As I read 1-2nd Nephi I always wonder why God deals with people as large groups and makes promises to them that are fulfilled over centuries and even millennia. To me these promises are not motivational because they are too remote. Yet, they comprise a large portion of those books. In your opinion why does God covenant to groups of people and make promises to them that are fulfilled over long periods? Also, why should we care, particularly if they don’t apply directly to our lives or generation
After we receive consolation concerning our own salvation, we see to it our families are taken care of. The Abrahamic covenant deals directly with the blessings of posterity. Not just that the recipient will have posterity, but that they will rise up and call him blessed (see Proverbs 31:28 and Abraham 2:10). This latter portion is a partial fulfillment of the promise made in the Doctrine and Covenants that those who lead and govern with godly principles have dominions that flow unto them. This blessing, that family ties remain firmly bound throughout eternity (on principles of righteousness), is so ponderous that I regularly get questions about the fate of families where a loved one goes wayward (for example see here and here). This is the worry of many faithful parents.
We see one such parent in 1st Nephi. Lehi twice sent his sons to Jerusalem, and both times there was a bitter division between his sons. On the heels of this, Lehi received a vision of his posterity. He learned that Laman and Lemuel were exercising their agency in such a way as to remove themselves from the covenant path. But Lehi was given a salve to ease the sting. Descendants of Laman and Lemuel would not be held accountable for the false traditions they would be reared under. The Lord would continue to reach out to reclaim them, until they blossomed as the rose under the fulness of the gospel. These promises might seem remote to the reader, but to father Lehi who saw this vision, it was intensely personal. When Nephi finally understood the vision, and the fate of his posterity, it physically wore him out.
Jacob shares this family principle in connection with the Jews. He asks, “how is it possible that [the Jews], after having rejected the sure foundation [Christ], can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?” (Jacob 4:17). He answers with Zenos’ story of the olive tree. Remember Lehi mentioning the olive tree as part of his vision? It’s the same message all over again. Sure, the house of Israel is a “stiffnecked and gainsaying people”, but still the Lord “stretches forth his hand all the days long” to reclaim them (Jacob 6:4). And why would anyone labor for such an undeserved end? The Lord wants these branches brought back to the root that they may flourish. Nephi understood this old pattern and shared an example where this happened in the past. “Behold, [God] 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.” (1 Nephi 17:40). Because of the covenant made with Abraham, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob, God reached out to their descendants, even hundreds of years later!
As Zenos and Jacob testified, we are seeing this play out in these last days. The descendants of Joseph, because of the covenant God renewed with him, are being reclaimed and gathered in again. They being brought back to the covenant path, so they in turn can go out and gather the other descendants of Israel. Again, this is a family story! It might not be a tremendous blessing to you now, but go to the temple and receive the promises made to the fathers; have children of your own, with all the worry and love that comes with it; ponder on your own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Do this, and the day will come when you will grow in your love and concern for all your family, no matter how great the temporal divide. You will not care how many centuries or millennia distant it may be, you will thank God for the divine tentacles that reach out to reclaim all your children.