This is my current understanding, written in response to a comment I posted recently.
Nephi’s Final Prophecy
In chapters 25-30 of 2 Nephi (in the Book of Mormon), Nephi, the son of Lehi, gives a prophecy “according to the spirit which is in [him]” and “according to the plainness which hath been with [him] from the time that [he] came out from Jerusalem with [his] father.” Beginning with his own time, he takes us chronologically forward to the Atonement of Christ, prophesying what would occur with the Jews of the Old World and the Nephites of the New World. He continues his prophecy onward, detailing the apostasy that would result among the Jews and the Nephites after the Savior’s visits to both continents. Finally, he mentions the Gentiles.
And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God; and that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith. (2 Ne. 26: 12-13)
After verse 14 of this chapter, Nephi begins to prophesy concerning the Gentiles, explaining just how they will become convinced that Jesus is the Christ. His Gentile prophecy is of particular interest to me, as I am a Gentile, or at least I am associated with the Gentiles, until my genealogy reveals otherwise.
Two Acts, Not One
According to my understanding of the scriptures, there are two merciful acts of God towards the Gentiles, after which there is an act of judgment against the unrepentant of them. For the sake of clarity, let’s call these acts the First Act (of Mercy), the Second Act (of Mercy) and the Act of Judgment. Nephi’s prophecy concerning the Gentiles covers all three acts.
He begins with the First Act.
But behold, I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men. (2 Nephi 26: 14)
The times of the “last days”includes all three acts, however the particular “last days” that Nephi is referring to is the First Act, in which “the Lord God shall bring these things [the Book of Mormon] forth unto the children of men.” So, the First Act is defined as that merciful act of God when he sends a seer (Joseph Smith, Jun.) among the Gentiles and brings forth the Book of Mormon and other revelations, causing much gospel restoration to take place.
Nephi explains that the righteous Nephites and Lamanites will write the word of God’s prophets and God’s Son (when Jesus visits the Nephites) and that their words will be “sealed up in a book.” He says that the Nephites and Lamanites will eventually dwindle in unbelief and that the Lord will no longer allow them to have the book, as they will then be trying to destroy God’s things. Later, the descendants of these unbelieving people will be smitten by the Gentiles and then God will cause the words of their righteous ancestors to speak to them. (See 2 Ne. 26: 15-19.)
Conditions Among the Gentiles When the First Act Opens
Nephi abruptly stops his prophecy of the First Act and starts to review the conditions among the Gentiles when the First Act opens.
And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor. And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice. And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever. (2 Ne. 26: 20-22)
He then goes on to explain (in 2 Ne. 26: 23-33) how the Lord works and also how He doesn’t work. He is writing here to his future, dwindled-in-unbelief posterity (the ones that the Book of Mormon was intended to go to), trying to show them that what the Gentiles of the First Act would be doing is not right in the sight of God. Every wrong thing he mentions is what the Gentiles will be doing. Although the text doesn’t categorically state this, it is implied. In other words, Nephi, in verses 23-33, is still listing the conditions found among the Gentiles when the First Act begins.
“The Lord God worketh not in darkness.” The implication is that the Gentiles are working in darkness.
“He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world.” The implication is that the Gentiles work for their own benefit.
“Doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me?” The implication is that the Gentiles are telling people to go away from their churches. In other words, they only want certain types of people, whether classed by money, race, color, etc., and that they do not want “all ye ends of the earth” to come to their churches.
“He hath given it free for all men.” The implication is that the Gentiles are charging money for forgiveness.
“All men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.” The implication is that the Gentiles are of unequal privileges (for example, slavery.)
“He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts.” The implication is that Gentiles are practicing priestcraft.
And the list of conditions goes on and on. All of the verses from 20 through 33 of 2 Nephi chapter 26 are a prophetic description of the conditions that would exist among the Gentiles when the First Act of God’s mercy opens up. In other words, this is a description of apostate Christianity during Joseph Smith’s time.
