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1 Nephi 1

Careful study of 1 Nephi will allow the reader of the Book of 
Mormon to better understand what is happening in the rest of 
the book. Glossing over this important chapter will lead to 
the same treatment of the rest of the book, a superficial 
reading that is not so profitable. Therefore, analysis of 
1 Nephi is presented alone, notwithstanding the conglomeration
of this chapter with the first seven in Come Follow Me. The 
reader of this posting will understand why this chapter stands 
alone and should be considered separately for purposes of study.

The endnotes to this posting citing to over 112 Old 
Testament scriptures related to just the first chapter
of Nephi. These references attest to the need to understand
the Bible to understand the Book of Mormon.

1 Nephi 1

The following outline of 1 Nephi presents the book as a chiasmus. This outline is somewhat forced because the details of the book do not nicely fit in this outline. But it serves a useful purpose as it gives a different perspective on the style employed by Nephi. Others have proposed different formulas behind Nephi’s work, but some of these are so convoluted as to be useless.1 Perhaps, Nephi was sufficient schooled in they chiasmus style of writing that he more or less employed it as his format.

A. Nephi writes, Lehi’s warnings to people, ch. 1

B. Emigration and return for plates, ch. 2–ch.5

C. Return for Ishmael, ch.6–ch. 7

D. Lehi: tree of life, ch. 8–ch. 9

E. Nephi re the Savior, ch. 10

Dʹ. Nephi’s tree of life, ch. 11–16:5

C’. Sons marry with Ishmael, ch. 16:6–8

B’. Liahona, ship, and emigration, 16:9–ch.18.

A’. Nephi’s teachings to brothers and Jews, ch. 19–22

The first chapter2gives historical information as the vehicle for the message. First, there were many prophets who warned the people of the coming Diaspora if they did not repent, Lehi among them. These prophets were mocked and executed as traitors. Lehi was certainly aware of the risks of his declamations against the wickedness in Jerusalem, a wickedness that Lehi warned would result in their destruction. Taking such a position was traitorous, so Lehi knew his life was in danger on account of his warnings. Nephi records Lehi having a vision that led to his family’s emigration in the face of death. This departure was essential to but the family’s spiritual and temporal salvation. The tenor carried by vehicle of events demonstrates how Lehi and Nephi received their spiritual confirmation that the decision to flee was correct. In its broad scope, the meaning carried by the events in this chapter has application to any individual seeking salvation: being aware, being prophetic,3listening to prophetic warnings, and departing from evil so the blessings of eternal life—the fruit of the tree of life—can be enjoyed. A narrower application from the tenor of events is how one can recognize the Spirit in their everyday lives.

The first three verses of 1 Nephi, written thirty or forty years after the events Nephi chooses to relate,4are important. They emphasize the role knowledge and learning plays in the operations of the spirit and, therefore, Nephi’s qualification for the role he played as a leader of the righteous who followed him rather than the wicked who followed Laman and Lemuel. His qualification was his learning and knowledge. He had learning because his parents could afford it, and his learning was anchored in proto-Judaism, his belief in the plan of salvation and the role of the Son of God as the savior of mankind.5

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days. Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.6

Background.

Understanding the setting, the mise-en-scène, is essential to understand the tenor of events. The name Zedekiah was a title given to a man named Mattaniah when he was installed as the king of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar. Notwithstanding the fact that this Zedekiah owed his position to Nebuchadrezzar, he was still loyal to the pharaoh, Necho. His allegiance to Egypt and Jewish nationalism incensed Nebuchadrezzar. Jerusalem had had a history of rule by various foreign powers at the time, but there had never been an instance when it had been destroyed as was being prophesied at this time. Thus, although there was precedent for being enslaved, there was no precedent for the dramatic prophecies that were being made by the righteous. Ezekiel considered Zedekiah a “profane wicked prince,” not the rightful king.7

There were many prophets who prophesied concerning the impending disaster for Jerusalem, so Nephi’s record is not unique. The book of Jeremiah says the same thing, but adds more detail than the abbreviated mention in the first chapter of Nephi. Jeremiah recorded information about a particular group of people, the Rechabites, who were a righteous and politically potent force in Jerusalem.8These were people that kept the commandments to the extent that the Lord told them that they would “never want a man” to stand before the Lord.9Jeremiah records that there were many prophets preaching to the people, as did Jeremiah, himself. Jeremiah, though, had some political clout that kept him from being killed even though he was tried for his life.10Jeremiah had access to the king and the higher officials of the city. He was an important and notable person even though he was not in the religious hierarchy. So Jeremiah was not a prophet in the sense of occupying some hierarchal office, but he is called the prophet by Daniel.11

There were others, in addition to Jeremiah, who are characterized as prophets, albeit false prophets, like Hananiah, who, prophesying that Jerusalem would not be conquered, mocked Jeremiah.12The prophetess at the time, the one that the leaders of the city/nation sought for counsel was Huldah,13not Jeremiah or any of the other prophets who were prophesying for the Lord, the Lord’s prophets being the ones the Jewish leaders wanted to kill. Here is what the leaders told the king about dispatching Jeremiah:

Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt. Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he [is] in your hand: for the king [is] not [he that] can do [any] thing against you. Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that [was] in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon [there was] no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.14

The word prophet is not used in Jeremiah or the other books of ancient scripture as the term is understood today. Prophet meant a person whose understanding of the scriptures enabled that person to use the scriptures, which were understood to be the voice of the Lord, as the basis for preaching the consequences of actions inconsistent with the holy writ. The prophet hears/reads/understands/preaches the word of the Lord as understood from the scriptures..

There a many examples, of course, of prophets in the Old Testament. Abraham is the first in the Old Testament to be called a prophet, but it is the context of Abimelech taking Sarah from Abraham.15Aaron is called a prophet for Moses,16but Moses is characterized as something more than a mere prophet who only interprets dreams.17In fact, Moses chastens Aaron somewhat when he complains that there were individuals in the camp of Israel who were prophesying, “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, [and] that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”18

Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18 give a test for a false prophet who preaches a different god, characterizing such a person with the words dreamer of dreams. The test is whether signs or wonders come to pass, but that test must be somewhat truncated because some bone fide prophets predicted things that did not come to pass as that prophet wanted, Jonah being an example. Jonah did not anticipate the repentance of the Assyrians, which saved them from destruction.19

By the time of Samuel, circa 1050 BC, prophet had replaced the narrow term seer in common usage among the people,20so prophet was used to refer to rather ordinary followers of the Lord. Chapter ten of 1 Samuel tells of the prophesied encounter Saul would have with a company of prophets returning from worship with whom he, too, would prophesy.

