Parsing Nephi: First Nephi III (1 Nephi 10-14)

Here’s the introduction to this series, and here is the previous entry.

I’ll now talk about the third chapter of the first “Book of Nephi” from the original Book of Mormon manuscript.

Lehi’s Prophecy

In Chapter III of First Nephi, Nephi gives us his third introduction in as many chapters, and again finds himself taking a detour from covering his “reign and ministry” to cover something more important (all quotes are from Skousen’s The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text):

And now I Nephi proceed to give an account upon these plates
of my proceedings and my reign and ministry.
Wherefore to proceed with mine account,
I must speak somewhat of the things of my father and also my brethren.

Nephi covers exactly two things in Chapter III. The first is his father Lehi’s prophecy of a future Messiah and the forerunner Prophet who should go before Him. This is a more detailed followup to Lehi’s prophecies in the streets of Jerusalem:

And he testified that the things which he saw and heard,
and also the things which he read in the book [in his vision],
manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah
and also the redemption of the world. (First Nephi I; 1 Nephi 1:19)

But here in Chapter III, Lehi is giving the same prophecies and warnings, in apparently greater detail, to Nephi’s brothers, as a follow-up to his concerns about Laman and Lemuel as a result of his dream. He ties it into the scattering of Israel and then ties that into their own flight from Jerusalem and towards “the land of promise.” The account is brief –less that two pages in the Skousen edition — and Nephi defers the rest of the details to his “other book”.

Nephi’s Ascension Vision

The rest of Chapter III — roughly 14 pages in Skousen — is devoted to Nephi’s ascension vision, which blends together elements of both Lehi’s dream and Lehi’s prophecies, but covers much more than Nephi has reported from his father. Nephi was frank about what he wanted:

And it came to pass that after I Nephi having heard all the words of my father…
…that I Nephi was desirous also
that I might see and hear and know of these things by the power of the Holy Ghost…

He then digresses momentarily to issue a short but stern “blessing/warning” sermon, promising that God will answer those who “diligently seek” but will “cast off forever” those who are “found unclean before the judgment seat of God.” He then adds, for the first time, his own prophetic imprimatur:

And the Holy Ghost giveth authority
that I should speak these things and deny them not.

The modern edition of the Book of Mormon places this statement at the end of 1 Nephi 10, wrapping up his sermonette, but I think Nephi meant it as much for all that would follow in the rest of Chapter III: his ascension vision:

And the Holy Ghost giveth authority
that I should speak these things and deny them not.
For it came to pass that after I had desired
to know the things that my father had seen,
and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me,
wherefore as I sat pondering in mine heart,
I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord,
yea, into an exceeding high mountain,
a mountain which I never had before seen
and upon which I never had before sat my foot.

Nephi then records an expansive and detailed vision of future (to Nephi) history, all centered around the coming of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His gospel in the last days. Much has been written about this vision, and a discussion of it doesn’t really fit within the premise of these posts except to note this: Nephi is serving notice, both to his own posterity and that of his brothers, that he was by that point every bit as much a prophet and seer as his father Lehi. He closes up his chapter with that testimony:

And behold, I Nephi am forbidden
that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw.
Wherefore the things which I have written sufficeth me,
and I have not written but a small part of the things which I saw.
And I bear record that I saw the things which my father saw,
and the angel of the Lord did make them known unto me.
And now I make an end of speaking concerning the things
which I saw while I was carried away in the spirit.
And if all the things which I saw are not written,
the things which I have written are true.
And thus it is.

The first chapter set forth Nephi being dutiful and obedient. The second chapter set forth Nephi being believing and on the right path (as per Lehi’s dream). This third chapter establishes Nephi as a prophet in his own right. The next chapter shows the start of Nephi’s ministry.

Next post: First Nephi IV (1 Nephi 15).

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