Posted by: isaiahsfan | January 2, 2008

1 Nephi 14–Who Belongs to the Church of the Devil?

A key passage in understanding the Great & Abominable Church which Nephi introduces in Chapter 13 is 1 Nephi 14:9-10.  This passage sets up a division between the two churches, making it plain that one must belong to one or the other. 

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.  And he said unto me: 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.

Frequent use of the words “in that day” throughout the chapter signal that the division of mankind into two “churches” will occur at the end times, or in our day.  Nephi preaches that the wars which come to pass among the nations occur because the wrath of God is beginning to be poured out upon the Great & Abominable Church.  This signals the beginning of the Restoration.  The G & A, as described here, is over-the-top horrible.  It is founded by the devil.  Its members are those who work wickedness and abomination.  Its specific purpose is to lead men to hell and to destroy their very souls.  This description might lead one to believe that the Church of the Lamb of God is fairly comprehensive.  If you must belong to one or the other, and you are not actively trying to lead people to hell, then what will your placement be? 

On the other hand, the numbers contained in the Church of the Devil are many.  This organization is worldwide, having great dominion over the earth and every nation and people.  The numbers belonging to the Church of the Lamb of God, although also found worldwide, are few.  In verse 14, the members of the Church of the Lamb are identified as “the saints of the church of the Lamb” and “the covenant people of the Lord.”  Many members interpret this to mean solely those who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Others are uncomfortable with such a severe cut-off point.

Whore of BabylonIn chapter 14 Nephi is introduced to “one of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb” whom we assume to be John the Revelator.  This Apostle has been given the commission to write about the Last Days.  Many of his writings deal with what Nephi has just seen.  John also writes about the Church of the Devil.  In the Book of Revelation, John calls this church “Babylon.”  In the past, LDS Church leaders have identified this with the Catholic church.  Remnants of this school of thought persist even in our Bible Dictionary (see BD “Babylon”) which opines: “In Revelation [14-21] Babylon probably denotes Rome, the great antagonist of Messiah’s kingdom; or possibly, apostate Jerusalem.”  Recently leaders have steered away from linking the Church of the Devil with any specific religion or organization. 

Some of you might think that exact identification of the Church of the Devil is unnecessary.  I disagree.  If we accept the premise that every human is either a member of Christ’s church or Satan’s, I would think it might be important to identify allies and foes in the war against Satan.  Are members of the Catholic church, for example, for us, or against us?  Should we embrace that friendly Methodist as a fellow Christian, or beware of his beliefs as though they have the potential to damage our souls and lead us to hell?  Should we give the benefit of the doubt in these cases, or are members of the Church of the Lamb of God few and far between?

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Responses

  1. Interesting thoughts, IF. I think the key sentence in your analysis is this: “Recently leaders have steered away from linking the Church of the Devil with any specific religion or organization.” And that probably understates the extent to which leaders avoid this rather controversial topic.

  2. I can easily imagine that many members of the Church are part of Babylon, while many, many catholics, muslims, Hindus could well be considered the just following God the best way they know how. I think literalizing “church” closes off much of its meaning. Life just isn’t that simple and “us” vs. “them” is not a helpful way to conceptualize the world

  3. Doc, I agree that we should see the word “church” here as meaning “group of people” rather than any specific religious organization.

    I keep going back and forth on whether it is better to see the church of the Lamb as containing many good people of all faiths, or to see it as only the covenant people. Perhaps this separation into two stark groups will not occur until much later in the “latter-day” period.

  4. The only categorization I would stress is that we should not assume that membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints equals belonging to the church of the Lamb of God. Assuming that the two are equivalent leads us to pridefulness and prevents us from reflecting on whether our desires allign with those of the church of the devil or those of the church of the Lamb of God. Unless we’re certain which side we are on, the question of who else belongs to the church of the Lamb of God may become a distraction.

    On a similar line of questioning, what does it mean to be an enemy to God? We will often hear members of the church kind of justifying their actions as “their natural man tendencies”, but the natural man is an enemy to God. Is an enemy only someone actively fighting against God, or are we being an enemy when we are hanging on to our sins or when we are unwilling to fulfill our assignments.