At the time of David there seems to have been an official position, as 1 Kings contains many references like Nathan the prophet. During Jeroboam’s time, circa 900 BC, the term is used as a more general term, for example, an old prophet from Bethel21as opposed to the prophet who appointed Jeroboam to be king,22Elijah refers to himself as the only prophet for the Lord while the prophets for Baal numbered one-hundred fifty;23Jezebel’s persecution of the faithful left only Elijah. Obadiah hid one hundred prophets in caves so they would not be killed by Jezebel.24When the kings of Israel and Judah are fighting against Syria, there are hundreds of prophets consulted before the devastating battle; in fact, it was four hundred of the king of Israel’s prophets predicting success to the single prophet of the Lord, Micaiah, who foresaw destruction.25

Ezra differentiates between Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, who characterized himself as a farmer26even though both of them prophesied to the people.27Jeremiah was ordained to be a prophet in the pre-existence,28but he was not the so-called prophet during Jerusalem’s downfall.29Jeremiah laments the recognized prophets of his day who twisted the word of the Lord,30and Ezekiel characterizes a prophet as a watchman who warns of a coming army of destruction.31Ezekiel says the people find the words of the prophet pleasant, but usually do not do them.32Amos says he was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but he became fed up and prophesied.33Micah castigates the people for taking as their prophet the individual that tells them what they want to hear,34

Clearly, the term prophet has a general meaning that should be applied to all who follow the Lord’s commandments and exhort others to do the same. Prophet is applied to one who knows the will of the Lord, is faithful, and stands as a warning watchman.

Jeremiah was such a person, because he attempted to get the people to keep the commandments and repent, but he suffered many deprivations on account of what he was saying, because what he was saying was not politically popular at the time.

Jeremiah is contrasted with the prophet Hananiah. Hananiah took a position that was contrary to that espoused by Jeremiah, Hananiah’s being a very popular position. In the process of the interaction between Jeremiah and Hananiah, the public debate, Hananiah ridiculed Jeremiah, broke the yoke Jeremiah was wearing about his neck and proclaimed that the yoke of the Babylonians would be broken the same manner. Jeremiah’s response was one of hope for the result espoused by Hananiah, but Jeremiah prophesied otherwise; indeed, he predicted that Hananiah would die that same year, a prophesy that came to pass.

The point is, however, that Jeremiah was subjected to a lot of abuse for his public positions. For whatever reason, however, Jeremiah had enough clout that the leaders were not able to dispose of him.

Such was not the case with Urijah, a prophet who fled for his life, and, obviously, Lehi, who fled for his life. They had to flee or die. Urijah fled to Egypt, but he was pursued, brought back to Jerusalem, tried, beheaded, and buried with the graves of the common people.35Lehi was faced with the same reality, so he fled, too, but he went into the desert with his family rather than Egypt or some other established location where he could be found.

Lehi’s Involvement.

Lehi’s involvement in the political/religious upheaval in Jerusalem at the time is not explained in much detail, but there is enough said to draw some conclusions about the sort of person he was and understand the nature of the vision he had.

Lehi was an important, well-to-do person, a person important enough that his sons were recognized by Laban, a man who appears to have been the military governor of Jerusalem because of his command of so many fighting men. Concerning Lehi, Hugh Nibley has written:

Lehi (c. 600 BC) was a righteous, wellborn, and prosperous man of the tribe of Manasseh who lived in or near Jerusalem. He traveled much, has a rich estate in the country, and had an eye for fine metalwork. His family was strongly influenced by the contemporary Egyptian culture. At a time of mounting tensions in Jerusalem (the officials were holding secret meetings by night), he favored the religious reform party of Jeremiah, while members of his family were torn by divided loyalties. One of many prophets of doom in the land, “a visionary man,” he was forced to flee with his family, fearing pursuit by the troops of one Laban, a high military official of the city. Important records that Lehi needed were kept in the house of Laban (1 Ne. 1-5; CWHN 6:46-131; 8:534-35). This closely parallels the situation in Lachish at the time, as described in contemporary records discovered in 1934-1935 (H. Torczyner, The Lachish Letters, 2 vols., Oxford, 1938; cf. CWHN 8:380-406). The Bar Kokhba letters, discovered in 1965-1966, recount the manner in which the wealthy escaped from Jerusalem under like circumstances in both earlier and later centuries (Y. Yadin, Bar Kokhba, Chaps, 10 and 16, Jerusalem, 1971; cf, CWHN 8:274-88).36

Lehi’s actual departure from the city of Jerusalem was sometime after the commencement of Zedekiah’s reign, which commenced in March 597 bc, using the modern calendar. It was probably during the first year of Zedekiah’s reign, a ruler Ezekiel never recognized as the rightful king, which he was not; instead; Ezekiel characterizes him as a “profane wicked prince.”37It is likely, therefore, that Zedekiah’s ascension to the throne gave impetus for the righteous to flee the city. On August 14, 591, Ezekiel had a revelation38where he saw the wickedness of Jerusalem and its impending destruction. The catalogue of sins Ezekiel records describes the wicked state or the Jews four years before the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in August 587 BC.

The first chapter of 1 Nephi says that Lehi had a vision or dream39in which a book plays a part,40a book discussed below, and after the vision he prophesied to the people in Jerusalem of their impending destruction,41but he was mocked for it42and eventually had to flee for his life.43This vision parallels other visions by both Ezekiel and John the Revelator, and the experiences of Moses at the burning bush44 and Joshua45are comparable.

The introduction to Lehi’s vision is straightforward. It presents an abbreviated statement of the political conditions at Jerusalem during the first year of Zedekiah’s reign:

For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.46

The next part of the description of this vision is somewhat problematic, because it is so abbreviated:

Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.47

Where did Lehi go when he went forth? Was this an experience he had while he was out among the people in Jerusalem prophesying like the other prophets? What was the nature of this all-his-heart prayer; heart is a metaphor used at the time to describe the center of reason? Did, Lehi, in other words use all the powers of his mind to warn the people? Why does it say he prayed to the Lord, meaning the Son of the Father? Could it be that Lehi’s prayer was what he was doing in service of the Lord—his preaching—rather than the solitary prayer envisioned by the modern-day reader?

