What does Nephi mean when he uses the word Church?
Nephi states, “Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up… But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof. (2 Nephi 28:12, 18 – emphasis added)
Nephi also says this about these churches: Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark. (2 Nephi 28:9)
Seeking deep to hide their counsels from the Lord could really have to do with any organization or individual trying to hide their evil actions from mankind so as to continue taking advantage of others. From Nephi’s perspective, his use of the word “church” may have different meanings for him than it does for us.
The term church (Hebrew qahal or edah; Greek ekklesia) had a slightly broader meaning anciently than it does now and referred to an assembly, congregation, or association of people which bonded them together and commanded their loyalties. Thus the term was not necessarily restricted to religious associations and, in fact, at Athens was used to denote the legislative assembly of government. 1
So, in Nephi’s usage, Hollywood, the Columbian Drug Cartels, the Pornography business, all of these seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord. They all fight against Zion, working to destroy the Saints of God, and fighting against all that is good and true in the world today.
- Stephen Robinson, Early Christianity and 1 Nephi 13-14, in First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1988),177–91.