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A Great Division Among the People

After citing the prophecies of Isaiah, Nephi warns of a “great division among the people” that occurs just before God pours out his judgments on the wicked and spares those who repent in fulfillment of Isaiah’s words (2 Nephi 30:10). Literary features in the Book of Isaiah show how this end-time division manifests itself symbolically in the form of (1) two women—one an adulterous wife, the other a repentant wife; (2) two “cities”—one a wicked city, the other a holy city; and (3) two covenants—one the Covenant of Life, the other a Covenant with Death (Avraham Gileadi, The Literary Message of Isaiah, Hebraeus Press, 2012 ed.).

But this division doesn’t happen at once. In times of wickedness, for example, God permitted a “lying spirit” to deceive his people (cf. 1 Kings 22:22–23). Paul predicts that mass deception will ultimately overtake the world: “Because they received not a love of the truth so that they might be saved, God will send them strong delusion so that they will believe a lie—that they all might be damned who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10–12). Paul’s advice, in that instance, is to “stand fast and hold the traditions you have been taught, whether by word or by our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

As anciently, antichrist types today are overtly or covertly promoting lies and hate that foster division among the people. To Korihor, an antichrist of his day, Alma said, “Thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and ye have put off the Spirit of God that it may have no place in you; but the devil has power over you, and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God” (Alma 30:42). Of course, these scriptures are depicting telestial persons or worse when they say, “These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” (Doctrine & Covenants 76:103).

A Book of Mormon type of a great division happens near the end of Nephite history: “The people did harden their hearts . . . and they did smite upon the people of Jesus; but the people of Jesus did not smite again. And thus they did dwindle in unbelief and wickedness, from year to year, even until two hundred and thirty years had passed away. And now it came to pass in this year, yea, in the two hundred and thirty and first year, there was a great division among the people. . . . And it came to pass that they who rejected the gospel . . . did not dwindle in unbelief, but they did willfully rebel against the gospel of Christ” (4 Nephi 1:34–39).

Politics and religion thus parallel each other. As an integral part of God’s great and marvelous work, a great division occurs at the end of the world: “The time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil” (1 Nephi 14:7).

All is nevertheless by God’s design in order that the wicked may fill up the measure of their wickedness and the righteous the measure of their righteousness before the coming of the Lord to institute his reign of peace on the earth. Says Isaiah, “[He comes] to sift the nations in the sieve of falsehood; with an erring bridle on their jaws [he will try] the peoples” (Isaiah 30:28). Of the wicked he adds, “They are not a discerning people. Therefore their Maker shows them no mercy” (Isaiah 27:11); but of the righteous, “You shall be firmly established through righteousness; you will be far from oppression and have no cause to fear” (Isaiah 54:14).

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