Some background about the religious condition of the people is important Lehi was a proponent of proto-Judaism. Proto-Judaism means the religion of the Jews before the reforms of King Josiah. King Josiah’s so-called reforms were cemented during the Diaspora resulted in an edited Bible preserved in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew bible, which is the basis of the King James Version. These reforms included removal from the text of the Bible references to a Godhead composed of three individuals, one of whom was the Savior of mankind. So those following this true doctrine during the late Seventh and Sixth Century BC were forced into the shadows, becoming outcasts. The practices of these outcasts remained in the background until the advent of Christ.48Nephi identifies these plain and precious things taken from the Bible as the teaching“that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world.”49

Jacob 7 relates the conflict between Jacob and Sherem. Sherem is an anti-Christ who preached that no one could know the future, so the hope for salvation through the Savior was vain. This teaching, which may be understood as a mirror image of what happened during King Josiah’s reign, provoked Jacob to come out of retirement to fight the pernicious doctrine that was swaying the Nephites. Jacob prevailed in this attack on the gospel of Christ even though the same battle had been lost in Palestine.

Nephi’s anchor for his learning, the gospel, using learning and knowledge, quoting Sir Francis Bacon, as “a rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man’s estate.”50Sir Francis was prescient enough to foresee the great disadvantage of learning if wrongly applied, what he called “vanities in studies, whereby learning hath been most traduced. . . . first, fantastical learning; the second, contentious learning; and the last, delicate learning; vain imaginations, vain altercations, and vain affectations . . . .”51

Nephi applied his learning the way Sir Francis hoped it would be applied. Using the gospel—proto-Judaism in Nephi’s case—as the springboard for the application of his learning. Nephi knew polytheism was, but he was prescient enough to foresee that the teaching of this true doctrine in the mise-en-scène of his day adumbrated destruction. Nephi’s account of Lehi’s prayer says this by means of allusions suing metaphors, the pillar of fire that led the children of Israel during the Exodus and a rock:

And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.52

An allusion “seeks, by tapping the knowledge and memory of the reader, to secure a resonant emotional effect from the associations already existing in the reader’s mind.”53The allusions used by Nephi are ineffective unless the writer and reader share the same knowledge about the historical or literary figures, events, or objects. Readers who does not understand the allusion, therefore, need to educate themselves; otherwise, it is like skipping over a word that is not understood, which means the reader does not understand. So the two illusions in the foregoing quote, starting with the rock, will be considered in turn.

Nephi’s favorite prophet, perhaps, was Isaiah, because he quoted extensively from him. The rock is a metaphor used by Isaiah to refer to the Savior when he prophesied the imminent destruction of Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom, because they had abandoned the Savior and, as a result, were destined to death during Isaiah’s time just like the Jews at Lehi’s time; indeed, after castigating the “drunkards of Ephraim” who had abandoned reliance on the Lord, Isaiah turned to the Jews in Jerusalem:

Therefore hear ye the word of the Lord, ye afflicted men, and ye princes of this people that are in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with Hades, and agreements with death; if the rushing storm should pass, it shall not come upon us: we have made falsehood our hope, and by falsehood shall we be protected: therefore thus saith the Lord, even the Lord, Behold, I lay for the foundation of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious stone, for its foundations; and he that believes on him shall by no means be ashamed. And I will cause judgment to be for hope, and my compassion shall be for just measures, and ye that trust vainly in falsehood shall fall: for the storm shall by no mans pass by you, except it also take away your covenant of death, and your trust in Hades shall by no means stand: if the rushing storm should come upon you, ye shall be beaten down by it.54

Isaiah had used this rock metaphor earlier when he prophesied against the Northern Kingdom without mention of Jerusalem. The connection between the metaphor and the Lord is explicit on account of the hemistich poetic style.

You have forgotten God your Savior;

you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress.55

The tenor of Isaiah’s rock metaphor is the Savior, the same metaphor the Savior used when he told Peter that He, the Savior, was the rock upon which His church would be built.56 Joseph Smith was told that by the Savior that following the Savior was the rock upon which the Church was built.

Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and remember that they shall have faith in me or they can in nowise be saved; And upon this rock I will build my church; yea, upon this rock ye are built, and if ye continue, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.57

The Lord declares to Joseph Smith that He is the stone of Israel and He says, “[T[hose] that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall.”58

The pillar-of-fire allusion is to the pillar of fire that led the children of Israel in the darkness during the Exodus,59darkness, itself, has metaphorical meaning. The daytime cloudy pillar is always associated with the pillar of fire. The pillar of fire appears during the daytime just once in the story of the Exodus when it stood between the Israelites and the pursuing Egyptians at the Red Sea “so that the one came not near to the other.”60

The challenge for the reader is unpacking these metaphors by disregarding the vehicle that carries the tenor of meaning expressed. If one does not appreciate the fact that these are metaphors, one gives the vehicle literal meaning and thereby misses the message. For example, what does one thinks when the listener hears that someone is as happy as a clam simile. “I’m as happy as a clam.” The listener will ask, “Are clams happy?” because they do not understand the simile.

The pillar of fire metaphor is a misunderstood metaphor. For example, Cecil B. DeMille portrayed the same disjunction between the vehicle of the metaphor and the meaning intended—the metaphor’s tenor—in his two productions of “The Ten Commandments.” DeMille felt compelled to make the pillar of fire that led the Israelites a litteral event. DeMille’s 1923 silent-version of “The Ten Commandments” is laughable because it portrays the pillar of file as a wall of fire. This version can be viewed at

61DeMille did the same thing when he produced “The Ten Commandments” again in 1956. An excerpt from DeMille’s 1956 movie distributed by Paramount Pictures showing the pillar of fire can be seen on YouTube,

.

Interestingly, DeMille employed Arnold Friberg to paint the pictures used by DeMille to direct the film. Friberg’s paintings preceded and were duplicated in the film. An interview of Friberg can be found at

 

What we have in the DeMille’s 1956 movie was far more impressive than his 1926 version because he had better music, really great music, and he used Arnold Friberg’s artistic conception of the pillar of fire. The majesty of the presentation in the 1956 movie is more of a wow than a laugh, but it still underscores the failure of either Frieberg (who is an artist, not a scriptorian) or DeMille, a movie-maker, to understand the tenor of the metaphor.

