Our Sunday School lesson included Nephi's visions recorded in chapters 12 and 13 of First Nephi. We talked briefly about the Great and Abominable Church of the Devil.
Verse 26 of Chapter 13 refers to the time after the testimonies of the Apostles of the Lamb go forth that there was a formation of "that great and abominable church" which took "away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away." Could this refer to what was begun at the Council of Nicaea? The council was called by the Emperor Constantine to resolve differences and standardize the church teachings. No priesthood authority, just political authority involved; which I find interesting because Elder H. Verlan Andersen, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy from 1986 to 1991, wrote a book titled The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, in which he posits that this church is not a church in the way we think of a church (worshipping Jesus Christ or other deity) but a system of government that enslaves its people in an attempt to make sure that "one soul shall not be lost." (Moses 4:1) To have a religious council called by an Emperor with no spiritual authority seems just wrong. To have so much in-fighting among the leaders of the church is definitely wrong. It is obvious that they were in apostasy and wandering lost without the priesthood. This governmental interference with religious affairs continues to the present.
Nephi is told that "there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil;" (1 Nephi 14:10) Now where this gets interesting to me is verse 14: "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, [two separate groups] who were scattered upon all the face of the earth;"
One day as I was reading this I recognized the mention of two groups of people: the saints of the church of the Lamb, which could refer to all those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ and live honorable lives within the limits of their knowledge; and the second are those with greater knowledge, temple blessings and priesthood authority, in other words "covenant people of the Lord".
This passage is significant to me because while we were homeschooling our children we associated with many Christian families, good people, virtuous and righteous, living the commandments to the best of the knowledge, and I often wondered if they would be counted in the Church of the Lamb in the last days. According to this passage it appears to me that they will be.
The revelation to Nephi continues with prophecy about the wrath of God being poured out and wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds of the earth, which obviously describes the latter days.
We are coming to a crucial time in the history of the world where we will have to declare our allegiance to either the Church of the Lamb, or the Church of the Devil. There are only two teams in this competition. The great thing is we know who will win! I'm wearing the jersey of the winning team! No matter how difficult the final moments of the game are, I am on the correct team and victory is assured.