BMGD #4: 1 Nephi 12-14

January 16, 2012 | no comments
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Note that I will not be posting notes for lesson #5; I’m taking the week off.  (Notes for lesson #6 should be right on schedule, however.)  Also note that when I teach this, I plan on covering 1 Nephi 11-15, since I think it makes more sense to treat Nephi’s vision in its entirety and in its context.

CHAPTER 12
 1 And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Look, and behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren. And I looked and beheld the land of promise; and I beheld multitudes of people, yea, even as it were in number as many as the sand of the sea.

Lehi’s vision was prefaced with the family eating actual seeds.  Is it significant that Nephi’s vision begins with references to the same word (“seed”) but used with a different meaning (=descendants)?

Is it significant that Lehi’s vision is told to his sons (particularly L&L, as Kevin Barney pointed out in the comments last week), but Nephi’s is told to no one in particular–which means it is told to the reader?

Is it significant that he is told to look at his seed but what he actually looks at is the land of promise?

I’m still kind of stuck on how frequently Lehi, Nephi, random angels, etc., divide Nephi from his brothers.  Do you think it is significant that the angel tells Nephi to look at his seed (separated from) the seed of his brethren, but what Nephi sees are “multitudes”?

Where do you think Sam’s seed fits into all this?  Is it part of “the seed of [Nephi’s] brethren”?

Does number/sand/sea make a link to the promises made to Abraham?  If so, how is that relevant to this dream?  Another way of asking that:  Why would Nephi want the reader to be thinking about those promises to Abraham right now?

 2 And it came to pass that I beheld multitudes gathered together to battle, one against the other; and I beheld wars, and rumors of wars, and great slaughters with the sword among my people.

Just stop for a minute and think about how heartbreaking this is–this is the first thing he sees, but the absolute last thing that you want to see if you were to see your posterity.

The references to “rumors of wars” always surprises me a little–surely it is not bad enough to warrant mention alongside actual wars.  But the fact that it often is suggests to me that general fear, instability, etc. is seen as almost as destabilizing as actual warfare.

Is the phase “with the sword” significant?  Does it relate to Laban’s sword?

Does this verse have a parallel in Lehi’s vision?  If so, what is it?

Is “my people” significant?  Why doesn’t he mention his brothers’ seed here?  Are they not included in the slaughter?

 3 And it came to pass that I beheld many generations pass away, after the manner of wars and contentions in the land; and I beheld many cities, yea, even that I did not number them.

Do the unnumbered cities link to the unnumbered people in v1?  In the OT, cities are generally negative symbols.  Is that the case here?  Why is Nephi shown the cities, and what is he to take from the image?

Did Lehi see anything parallel to this?

 4 And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof.

How do these mists of darkness relate to the mists of darkness in Lehi’s vision?

The inverted symmetry of “mists of darkness” and “land of promise” is both aesthetically pleasing and theologically haunting.  What does this juxtaposition teach us about the concept of a land of promise?

The verse suggests that the ‘natural’ (Are they really natural, or divine?  The next verse may be implying that they are the judgments of the Lord.) disasters seen here are linked to the mists of darkness.  This is not something one would conclude from reading just Lehi’s vision, although there is a logical link between mists of darkness (=a dark fog) and other weather conditions that make life difficult for people.  What is going on here?

This verse seems to echo the destructions wrought in the New World when Jesus died.  Is that the correct interpretation here?

Does the reference to plains here relate to the field in Lehi’s vision?

 5 And it came to pass after I saw these things, I saw the vapor of darkness, that it passed from off the face of the earth; and behold, I saw multitudes who had not fallen because of the great and terrible judgments of the Lord.

Skousen reads “I saw the multitudes which had not fallen.”

(How) does the vapor of darkness relate to the mist of darkness?

Does Lehi’s mist of darkness leave?  If so, what do you make of the difference?  Is Nephi able to see things that Lehi didn’t see because the mist of darkness leaves?  (Nephi will say later that there were things his father didn’t notice.)

Multitudes who have not fallen is an interesting contrast to the “good” group in Lehi’s vision who partakes but isn’t ashamed, because they do fall–before the tree/fruit.  What might we learn from the contrast?

In Lehi’s vision, the emphasis with the good group is on their holding the rod, pressing forward, eating the fruit, etc.  Here, the focus is on them avoiding judgment (equated to the mists?).  Why the difference?

 6 And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them.

Does this mean that the heavens were not open before this?