The Act of Gentile (and Jewish) Judgment
After having described the iniquitous conditions among the Gentiles of the First Act, Nephi jumps forward in the chronology, past the Second Act and into the Act of Judgment. These are still the “last days,” but these last days he’s talking about are the ones after the unbelieving of the Gentiles (and the Jews) have rejected the First and Second Acts of God’s mercy and are fully ripe in their iniquity. It is almost as if Nephi wants to get the message across that although the Lord is merciful towards people, such as is shown in his first two acts, He is also a just God and will reward the wicked according to their works when they are “drunken with iniquity.” These Act-of-Judgment prophecies are still in our future.
But, behold, in the last days, or in the days of the Gentiles—yea, behold all the nations of the Gentiles and also the Jews, both those who shall come upon this land and those who shall be upon other lands, yea, even upon all the lands of the earth, behold, they will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations—and when that day shall come they shall be visited of the Lord of Hosts, with thunder and with earthquake, and with a great noise, and with storm, and with tempest, and with the flame of devouring fire. (2 Ne. 27: 1-2) [This is a future prophecy; it has not yet been fulfilled.]
And all the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision; yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion. (2 Ne. 27: 3) [This is a future prophecy; it has not yet been fulfilled.]
For behold, all ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye [all ye that doeth iniquity] shall cry out, and cry; yea, ye [all ye that doeth iniquity] shall be drunken but not with wine, ye [all ye that doeth iniquity] shall stagger but not with strong drink. (2 Ne. 27: 4) [This is a future prophecy; it has not yet been fulfilled.]
For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you [all ye that doeth iniquity] the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye [all ye that doeth iniquity] have closed your eyes, and ye [all ye that doeth iniquity] have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity. (2 Ne. 27: 5)
The First Act
Nephi next rewinds the chronology of the prophecy a bit to tell what it is exactly that they will reject that will cause the judgments of God to be brought upon them. He begins by prophesying of the First Act, which began with the calling of Joseph Smith, Jun. in the First Vision and the visits of angel Moroni, and the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon.
Okay, now let’s review Nephi’s prophecy of the First Act.
And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you [all ye that doeth iniquity] the words of a book, and they shall be the words of them which have slumbered. (2 Ne. 27: 6) [This is prophecy fulfilled; the Book of Mormon is “the words” of that book.]
And behold the book shall be sealed; and in the book shall be a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof. (2 Ne. 27: 7) [This is prophecy fulfilled; the Plates of Mormon—from which the Book of Mormon was translated—contained a sealed portion.]
Wherefore, because of the things which are sealed up, the things which are sealed shall not be delivered in the day of the wickedness and abominations of the people. Wherefore the book shall be kept from them. (2 Ne. 27: 8) [This is prophecy fulfilled; the Book of Mormon plates and its sealed portion has not been allowed to be with the people during these times of wickedness. The people referred to here are the people of the Lord, in other words, the church of God. As long as the church remains unsanctified, they won’t get the sealed portion.]
But the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book, which are the words of those who have slumbered in the dust, and he shall deliver these words unto another; but the words which are sealed he shall not deliver, neither shall he deliver the book. (2 Ne. 27: 9-10) [This is prophecy fulfilled; the account of its fulfillment is found here.]
For the book shall be sealed by the power of God, and the revelation which was sealed shall be kept in the book until the own due time of the Lord, that they may come forth; for behold, they reveal all things from the foundation of the world unto the end thereof. (2 Ne. 27: 10) [The first part of this is prophecy fulfilled; the Book of Mormon plates contained a portion that was sealed. Also, the words of the sealed portion have still been kept from the people. The second part of this is future prophecy; the sealed portion has yet to come forth.]
And the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the house tops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth. (2 Ne. 27: 11) [This is a future prophecy; it has not yet been fulfilled.]
Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken, the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein. (2 Ne. 27: 12) [This is prophecy fulfilled; the account of its fulfillment is found here.]