The Book of Mormon video produced by the Church in 2019 about Lehi’s dream is similar to DeMille’s movies: imaginative depictions of what the producers of these videos thought Nephi said, but naive hardly describes the superficiality of the depiction of the pillar of fire upon the rock while Lehi prayed. The kindest characterization of this particular video is obfuscatory. A more accurate description of this video is the word misleading because it, too, gives literal meaning to the vehicle of the metaphor. An excerpt of this scene in the Church-produced video can be viewed here,

62

Nephi would be surprised by the Church’s video depicting something he did not intend by the pillar-of-fire metaphor. In fact, Nephi uses this metaphor to describe the bright separation between the righteous and the wicked. He later explains his meaning when he alludes to the pillar of fire in his explanation of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. Nephi says the division between the wicked and the righteous—Pharaoh’s army and the children of Israel or Lehi’s family and the wicked in Jerusalem—is like a flaming fire ascending to heaven.

[O]ur father also saw that the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brighteness of flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end.”63

Lehi’s dream did not involve a flaming fire ascending to heaven: a pillar of fire. Indeed, neither Lehi nor Nephi saw a pillar of fire in the vision of the tree of life, so the foregoing simile to a flaming fire ascending up to God, a fire that divides the wicked from the righteous, is Nephi’s view of the pillar of fire employed while he explains to his brothers the tree of life vision and the necessity of their flight from Jerusalem, the sending fire dividing the righteous from the wicked. The tree of life reflects proto-Judaism, what would be called the gospel today, and was ridiculed by the wicked in Jerusalem. So this metaphor about the division of the wicked from the righteous is exactly consistent with the effect of Lehi’s prayer. He had to separate himself and his family, righteous followers of proto-Judaism’s hope in a Savior, from the wicked in Jerusalem who were killing people like Lehi as traitors because the kept preaching the Diaspora on account of the wickedness of the people. The allusion to Moses and the children of Israel is perfectly apt.64

The import or tenor of the pillar of light is the light it sheds on the Savior, who is represented by where the light dwelt, on the rock. This fire is, in other words, the witness of the Holy Ghost, who is represented by light, of course, because the Holy Ghost gives light so the believer can see. Lehi was a believer in the future advent of the Savior. He was enlightened by the fire or, colloquially, the baptism of fire.65Nephi says so. Nephi says his father “saw and heard much” as a result of this pillar of fire on the rock. Lehi’s enlightenment was about the reality of the Savior’s future advent.

One must be careful not to give these metaphors literal meaning by focusing on the vehicle rather than the metaphor’s tenor. The Hebrew philosophical paradigm does not separate the idea of something from the thing itself: they are one and the same.66So one is not safe to conclude that there was an actual pillar of fire that led the children of Israel any more than one can conclude there was an actual pillar of fire that dwelt upon a rock before Lehi.

The reason for using pillar as another metaphor in this compact message is because a pillar is the symbol of strength. The pillar of belief, in Lehi’s case, and the pillar of belief for all followers of Christ. The source of this strength is the enlightenment that comes from one of the three members of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost, the doctrine of which was ridiculed by the people in Jerusalem when Lehi fled.67

Lehi’s teachings about the rock the people were ignoring was inconsistent with the vox populi. The people in Jerusalem mocked the ability of prophets to see into the future was wrong,68but Lehi undertook, like other prophets at the time, to set the people in Jerusalem straight, and it was his unpopular teachings that endangered his life because the people saw them as traitorous.

Nephi’s retrospective casts Lehi as a prophet like Moses. Lehi, like Moses, leads his family on a journey through the desert to a promised land. He was, again like Moses, led by the day and night presence of the Lord. Like Moses, Lehi had to contend with rebelliousness. These retrospective allusions to Isaiah and the Exodus, archetypical references common in the scriptures, is a signal that these references are not to be taken literally. It is the tenor of these metaphors that ist to be understood.

Lehi’s confirmed realizations as a result of his praying—his life was in danger because of his belief in Christ and his traitorous warnings about the destruction of Jerusalem—left him in a stupor. He was distressed by his realizations, what is described as being overcome with the spirit.

And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.69

Lehi was overcome with the spirit, lower case in all editions of the Book of Mormon until 1921,70which is conjoined with the things which he had seen. This hendiadys gives explains the what the Spirit is because the second part of an hendiadys is the twin of the first part, opening up the meaning of the first part by the sense of the second. The operation of the Spirit is lost upon many who focus only on the first part of this rhetorical device. Many think of the Spirit as some ineffable, supernatural experience rather than the effects of gaining knowledge and insight through work and experience.This perception is the result of many misapprehending the meaning of Elijah’s still-small-voice metaphor71and revelations to Oliver Cowdery about translating the Book of Mormon.72 This much is certain. The producers of the Church video in 2019 portraying Lehi on his bed wholly missed the sense of what Nephi intended. The video is, again, a dramatic production by movie producers, not scriptorians, and it is misleading. An excerpt of this video can been seen here:

 

 

The knowledge of the situation at Jerusalem, the wickedness of the people, and his increased understanding as a result of his experience must be what caused him to be overcome. He falls asleep and dreams. He has the vision that Ezekiel and John the Revelator report they had:

And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God. And it came to pass that he saw One73descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day. And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament. And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth;74

This account of God on His throne is not as fulsome as the account by Ezekiel, but the parallel is unmistakable. The fair inference from what is said in Ezekiel is that it was the Lord’s voice that spoke to Ezekiel, but that is not explicit,75and it must be borne in mind that the Hebrew philosophical paradigm does not differentiate between one’s actual voice and the thought of a voice.76

The presentation of the book to be read or eaten, as described in Ezekiel, parallels Lehi’s experience. The book eaten by Ezekiel was written within and without, a figure of speech employed to emphasize the general wickedness and abomination of the people during Lehi’s day.77This book and its consumption is, of course, figurative.

[A]nd the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read. And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord. And he read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem—that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.78

Of course, Lehi would have been filled with the Spirit, meaning the enlightenment that comes from knowledge, after reading a book. But there was more in this book than that described by Ezekiel, “lamentations, and mourning, and woe.”79The tenor of this book metaphor is the endowment of knowledge it provided—like a temple endowment?—that assured Lehi that those who follow the gospel will achieve exaltation:

And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!80

There can be no question that individuals like Moses, Joshua, Ezekiel and Lehi, inter alia, were great and righteous and had had, using today’s terms, their inchoate temple endowments.81The natural consequence of knowing about the Lord’s atonement and the fact, therefore, that one can be exalted through the Lord’s great sacrifice would and did cause Lehi to rejoice:

And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God; for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him.82

Lehi’s rejoicing is because of the things the Lord had shown him, but it is unclear whether it was the Lord or His messenger who did the showing, and how, exactly, this enlightenment came. Of course, this differentiation does not matter from the Hebrew metaphysical paradigm, so it makes no sense to consider it.83

There are some close parallels between the circumstances at Jerusalem and the vision of the tree of life that militate in favor of making the tree of life vision a part of the experience Lehi had before he left Jerusalem. Nephi does, perhaps, record that his father saw the vision of the tree of life while he was in the wilderness during the emigration,84so it is, perhaps, appropriate to place the vision of the tree of life chronologically after the departure from Jerusalem, but it could have been a vision he had seen before, as well. After all, the first verse of chapter nine is the segue from Lehi’s story to Nephi’s account,85so the antecedent of all these things may refer to everything preceding this transition. And Hebrew metaphysics can make the thinking-about and the speaking-of the same as experiencing. So the experience cannot be set in the Valley of Lemuel with certainty.