 7 And I also saw and bear record that the Holy Ghost fell upon twelve others; and they were ordained of God, and chosen.

Is the falling of the Holy Ghost related to the “not falling” in v5?

Three items here:  Holy Ghost falls, ordained, chosen.  Are these three ways of describing the same thing?  Three sequential things?  Something else?

 8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the Twelve Disciples of the Lamb, who are chosen to minister unto thy seed.

Why does the angel explain this, but not anything in the previous verses?
I think “minister” is such an interesting word and we really make virtually no effect to figure out what it might mean.

9 And he said unto me: Thou rememberest the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb? Behold they are they who shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, the twelve ministers of thy seed shall be judged of them; for ye are of the house of Israel.

In what context would Nephi have learned about the 12 apostles?  Or:  What is it that the angel wants him to remember?

Is Nephi seeing Judas here or his replacement?  Or is it more symbolic/idealized than that?

Why would it be important for Nephi to know this?  Are there any truths relevant to our lives that come from knowing the relationship of the twelve apostles to the twelve ministers?

Do we think of the role of the first apostles as primarily about judging?  Should we?  What about modern apostles?

 10 And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood.

So the apostles judge the ministers and the ministers judge Nephi’s descendants.  Why is the focus on judging?  What should we learn from this pattern?

What does it mean to suggest that there are intermediary judges (that is, people who judge you but who are judged by someone else) in a context that is *not* earthbound (that is, your bishop judges you but is in turn judged by someone else)?

To whom does the “they” refer in this verse?

We read the idea of making garments white in blood so often that it is hard to remember what an utterly bizarre and counterfactual image this is.  (Anyone who has ever done laundry should know that!)  What do we learn about the atonement from this image?

Why are garments a good symbol here?

 11 And the angel said unto me: Look! And I looked, and beheld three generations pass away in righteousness; and their garments were white even like unto the Lamb of God. And the angel said unto me: These are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him.

Interesting that in the previous verse, their garments were made white because of their faith, but in this verse, their garments are white like the Lamb.

Does this relate to the whiteness of the fruit of the tree?

Why does the angel repeat what we already know from v11?

To what does “these” refer–the people or their garments?

 12 And I, Nephi, also saw many of the fourth generation who passed away in righteousness.

The words “many of” are pregnant with failure–why nothing about the cause?

13 And it came to pass that I saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.

Why switch from “promised land” to “earth” here?

 14 And the angel said unto me: Behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren.

I think you could read this to imply that Nephi and his brothers’ seed has spread beyond the promised land (since “earth” was used in v14).  Is that a legitimate reading?

15 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the people of my seed gathered together in multitudes against the seed of my brethren; and they were gathered together to battle.

16 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell.

How does this verse relate to the one before it?

I don’t remember Lehi saying anything about that.  What’s going on here?  There appears to be more than one fountain–why didn’t we know about this before?  The angel seems to equate the river Lehi saw with the “filthy fountain,” but Lehi didn’t do this.

Where do you see this river in relation to the tree, path/rod, and building?  How do you know?  What does it mean to say that the depths of hell are in between the tree/path/rod and the great building?

Joe Spencer:

This is striking, and I don’t hear us in our discussions of this passage catching the significance of this passage. 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.  Citation

Why is a fountain/river a good symbol for the depths of hell?

 17 And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.

Skousen reads “that they may perish.”

Why would we backtrack to discuss the mists of darkness again, especially since (I think) they are gone by this point?

Why are the mists a good symbol for the temptations of the devil?

“Blindeth” is an effect on the senses; “hardeneth” is an effect on the heart/mind; “leadeth” is an effect on actions/choices.  What can we learn from this?

Why are broad roads bad and narrow roads good?

Do they perish before they are lost?  (Wouldn’t they get lost and then perish?)  What might we conclude from this?

18 And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.

Skousen:

1 Nephi 12:18 . . . reads as follows in the original manuscript: “and a great and a terrible gulf divideth them / yea even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God”. But Oliver Cowdery miscopied this into the printer’s manuscript as “yea even the word of the justice of the Eternal God”.  . . . Yet when we look at the rest of the Book of Mormon, we discover that there are seven references to “the sword of God’s justice” but no examples of “the word of God’s justice.  Citation

I think “sword” fits the context much better.  And, perhaps, does it make reference to the sword of Laban?

Why is a sword a good symbol for God’s justice?

Skousen reads “and Jesus Christ which is the Lamb of God” here.

What does “from the beginning of the world” modify?

