“Ye Shall All Likewise Perish”

Brant Gardner

Narrative: This section continues the themes presented in chapter 29; but now, although Yahweh has been the speaker from the last verses of chapter 28 and all of 29, Nephi here speaks in his own voice, saying: “I would speak unto you.” There is also an apparent change in audience. Yahweh was apparently addressing Gentiles in the last days, chastising them for their hatred of the Jews. Nephi’s contemporary readers would see that admonition in perhaps a different light, so Nephi cautions his people as “Jews” to be humble. Even though their words will have great effect in the latter days and even though they are children of the covenant, nevertheless, they “shall all likewise perish” unless they actually “keep the commandments of God.”

It is a stern reminder that, in the last days, the destruction will not be apportioned according to whether one is Jew or Gentile, but rather according to whether one is righteous or wicked. If the Nephites do not follow Yahweh, they will be destroyed. If the Gentiles do not follow Yahweh, they will be destroyed.

Culture: Jacob’s speech (2 Ne. 6–11) can be read as a message of unification for the Gentile and Jews among Nephi’s people. Given that context, Nephi’s injunction here takes on immediate relevance for his contemporary audience. The warning against feeling pride because of the Jewish covenant is not a general call for humility, but an immediate necessity. I hear the Jewish Nephites being told not to flaunt their right of inheritance over the Gentile Nephites and being warned not to expect immunity from destruction just because of their lineage. In the context of a mixed community, such a reading would have a much more immediate impact than a general call to humility.

It is also important that, even though the Nephites as a political entity will cease to exist, both their Jewish and Gentile descendants will remain mixed with the Lamanites. They will be the ultimate remnant of the people of Nephi, the means by which the promise will be fulfilled that their words will serve a redemptive role in the last days.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2