Identifying when Lehi’s vision of the tree of life occurred is complicated by Lehi’s version of the vision. He recounts the juxtaposition of three significant events that probably would have happened before Lehi left the city. First, Lehi is wandering in the wilderness and eventually finds the tree of life. Second, Lehi wants his family to partake of the same blessings he experiences, all of whom do with the exception of Laman and Lemuel. Finally, there is a general description of the setting of the vision, including the river, the rod of iron, the mists of darkness, the many people seeking the fruit of the tree and the spacious building filled with mocking people, who shamed many who were able to taste of the fruit. This was the situation that existed at Jerusalem. Lehi’s version of the vision places emphasis on the effects of life in the city and the inevitable waywardness because of social pressure and situation. Lehi had to leave; hence, the wandering in the wilderness where, ultimately, Lehi is able to find the tree of life and partake of its fruit.

Two things are important about the account of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life leading to the conclusion that this vision may well have been given before the emigration. First, it is abbreviated, only thirty six verses.86Second, Nephi and Lehi focused on different things. “[A]nd so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.”87If this vision was before Lehi fled with his family, he would have been swallowed up in the pride and mocking and danger of the people in the city or building, as it was represented, so he would have missed things that Nephi observed, because Nephi’s perspective was different, so he naturally emphasized different things.

One thing is certain. If Lehi had this vision before he left Jerusalem, the meaning was unmistakable. Jerusalem was a wicked place where the righteous, even if they did partake of the fruit of the tree of life for a time, would not be able to maintain their righteousness. The righteous had to flee into the wilderness to maintain their righteousness, so this vision may have convinced Lehi to leave Jerusalem avoid all other cities during his flight. It would be logical that this is something that he did not share with his family until after the departure, but it is something that, if it had served as a part of the impetus to flee, he would share with his family when they were in an environment where he could safely share it with them, and, of course, he would want to share it so they could appreciate the necessity of the flight and why they could not return.

There are specific scriptures in chapter one that bear note. Nephi characterizes himself as born of goodly parents,88a word not commonly used today. The Oxford English Dictionary gives several definitions for this word:

(1) Of good appearance; good-looking, well-favoured or proportioned; comely, fair, handsome; [c. ad 1000–1886]

(2) Notable or considerable in respect of size quantity, or number (frequently with mixture of the sense of definition 1); [c. ad 1205–1881]

(3) Of good quality, admirable, splendid, excellent or well suited for some purpose, proper, convenient (often with the implication of definition 1); [c. ad 1385–1871]

(4) gracious, kind, kindly-disposed. [c. ad 1700’s]

None of these definitions, particularly, carries the sense of being good in the sense of righteous; rather, the word connotes good in the sense of worldly acceptance or accommodation. a well-to-do person who would be socially respected.89It may well be that Lehi was a figure in society, as it were, who had not always been the epitome of righteousness. He may have gone through a conversion which made him more attuned and spiritual at the impending destruction of Jerusalem than he had been during earlier times in his life; indeed, a somewhat more spiritually sterile life during the youth of Laman and Lemuel may explain their close mindedness or, put another way, why they were so hard hearted.

Jeffrey R. Chadwick has written an interesting analysis of Lehi and his heritage that gives plausible explanations of not only his profession but where he probably lived in Jerusalem at the time of his departure.90Chadwick concludes “that Lehi’s house was located in the city quarter . . . called Mishneh . . . . [and] that Lehi’s land of inheritance was . . . about fifty kilometers (thirty miles) north of Jerusalem in the former tribal area of Manasseh . . . .”91The area in Jerusalem where Lehi probably lived was settled after 724 BC, so Lehi’s ancestors must have relocated there before 701 BC or so.92

There can be no doubt that Lehi, notwithstanding what may have transpired in his earlier life, was a worthy and faithful follower of the Lord at the time of these visions because, inter alia, he was privileged to have a vision remarkably similar if not identical with the vision more fully set forth on John’s book, Revelation. Verses eight through fifteen and the observation in verse nineteen are the abbreviated account of this vision, the 1981 version of verse nine for the first time capitalizing the word One to make the word a clear reference to Jesus Christ, the only one in John’s apocalypse who is able to open the book.

The book seems to have been given him by the Lord. The he who delivers it in Ezekiel is male; hence the change in verse nine from one to One, which occurred with the publication of the 1981 version, is probably appropriate.

The book Lehi was asked to read is similar to the book John describes in Revelation,93and it is a lot like the book Ezekiel was commanded to eat—read—at the beginning of his ministry.94The book is a metaphor for the revelation Lehi received, an apt metaphor because so few at the time would have been able to read a book, just like so few would have been able, because of their wickedness, to receive revelation. Lehi probably saw the vision of the world just as other prophets before and since. The information from the vision of the world would have provoked Lehi to preach a full helping of repentance to an unreceptive audience. Like so many prophets before him, his choices were limited, so he had to flee.

The description of the book Lehi saw is abbreviated when compared the accounts in Ezekiel and Revelation, both of which describe a book written on the verso and recto, indicative of overflowing content, both blessing and condemnation. Consistent with Nephi’s abbreviation of his father’s account, the book receives somewhat superficial treatment, so it is elucidating to review of the description of this same event by Ezekiel and John the Revelator..

Verse eighteen through the first part of verse twenty are important allusions to the wickedness of the people and their apostasy—not believing in Christ—immediately preceding the Diaspora.95

[Lehi] went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard. And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified [1] of their wickedness and their abominations; and [2] he testified . . . of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.