Wait–didn’t he just learn that it was the world’s wisdom?  And then conclude that it was pride?  Why the introduction of vain imaginations?  Are these three ways of saying the same thing?

What is the link between “vain imaginations” and their fine clothing?

Did Nephi see the large and spacious building?

What does “them” refer to?

Is the shift from great to large significant?

I thought the dividing gulf was the river–now it is the (s)word of God?  What happened?

Why the time references?

19 And while the angel spake these words, I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.

Why does pride lead to defeat?

Why does Nephi pick up on pride but it wasn’t mentioned by the angel?

What does this verse teach about how the devil’s actions relate to agency?

20 And it came to pass that I beheld, and saw the people of the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed; and they went forth in multitudes upon the face of the land.

21 And I saw them gathered together in multitudes; and I saw wars and rumors of wars among them; and in wars and rumors of wars I saw many generations pass away.

What effect does the frequent repetition of the word “multitude” have on the reader?  Why is there no individuation in this vision?  What effect would that have had on Nephi?

22 And the angel said unto me: Behold these shall dwindle in unbelief.

What is the relationship between war and unbelief?  What causes the unbelief?  Belief in what?

 23 And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.

Do the references to ‘dark’ and ‘filthy’ tie in to Lehi’s vision?

Why would darkness, loathsomeness, filthiness, and idleness be the results of unbelief?

Wouldn’t we expect the unbelievers to be wealthy and gorgeous so they would tempt us to be like them?  (Don’t we frequently say that Satan makes ugly things appealing to the senses?)  What purpose is served by ugliness resulting from sin here?

Poetic Parallelism in the Book of Mormon:

seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.
20 And it came to pass that I beheld, and saw the people of the
seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed; and they went forth
in multitudes upon the face of the land.
21 And I saw them gathered together
in multitudes; and I saw
wars and rumors of wars among them; and in
wars and rumors of wars I saw many generations pass away.
22 And the angel said unto me: Behold these shall
dwindle in unbelief.
23 And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had
dwindled in unbelief they became a dark,
1 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying:
Look! And I
looked and beheld
many nations and kingdoms.
2 And the angel said unto me: What beholdest thou? And I said: I behold
many nations and kingdoms.
3 And he said unto me: These are the
nations and kingdoms
of the Gentiles.
4 And it came to pass that I saw among the nations
of the Gentiles the
formation of a great church.
5 And the angel said unto me: Behold the
formation of a church

Citation

I would call this staircase parallelism.  What effect does it have on the reader?  Does it suggest to you a linking of the concepts?

John Welch:

At this point in Lehi’s vision the record is interrupted; we do not know what was omitted here (see 8:29). But at this place in Nephi’s vision we learn of the painful prospect of war between the seed of Lehi (see 12:20—23).  Citation

If this is the case, then do you think Lehi omitted (or:  Nephi omitted) that section because it was not to be transmitted to L&L?  Because to record it might have been to ‘cause’ it or make it seem inevitable?  Why else?

CHAPTER 13
1 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld many nations and kingdoms.

Why the shift from ‘multitudes’ to ‘nations and kingdoms’?

2 And the angel said unto me: What beholdest thou? And I said: I behold many nations and kingdoms.

This verse is completely unnecessary at the narrative level–it isn’t telling us anything that we didn’t know from v1.  So I assume that it was included because the process of dialogue between Nephi and the angel was important in itself.  Why might that be?

3 And he said unto me: These are the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.

Does this verse imply that that (=that they were Gentiles) would not have been obvious to Nephi without clarification?

4 And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the formation of a great church.

Stephen E. Robinson:

We find that the term great and abominable church means an immense assembly or association of people bound together by their loyalty to that which God hates. Citation; see article for evidence for this claim

Here is Webster’s 1828 on “church.”  Is anything there useful?

Modern LDS interpretation is that the “church” is any institution that does what v5 describes.  Why do you think the word “church” was used here if it doesn’t equate with what we mean by the word “church”?

Skousen reads “formation” (as it is here), although “foundation” was in the printer’s manuscript and the 1830 BoM. (Same goes for the word in the next verse.)  In Analysis of Textual Variants in the BoM, Skousen writes, “When he copied the text from O [=the original manuscript] into P [=the printer’s manuscript], Oliver Cowdery replaced the word formation with foundation, but only for the first three cases [13:4, 13:5, 13:26], not the fourth one (in verse 32).  It is difficult to determine whether Oliver’s three changes are accidental or intentional.”  (p264)  I have to admit that I wish it were “foundation” because that would make an awesome link to the (lack of) foundation of the great and spacious building.

