Among many things God showed Nephi in his vision of the end from the beginning was the prevalence of precepts of men among latter-day saints—God’s people “in Zion” (2 Nephi 28:24). A double jeopardy of this is that distorting a truth of God not only negates it but also robs people of the power to experience the spiritual growth that was intended to be gained from living it.
Nephi pronounces a “wo” or curse on those who knowingly or unknowingly labor under such misapprehensions: “Wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!” (2 Nephi 28:26). His parallel wording shows how God’s power and gift of the Spirit are neutralized when men follow their own version of the truth.
Even the few remaining “humble followers of Christ” among us, Nephi sees, “are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men” (2 Nephi 28:14). He faults “the wise and the learned” among God’s end-time people. “Puffed up in the pride of their hearts,” these “preach false doctrines” and “pervert the right way of the Lord” (2 Nephi 28:15).
Adding to the prolongation of this injurious condition is a tradition of societal tolerance and fear to offend—of not calling a spade a spade. On top of that, our default emotional response of not wanting to believe these things of ourselves, only of others, compromises any attempt to even come to terms with a reality that God rewards with “woes” and “hell” (2 Nephi 28:15–16, 24–32).
As a case in point that bears repeating, if God’s “great and marvelous work” that Isaiah predicts is defined in the scriptures as the end-time restoration of the house of Israel—the Jews, Ten Tribes, and Lamanites of today—but many claim that “work” was the restoration of the gospel and priesthood through the prophet Joseph Smith, how will the future work be accomplished?
Aren’t those who double down on this manmade precept saying, “The Lord and the Redeemer hath [already] done his work, and he hath given his power unto men” (2 Nephi 28:5)? Aren’t they—by negating God’s word—in reality “fighting against Zion”? And if, based on this and other scriptural distortions, they censure those who believe the truth, is that not persecution?
On the other hand, won’t God empower those who believe what the scriptures actually say though they be persecuted for it? “Hear the word of Jehovah, you who are vigilant for his word: Your brethren who abhor you, and exclude you because of my name, say, Let Jehovah manifest his glory, that we may see cause for your joy! But it is they who shall suffer shame” (Isaiah 66:5).
These will rejoice indeed: “You shall be called the priests of Jehovah and referred to as the ministers of our God. You shall feed on the wealth of the nations and be gratified with their choicest provision. Because their shame was twofold, and shouted insults were their lot, therefore in their land shall their inheritance be twofold and everlasting joy be theirs” (Isaiah 61:6–7).