Npehi’s brothers argue that Jerusalem cannot be destroyed because Israel is God’s chosen people.
Nephi’s response retains its startling power and must have been deeply upsetting to his brothers who were deeply ingrained in the mindset of those in Jerusalem. Nephi tells them that God is no respecter of persons, and that a people is chosen because of faith and righteousness. Moreover, when a nation stops to be faithful and righteous, they are no longer chosen. Israel is God’s because Israel worships God.
23 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, spake unto them, saying: Do ye believe that our fathers, who were the children of Israel, would have been led away out of the hands of the Egyptians if they had not hearkened unto the words of the Lord?
33 And now, do ye suppose that the children of this land, who were in the land of promise, who were driven out by our fathers, do ye suppose that they were righteous? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
34 Do ye suppose that our fathers would have been more choice than they if they had been righteous? I say unto you, Nay.
This message was sufficiently upsetting, but what Nephi said in addition was even more startling and disturbing.
35 Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. . . .
40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made; wherefore, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt.
Thus, anyone who is righteous is favored by God. All flesh is esteemed as one in God’s eyes. To an Israelite raised with the belief that his people were uniquely chosen and set apart, these would have appeared to be deeply heretical thoughts. Even today, some Jews believe that they have a special or unique Jewish soul and that they are in some way distinct from those not of Israel. The Book of Mormon repeatedly refutes this false doctrine. God loves all his children. One is not chosen by birth, but by righteousness.
No wonder Nephi’s brothers reacted to this teaching with murderous rage.