Lesson 40: 2 Nephi 31

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2017


Introduction

Many years before Jesus Christ was born, Nephi received a revelation about the Savior’s baptism. As Nephi told his people of this revelation, he taught what he called “the doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:2)—that in order to receive eternal life, we must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.

Suggestions for Teaching

2 Nephi 31:1–13

Nephi teaches that when we are baptized, we follow the Savior’s example

John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus

Display the picture John the Baptist Baptizing Jesus (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 35; see also lds.org/media-library).

Begin class by asking students the following questions:

  • What do you remember about your baptism? How did you feel when you were baptized?

As students study 2 Nephi 31 today, invite them to look for truths that can help them appreciate the importance of their baptism.

handout iconDivide students into groups of three or four. Provide each group with a copy of the following handout, and instruct them to complete the activities as directed. (If needed due to class size, adapt this activity by asking students to complete the handout in pairs or individually.)

The Importance of Baptism

As Nephi drew closer to the conclusion of his writings on the small plates, he desired to speak about “the doctrine of Christ.” Consider marking this phrase in 2 Nephi 31:2 and 2 Nephi 31:21.

Baptism is an essential component of the Savior’s doctrine. However, some people feel that they do not need to be baptized. They believe that they can show faith in the Savior and follow Him without being baptized.

Read 2 Nephi 31:4–13 together, looking for truths Nephi taught that can help us understand the importance of baptism. The following information may be helpful in understanding these verses:

  1. 1.

    To “fulfil all righteousness” (2 Nephi 31:5–6; see also Matthew 3:15) means to fulfill God’s requirements for eternal life (see John 3:5).

  2. 2.

    The phrases “with full purpose of heart,” “acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God,” and “with real intent” (2 Nephi 31:13) refer to being completely sincere in one’s efforts and commitment to follow the Son of God.

  3. 3.

    “To speak with the tongue of angels” (2 Nephi 31:13) is to speak the words of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost (see 2 Nephi 32:3).

Complete the following statements based on what you learned from 2 Nephi 31:4–13:

  • Jesus Christ, though sinless, was baptized to __________________________________________________ (see 2 Nephi 31:5–7).

  • Jesus Christ set the perfect __________________________________________________ of __________________________________________________ for us to follow (see 2 Nephi 31:7, 9–10, 12).

  • If we sincerely __________________________________________________ and follow the Savior by being __________________________________________________, then we will receive __________________________________________________ (see 2 Nephi 31:11–13).

Discuss the following questions together:

  • How does the Savior’s example illustrate the importance of baptism?

  • Like the Savior, what do we show Heavenly Father by choosing to be baptized?

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After sufficient time, ask students to report the statements they completed on their handouts. Students’ answers should reflect the following truths:

  • Jesus Christ, though sinless, was baptized to fulfill all righteousness.

  • Jesus Christ set the perfect example of obedience for us to follow.

  • If we sincerely repent and follow the Savior by being baptized, then we will receive the Holy Ghost.

Invite students to consider marking the phrases in the scriptures that teach these truths. Invite students to share any insights they received from the verses they read and from their group discussions.

2 Nephi 31:14–21

Nephi teaches that after baptism, we need to receive the Holy Ghost and continue following the Savior’s example

Copy the accompanying illustration on the board, and explain that Nephi spoke of a gate opening to a path.

gate and path diagram 1

Ask a student to read 2 Nephi 31:17–18 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Nephi taught about the gate and about the path the gate opens onto.

  • Based on 2 Nephi 31:17, what is the gate? (Repentance and baptism. Write Repentance and Baptism below the gate.) How are repentance and baptism like a gate?

  • According to 2 Nephi 31:18, what does the path lead to? (Eternal life. Write Eternal Life at the end of the path. You may need to explain that the phrase “eternal life” refers to exaltation in the celestial kingdom.)

Explain that Nephi taught that after baptism, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (see 2 Nephi 31:13–14). Write Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost to the right of the gate on the board.

  • According to 2 Nephi 31:17–18, what does the Holy Ghost do for us? (Help students identify the following truth: The Holy Ghost witnesses of the Father and the Son and brings a remission of sins. Invite students to consider writing this truth in their scriptures near verses 17–18.)