And there is none other which shall view it, save it be a few according to the will of God, to bear testimony of his word unto the children of men; for the Lord God hath said that the words of the faithful should speak as if it were from the dead. (2 Ne. 27: 13) [This is prophecy fulfilled; the account of its fulfillment is found here.]
Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to bring forth the words of the book; and in the mouth of as many witnesses as seemeth him good will he establish his word; and wo be unto him that rejecteth the word of God! (2 Ne. 27: 14) [This is prophecy fulfilled; the Book of Mormon was published with Three and Twelve Witnesses.]
But behold, it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall say unto him to whom he shall deliver the book: Take these words which are not sealed and deliver them to another, that he may show them unto the learned, saying: Read this, I pray thee. And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them. And now, because of the glory of the world and to get gain will they say this, and not for the glory of God. And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed. Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it. (2 Ne. 27: 15-18) [This is prophecy fulfilled; the account of its fulfillment is found here.]
Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned. (2 Ne. 27: 19) [This is prophecy fulfilled; Joseph Smith is the unlearned man who had the Plates of Mormon and translated them.]
Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do mine own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee. (2 Ne. 27: 20) [This is prophecy fulfilled; Joseph Smith, Jun. translated the Book of Mormon.]
Touch not the things which are sealed, for I will bring them forth in mine own due time; for I will show unto the children of men that I am able to do mine own work. (2 Ne. 27: 21) [The first part of this is prophecy fulfilled; the published Book of Mormon did not contain any of the sealed portion. The second part of this is future prophecy; the sealed portion has yet to come forth.]
Wherefore, when thou hast read the words which I have commanded thee, and obtained the witnesses which I have promised unto thee, then shalt thou seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read, until I shall see fit in mine own wisdom to reveal all things unto the children of men. (2 Ne. 27: 22) [This is prophecy fulfilled; Joseph Smith returned the sealed Plates of Mormon to the angel Moroni after the translation was complete.]
For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith. (2 Ne. 27: 23)
The Second Act
Nephi next fast-forwards his prophecy to the Second Act, when the Lord shall again speak to Joseph Smith, Jun. An unspecified amount of time has gone by since the First Act opened. Some of the apostate Christian Gentiles have converted and accepted the Book of Mormon and the seer, Joseph Smith, Jun., and have organized themselves into bona fide churches of God. The following is a description of the membership of the Gentile church of God at the time the Second Act opens. This prophecy does not refer to apostate (non-Mormon) Christianity.
And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words that shall be delivered him: Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men—therefore, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, yea, a marvelous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid. (2 Ne. 27: 24-26, emphasis mine) [This is a future prophecy; it has not yet been fulfilled. The Second Act will begin during a time of lip service worship and the following of men’s counsel among the people of the Lord (the church of God.)]
And wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord! And their works are in the dark; and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us? And they also say: Surely, your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay. But behold, I will show unto them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I know all their works. For shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, he had no understanding? (2 Ne. 27: 27) [The “work made” and “thing framed” referred here is the church of God. In the opening of the Second Act, the Lord is going to “turn things upside down,” which will not sit well with the church.]
But behold, saith the Lord of Hosts: I will show unto the children of men that it is yet a very little while and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field; and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest. And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. And the meek also shall increase, and their joy shall be in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For assuredly as the Lord liveth they shall see that the terrible one is brought to naught, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off; and they that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of naught. Therefore, thus saith the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. But when he seeth his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine. (2 Ne. 27: 28-35) [These are all future prophecies which will be fulfilled during the Second Act.]
Conditions Among the Gentile, Mormon, Restoration Churches When the Second Act Opens
And now, behold, my brethren, I have spoken unto you, according as the Spirit hath constrained me; wherefore, I know that they must surely come to pass. And the things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men, and especially unto our seed, which is a remnant of the house of Israel. (2 Ne. 28: 1-2)
At this point, from 2 Nephi 28: 3-32, Nephi gives a description of conditions among the membership of the church at the time the Second Act opens. A common interpretation of these verses by LDS is that they speak of the non-Restoration (apostate Christianity) churches, practices and doctrines among men at the time of the First Vision (opening of the First Act). Although it is true that there are aspects of these prophecies which were fulfilled during that time by those churches, there are other aspects which do not fit. This means that these are future prophecies that pertain to the Second Act.
