“The Great and Abominable Church Founded by the Devil”

Monte S. Nyman

The church that Nephi observes is singular, and is defined as “most abominable above all other churches” (v. 5). It is the angel, not Nephi, who makes this statement, and also gives the reason for making the statement; “which (the abominable church) slayeth the saints of God,” tortures them and binds them “with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity” (v. 5). The angel’s statement answers the question of “what the abominable church does?” As the church gradually apostatized, it incorporated the Greek culture, called the hellenization of Christianity. The Roman government eventually made Christianity their state religion, thus bringing the Saints into captivity by the iron kingdom of Rome. Thus the political leaders directed the church rather than divinely appointed leaders who would have received revelation from God. Of course, as Nephi saw, the devil was the source of the apostasy and the political captivity (v. 6). Nephi was also told by the angel that the desires of the great and abominable church were gold, silver, all manner of precious clothing, and harlots (v. 8). Such desires again describe the apostasy. The angel said the reason for destroying the saints of God, and bringing others into captivity, was to get “the praise of the world” (v. 9). Nephi later describes priestcraft in similar terms: to “get the gain and praise of the world” (2 Nephi 26:29). Priest-craft is Satan’s counterpart of the priesthood of God. Rather than seeking the desires of the world, the priesthood holder’s eye should be “single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:19). If this is not his goal, he too could be guilty of priestcraft.

Two more questions are now pertinent. The first, why would God allow an apostasy, his saints to be slain and tortured, and brought into captivity? The answer is, “the agency of man.” President David O. McKay stated: “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct our lives is God’s greatest gift to mankind” (Conference Report, October 1965, 8). The second question is: “What does God do to compensate for man’s wrong choices that encroach upon God’s gifts to future generations? The things shown and told to Nephi answers this question.

Book of Mormon Commentary: I Nephi Wrote This Record