But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles? (2 Nephi 29:4)
Nephi isn’t afraid to point out the rank ingratitude he’s seen in vision concerning Gentile treatment of the Jews. He saw the anti-Semitism of centuries, labels of “Christ-killer” and other dehumanizing propaganda, the accusations of plotting for world domination, the ghettos, the concentration camps, the suicide bombings, and more. (“…have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but you have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them.” (2 Nephi 29:5)) He points out that the Gentiles forget that Jews were also the ones who took the gospel to the Gentiles and who worked so hard to write the word of the Lord.

I think another application of this verse is our tendency to take for granted the efforts of the Saints in the early days of the Restoration. We fault them for failing to live the law of consecration and are we any better? It is a good thing that we tell and retell the stories of their sacrifices and persecutions and victories so that we can remember their travails and labors and pains and diligence to bring the church out of obscurity.

Yet another application of this verse is our tendency to take for granted the efforts of our faithful church teachers. Too often we speak slightingly of the teachers who read the lesson for the first time during sacrament meeting the hour before they have to teach it, and then we fail to recognize teachers who have really put a lot of work into preparation that we don’t see. The verse speaks of the teachers’ “travails,” “labors,” “pains,” and “diligence” in language evoking the difficulty and agony of women giving birth. For diligent teachers everywhere, this metaphorical language strikes a chord, and learners would do well to be aware of it.

Too often I’ve taken my teachers for granted, and it was only when I got a church calling to teach primary when I was 18 that I began to appreciate all the great teachers I had. I remember Brother Kuntzelman, who taught me in primary. (When he was released, I seriously considered indicating I was “not in favor as manifested” of the person who was called to take his place.) And Sister Imam and Sister Gallagher who were dynamite primary choristers. And Sister Ellefson, a stalwart adviser in Young Women. And Sister Kearney, with whom I had one-on-one conversations about the scriptures in our 16-18 year old Sunday school class when no one else came. And my mom, who was incredibly influential as my seminary teacher all through high school. And Brother Mortensen, one of my institute teachers, who would blithely fling his tie over his shoulder as a signal to batten down the hatches in preparation for a breeze of speculation forthcoming so that we would know not to take those things as seriously as the other things he was teaching us. And Brother Victor Ludlow who opened my eyes to the meaning of Isaiah. And David R. Seely who taught the Old Testament. And Richard Draper, who opened my eyes to the Book of Revelation and helped me parse Paul better. And Brother Merrill who assigned me to read the first half of the Book of Mormon in two weeks. It would take a long time to name all the good teachers I’ve had in the church. And behind each lesson is so much labor.

How about you? Will you tell me about some of the great teachers you’ve known? What stories of the early Saints have impacted you the most? And what stories of the ancient Jews help you remember and appreciate their travails?
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