  • Why is it essential for us to receive a testimony of the Father and the Son through the Holy Ghost?

Point out that in addition to helping us know that the Father and the Son live, the Holy Ghost helps us come to know Them—Their will and character—and helps us to become like Them.

  • What does it mean that the Holy Ghost brings a remission of sins?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for the role of the Holy Ghost in the remission of our sins.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie

“Sins are remitted not in the waters of baptism, as we say in speaking figuratively, but when we receive the Holy Ghost. … We become clean when we actually receive the fellowship and companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is then that sin and dross and evil are burned out of our souls as though by fire. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 290).

  • Based on this statement, how would you explain the meaning of the phrase “then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” in 2 Nephi 31:17?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:

President Henry B. Eyring

“When [the Holy Ghost] is your companion, you can have confidence that the Atonement is working in your life. …

“Not only is your feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost a sign that the Atonement, the cure for sin, is working in your life, but you will also know that a preventative against sin is working” (Henry B. Eyring, “Come unto Christ” [Brigham Young University devotional, Oct. 29, 1989], speeches.byu.edu).

  • What are some ways we can recognize whether the Holy Ghost is our companion?

  • According to the statement by President Eyring, what can you know is happening when you feel the influence of the Holy Ghost in your life? Why is that helpful for you to know?

Testify of the power of the Holy Ghost to enable us to become purified from sin. Ask students to examine their lives to determine how often they experience the influence of the Holy Ghost and what might be keeping them from enjoying it as often as they would like. Encourage them to make any needed changes so that they can enjoy the Spirit’s purifying influence.

Explain that in 2 Nephi 31:18, the word strait means narrow, strict, exacting, and allowing for no deviation. Nephi used this word to describe the path we must take after baptism in order to receive eternal life. Ask students to quietly ponder the following question:

  • What do we need to do after baptism in order to stay on the path to eternal life?

As students ponder this question, invite them to look for answers in 2 Nephi 31:15–16, 19–21. Invite them to consider marking words or phrases that explain what we must do to receive eternal life. After sufficient time, invite a few students to report what they found. As they respond, write their answers on the board. Your illustration should look something like the accompanying diagram.

Explain that this illustration represents a simple summary of the doctrine of Christ as taught in 2 Nephi 31. Write the following truth on the board: If we live according to the doctrine of Christ, we will receive eternal life.

Point out that the idea of enduring to the end appears three times in the verses students just studied.

  • Why do you think enduring to the end is an important element of the doctrine of Christ?

  • How is Jesus Christ an example of enduring to the end? Who else is an example for you of enduring to the end?

  • What has helped you to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ and faithfully endure?

Invite students to write in their class notebooks or study journals what they feel impressed to do to more fully live according to the doctrine of Christ and to thereby progress toward eternal life. Encourage students to apply what they wrote, and express your confidence in their ability to obtain eternal life.

Commentary and Background Information

2 Nephi 31:2, 21. “The doctrine of Christ”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“The ‘doctrine of Christ’ as taught by Nephi in his grand, summational discourse focuses on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. It does not, in this declaration, attempt to cover the entire plan of salvation, all the virtues of a Christian life, or the rewards that await us in differing degrees of heavenly glory. It does not, in this declaration, deal with the offices of the priesthood, the ordinances of the temple, or many other true doctrines. All these are important, but as used in the Book of Mormon, ‘the doctrine of Christ’ is simple and direct. It focuses on the first principles of the gospel exclusively, including an expression of encouragement to endure, to persist, to press on. Indeed, it is in the clarity and simplicity of ‘the doctrine of Christ’ that its impact is found. Nephi knew it would be so. He wrote, ‘I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying’ [2 Nephi 31:2]” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 49–50).

2 Nephi 31:13, 17–18. “Receive the Holy Ghost”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

Elder David A. Bednar

“The ordinance of confirming a new member of the Church and bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost is both simple and profound. Worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders place their hands upon the head of an individual and call him or her by name. Then, by the authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of the Savior, the individual is confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this important phrase is uttered: ‘Receive the Holy Ghost.’