In the mid-20th century, this great and abominable church was usually thought to be the Catholic Church.  While there are a few (obvious and other not-so-obvious [hints:  Of which church was Columbus a member?  When was the Catholic Church formed?]) problems with that reading, remember this:  in an apocalyptic vision, everything is a symbol for something else.  So when John the Revelator talks about Babylon, he isn’t talking about the physical city whose remains are even now 85km south of Baghdad.  He’s using Babylon, which was a “bad” place in the Bible, as a symbol for all other “bad places.” By the same token, even if we were to read the g and a church as a reference to the Catholic Church (and I’m not suggesting that you do), it wouldn’t be a reference to the Catholic Church.  It would be using it as a symbol.

5 And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.

Is there anything in these verses that suggests to you why this church was formed?

The acts of this church seems to be in inverse order of seriousness.  Do you agree with that?  if so, why would it have been written that way?  (We usually do the opposite.)

Is the yoke of iron related to the rod of iron?

6 And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.

Skousen writes that for the 1837 edition, Joseph Smith changed “founder” to “foundation.”  (He made the same change in 14:17.)

7 And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots.

Does this reference relate to the people in the great and spacious building?  (NB that these items are not specifically mentioned as clothing, but the list is similar.)

What does this verse teach about wealth?

8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.

NB that the angel adds clothing–Nephi didn’t mention that in the previous verse.  (I don’t have time to pursue this right now, but I think it would be interesting to make a chart comparing what Nephi says he sees with what the angel points out to him.  I have a suspicion that the angel is showing him things that he didn’t notice.  “What Nephi Didn’t Notice” might make an interesting topic for study.)

Point:  They get what they want.  They desire these things, and they have them.

NB introduction of harlots at this point–Nephi didn’t see that and neither did Lehi.  Why mention them now?  Do they relate to the harlots in v34?

Again with desire . . . why are desires mentioned here?  Why was desire such a huge component of Nephi’s visionary experience?

Why no mention of the pointing and mocking here, as we had in Lehi’s vision?

NB that the overwhelming focus in on their (signaling of their) wealth (through clothing).  Does this surprise you?  Would you have expected more sex and less Ralph Lauren?

If these things are the desires of the church, why then is it engaged in the activities of v5 as opposed to things more directly focused on wealth generation?  Does v19 explain this?

9 And also for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.

Why would destroying saints bring the praise of the world?

Boyd K. Packer:

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. Apr 2007 GC

It seems that we would have some interesting boundary problems with this one:  scholarships, internships, admittance to educational programs, promotions, professional recognitions, etc., etc. all involve “the praise of men” to some extent.  How do you think about these?

Is “destroying the Saints of God” the same thing as accumulating wealth (=fine clothing) and desiring harlots?  If not, how does this verse relate to the previous verse?

10 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren.

If we take this as a reference to the Atlantic Ocean separating the Old World from the New World, then why is it called “many waters”?

Why is the role of the waters highlighted as the dividing agent, and not, say, God’s direction, or history, or something else?

Is this water, which has the function of dividing, related to the “great and a terrible gulf [which] divideth them” in 12:18?

11 And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren.

How does this verse relate to the great and abominable church?

Joe Spencer:

What we’re seeing in the events of verses 12-19 is not, according to the angel, a series of glorious events that lead to freedom, etc., but a series of largely disturbing events that realize the wrath of God against the Lamanites.  Citation

How does the explanation for these events given in this verse relate to the idea that you sometimes hear in the Church that these events happened in order to lay the groundwork for the Restoration?

Interesting that they enjoyed a military victory above, but this was not evidence of divine approval.

12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

Here is Webster 1828 on “wrought.”  (I think it is important to know that it most emphatically does not mean that every single thing that Columbus said or did was done according to the will of the Spirit, just that some of his actions were “worked over” or “affected” by the Spirit.)  (What is funny about this is the only reason Columbus set out on his voyage was because of a misinterpretation of apocryphal scripture suggested to him that the distance to the Indies was much smaller than it really was. Did the Spirit inspire that?)

It is now, I think, generally accepted that the Native American population was absolutely enormous before Columbus, but up to something like 80% of that population may have died as a result of diseases brought by European explorers to which they had no immunity.  If this is the case, it is possible to read this verse in a way that does not impute any righteousness whatsoever to Columbus–he was merely a puppet of the Spirit–the vehicle by which the introduction of a lot of fatal diseases came.  I don’t know that we need to go that far, but I don’t think we need to venerable Columbus either in order to be in harmony with what is going on in this verse.

