In chapter 26, Nephi outlines the future: Christ's visit to the Nephites, the destruction of his people, etc. These prophecies are more specific than we sometimes realize. The table I posted last week shows that this chapter comes from Isaiah 29. In case you didn't notice that, here's how Nephi divides up Isaiah 29:
One of my books has an entire chapter on the three versions of Isaiah 29 that we have thanks to latter-day revelation, but I'm not going to get into that much detail here.
Let's look at 2 Nephi 26:16--For those who shall be destroyed [the Nephites] shall speak unto them [those who have dwindled in unbelief] out of the ground [from the plates buried in Cumorah] and their speech shall be low [Heb. bowed down in homage, humbled, or in mourning] out of the dust [as low as they can go], and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit [Joseph Smith would speak their words to Oliver Cowdery in familiar Biblical terms].
This verse is quite interesting in light of Oliver Cowdery's recitation of what Moroni told Joseph Smith. "He [Moroni] said this history was written and deposited not far from that place," referring to Joseph's home.
Key point: The Book of Mormon was not written thousands of miles away and then transported to New York.
2 Nephi 26:17 For thus saith the Lord God: They shall write the things which shall be done among them, and they shall be written and sealed up in a book, and those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not have them, for they seek to destroy the things of God.
This is exactly what Mormon explained in Mormon 6:6:
And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave unto my son Moroni.
The Nephites gathered in the land Cumorah; Mormon made this record; he hid the other records in Cumorah (which Oliver described and Brigham Young later reported); and he gave "these few plates" to Moroni. [Later, of course, Moroni would return to the hill Cumorah in New York and bury these plates in the stone and cement box from which Joseph would recover them. Oliver Cowdery described the box in more detail than Joseph did.]
Key point: The Book of Mormon was written in the same land where the final battles took place, just as Moroni told Joseph Smith (as reported by Oliver Cowdery).
2 Nephi 26: 19 And it shall come to pass, that those who have dwindled in unbelief shall be smitten by the hand of the Gentiles.
20 And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches...
Nephi's descendants would be smitten by the Gentiles, whom he identifies as building up many churches. This is an interesting detail because when we compare the Spanish conquerors in Central America with the English conquerors in North America, which of the two built up many churches? The Spanish were Catholic; the British were protestants who built up many churches: Episcopalian, Methodist, Calvinist, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, and many other denominations.
Some people might claim this verse refers to physical churches they built, and both the Catholics and the Protestant denominations built lots of physical churches. But look at verse 21:
21 And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice.
This is an apt description of the fights between the various protestant denominations. Among Catholics, one parish doesn't content with another, and they're all subject to the Pope. By contrast, the Great Awakenings in the U.S. led to tremendous envying, strifes and malice. Look at how Joseph Smith described what he observed where he was growing up:
a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions. (Joseph Smith-History 1:6)
Key point: Joseph Smith and Nephi were describing the same Gentiles, in the same location--western New York.
Key point: Nephi had seen Joseph Smith and described how he would translate the record, using the seer stone and a scribe.