“The simplicity of this ordinance may cause us to overlook its significance. These four words—‘Receive the Holy Ghost’—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed ‘receive the Holy Ghost’ and its attendant spiritual gifts. …

“Praying, studying, gathering, worshipping, serving, and obeying are not isolated and independent items on a lengthy gospel checklist of things to do. Rather, each of these righteous practices is an important element in an overarching spiritual quest to fulfill the mandate to receive the Holy Ghost. The commandments from God we obey and the inspired counsel from Church leaders we follow principally focus upon obtaining the companionship of the Spirit. Fundamentally, all gospel teachings and activities are centered on coming unto Christ by receiving the Holy Ghost in our lives” (David A. Bednar, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 95, 97).

2 Nephi 31:15–16. “Endure to the end”

The phrase “endure to the end” is frequently used to suggest the need to patiently suffer hardships throughout our lives. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that to endure to the end also means to continue in faithfulness to Christ:

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

“Enduring to the end is the doctrine of continuing on the path leading to eternal life after one has entered into the path through faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. Enduring to the end requires our whole heart or, as the Book of Mormon prophet Amaleki teaches, we must ‘come unto him, and offer [our] whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth [we] will be saved’ [Omni 1:26].

“Enduring to the end means that we have planted our lives firmly on gospel soil, staying in the mainstream of the Church, humbly serving our fellow men, living Christlike lives, and keeping our covenants. Those who endure are balanced, consistent, humble, constantly improving, and without guile. Their testimony is not based on worldly reasons—it is based on truth, knowledge, experience, and the Spirit” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Press On,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 101).

Supplemental Teaching Ideas

2 Nephi 31:3–18. The importance of baptism

After you encourage students to make any needed changes in their lives so that they can enjoy the purifying influence of the Holy Ghost, help them more fully understand the truths they have identified in the lesson by conducting the following activity:

Ask students to imagine that they have a friend who is investigating the Church. This friend asks why she needs to be baptized. Divide the class into groups of two or three. Ask each group to work together to practice answering this friend’s question using the truths they have learned from 2 Nephi 31. Encourage students to include their recollections and feelings about being baptized and receiving the Holy Ghost. (Or, you could invite a pair of students to role-play this scenario in front of the class with you acting as the friend.)

video icon2 Nephi 31:20. Video presentation—“2016 Mutual Theme: Press Forward”

After students discuss the meaning and importance of the actions written on the path on the board, point to the phrase “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ.” As needed, help students understand that “steadfastness in Christ” is a steady or constant firmness in following Jesus Christ. Show the video “2016 Mutual Theme: Press Forward” (4:12), available on LDS.org. Invite students to watch for examples in the video of how we can press forward with a steadfastness in Christ. Ask them to report what they find.

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2 Nephi 31:17. The companionship of the Holy Ghost

After having students read and discuss President Henry B. Eyring’s statement about the companionship of the Holy Ghost, students may want to know how they can tell whether, or how often, the Holy Ghost is their companion. You may want to invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for ways we can recognize the companionship of the Holy Ghost in our lives.

Elder Robert D. Hales

“The Holy Ghost provides personal revelation to help us make major life decisions about such things as education, missions, careers, marriage, children, where we will live with our families, and so on. …

“… As the scriptures attest, the Holy Ghost also testifies of the Savior and God the Father [see John 15:26; Romans 8:16]. He teaches us ‘the peaceable things of the kingdom’ [D&C 39:6] and causes us to ‘abound in hope’ [Romans 15:13]. He ‘leadeth [us] to do good … [and] to judge righteously’ [D&C 11:12]. He gives ‘to every man [and woman] … a [spiritual] gift … that all may be profited thereby’ [D&C 46:11–12; see also Moroni 10:8–17; D&C 13–16]. He ‘giveth [us] knowledge’ [Alma 18:35] and ‘bring[s] all things to [our] remembrance’ [John 14:26]. Through the Holy Ghost, we ‘may be sanctified’ [3 Nephi 27:20] and receive ‘a remission of [our] sins’ [2 Nephi 31:17]. He is the ‘Comforter,’ the same who was ‘promised unto [the Savior’s] disciples’ [D&C 88:3]” (Robert D. Hales, “The Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2016, 105).

  • What did Elder Hales teach about the Holy Ghost that can help you recognize when you have His companionship?