List of Conditions
Condition 1: I, I am the Lord’s (2 Ne. 28: 3)
Condition 2: Contention among churches (2 Ne. 28: 4)
Condition 3: Contention among priests (2 Ne. 28: 4)
Condition 4: Teaching with their learning (2 Ne. 28: 4)
Condition 5: Denial of the Holy Ghost – not speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost (2 Ne. 28: 4)
Condition 6: Denial of the power of God – no more miracles or power of God manifested (2 Ne. 28: 5)
Condition 7: Preaching that men have the power of God (2 Ne. 28: 5)
Condition 8: Preaching to disbelieve miracles (2 Ne. 28: 6)
Condition 9: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die (2 Ne. 28: 7)
Condition 10: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God (2 Ne. 28: 8 )
Condition 11: Teaching false and vain and foolish doctrines (2 Ne. 28: 9)
Condition 12: Puffed up in their hearts (2 Ne. 28: 9)
Condition 13: Seeking to hide their counsels from the Lord (2 Ne. 28: 9)
Condition 14: Their works in the dark (2 Ne. 28: 9)
Notice, in particular, that conditions #13 and #14 are the same mentioned in 2 Ne. 27: 27. In these verses, the people who are seeking to hide their counsels from the Lord, whose works shall be in the dark are the people of the Lord, meaning the church of God. Remember, nearly the entirety of 2 Ne. 28 is talking about the “churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord,” and not just of general conditions among men.
Condition 15: Blood of the saints cry against them – they are murderers of saints (2 Ne. 28: 10)
In particular, condition #15 did not exist during the time of the First Vision (opening of the First Act.)
Condition 16: Gone out of the way; corrupted – apostasy (2 Ne. 28: 11)
Condition 17: Pride (2 Ne. 28: 12)
Condition 18: False teachers (2 Ne. 28: 12)
Condition 19: False doctrine (2 Ne. 28: 12)
Condition 20: Lifted up, puffed up and corrupted churches (2 Ne. 28: 12)
Condition 21: Rob the poor – take from the poor (2 Ne. 28: 13)
Condition 22: Fine sanctuaries, fine clothing (2 Ne. 28: 13)
Condition 23: Persecute the meek and poor in heart (2 Ne. 28: 13)
Condition 24: Wear stiff necks and high heads (2 Ne. 28: 14)
Condition 25: Wickedness, abominations and whoredoms (2 Ne. 28: 14)
Condition 26: Only a few are humble followers of Christ (2 Ne. 28: 14)
Condition 27: Humble followers of Christ are led by men (2 Ne. 28: 14)
Condition 28: Humble followers of Christ err in many instances (2 Ne. 28: 14)
Condition 29: Humble followers of Christ are taught by precepts of men (2 Ne. 28: 14)
Condition 30: Wise, learned and rich are puffed up (2 Ne. 28: 15)
Condition 31: The just turned aside for a thing of naught (2 Ne. 28: 16)
Condition 32: That which is good reviled against (2 Ne. 28: 16)
Condition 33: That which is good said it is of no worth (2 Ne. 28: 16)
Condition 34: Great and abominable church (2 Ne. 28: 18)
Condition 35: Kingdom of devil (2 Ne. 28: 19)
Condition 36: Anger and rage against that which is good (2 Ne. 28: 20)
Condition 37: Pacified members (2 Ne. 28: 21)
Condition 38: Carnal security (2 Ne. 28: 21)
Condition 39: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well (2 Ne. 28: 21, 25)
Surely condition #39 was not fulfilled during the opening of the First Act.