Why point out that this man was “separated”?  In what way is that true?

I know of no other interpretation of this verse aside from a reference to Christopher Columbus.  If that is an accurate identification, why wasn’t he named in this verse?  (Compare 14:27, which names John the Revelator.)

What would have made Columbus worthy of mention?

Columbus in effect recreates Lehi’s journey by being inspired to go to the promised land.  What might the significance of this be?

Gordon B. Hinckley:

We interpret that to refer to Columbus. It is interesting to note that the Spirit of God wrought upon him. After reading that long biography, a Pulitzer winner of forty years ago, titled Admiral of the Ocean Sea—I have no doubt that Christopher Columbus was a man of faith, as well as a man of indomitable determination.  I recognize that in this anniversary year a host of critics have spoken out against him. I do not dispute that there were others who came to this Western Hemisphere before him. But it was he who in faith lighted a lamp to look for a new way to China and who in the process discovered America. His was an awesome undertaking—to sail west across the unknown seas farther than any before him of his generation. He it was who, in spite of the terror of the unknown and the complaints and near mutiny of his crew, sailed on with frequent prayers to the Almighty for guidance. In his reports to the sovereigns of Spain, Columbus repeatedly asserted that his voyage was for the glory of God and the spread of the Christian faith. Properly do we honor him for his unyielding strength in the face of uncertainty and danger. Oct 1992 GC

Grant Hardy:

But if the Book of Mormon’s “Spirit of God” that “wrought upon the man” was not especially shocking to some Americans in 1830, it did stand firmly against the intellectual trend of the times, which focused on Columbus’s rational, scientific nature and acknowledged the spiritual roots of his quest only grudgingly, if at all. . . . Against all of this, the Book of Mormon boldly asserts that whatever else may have been involved, Columbus’s primary reasons for sailing were spiritual. Thus it may be of interest to Latter-day Saints that much recent scholarship has come to agree with the Book of Mormon’s original assessment of Columbus. . . . Columbus himself was writing [a book] but never completed [it], called Book of Prophecies (the fragments were first edited by Cesare De Lollis in 1894). In this book Columbus set forth views on himself as the fulfiller of biblical prophecies! Columbus saw himself as fulfilling the “islands of the sea” passages from Isaiah and another group of verses concerning the conversion of the heathen. Watts reports that Columbus was preoccupied with “the final conversion of all races on the eve of the end of the world,” paying particular attention to John 10:16: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold” (see also 3 Nephi 16:3). He took his mission of spreading the gospel of Christ seriously. “God made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth. . . . He showed me the spot where to find it,” Columbus wrote in 1500. Citation

13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.

What does “out of captivity” tell us about their circumstances?

14 And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten.

What does this verse teach us about how God uses history?  Is that lesson applicable to all situations?

15 And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.

If you’re, say, a Howard Zinn fan, this passage will almost certainly grate on your nerves with the idea that American settlers were led by the Spirit to steal the lands of native people and, you know, kill them.  How do you read this?  What demands does it make on the reader?

Nephi’s coloring was probably similar to what you see in  Middle Eastern people today.  Given that, what does he mean by “white” in this verse?

16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

Was this before or after they murdered innocent girls for being witches?  (Sorry, I’ll behave.)

17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

Why do you think the phrase “mother Gentiles” was used?  It seems awfully . . . nice . . . given the captivity and great and abominable motif we’ve just seen.

Most LDS read this as a reference to the American Revolution. If it is, why would that event have been important enough to include in this vision?

Why the emphasis on the water in this verse?

18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

To whom does “them” refer in this verse?

What do we gain from interpreting historical events as reflecting/including/resulting from “the wrath of God”?  What might we lose?  Can we read all wars/events this way?  If not, which should we?  How do we know?

19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.

Had they done something to deserve this special treatment?

Joe Spencer:

It’s important not to close up the interpretive possibilities of Nephi’s words too quickly (might the war or wars of independence referred to be wars waged as much by other New World nations as by the colonies that would become the United States of America?). Still more importantly, I think, is the fact that the lack of angelic commentary here means that, for the most part, we’re left without a clear indication of what God thinks about all these events we are so wont to cherish. We have, for the most part, a simple report of their having happened.  Citation

20 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.

How would you respond to someone who read this verse as justifying the treatment of Native Americans and African Americans by early European Americans?

Why is the book mentioned now, and not previously?

21 And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?

Why does the angel use “meaning” as opposed to “contents of” or “identity” or “significance” or somesuch?