And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away.96

The wickedness and abominations of the Jews is described more fully by Ezekiel. They were religious in the sense that they were committed to the rituals of the Jewish faith, but they allowed syncretism to affect their daily lives.97They would attend to the rituals of worshiping God the same day they sacrificed their own children to the gods of the Assyrians.98They were proud.99They were given to violence.100They gave obeisance to pomp.101They ignored former prophets by rationalizing that their prophecies did not apply to them.102They promoted false prophecies and flattering words.103They were unwilling to accept personal responsibility for their sins.104They did not keep the Sabbath or other commandments.105They whitewashed their sins, appearance being more important than substance.106The women would dress suggestively so they could seduce men.107The leaders of the people secretly engaged in lewd and lascivious conduct.108Carnal desires—pride, abundance, idleness and disregard of the needy and poor, including the sins of Sodom—were so prevalent that Jerusalem was worse than Sodom.109Their political alliances and internal political policies were based on expediencies and economic advantage rather than correct principles.110Pornography, adultery and associated sins were problems.111The religious leaders objectives were self-gratification and the accumulation of riches rather than the foundation of right principles.112

Lehi’s second declamation that infuriated the Jews was about the Savior’s future birth and redemption of mankind. This was contrary to the vox populi at the time, because the Jews had prostituted the religion so that they did not believe in the then future coming of Christ to save mankind.113Notably, Laman and Lemuel believed like the Jews in Jerusalem.114This sort of belief system is called anti-Christ in the Book of Mormon.115

Verse twenty is the predicate for understanding the operation of the Spirit described in the first three verses of chapter two. So this last verse of chapter one will be considered with the first three of chapter two,

Endnotes

  1. See e.g. Noel B. Reynolds, “Nephi’s Outline,” BYU Studies, vol. 20, no. 2 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1980). https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byusq/vol20/iss2/2
  2. As described in the introduction, the first five chapters of 1 Nephi can be viewed as the first section of Nephi’s first book.

    What are now chapters one through five constitute what was the first chapter in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. The printer’s manuscript for the beginning of what was chapter one in the 1830 version is at https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/printers-manuscript-of-the-book-of-mormon-circa-august-1829-circa-january-1830/5#x045c04e6-7a08-4eb8-85b5-8ae99b0cadce

  3. As explained below, the word prophet has a special meaning in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon. The word denotes one who uses his knowledge to interpret and proclaim the meaning of the scriptures. Of course, a prophet has to know the scriptures well enough that the meaning can be declaimed.
  4. 2 Nephi 5:28,33–34.
  5. Proto-Judaism is explained in conjunction with Lehi’s prayer described three metaphors: the pillar, the fire, and the rock on which the pillar of fire dwelt.
  6. 1 Nephi 1:1–3 (bolding added). The bolding in this quote is to emphasize the use of knowledge, which is going to be equated to the operations of the Spirit as study of this book progresses.
  7. See Ezekiel 20:25.
  8. Jeremiah 35.
  9. Jeremiah 35:19.
  10. Jeremiah 26.
  11. Daniel 9:2.
  12. Jeremiah 28.
  13. 2 Kings 22:14.
  14. Jeremiah 38:4-6.
  15. Genesis 20:7.
  16. Exodus 7:1.
  17. Numbers 12:4–9.
  18. Numbers 11:29.
  19. The story of Jonah, as explained in conjunction with that book, is fiction: a story carrying a message.
  20. 1 Samuel 9:9. This is the first time the seer appears on the KJV of the Old Testament.
  21. 1 Kings 13:11.
  22. 1 Kings 14:2.
  23. 1 Kings 18:22.
  24. 1 Kings 18.
  25. 1 Kings 22.
  26. Zechariah 13:5.
  27. Ezra 5:1.
  28. Jeremiah 1:5.
  29. See, Jeremiah 23:9–20 and the scriptures noted above.
  30. Id.
  31. Ezekiel 33.
  32. Id.
  33. Amos 7:14 ff.
  34. Micah 2:11.
  35. Jeremiah 26:20–23. Uriah was considered a traitorous subversive, so the king was after him. Interestingly, there are some letters that were found at Lachish from the 600 BC time period that refer to the turmoil that beset Jerusalem at Lehi’s time, archeological evidence of the pursuit of those who prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem at Nebuchadrezzar’s hand. King Jehoiakim reigned from 609 to 598 bc, and he is the king Jeremiah says was responsible for beheading Uriah. Id. The king’s letters seeking Uriah survived the destruction of the southern outpost at Lachish circa 588, the last of the Jewish cities to fall; it had been burned The Lachish Letters are contain evidence against a military commander who read the king’s letters and warned Uriah the king was after him. The Ensign had an article on the Lachish letters in 1981, Hugh Nibley, “The Lachish Letters: Documents from Lehi’s Day,” Ensign (December 1981). https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1981/12/the-lachish-letters-documents-from-lehis-day?lang=eng
  36. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 1, “Book of Mormon Near Eastern Background,” by Hugh Nibley.
  37. Ezekiel 21:25.
  38. Ezekiel 20 et seq.
  39. Nephi uses dream and vision as synonyms. 1 Nephi 8:2 (“I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.”).
  40. 1 Nephi 1:7–14.
  41. 1 Nephi 1:18
  42. 1 Nephi 1:19–20.
  43. 1 Nephi 2:1.
  44. Exodus 3.
  45. Joshua 1:1–9.
  46. 1 Nephi 1:4.
  47. 1 Nephi 1:5.
  48. See Margaret Barker, The Older Testament (Sheffield, TN: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2005).
  49. 1 Nephi 13:40
  50. Sir Francis Bacon, “On the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, Divine and Humane,” bk. I, § V, ¶ 11 (1605).
  51. Id. § IV, ¶ 2.
  52. 1 Nephi 1:6.
  53. William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1996) s.v. allusion.
  54. Isaiah 28:14–18 (LXX)(bolding added); see also Isaiah 17:10 (God of salvation equated with rock of strength).

    The wording in the King James Version is confusingly different:

    Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. 18And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. Isaiah 28:14–18 (KJV)(bolding added).

  55. Isaiah 17:10a. Isaiah 8:11–14 is another instance where Isaiah uses rock as a metaphor for the Savior.
  56. Matthew 16:18.
  57. D&C 33:12–13 (bolding added). Note that the antecedent of this is faith in me.
  58. D&C 50:44. Peter is as explicit as the revelation in D&C 59:

    Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

    Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture,

    Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. [Isaiah 28:16.]

    Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

    1 Peter 2:9 (bolding added);

    The quote from Isaiah is abbreviated in the forgoing. The LXX says:

    Behold, I lay for the foundations of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious stone, for its foundations; and he that believes on him shall by no means be ashamed.

