Friday, August 2, 2013

Misunderstanding Nephi’s Great and Abominable Church

A reader wrote in with the following comment:
“In your Book of Mormon, in 1 Nephi 13:8, it says: ‘And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.’ It has been claimed since the mid 1950s that this Great and Abominable Church is the Catholic Church. I know that since then there has been a backpedaling on this, but such statements and feelings toward another Church certainly cannot be a positive comment about your own church” Burgess O.
Response: The LDS Church is not responsible for what people now or in the past have said or written when they are not officially speaking for the Church, no matter who they are or what position they might hold. We are, after all, agents unto ourselves with the agency to decide for ourselves.
As for the scripture, it should be kept in mind that this scripture in 1 Nephi, like almost all scripture, has a particular meaning and it is quite clear with further reading what was meant. Unfortunately, some people in the past thought that the word “church” referred to an existing specific church is unfortunate, but the point of Nephi’s comment is that any institution that is not of God is of the Devil. Even more to the point, any Church that is not of God’s design and establishment is of the Devil.
The fact that we live in a time and age when being “politically correct” is more important than accuracy unfortunately causes many people to criticize matters that in their actual meaning are not items one would normally criticize. That we also live in a time and age where people have decided on their own that there is no Devil is even more unfortunate. The Devil or Satan has one purpose and one purpose only and that is to bring all mankind down into hell where he resides—so all men will be miserable like unto himself.
In one sense, the verse that follows (vs9), is critically important, for Nephi knows, and writes, that these people who are of the Devil, that is, individuals in his own community, speak and act “for the praise of the world” and that they “do destroy the saints of God,” and have a purpose toward all men to “bring them down into captivity.” That is, for them to be captive unto the Devil.
Nephi also writes: “And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell -- yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.”
It also might be of importance to know that the word church in the early Greek, from which the word comes, meant an “assembly or collection: from the term which meant “to call out or call together.” If we interpret this original meaning, that is the word church in 1 Nephi actually means any organization—or in this case, the Organization of the Devil, Nephi is talking about the organization of God—the church—or the organization of the Devil—his church. Whether this is the original sense the word was used or just the fact that if you divide up the world, you have those for God and those against him, matters little, for Nephi meant the overall organization of the Devil on earth.
So if you create a Church in which to worship, you either worship the one true God, or you worship the opposite, the Devil. It was Christ who said, you are either for me or against me—as Matthew wrote of Christ’s words: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30).
Therefore, a Church is either for God, organized by God with the priesthood, for the purpose of teaching the Lord’s word, sending out missionaries all over the world to convert the people to him (or gather them in), or you are against God and scatter the people to the winds with false doctrine and false beliefs. In this same sense, the world is either gathering in people for God, or is scattering them about with their worldly pleasures and desires as opposed to living under the will of God.
Although this institution of the Devil is first introduced in vs. 8, it is also discussed in 1 Nephi Chapter 14 as well.  Because it is referred to as “most abominable above all other churches,” it appears to be one institution, some have looked at the most evil church in the land and designated that church as the Devil’s church; however, further reading shows that the angel told Nephi, “And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil” (1 Nephi 14:9), suggests that the Devil founded his church, and that: “Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth” (1 Nephi 14:10).
To further show Nephi was not talking about a single church, he added: “And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” (1 Nephi 14:11). Furthermore, Nephi looked further, “And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw” (1 Nephi 14:12). And the angel went on to show Nephi that there was to be a war between these two factions, that is, between God and Satan: “The great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God. And I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory. And I beheld that the wrath of God was poured out upon that great and abominable church, insomuch that there were wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds of the earth” (1 Nephi 14:13-15).
At this point, Nephi is shown that there would be wars and rumors of wars “among all the nations which belonged to the mother of abominations,” and the angel said, “the wrath of God is upon the mother of harlots…and the day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil, then, at that day, the work of the Father shall commence, in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel” (1 Nephi 14:16-17).
And regard to your final comment: “certainly cannot be a positive comment about your own church,” on the contrary, our Church has 406 missions organized worldwide, with 55,000 full time missionaries in the field, and another 22,000 part-time church-service missionaries worldwide, all serving either 18- or 24-month missions away from home, each paying his or her own way, with over one million missionaries in service in the history of the Church.
I think you will find that no other organization comes close to that effort to bring souls back to God as the Lord instructed us. By the way, the LDS Church has never “back-peddled” on its understanding of 1 Nephi 14:8. Some members, of course, have had to expand their thinking to look beyond a single church as their knowledge has increased, to include the Devil’s rampant organization throughout the world.

1 comment:

  1. I never (well, maybe at one point I did) thought the Catholic Church was the Great Abdominal Church. In fact, it doesn't make sense when you actually study it in depth. Today, til this day, some members still believe it is the Catholic Church. It only makes sense it is any organization that fights against God. I personally feel it is the Prostituted Government. Elder H. Verlan Andersen wrote a very good book regarding this topic. Thanks for your blog post. I agree!

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