1 Nephi 12 tweet: N sees wars, earthquakes, fire + Christ’s visit. 4 gens pass away in righteousness. L-ites overcome N-ites because of N-ite pride.
As it is General Conference weekend I haven’t had too much time to work on the post this weekend so this may be a bit shorter than usual. I’ll just share a couple of general thoughts about 1 Ne 12 and then work through the chapter posing a handful of questions along the way.
Firstly, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the context of this vision. Nephi was just a young man when he received this vision. The family was still in the valley of Lemuel, so they had barely started their journey towards the promised land. And yet here he sees the tragedy that would befall his posterity in the promised land. He saw wars, rumours of wars and great slaughters (v2). What do you think such a vision would do to young Nephi? I tend to think Nephi was blessed (or highly favoured to use his words) to receive such a vision. But the reality is, this must have been incredibly distressing. I think it’s remarkable that he was able to continue on with such faith and determination in the face of the opposition of his brothers when he had seen the ultimate destiny of his people. Why do you think the Lord would show him such a vision at such an early stage in the journey?
Secondly, reading through 1 Ne 12 this time I noticed what I think is a pretty loose structure to this chapter as follows:
A: Nephi sees multitudes gathered together and then wars, rumours of wars and many generations pass away (v2, 3)
B: He sees a literal mist/vapour of darkness (v4, 5)
C: He sees Christ call 12 ministers whose garments are made white in the blood of the Lamb (v10)
C’: He sees generations pass away who are made white in the blood of the Lamb (v11)
B’: He sees an interpretation of the mist of darkness from his father’s vision (v17)
A’: He sees multitudes of the Lamanites and then wars, rumours of wars and many generations pass away (v20, 21)
So with those initial thoughts, here are some questions re. specific verses:
v1: This verse talks of a land of promise and of multitudes of people in number as great as the sands of the sea. Do you think this is a deliberate allusion to the Abrahamic covenant (see Gen 22:17–18)? If so, why does Nephi want the reader to think about the Abrahamic covenant at this point?
v4, 5: Nephi sees the literal mist or vapour of darkness that would cover the land prior to Christ’s visit to the Nephites. Do you think there is a connection between this mist of darkness and the mist of darkness in Lehi’s vision?
v8: I only noticed reading this time that Nephi doesn’t refer to the twelve called among the Nephites as apostles; he only refers to them as disciples or ministers. The same is true when Jesus calls the twelve in 3 Ne 12. In Nephi’s vision, apostle is a title reserved just for the twelve called during Jesus’ mortal ministry. Do you think this is significant?
v11: The imagery of garments made white in the blood of the Lamb is striking because blood is the last thing you would use to make something white (see also Rev 7:14). So what are we supposed to learn from this imagery? Are we supposed to contrast the blood of the Lamb that makes white with the fountain of filthy water?
v16: In the previous chapter, Nephi seems to suggest that the tree of life is synonymous with the fountain of living waters. Here he observes the filthiness of the river which his father saw. Do you think Nephi intends we contrast the fountain of living waters with the fountain of filthy water? I have tended to view the great and spacious building as opposite to the tree of life. If instead we consider the river of filthy water as the polar opposite of the tree of life/fountain of living water does that affect our interpretation of these symbols? From the earlier question, is there a connection between the fountain of living waters and the blood of the Lamb?
Joe Spencer offers the following interpretation of the fountain of filthy water and the mists of darkness:
What is the fountain of filthy water in Nephi’s visionary experience? In a word: war. The depths of war—of the spirit that incites to war—are the depths of hell. And what arises out of the river that flows out of that fountain—these “mists of darkness”—is temptation. War—its pursuit, promotion, use, etc.—is what gives rise to the most debilitating temptations. I think there’s a too-clear message here: We should have nothing to do with war at all.1
What do you think of this interpretation?
v17: ‘Leadeth them away’ is a phrase used only twice in the Book of Mormon – in this verse and in 2 Ne 28:21, where Nephi warns:
And others will [the devil] pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
Does this verse (also from Nephi) help us to better understand the mists of darkness? What do you think it means that the devil cheateth their souls?
v23: Is the use of the word filthy in this verse connected to its use in v16?
So not shorter than usual after all. Let me know if you have any other thoughts about this chapter.
Next week’s reading: 1 Nephi 13 (but maybe only the first half)