    Isaiah 28:16 LXX (bolding added); accord Ephesians 2:20 (Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church). Cp. Romans 9:33 (the Savior is a stumbling stone and rock of offense to those who relied on the Mosaic Law).

  59. Exodus 13:20–22; 14:19 24.
  60. Exodus 14:19–20.
  61. The actual scene with the wall of fire begins just after 04:23 in this 06:33 excerpt. The excerpt is longer than the wall-of-fire scene because it is interesting to compare what DeMille did in 1923 to what he did in his last ever film production in 1956. The snickering when the wall of fire appears in this excerpt is the author’s: I did not realize my computer’s microphone was activated when I created this clip, but I left the chuckling in because the depiction, notwithstanding the great organ music, is so laughable.
  62. The elevator music in the background of the Church’s video attempts to add numinosity to what is a misleading depiction.
  63. 1 Nephi 15:27–30.
  64. References to the pillar of fire and the cloud are common in the Bible. E.g., Psalm 78:14 (“In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire”); Nehemiah 9:12 (“Led them . . . to give them light in the way wherein they should go”); Numbers 9:15–16 (cloud by day and fire by night covered the tabernacle); Numbers 14:27 (“thou Lord art among this people . . . thou art seen face to face . . .thy cloud standeth over them . . .thou goest before them . . .in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night”);
  65. Nephi refers to the baptism of fire three times in 2 Nephi 31, always in conjunction with the Holy Ghost, which he describes as a gift of the Father, 2 Nephi 31:12. Because the Father is the one who gives his children the Holy Ghost, the Savior’s priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood, is not at work so far as this gift is concerned; this idea is beyond the scope of this chapter of Nephi and this footnote.
  66. Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scriptures (Cambridge, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, 2012) at 206–211. “[T]he Bible does not possess a clear division between words or thoughts and the objects to which they refer, but rather understands man’s reality as consisting of davarim, an intermediate category between word and object that may be called an understanding or an object as understood.” Id. (emphasis in original).
  67. Pillar is a common metaphor in the scriptures, speaking broadly to include both the Book of Mormon and the latter-day revelations, and in each instance there is symbolic meaning that does not (with the exception of the actual pillars adorning Solomon’s temple and holding up other structures), involve an actual pillar. Lot’s wife becomes a pillar of salt, Genesis 19:26; Jacob sets up and anoints a pillar at Beth-el for God’s house, Genesis 28:16–22; cp. Gen. 31:13 (God refers to); Genesis 35:14 (Jacob set pillar where he talked to the Lord); Jacob sets pillar on Rachel’s grave, Genesis 35:20; pillar of a cloud/fire before the Israelites to lead them, Exodus 13:21–22; protects the Israelites from Egyptians, Exodus 14:19; the Lord looked at the Egyptians through the pillar of fire/cloud, Exodus 14:24; Lord goes before Israelites in the pillars of fire/cloud, Numbers 14:31; pillar cloud/fire to lead/give light in way to go, Neh. 9:12, 19; Moses builds an altar and twelve pillars for twelve tribes, Exodus 24:4; pillars used in the tabernacle, Exodus 26:32, 37; 27:9–17; 35:11, 17; 36:36, 38; 38:10–29; 39:33, 40; 40:18; Numbers 3:36, 37; 4:31–32; cloudy pillar descended to door of tabernacle and the Lord talked with Moses, Exodus 33:9–10; Lord in cloudy pillar at the door of the tabernacle chastens Aaron and Miriam for criticizing Moses, Numbers 12:4; speaks to Moses, Aaron and Samuel and those who called on His name, Psalm 99:7; Israelites commanded, “ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place,” Deuteronomy 12:3; Lord appears in pillar of cloud over tabernacle before Moses dies, with Joshua, Deut. 31:15; Abimelech made king by “the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem,” Judges 9:6; Samson pulls the pillars holding up the house of the wicked down, Judges 16:25–29; wicked Benjamites see pillar of smoke rise above their city, Judges 20:40; pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, 1 Sam. 2:28; Job 9:6; 26:11; Psalm 75:3; Absalom raises a pillar for himself, 2 Sam. 18; Solomon’s temple built with many pillars, 1 Kings 7:15–22, and on the porch were two, the right named Jachin (he will establish) and the left Boaz (married Ruth, ancestor of David and the Savior), 1 Kings 7:21; 2 Chron 3:17; Solomon makes pillars for his house, 1 Kings 10:12; 2 Chron. 3:14–17; made from brass David obtained, 1 Chron 18:8; king stands by a pillar of the temple per custom, 2 Kings 11:14; king makes covenant when so standing before the people, 2 Kings 23:3; Hezekiah cuts overlay off the pillars as tribute to Assyrian king, 2 Kings 18:16‘ Nebuchadnezzar carries off the temple pillars, 2 Kings 13–17; Wisdom, personifying the Holy Ghost, built her house of seven pillars, Proverbs 9:1; altar and pillar to the Lord equated, Isaiah 19:18; Jeremiah uses ironed pillar to describe Jerusalem, Jeremiah 1:18; Jeremiah, Lord’s comment about the temple pillars and Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah 27:19; about being carried off, Jeremiah 52:17–22; Ezekiel’s temple has pillars, Ezekiel 40:49; Peter, James and John described as pillars by Paul, Galations 2:9; Paul’s instructions to Timothy about the house of God, the pillar and ground fo the truth, 1 Tim 3:15; One who overcomes will become a pillar in the temple of God, Revelation 3:12; angel clothed with a cloud, rainbow on head, face as the sun, his feet as pillars of fire; Revelation10:1; Nephi and Lehi “encircled about with a pillar of fire” but not burned, Helaman 5:24; Savior to return to Jerusalem in a pillar of fire, D&C 29:24; saints to be lifted to heaven as will be the dead, who “shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven,” D&C 88:97; explanation of facsimile No. 1 in Abraham describes the pillars of heaven as understood by the Egyptians, fig. 11.; Joseph Smith’s first vision, he “saw a pillar of light exactly over my head,” JSH 1:20.
  68. See Jacob 7.
  69. 1 Nephi 1:7.
  70. The changed capitalization of spirit will be the subject of a later posting.
  71. 1 Kings 19:22,.
  72. D&C 8 and 9. The first series of postings on this blog dealt with the operation of the Spirit and are important to understand if one is to understand the Spirit and the often misunderstood metaphors used to describe how the Spirit enlightens.
  73. The word one was not capitalized in any edition of the Book of Mormon until the 1981 edition. Apparently, the editors for the 1981 edition concluded one is a reference to the Lord, so they capitalized the term.
  74. 1 Nephi 1:9–11a.
  75. See Ezekiel 1:28–3:12 records a similar book-eating experience. Ezekiel is given a book by a hand, a synecdoche, sent to Ezekiel with this book. It seems like it could be the Lord until the end of this book-eating experience when Ezekiel is taken up by the spirit—a female spirit—after the male speaker concludes. The second vision of the Lord, Ezekiel 8:1–16, is explicit about Ezekiel being transported to Jerusalem by an angel, “And he put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit [female] lifted me up . . . and brought me in the visions of God [Elohim] to Jerusalem . . .” Ezekiel 8:3.
  76. Yoram Hazony discusses the inseparability of thought from the object or spoken words in the Hebrew paradigm. Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scriptures (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2012), at 206–211, 231–232. Hazony is Provost of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and a Senior Fellow in the Department of Philosophy Political Theory and Religion. The Lord revealed His perspective on the artificial division in Western thought of ideas from objects in the following language:

