Come, Follow Me: January 20 – 26
Nephi receives revelation concerning Lehi’s vision (1 Nephi 11):
Nephi sought divine help to understand Lehi’s vision. He was caught away to a high mountain he had never before seen and the symbols and meanings of the vision were explained to him by a heavenly messenger.
There were prerequisites for this to unfold. Nephi was asked if he believed the account of Lehi’s dream. In verse 6, the Spirit rejoices and says, “…blessed art thou, Nephi, because thouin the Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired.” Believing in a messiah was one thing, but gaining an understanding of the coming Christ as the Son of God was a huge leap for even an observant Jew. This shows Nephi’s great faith.
In verse 7 Nephi is told that after he bears witness of the tree, he will see the Son of God and bear witness of Him. In verses 8 and 9, Nephi beholds the tree and its glowing whiteness. Then the Spirit asks him again what he desires.
In verse 11, Nephi sees the Spirit in the form of a man but knows He is the Spirit. Nephi desires to know the meaning of the tree. The Spirit tells him to look and then disappears from his view. A vision opens to Nephi of Jerusalem, other cities, and then Nazareth. In Nazareth, Nephi sees a virgin. An angel appears and asks him to explain what he beholds. Nephi explains that he sees a fair virgin.
In verse 16, the angel asks Nephi if he understands the condescension of God. Nephi responds that he knows God loves His children. Nephi confesses that he doesn’t know the meaning of all things.
Well before this time, many of the most spiritual aspects of the gospel had been stripped away during the “Deuteronomic Reform” under king Josiah. In Luke 11:52, Jesus accused the Pharisees: “Woe unto you,! for ye have taken away the of : ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye .” They had killed the prophets when they tried to reintroduce the spiritual things that had been lost. We should be profoundly grateful for those few who were both courageous and spiritually alive, as was Nephi.
Nephi sees that the virgin bears the Son of God. Then the angel asks Nephi if he knows the meaning of the tree. Nephi answers that the tree represents the love of God and is desirable above all things. The tree represents all the blessings of the atonement. Nephi sees the Savior during His ministry and the conversion of many.
“And it came to pass that I beheld that the, which my father had seen, was the of God, which to the fountain of , or to the ; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God” (verse 25).
Nephi sees the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist and the descent of the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove. He sees the 12 apostles. He sees Jesus healing and performing all sorts of miracles. Nephi sees the crucifixion and the world joining together to fight against the apostles of the Lamb. Then Nephi sees that the great and spacious building represents the pride of the world. The building falls and the angel explains, “Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (verse 36).
Nephi sees in vision the land of promise (1 Nephi 12):
Nephi sees Lehi’s descendants in America, their cities and wars. He sees the destruction that precedes the visit of the Savior to the Americas. He sees the coming of the resurrected Christ and the ordination of 12 disciples like unto the 12 apostles who were with Christ in the Holy Land. The twelve disciples will judge Nephi’s people and they, in turn, will be judged by the twelve apostles.
Nephi sees that over three generations after Christ’s visit will live a celestial law, but that in the fourth generation, wickedness will overcome the Nephites and lead to their destruction. At this point, the angel explains more of Lehi’s vision: “…the fountain ofwater which thy father saw; yea, even the of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of . And the of darkness are the temptations of the devil…”(vs 16, 17).
Nephi sees that the surviving Lamanites continue to war among themselves after they destroy the Nephites and that they become “a dark and loathsome people.”
Nephi sees the colonizing of America (1 Nephi 13):
The angel shows Nephi the nations of the Gentiles and the formation of the church of the devil. “And also for theof the world do they the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity” (verse 9). He sees a Gentile explorer who discovers the Americas and others following him out of captivity to the promised land. The wrath of God is upon the descendants of the Lamanites and the Gentiles nearly destroy them. (90 – 95% of American Indians died without ever meeting a Gentile as smallpox and other diseases brought by the Gentiles decimated them.)
In verse 15, Nephi sees that the spirit of the Lord is with the Gentiles and they prosper in the land. Nephi sees the Revolutionary War and that the colonists are delivered because of their humility:
The Lord means for America to be exceptional:
The Book of Mormon introduces American exceptionalism and the constitution as an inspired document. Barbara Tuchman was a historian who wrote The March of Folly—four complete decision failures by heads of state. She said it was extremely difficult to search through history and choose just four. Stupid decisions have been rife. The founding of the United States stands out as a singular, shining, unexplained event. Here is a quote from the introduction of her book:
“The product of a new nation, George Washington, was a leader who shines among the best. While Jefferson was more learned, more cultivated, a more extraordinary mind, and unsurpassed intelligence, a truly universal man, Washington had a character of rock and a kind of nobility that exerted a natural dominion over others, together with the inner strength and perseverance that enabled him to prevail over a flood of obstacles. He made possible both the physical victory of American independence and the survival of the fractious and tottering young republic in its beginning years.
