we would couple it with the following quote from John Taylor, “If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty.” (Deseret News Semi-weekly, 6 Aug. 1878, 1.)
In this post-mission life, how are we to apply this scripture? In a Book of Mormon class I took as a freshman at BYU, our teacher gave each student a piece of paper to insert into our scriptures for Alma 36. This is what that paper read:
In June of 1965, a group of brethren in the Physical Facilities Department of the Church was doing some work outside the Hotel Utah apartment of President David O. McKay. As President McKay stopped to explain to them the importance of the work in which they were engaged, he paused and told them the following.
"Let me assure you, Brethren, that some day you will have a personal priesthood interview with the Savior, Himself. If you are interested, I will tell you the order in which He will ask you to account for your earthly responsibilities.
First, He will request an accountability report about your relationship with your wife. Have you actively been engaged in making her happy and ensuring that her needs have been met as an individual?
Second, He will want an accountability report about each of your children individually. He will not attempt to have this for simply a family stewardship report but will request information about your relationship to each and every child.
Third, He will want to know what you personally have done with the talents you were given in the pre-existence.
Fourth, He will want a summary of your activity in your Church assignments. He will not be necessarily interested in what assignments you have had, for in His eyes the home teacher and mission president are probably equals, but He will request a summary of how you have been of service to your fellowmen in your Church assignments.
Fifth, He will have no interest in how you earned your living, but if you were honest in all your dealings.
Sixth, He will ask for an accountability on what you have done to contribute in a positive manner to your community, state, country, and the world."
(From the notes of Fred A. Baker, Managing Director, Department of Physical Facilities. Quoted by Robert D. Hales, Presiding Bishop of the Church, at a BYU Devotional assembly, March 15, 1988) the full text of this talk entitled "Understandings of the Heart" can be found here (click then scroll down to talk).