Chapter 3 is an amazing chapter. Reading it this time, I realized that Jacobs words are fulfilled when you think upon the whole history of the Nephites and Lamanites. And not only were his words of counsel and warning useful in his day, but they are probably the most important teachings our world needs today.
Counsel to the Pure in Heart
Jacob begins chapter 3 with counsel for the pure in heart. He pleads with them to "pray with exceeding faith" and then the Lord will 1) console them in their afflictions, 2) plead their cause and 3) send down justice upon those who seek their destruction (v. 1).
This counsel from Jacob reminds me of Alma the Elder and those who fled King Noah. After finding Alma and his people, Amulon was appointed ruler and latter enslaved Alma and his followers. The people cried before the Lord to be rescued, but the taskmasters kept them from praying out loud. So the people prayed in their hearts and the Lord listened.
"And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
"And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions (Mosiah 24:13-14).
Miraculously, the Lord delivered his people by placing the Lamanite guards in a profound sleep and Alma and his people departed into the wilderness and latter reunited with the people of Zarahemla (see Mosiah 24:19-25).
Alma and his followers were pure in heart. They prayed with exceeding faith, they were consoled in their afflictions, they plead their cause before the Lord and the Lord sent down justice upon those who sought their destruction … in other words, the Lord indeed delivered the pure in heart.
Jacob continues his counsel to the pure in heart. He teaches them to lift up their heads and "receive the pleasing word of God and feast upon his love (v. 2). Is there any doubt that Alma and his followers did feast on the Lord's love? After they were delivered, they paused in a valley and "poured out their thanks to God because he had been merfiful unto them (Mosiah 24:21). I think that when we feast on the Lord's love, our hearts truly are full of gratitude.
Prophecy Fulfilled: The Lamanites Possess the Land
Jacob warns the Nephites that unless they repent of their fornications, lasciviousness and every kind of sin" (v. 12), the Lamanites will possess the land of their (the Nephites') inheritance. He tells them that the Lord will lead away the righteous out from among them. We may safely assume that the Nephites did not fully repent as this prophecy was fulfilled. In Omni 1:12 we learn of the great migration of the Nephites from the Land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla. Eventually the Lamanites took possession of the Land of Nephi.
Prophecy Fulfilled: Lamanites Become a Blessed People
Again, Jacob teaches the Nephites that because the Lamanites observe the commandment of having only one wife and being faithful to her, they will not be destroyed, but will become a blessed people (v. 6). Perhaps the blessing of Lehi helped the Lamanites keep this commandment as his blessing ensured them that they would not be destroyed (see 2 Nephi 2:3-9). We read of the fulfillment of this prophecy in 3 Nephi 2:12-16.
Can we not apply Jacob's counsel to our world today? If we observe to keep the law of chastity, then we will be a blessed people. But if we fail to observe this very important commandment, then we will suffer the same fate as the Nephites. Our modern-day prophets have warned us with similar counsels. "We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
Love One Another
In verse 7, Jacob’s counsel is as good today as it was as good then. In our day where the prophet counsels us to love our families, we can look to the Book of Mormon for examples of how to love our families. The Book of Mormon also serves as a reminder of the importance of families in this life and in the lives to come.
Verse 9 teaches a valuable lesson about judging and comparing. Jacob tells the Nephites not to revile against the Lamanites because of their cursing nor because of their filthiness, rather that they should remember their own sins. Sometimes we tend to look at others and say, “I’m glad I’m not him. I am doing better than him and this makes me feel good.” We may not say that with the same words, but that is the thought we have. We think we are better than others. This is pride manifesting itself again. We should not compare ourselves to others, rather we should compare ourselves to the Standard who is Christ. In all cases, we will find ourselves “filthy” and we should be humbled by that thought and try to do better. But never should we compare ourselves to others for the sake of making ourselves look better than them or to make ourselves feel better.
Teach Your Children
In verse 10, Jacob reminds us that unless we teach our children the ways of truth and righteousness, their sins will be upon our heads. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches the same thing in section 68 verse 25.