2 Nephi 2  Power to act for themselves

2 Nephi 2 illustrates the principle that we are happiest when we “act for ourselves” instead of being “acted upon”. God is happy because he is a being who acts. He is not a victim of circumstance!

How to find and identify principles in the scripture block: Once found, teachers can then use questions to engage the students minds to have a discussion of the principle involved. This helps them see the principle illustrated in their lives to the point that they can then act appropriately. The more students of the gospel see how a principle works, the more they will be able to identify them for themselves and “see” ways the principle can be put into action in their lives.

When reading scripture in preparation for a lesson, a great question a teacher should ask is, “What problem/challenge/tendency/weakness in my life (or the lives of my students) does this block of scripture identify and solve?”

Example: 2 Nephi 2:14-16

“And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon…Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.”

At issue is whether I act in my life as an agent, one who can have an influence on others and my environment, or whether “life happens” to me-. If I am “acted upon,” I am not in a position to have control over my life; I become a victim. Lehi wanted his sons to be men that chose to “act for themselves.” Lehi knew that God acts, and that is the being He wishes us to be!  I must be a master of my own agency so that I will act and not be acted upon.

How do I exercise my agency? 

What role does the Atonement of Jesus Christ have in how I make choices & how I exercise my agency?

At issue is whether or not I utilize my opportunities to MAKE A CHOICE= to ACT.  This is the life God wants me to live: to be free to make the right choices (see 2 Nephi 2:28).  Sometimes people get things mixed up when it comes to agency. They think that agency is our goal. Agency is a method to get us where we need to be, but it is not the destination. Our goal is to make the right choice! Elder Dallin H. Oaks put it this way:

Elder OaksThe test in this postwar mortal estate is not to secure choice but to use it—to choose good instead of evil so that we can achieve our eternal goals. In mortality, choice is a method, not a goal. 1

We should NOT choose captivity and death- verse 27.

How are young people held captive?

  1. My mom & dad hold me captive by having me go to school/church/etc.
  2. I am held captive by my parents in that they make me do chores/earn money/curfew, etc.
  3. I am held captive by my financial circumstances
  4. I am held captive by my physical appearance
  5. I am held captive by the football coach
  6. Laman & Lemuel say, “we would be happy if we had our ‘stuff’” – 1 Nephi 17:21- the funny thing here is that Laman & Lemuel do not “see things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13) – for of all their wealth is in Babylon by now!  This is humorous!  They do not see the truth because their hearts are set so much on their lost riches. The scriptures/Spirit/Prophets help us with our vision- so that we see things clearly.

Q1: What is it in 2 Nephi 2 that teaches me about this circumstance?

Q2: Or rather, what captivities in your life could be a freedom by simply altering the choices that you make?

Q3: What opposition will you face?

Q4: How does understanding this opposition affect your decision?

Ways Illustrate the circumstance:

  1. I once had a student comment, “I am held captive by my physical appearance”.  I had this presented to me years ago in class where I was teaching a group of college aged students. A young woman was lamenting her appearance, and felt that it was keeping her “captive” from her desires to find a man that she could marry.

What does this chapter (2 Nephi 2) teach me about this scenario?  Look at verse 16- what enticements have affected choices you have made that have affected your appearance?  What changes or choices need to take place in this individual for her to receive joy? (verse 25)

Lehi would encourage you to “stop playing the victim, to rise up and ACT!” – see verse 28-29, see also 2 Nephi 1:14

  1. Perhaps a student would state, “I am held captive by the rules put in my life by my parents”. A great question to ask would be, “How could these rules be a freedom, simply by altering one or two things you do?” Another question to ask would be, “How does your view of these rules affect your freedom?” or, “Are there others that you know in this circumstance that do not see things this way? How are they different?”
  2. A great illustration from the scriptures of one who is in captivity, yet is able to “act for himself” is Joseph, who was sold into Egypt (Genesis 37-45). Even though he was in a tough situation, he held himself together and was able to make decisions that would benefit others. He did not claim that he was a victim, nor did he make excuses. He looked for opportunities to act. He made a difference.

One thing that I have noticed over the years is that most of us can be free simply by altering the way that we view our lives. When we see things clearly, we are better able to “act for ourselves.” By seeing our circumstances the way the God sees them, we can truly be free!


1. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Weightier Matters, BYU speeches, February 9, 1999.



About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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