Condition 40: There is no hell; I am no devil, for there is none (2 Ne. 28: 22)
Condition 41: Ease in Zion (2 Ne. 28: 24)
Condition 42: We have received, and we need no more! (2 Ne. 28: 27)
Condition 43: Trembling and angry because of truth of God (2 Ne. 28: 28)
Condition 44: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! (2 Ne. 28: 29)
Okay, at this point let me quote Gold Five of Star Wars and say, “Stay on target. Stay on target!” By that I mean keep in mind we are still talking about members of all the Restoration churches, who trace their priesthoods and doctrines back to Joseph Smith, Jun. and the Foundation Movement. After the First Act with Joseph Smith, Jun. and the Book of Mormon (and other revelations), there is a long period of time that goes by, and then the Second Act begins, again with Joseph Smith, Jun. and again with additional scripture.
So here we find that Nephi is starting to get into the meat of the prophecy, namely, that these Restoration churches who profess (merely lip service) to have accepted the choice seer and the Book of Mormon are now incensed that the Lord is giving them another book of scripture.
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Ne. 28: 30)
Condition 45: Putting trust in man, making flesh their arm, hearkening to precepts of men (2 Ne. 28: 31)
Nephi makes it pretty obvious (to me, at least) that when this new scriptural record makes its debut, the leaders of the Restoration churches will denounce it, thus, anyone who puts their trust in these men, hearkening to them, will be accursed.
Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts. (2 Ne. 28: 32) [The Gentiles referred to in this verse are not the non-Mormon gentiles (apostate Christianity), but are the Mormon Gentiles. Remember, this entire chapter is speaking of the Restoration churches, which consist of converted Gentiles.]
A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and we don’t want no stinkin’ Brass Plates!
Moving on to 2 Nephi 29…
But behold, there shall be many—at that day when I shall proceed to do a marvelous work among them, that I may remember my covenants which I have made unto the children of men, that I may set my hand again the second time to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel; and also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel; and because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. (2 Ne. 29: 1-3)
The “marvelous work” is the Second Act, not the First Act. It is in the Second Act that the Lord sets his “hand again the second time” to recover his people. The Second Act is also called the Strange Act or Strange Work. So, Nephi is tipping us off here that we are still talking about the events that occur in the opening of the Second Act.
Notice that the Lord makes a distinction between “the words of your seed” and “my words.” Notice that “the words of your seed” are to go to “your seed,” whereas “my words” are to “hiss forth unto the ends of the earth” and to be “a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel.” Notice that it is because “my words shall hiss forth,” and not because “the words of your seed” shall hiss forth, that the Gentiles (the Mormon Gentiles, mind you) “shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.”
Consider that Nephi already gave us a description of both the Bible and the Plates of Brass:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.
And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?
And I said unto him: I know not.
And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles. (1 Ne. 13: 20-23, emphasis mine)
The Bible is similar to the Plates of Brass, except that the Plates of Brass have a lot more than what is in the Bible. This is why when the Mormon Gentiles are presented with the Plates of Brass, they will start screaming, “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.”
Modern LDS typically interpret this passage as referring to the appearance of the Book of Mormon and the reaction of apostate Christianity (non-Mormon Gentiles) to it. However, the Book of Mormon never fit in these verses, because the Book of Mormon was never presented as a Bible. Although some people have labeled it “the Mormon Bible,” most people understand that it is supplementary material and not meant to replace the Bible. Not so with the Plates of Brass. The Plates of Brass is a Bible on steroids, containing the prophecies of Joseph as well as the prophets and seers from his line (Ephraim and Manasseh). The Plates of Brass likely was the scriptural record of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and is the roots of the Nephite natural branch (see Jacob 5), which is why the Lord will set it up to be a standard to the house of Israel. It perfectly fits into this prophecy.
