Plates and Hearts
Jacob makes an interesting point in the first few verses of chapter 4. He comments on that fact that anything that they write upon, except plates (or metal), will eventually perish or decay (v. 2). Metal plates will last longer than paper or any other medium, but plates will stay brilliant as long as they are cared for properly. If you take this point a step further, metal plates can be destroyed too and all that is written on them will be lost. Really, there is nothing that can truly preserve words, ideas, thoughts, teachings and other writings except the “fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3). And this process of writing on the fleshy tables of the heart can take years. And since this process takes years, men and prophets write down what is written on their hearts and minds onto paper, plates, disk and other mediums so that other men can “download” it into their hearts and minds. One of the quickest and most powerful ways of downloading is through the Spirit – “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor. 3:3). Once “downloaded” into one’s heart, there the teachings will remain for years, even a lifetime, if he continues to remember what has been written there.
What are we to download into our minds and hearts? We are to learn the words of Christ. This is what Jacob and all the other prophets of old wrote about. Jacob continues by saying that they have studied the prophets’ words and that he has many revelations and is filled with the spirit of prophecy. We too can have personal revelations regarding our own testimony if we study the words of the prophets. If we seek, we will find.
Command in the Name of Jesus
Next, Jacob explains how his faith in Christ enables him to “command in the name of Jesus” (v. 6). He understands that man is weak and that it is through God and the atonement that man has power to command in the name of Christ. He explains in verse 9 that if God was able to speak and the world was created and man created, then surely he can command the elements and the earth and they will obey. Jacob and the other prophets understood the power Christ and therefore according to Christ’s will, can command the earth and she will obey.
Seek Not to Counsel the Lord
Jacob admonishes the Nephites to "seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand (v. 10). Neal A. Maxwell had this to say about seeking to counsel the Lord, “Church members will live in this wheat-and-tares situation until the Millennium. Some real tares even masquerade as wheat, including the few eager individuals who lecture the rest of us about Church doctrines in which they no longer believe. They criticize the use of Church resources to which they no longer contribute. They condescendingly seek to counsel the Brethren whom they no longer sustain. Confrontive, except of themselves of course, they leave the Church but they cannot leave the Church alone." (Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Becometh As a Child’,” Ensign, May 1996, 68)
We walk on dangerous ground when we become critical of the Lord and his prophets. President Hinckley once said, "[criticism] sows the seeds of inactivity and finally apostasy" (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Continuing Pursuit of Truth,” Ensign, Apr 1986, 2). Not only should we not be critical of the Lord, but we should reduce the negative in our lives and accentuate the positive. For an excellent article on this subject, read the aforementioned talk by President Hinckley.
Again, in verse 11, Jacobs reminds and commands us to reconcile ourselves with Christ (see 2 Nephi 10:24 and commentary on this chapter).
Looking Beyond the Mark
One final comment on Jacob chapter 4; in verse 14 he talks about the Jews despising plainness and looking beyond the mark. At one time I did not understand this and wondered what he meant by “looking beyond the mark” until one day I was driving to work and I was behind this car that was moving kind of slow. Instead of concentrating on the slow car immediately in front of me, I began to look at the car that was in front of it … I was trying to figure out why this car was going slow. Suddenly, the slow car in front of me slowed down even more. I was caught off guard and almost hit the car because I wasn’t paying attention to the car in front of me. In essence, I was looking beyond the mark. I didn’t want to see the plainness of the car in front of me. I was more concerned with the car in front of the car in front of me. The Jews were the same way. They weren’t concerned with the plain truth that was in front of them. They wanted to see what was behind the truth and consequently they did not understand.
In the next chapter, Jacob will explain the history of the House of Israel with an allegory.