    Should all good people be included in the church of the Lamb of God? Our conclusions really won’t affect their judgment by God, but it will affect how we view them. If excluding them from this group leads us to look down on them, then the exclusion is detrimental (and we should reassess ourselves to see if we are really with God). If the exclusion of these good people instills in us a greater sense of urgency to rescue these good people who are not part of the church of the Lamb of God because they don’t know where to find it, the the exclusion is beneficial.

  5. Great comments, Nathan, thank you for joining us!

  6. Saying that all good people of every faith are included in the Church of the Lamb sounds no different than traditional Protestant doctrine that the Church of Jesus Christ is just an amalgamation of all “true believers”.
    But we know that a tangible Church of Jesus Christ does exist that you either are or are not a member of.
    However, I don’t think it is quite as simple as LDS vs. everyone else.
    Mainly I think the battle lines haven’t quite been drawn yet. There still exists middle-ground for many good people to stand on. But as time goes on…that middle-ground is going to get smaller and smaller.

  7. A treatment of this was over at Meridian today.

    “In other words, there are two great cities — Zion and Babylon — and we decide every day of our lives which to live in.

    This means that we cannot and must not identify the “great and abominable church” with one or another specific organization. It is all Babylon, and is found in innumerable organizations. In Nephi’s time, the word “church” did not exist in its modern sense; he probably used the Hebrew word yahad, which meant something like “unity” or “society” or “brotherhood.”

    The great and abominable system of things is above all a business devoted to the gratification of human pride; it is actually not so much a particular church as a state of the heart.”

    (GD Lesson by Breck England) Go read the full article!

  8. Question: in the 14th verse of 1st Nephi ch. 14
    when it say’s ” and I Nehpi 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 Lamb, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth. Does this verse refer to two separate groups of people? It appears that there are two different groups spoken of in this verse, and if so, can anyone distinguish them for me?

  9. This is what I think it means, Walden 3:5

    You’re right, this scripture indicates that the covenant people include 2 groups.

    saints of the Church of the Lamb: Members of the church;
    covenant people; the house of Israel whether LDS or not. It also indicates that this was the group (the House of Israel) which was scattered.

  10. I do appriciate all the resonable contributions regarding the subject of God almighty,especially as it relates to his relationship with mankind.However this subject matter requres more than an interlectual approch;infact, it demands and commands a more deeper revelation and aceeptation of God’s own point of view(the perfect will of God) rather than man’s limited judgement(self will).In a true quest for almighty God,and the perfect understanding which is his exclusive preserve :the first foundation must be faith;and faith is more of God than man.more believe than doubt.It is an unfortunate but an everlasting thruth that man can not subject God to change.

  11. “t is an unfortunate but an everlasting thruth that man can not subject God to change.”
    I agree with your comments up until this point. It is unfortunate that man tries to change God into his own image, but it is not unfortunate that he fails to, because it is precisely in God’s unchanging nature that we find our greatest assurance that we can place perfect faith and trust in HIm. I think sometimes we think we must attain to that kind of faith before we can merit His blessings, and we forget that faith is a divine gift , activated by sincere desire and humbly confessing our need. I hope my comments are helpful.

  12. I think it is pretty obvious why our leaders stay away from pointing out exactly who is of the Church of God and who is of the church of the devil. WHile I do not doubt their capacity to discern that perfectly, I think it would make the Saints self righteous to go around speculating or pronouncing such hideous judgments. We can judge fruits, we do not need to judge people.

  13. I believe all people that have Christ in their hearts are not of the devil, and that the church is figurative, for a body, or groups of peoples, or organizations. with that being said; we should focus our attention on those groups that have been set up and established for many hundreds of years in order to understand the Church of the devil. for example: Cecil Roads who taught an early form of Marxism is still making an impact on our government officials, as well as the Illuminati, the free Masons, and more recent organizations such as, the Builder-burg group, the counsel on foreign relations, the trilateral commission, the Federal reserve bank, etc. in order to see the head of the snake, we must look at the power structures of the world. Then we can begin to understand the organizations set up by the the devil and his advocates. All of these power structures lead back to Rome, so one could make the blanket statement that the Catholic Church is the great whore of the earth. However, that does not mean all of it’s people are of the devil, even though it’s organizations may well be.


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