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. (2 Ne. 29: 7-8)
We LDS have become accustomed to interpret the Lord’s use of “two nations” as referring to the Jews and the Nephites. However, as the text is specifically talking about the Plates of Brass and the reaction of the Mormon Gentiles that they’ve already got a Bible and need no more Bible, these “two nations” are not the Jews and the Nephites, but the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel. The testimony of the Kingdom of Judah is the Bible, which proceeded forth out of the mouth of a Jew, whereas the testimony of the Kingdom of Israel is the Plates of Brass, which proceeded forth out of the mouth of Joseph and his descendants. (Remember, Joseph spent time in Egypt and knew Egyptian and the Plates of Brass were written in Egyptian. These plates, then, likely are Joseph of Egypt’s record, which is why they contain “the prophecies of Joseph.” See 2 Ne. 4: 1-3.)
Now, let’s skip down some more because once you get it in your head that these chapters are talking of Mormon Gentiles and of the First and Second Acts, and that during the Second Act the Plates of Brass will be revealed, things start to fall into place. For example,
And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews. (2 Ne. 29: 13)
In other words, the Jews get the Book of Mormon, and the Nephites get the Bible; and then the Nephites and the Jews get the Plates of Brass, (which are “the words of the lost tribes of Israel.”) The Plates of Brass is the next scriptural record to be revealed to the Mormon Gentiles.
Notice also that it doesn’t stop there:
For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it. (2 Ne. 29: 12)
So, all the nations of the earth have words of the Lord spoken to them and written up in records, and those words will go forth, too.
The deaf/blind/mistaken/murmurers shall hear/see/understand/learn the Book of Mormon…when the Plates of Brass go forth
And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine. (2 Ne. 27: 29, 35)
Remember those humble followers of Christ among the Mormon Gentiles? The ones that were led, that erred in many instances, that were taught by the precepts of men? Well, once the Plates of Brass go forth, the humble followers shall finally understand these and other prophecies of the Book of Mormon and their doctrinal errors will be corrected. In other words, “the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto [them,…] which [mysteries] are great and marvelous.” See D&C 6: 7, 11; also, see D&C 8: 11. This brings to mind Alma’s prophecy.
Alma’s Prophecy Concerning the Plates of Brass
And now, my son Helaman, I command you that ye take the records which have been entrusted with me; and I also command you that ye keep a record of this people, according as I have done, upon the plates of Nephi, and keep all these things sacred which I have kept, even as I have kept them; for it is for a wise purpose that they are kept.
And these plates of brass, which contain these engravings, which have the records of the holy scriptures upon them, which have the genealogy of our forefathers, even from the beginning—behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon.
And now behold, if they are kept they must retain their brightness; yea, and they will retain their brightness; yea, and also shall all the plates which do contain that which is holy writ.
Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls.
Yea, I say unto you, were it not for these things that these records do contain, which are on these plates, Ammon and his brethren could not have convinced so many thousands of the Lamanites of the incorrect tradition of their fathers; yea, these records and their words brought them unto repentance; that is, they brought them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and to rejoice in Jesus Christ their Redeemer.
And who knoweth but what they will be the means of bringing many thousands of them, yea, and also many thousands of our stiffnecked brethren, the Nephites, who are now hardening their hearts in sin and iniquities, to the knowledge of their Redeemer?
Now these mysteries are not yet fully made known unto me; therefore I shall forbear.
And it may suffice if I only say they are preserved for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God; for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.
O remember, remember, my son Helaman, how strict are the commandments of God. And he said: If ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land—but if ye keep not his commandments ye shall be cut off from his presence.
And now remember, my son, that God has entrusted you with these things, which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations.
And now behold, I tell you by the spirit of prophecy, that if ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken away from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind.
But if ye keep the commandments of God, and do with these things which are sacred according to that which the Lord doth command you, (for you must appeal unto the Lord for all things whatsoever ye must do with them) behold, no power of earth or hell can take them from you, for God is powerful to the fulfilling of all his words.
For he will fulfil all his promises which he shall make unto you, for he has fulfilled his promises which he has made unto our fathers.
