25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
There are not any significant textual variants.
Textual Influence on Samuel the Lamanite
One particularly important textual influence may be in how Samuel the Lamanite employs Lehi’s words. Samuel says, “ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free. He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you” (Helaman 14:30–31, compare 2 Nephi 2:26-27).
Textual Influence on Alma 42
A pattern that has come up several times throughout our discussions is the relationship between Alma 42 and 2 Nephi 2. As I focused on 2 Nephi 2:25-27 one phrase that I was drawn to was the phrase “the punishment of the law” in verse 26. That is the only time this phrase appears in scripture. But the words “punish” and “law” appear together in fourteen verses in the Book of Mormon; the two chapters with the highest frequency are 2 Nephi 2 and Alma 42 (three each).
The connection between these chapters has started to make more sense for me, considering the topic that Alma explicitly states at the beginning of Alma 42: “And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery” (Alma 42:1).
So Alma turns to (among other sources – I’ve also written on his use of Abinadi) Lehi. I’m going to come back to verses 26-27, but first I want to come back to a discussion led by Sheila on 2 Nephi 2:10. In this verse we see the phrase, “Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement.” Sheila points out the general difficulty of following the syntax and then provides a summary as follows: “The most basic point I can see here is that the law is tied to punishment, and the atonement is tied to happiness. It’s interesting that it doesn’t sound like an inherent relationship; rather, it’s something that’s been “affixed”—presumably by God?”
It is interesting that we don’t have any specification of who is affixing this punishment. Is it a law of nature, something out of the control of God, or something that he is in charge of? In Alma 42:16, 18 and 22 the same idea of “punishment” being “affixed” and interestingly, just like in 2 Nephi 2:10 the passive voice is used (no specific indication of who is affixing the punishment).
Regardless, the idea of punishment being affixed seems crucial to Alma’s line of reasoning with Corianton. In Alma 42:16-22 Alma ties the idea of punishment with law. Corianton struggles to understand how it is just for God to condemn (punish) the sinner. Alma says, “Look, a punishment has been affixed, and laws are in place.” This leads to the punch line tying back to 2 Nephi 2:26-27: There is a “punishment of the law” (2 Nephi 2:26) that is going to act on people. Again it’s interesting that it isn’t an individual (God) who acts on them, but another force, “the law” that does the acting (although Alma 42:26 intimates that it is God who is the controlling force).
This is a very long build up to what I think is an important punch line. Alma’s continual allusions to 2 Nephi 2 may be most connected to the basic premise of verses 26 and 27: “[Men] have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day…they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil.”
In other words, “Corianton, you have been worried about the justice of God in condemning the sinner, but you have misunderstood. God does not condemn sinners. Men act for themselves, they are free. The law condemns sinners, but that is not God’s doing, that is up to the basic actions that each individual faces.” Ultimately man’s agency eliminates that argument that God is not just.
The word “punish” and its variants occurs 35 times in the Book of Mormon. The chapters where its use is most concentrated are 2 Nephi 2 (4 times), Alma 30 (7 times) and Alma 42 (6 times). I think there are some potentially very interesting threads to connect regarding Rico’s post on Korihor’s critique of the Nephite theology. Hopefully this is something else we can continue to discuss in the comments below!
The phrase “fulness of times” (appearing twice in the Book of Mormon both times in 2 Nephi 2, although see also 2 Nephi 11:7) appears to refer (in the Book of Mormon) to the first coming of Christ. However, as the phrase is used in Ephesians and the D&C it seems to refer to the latter-days. This juxtaposition has made me wonder if the phrase in 2 Nephi 2 actually refers to the Second Coming. If so, what implications would this have?
<UPDATE: Rico pointed out that the Book of Mormon actually uses the phrase “Fulness of time” whereas Ephesians and the D&C use “Fulness of timeS.” Is this an important distinction? Why or why not?>
I am embarrassed that I have not written anything about 2 Nephi 2:25. I hope that my friends in the seminar will add to this glaring weakness and share some insights they have been holding back all seminar waiting for the discussion of this vital verse. If we were to continue in exploring connections between Alma 42 and 2 Nephi 2 the first 12 verses of Alma 42 could be seen as an expansion of this one short verse.