    For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal— . . . Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand . . . it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed. 34Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual . . . .

    D&C 29:31–34a.

  77. Ezekiel 2:9–10.
  78. 1 Nephi 1:11b–12.
  79. Ezekiel 2:10.
  80. 1 Nephi 1:14.
  81. These ordinances were incomplete because, as Paul teaches in Hebrews, the fulness of the temple endowment ordinance could not be performed before the resurrection of the Savior. The book of Hebrews is the most complete explanation of the nature of the Savior’s atonement and its door-opening effect enabling mankind to realize exaltation. Paul notes the great faith of the forefathers in Hebrews 11, but he also describes the reality that these great, all-but-perfected men needed the exalting ordinances of the temple performed for them vicariously by the followers of Christ to realize perfection:

    And these all, having obtained a good report through faith [meaning what they had done], received not the promise [translated from έπαγγελίας (epagelia), meaning the oath-sealed covenant of the Father rather than the last-will-and-testament like bequest, διαθηκη (diathke) of the Son]: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

    Hebrews 11:39–40 (bolding added).

  82. 1 Nephi 1:15.
  83. The how of such enlightenment is the subject of the first twelve postings on this blog, which is important reading.
  84. 1 Nephi 8:2 (Lehi declares he has dreamed, but does not say when), but see 1 Nephi 9:1 (Nephi says his father saw, heard, and spoke “all of these things” while in the Valley of Lemuel).
  85. This is according to the division of the book by Noel B. Reynolds, discussed supra.
  86. 1 Nephi 8:5–35.
  87. 1 Nephi 15:27.
  88. 1 Nephi 1:1.
  89. It is worth noting that the Spanish translation of the Book of Mormon translates goodly as buenos, which means good. However, The English-Spanish dictionary found at www.wordreference.com says the translation ought to be abultado (meaning bulky, swollen, inflated, etc.), considerable (meaning considerable), or importante (meaning important).
  90. Chadwick, Jeffrey R., “Lehi House at Jerusalem and the Land of His Inheritance,” Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, ed. by John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely and Jo Ann H. Seeley (Provo, Ut: FARMS, 2004) at 81 et seq.
  91. Id. at 81–82.
  92. Id.
  93. Revelation 5.
  94. Ezekiel 2:9–3:3.
  95. The term diaspora is from the LXX where the word διασπορὰ appears in Deuteronomy 28:25, where it is translated as dispersion, “thou shalt be a dispersion in all the kingdoms of the earth.” The word is translated as removed in the KJV
  96. 1 Nephi 1:18b–20a.
  97. Ezekiel 6:6.
  98. Ezekiel 23:36–44.
  99. Ezekiel 7:10.
  100. Ezekiel 7:11, 23; 8:17
  101. Ezekiel 7:20, 24.
  102. Ezekiel 11:2–3; 12:27.
  103. Ezekiel 12:24.
  104. Ezekiel 18:1ff.
  105. Ezekiel 20:13ff.
  106. Ezekiel 13:9–16.
  107. Ezekiel 13:17ff.
  108. Ezekiel 8:7–12; 16:58.
  109. Ezekiel 16:48ff.
  110. Ezekiel 16:11–34; 22:27–29.
  111. See Ezekiel 23:11ff.
  112. Ezekiel 34:2–6.
  113. See Margaret Baker, The Older Testament, The Survival Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2005). Baker identifies the evidence from which she concludes that the reformations of King Josiah in the mid-seventh century BC were, in actuality, a change of the religion from polytheism to monotheism. The religious disposition of the Jews affected Laman and Lemuel, who were like the Jews in Jerusalem. 1 Nephi 2:13. Moreover, this disbelief in the Savior is what prompted Nephi’s younger brother, Jacob, to return from retirement and preach against Sherem, who taught the same heresy. See Jacob 7. The Book of Mormon, also, says that the Bible had been perverted by the expurgation of the Savior and the plan of salvation from its pages, the plain and precious loss affecting the Bible. 1 Nephi 13:40–42. See, also, the author’s prolegomenon to his Exegesis on Ezekiel.
  114. 1 Nephi 2:13.
  115. Jacob 7 presents teachings appended to Jacob’s already-finished writings. The added material counters the cannot-know-the-future, just-one-god basis of the anti-Christ doctrine. The Nephites were accepting this doctrine, which Sherem advocated, so Jacob came out of his retirement to refute Sherem’s arguments and restore the people to a proper belief. Sherem lost this argument among the Nephites, but the argument had already carried the day in Jerusalem when Lehi fled the city for his life.

    This same prostitution of the nature of the Godhead occurred at the end of the third century and beginning of the fourth century ad. This controversy, called the Arian Controversy, culminated in the Nicene Creed adopted at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. It is called the Arian Controversy because Arius believed in and argued for polytheism: God the Father, Jesus as the begotten Son of the Father, and the Holy Ghost, three separate personages. Athanasius played the role of the anti-Christ Sherem by arguing the idea of the Trinity—one god that takes different forms. Athanasius’ argument prevailed, so acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity became a litmus test for being a Christian. Indeed, many Christians today think members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christians because they do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity.

1 thought on “1 Nephi 1

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      Interesting to think about the distance between the spacious building and the Tree of Life in Lehi’s vision, both what it represents politically and spiritually. I’d never thought about how the distance represents the work (repentance, obedience) required to put aside our pride (or whatever else we need to shed) and get to the ‘promised land.’ Had the tree been next to or inside the building, it would be a completely different message.

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