For he promised unto them that he would preserve these things for a wise purpose in him, that he might show forth his power unto future generations.
And now behold, one purpose hath he fulfilled, even to the restoration of many thousands of the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth; and he hath shown forth his power in them, and he will also still show forth his power in them unto future generations; therefore they shall be preserved.
Therefore I command you, my son Helaman, that ye be diligent in fulfilling all my words, and that ye be diligent in keeping the commandments of God as they are written. (Alma 37: 1-20, emphasis mine)
As can plainly be seen from this prophecy, the Plates of Brass are indeed slated to go to “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon.” This coincides with the Lord’s words to Nephi that “my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth.”
Joseph’s Prophecy Concerning the Plates of Brass
Lehi spoke of Joseph of Egypt in 2 Nephi chapter 3, saying that “great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph.” One of those covenants was that the Nephite branch was “to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord” and would be brought out of darkness to light and out of captivity to freedom in the latter days, in the spirit of power. The means by which this would be accomplished would be that one of Joseph’s descendants would be a choice seer that would bring the other descendants of Joseph “to the knowledge of the covenants which [the Lord]” had made with Joseph’s fathers. This seer was going to receive, in the words of the Lord to Joseph, “power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins.” (See 2 Ne. 3: 4- 5, 7 and 11.)
Because Joseph Smith, Jun. did translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, modern LDS typically interpret the words “my word” (verse 11) as being the Book of Mormon. This, however, cannot be, as shown in the following verse:
Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord. (2 Ne. 3: 12)
Nearly two hundred years have passed since the publication of the Book of Mormon and still there are false doctrines, contentions and lack of peace among the fruit of the loins of Joseph! The Book of Mormon does not fulfill this prophecy because the Book of Mormon is not the scriptural record that is being spoken of here. The Plates of Brass is “that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins.” These words then, and this prophecy, is speaking of the Second Act, not the First Act.
Now, Joseph continued on with his prophecy of the Second Act up to and including verse 16. But he also prophesied of the First Act.
And the Lord said unto me also: I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman. And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it. And the words which he shall write shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins. And it shall be as if the fruit of thy loins had cried unto them from the dust; for I know their faith. And they shall cry from the dust; yea, even repentance unto their brethren, even after many generations have gone by them. And it shall come to pass that their cry shall go, even according to the simpleness of their words. Because of their faith their words shall proceed forth out of my mouth unto their brethren who are the fruit of thy loins; and the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith, unto the remembering of my covenant which I made unto thy fathers. (2 Ne. 3: 18-21, emphasis mine)
Here we are talking about a different record altogether. This writing is also going to be “the writing of the fruit of thy loins,” but this record is to go specifically “unto the fruit of thy loins.” Notice the Lord never calls these words, “my words.” Instead He says, “Their words shall proceed forth out of my mouth unto their brethren who are the fruit of thy loins.” The wording here is similar to the wording in 2 Ne. 29: 2; “the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed.”
The tendency of prophets—even those of a book as plain as the Book of Mormon—to jump around the chronology may confuse or obfuscate the real meaning of their prophecies if people fail to recognize the prophetic markers that indicate a different time, a different prophecy. People who do this will blend the First and Second Acts together and will miss that these prophecies are talking about multiple records coming forth. Once it is understood that the Plates of Brass are next, the Book of Mormon no longer needs to be used as a prophetic fulfill-all, like the square peg being forced into a round hole. Prophecy should not be forced. Either a prophecy is fulfilled every whit exactly as prophesied, or our interpretation is off and needs to be discarded. Also, by viewing these scriptures in this way, we can better apply the scriptures to ourselves, for, as Gentile Mormons, 2 Ne. 28 talks about us. Prophecy, then, becomes a tool whereby we might determine whether our personal conditions lump us with the many who have gone astray, or with the few, humble followers of Christ who are led and taught by the precepts of men and who err in many instances. It also allows us to more accurately read the signs of the times and determine the time of the re-appearance of the the Plates of Brass.