“Around him in extraordinary fertility political talent bloomed as if touched by some tropical sun. For all their flaws and quarrels, the Founding Fathers have rightfully been called by Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., “the most remarkable generation of public men in the history of the United States or perhaps of any other nation.” It is worth noting the qualities this historian ascribes to them: they were fearless, high-principled, deeply versed in ancient and modern political thought, astute and pragmatic, unafraid of experiment, and—this is significant—“convinced of man’s power to improve his condition through the use of intelligence.” That was the mark of the Age of Reason that formed them, and although the 18th century had a tendency to regard men as more rational than in fact they were, it evoked the best in government from these men.
“It would be invaluable if we could know what produced this burst of talent from a base of only two and a half million inhabitants…. the Founders remain a phenomenon to keep in mind to encourage our estimate of human possibilities, even if their example is too rare to be a basis of normal expectations” (The March of Folly: From Troy to Viet Nam, 18, 19).
In verse 20, Nephi sees the Bible being carried forth among the Gentiles. Note in verse 23 that the Bible contains fewer scriptures than the Nephites created. The angel explains that when the biblical scriptures were originally recorded by the Jews, they contained the fulness of the gospel. The church of the devil has corrupted the scriptures and deleted many plain and precious doctrines and principles. And “…because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them” (verse 29).
The angel promises Nephi that his seed and the seed of his brethren will not be completely destroyed by the Gentiles. He promises that the missing parts of the gospel will be restored through the records kept by the Nephites.
“These, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall the truth of the , which are of the of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (verse 40).
Blessings and cursings to fall upon the Gentiles (1 Nephi 14):
If the Gentiles accept the restored authority, scriptures, and gospel principles, their misconceptions will be corrected and they will be blessed. If they reject the restored gospel, they will be judged accordingly. There are only two churches—the church of God and the church of the devil.
Nephi sees the members of the Church of God and that their numbers are few but spread upon the face of the earth. The Saints of God are “with and with the of God in great glory” (verse 14). God’s wrath is poured out on the great and abominable church and there are wars and rumors of wars all over the earth. Nephi sees the apostle John the Beloved who will write about the end of the world and Second Coming of Christ (the Book of Revelation). Nephi sees the same things but is told that John will write about them. Others have written about the end of the world, but their writings have been sealed up to come forth when the Lord wills it.
Nephi returns to his brethren (1 Nephi 15):
When Nephi returns to his brethren he finds them arguing about the meanings of Lehi’s vision. Surely, the things they are saying are base and unenlightened, especially compared to what Nephi saw, heard, and now understood, including visions of the future. Nephi’s brothers had not even considered asking the Lord to enlighten them.
Compared to what Nephi had just experienced, this was a come-down of momentous proportions and Nephi begins to mourn because he’s seen the results of wickedness and darkness of mind and spirit. Nephi explains to his brothers that they are like the branches of an olive tree that have been broken off and must again be grafted in. That will happen through the efforts of the Gentiles. Eventually, Israel will come to a knowledge of their Redeemer.
Nephi recites the words of Isaiah to his brothers to show how these things will come to pass. Note that all the books of Isaiah contained in the Book of Mormon have to do with the scattering and regathering of the Jews. The Nephites felt like exiles from Jerusalem and longed for their homeland. These Isaiah chapters provided comfort for them.
Nephi then answers their questions about the tree of life, the iron rod, the river of water (which Lehi had not noticed was filthy) that separates the wicked from the tree. Then Nephi introduces a new image:
“And I said unto them that our father also saw that the of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming , which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end” (verse 30).
Laman and Lemuel are actually asking good questions: “Doth this thing mean the torment of the body in the days of, or doth it mean the final state of the soul after the of the temporal body, or doth it speak of the things which are temporal?” (verse 31). Nephi’s answer is deep doctrine beyond what he says he saw in vision. His understanding of doctrine has been greatly expanded during his communing with the Lord:
“…wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of thatof which I have spoken. Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that , whose fruit is most precious and most above all other fruits; yea, and it is the of all the of God. And thus I spake unto my brethren. Amen” (vs 35, 36).