Journey through the Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 18 (Stone of Stumbling)

14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many among them shall stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.

Nephi had seen the truth of these words of Isaiah first hand. His father was cast out and persecuted because he bore witness of the coming savior of the world. Even before his mortal ministry, Christ was a stumbling block for many. And not many years later, Jacob would deal with Sherem, a dissenter among the Nephites who rejected belief in a coming savior. Thus, Isaiah’s words were not abstractions for Nephi.

For me, these words have also resonated deeply. Since I come from a Jewish family, I have seen how belief in Jesus is a stumbling block and a rock of offense. When I’ve mentioned the savior to family members or Jewish friends, the reaction is always hostile. When I was a teenager and investigating Christianity, I learned that even reading the New Testament accounts of his life is forbidden among observant Jews.

When I was recently in Israel, I saw Jehovah’s witnesses proselytizing in the street. I went up to them and talked to them in Hebrew expressing my faith in Christ. I had always heard his name said in Hebrew as Yeshua. The Jehovah’s Witnesses that I spoke to gently corrected me and told me that Yehoshua is the more accurate way to say it. Yehoshua means God Saves. Yeshua or the even more shortened name Yeshu are used to refer to Jesus of Nazareth to instead express divine disapproval. Yeshu in fact may be an acronym for Yimaḥ ש =Shĕmo ו = Wezikhro = meaning, May his name and memory be stricken out (thanks to Wikipedia for this).

Thus, not only is the life of Jesus a stumbling block for the Jews, his very name is one. Just as Isaiah prophesied, many of the very elect rejected him. Sadly, they have lost out on the eternal blessings of the Atonement and so many other wonderful things. And with the loss of the temple and temple covenants, they have lost their “sanctuary” in a very literal sense.

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