Lehi interpreted his vision primarily in a familial way, i.e. though he saw numberless concourses of people, his primary focus was on where his family were in the vision (see 1 Ne 8:14–18, 35). For Nephi, his vision stretched far beyond this family focus – he saw what would become of his and his brothers’ seed, and in chapter 13 he saw the beginnings of what elsewhere is referred to as the times of the Gentiles (see D&C 45:28–30), or as Joe Spencer calls it the “European phase of the vision”. However, while it would appear that Nephi moved beyond the vision of the tree, the rod, the river, and the building, if we read his words closely we will see elements of Lehi’s original vision in Nephi’s far more expansive view.
Of course, it is possible that Lehi could himself have seen something similar to that which Nephi describes in such detail in chapters 11–14, but perhaps because his mind was so swallowed up in his concern for Laman and Lemuel he was unable to understand the full significance of what he was being shown (cf. 1 Ne 15:27).
In this post I’ll cover the first half of the chapter (v1–29). I don’t have too much by way of commentary so this will mainly be questions that have come up as I’ve read with a few ideas thrown in as well.
v1: Nephi has previously referred to the peoples in his vision as multitudes (e.g. 1 Ne 11:34–35, 1 Ne 12:1, 5, 13, 15, 20–21). But here he “beheld many nations and kingdoms”. Do you think this change in terminology is significant?
v4–6: The 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon uses foundation instead of formation and describes the devil as the foundation (rather than founder) of the church. In an earlier post I mentioned that Joe Spencer interprets the great and spacious building (GaSB) as the Jerusalem temple. Nephi sees the destruction of the GaSB at the end of chapter 11 (see 1 Ne 11:36). The destruction of the GaSB at this point in the chronology of his vision and in its fighting against the apostles in Jerusalem fits with this interpretation of the GaSB as the Jerusalem temple. This means the great and abominable church (GaAC) is a new entity. Do you think the GaAC is synonymous with the GaSB or should we think of them differently?
v7–8: If the GaSB and the GaAC are different, their desires are nevertheless similar. Lehi makes a point of describing the manner of dress in the GaSB as being exceedingly fine (1 Ne 8:27) and the angel tells Nephi that the fine-twined linen and precious clothing are the desires of the GaAC (along with harlots). Why do you think both Lehi and Nephi emphasise the apparel of those in the GaSB and the GaAC? Incidentally, the desires of the GaAC are the very issues that Jacob rails against in Jacob 2 (compare 1 Ne 13:8 with Jacob 2:13 and 23). Nephites and European Gentiles, money and sex, the more things change the more they stay the same.
v9: What is the connection between destroying the saints and the praise of the world? Do you think the destruction of the saints is a physical or a spiritual destruction? Perhaps when the saints seek the praise of the world or fine clothing (or other status symbols) or desire harlots they destroy themselves or bring about their own captivity (see D&C 121:37).
Boyd K Packer said:
To seek after the praise of men, the scriptures caution us, is to be led carefully away from the only safe path to follow in life.1
From this quote I was struck by the words ‘led carefully away’. In the last post I noted a connection between 1 Ne 12:17 and 2 Ne 28:21. Elder Packer uses the terminology of 2 Ne 28:21 and adds the praise of the world into the mix.
v20–23: In the interests of word count I’m going to skip to the first of several books that Nephi sees in vision. This first book, which comes from the mouth of a Jew, we understand to be the Bible. It is described as containing the covenants the Lord made with Israel and the prophecies of the holy prophets. Do you think this description is related to the purposes of the Book of Mormon – that Israel may know the covenants of the Lord and the convincing of Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ (see Book of Mormon title page)?
v23: Why are the covenants that God made with Israel of great worth to the Gentiles?
v26: Nephi describes what is taken from this book as many parts which are plain and most precious and also many of the covenants of the Lord. Based on the description of the original unadulterated book and of the purposes of the Book of Mormon above, do you think that the plain and most precious parts taken from the Bible might concern the prophecies about and the doctrine of Christ? If so, what was taken from the Bible was in essence doctrine and covenants, and therefore we might consider the stated purposes of the Book of Mormon (and perhaps all Restoration scripture) as being to directly counteract what was lost from the Bible – namely the prophecies concerning Christ and a correct doctrine of Him, and God’s covenants with Israel.
Contrary to what is perhaps a common meme in the Church, Stephen Robinson said the following:
The notion of shifty-eyed medieval monks rewriting the scriptures is unfair and bigoted. We owe those monks a debt of gratitude that anything was saved at all.2
v29: And finally for this week, in v16 those Gentiles who left Europe and crossed the many waters are described as having the power of God with them. But in v29 it says that Satan hath great power over them. Julie Smith suggests the following:
The European settlers of the Americas had the Spirit with them and did prosper. However, they also had a corrupt book, which meant that Satan had great power over them, which explains their less-than-Christian treatment of Native people and Africans (and supposed witches).3
How do you reconcile v16 and v29?
Next week’s reading: 1 Nephi 13:30-42