Again, I am struck by the dialogue of Nephi and the angel.  What are we to learn from it? How might it be relevant to our lives?

22 And I said unto him: I know not.

Skousen omits “unto him” here.

Nephi almost always knows stuff.  Why doesn’t he know this?

23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.

What is this book?  Who is the Jew, and why isn’t he named?  If it is the Bible, then why “a” Jew?

Is this book the equivalent of the iron rod in Lehi’s vision?  If it is, then is the “clinging” that was problematic in Lehi’s vision the symbolic equivalent of “clinging” to an imperfect Bible?

How should this use of “Jew” shape our understanding of all of the other times that Nephi uses the word Jew?

Why is this book characterized as covenants and prophecies?  What should that teach us about the content of the book?

Does “save there are not so many” refer to the brass plates, or to this book that Nephi sees?

Why would covenants made with the house of Israel be of great worth to the Gentiles?

Does this verse reflect a step backwards in time relative to the previous verse?  If so, why?

24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.

Skousen:

Here is one of Oliver Cowdery’s conjectural emendations that I think he got wrong. In 1 Nephi 13:24 the original manuscript reads “it contained the fullness of the gospel of the Land”, which seems impossible. When Oliver copied this passage into the printer’s manuscript, he changed “the gospel of the Land” to “the gospel of the Lord”. He obviously couldn’t accept the word land here, and he thought Land looked like Lord. In actuality, the reading of the original text was very likely “the gospel of the Lamb”. The original scribe apparently misheard lamb as land but without the d at the end being pronounced, which he then wrote as Land in the original manuscript. At every other place in the Book of Mormon (namely, in four places in 1 Nephi 13), the text consistently reads “the gospel of the Lamb”, never “the gospel of the Lord”. Of course, “the gospel of the Lord” is possible, but that isn’t the way the Book of Mormon expresses it.”  Citation

Skousen reads fulness (as it is here) but the printer’s manuscript and the 1820 BoM read “plainness.”  (From a theological viewport, I think plainness works -much- better than fulness, but it is pretty clear, I think, that the original was fulness.) What does fulness of the gospel mean?  Webster 1828 definition here.

What does it mean to say that the Bible originally contained the fulness of the gospel?  What does that tell us about the Bible?  What is the fulness?  (Did it, for example, include references to all ordinances?)

“Lamb” is clearly the preferred title in this vision; why?

Possible meanings for Lamb of God:
(1) Passover lamb (see Exodus 12)
(2) sacrificial lamb (see Exodus 29:38?46)
(3) suffering servant of God (see Isaiah 53)
(4) destroys all evil in the last days (Revelation 7:17, 17:14)

One thing that we learn from this verse is that it is possible for a book to contain the fullness of the gospel.

25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.

Jim F.:  “If the Bible went forth from the Jews in purity, what does that suggest about when or how things might have been removed from the record? What does it mean to say that the book went forth “in purity”? In this case is purity the same as completeness? as accuracy? or does the angel mean something else? Does “in purity” modify the book or the way that it was transmitted or . . . ? “

26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

Again Skousen reads formation (as the text does) instead of foundation, as the printer’s manuscript and 1831 BoM read.

Jim F.:  “Does this verse tell us that the abominable church is abominable because it has taken away plain and precious parts? Are “many parts which are plain and most precious” and “many covenants” two different things that have been removed, or is this a case of parallelism in which the second item in the parallel tells us what the first item means? In what ways could one remove a covenant from the Bible? “

Stephen E. Robinson:

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.  Citation

Why are we back to the g and a church here?  Why introduce it earlier if it is at this moment that its work becomes relevant?

Modern textual critics see most changes to the Bible to be additions of text, not subtractions.  Does that or does that not disagree with what is described in this verse?

What would motivate someone to remove plain and precious things?  What would motivate someone to take away covenants?

What does plain mean?  W1828 here.

Note above that the content of the book was described as covenants and prophecies.  In this verse, what is removed are plain and precious parts and covenants.  Does this mean that prophecies and plain and precious parts refer to the same thing?

27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.

Why would they want to do this?

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

Skousen ads “most” before precious.

John Welch:

Close reading shows that Nephi saw other, more fundamental factors first at work.  These words of the angel seem to identify three stages in this process—not just one. First, the Gentiles would take “away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious” (1 Nephi 13:26). This stage possibly could have occurred more by altering the meaning or understanding of the things taught by the Lord than by changing the words themselves. This changing of understanding was a fundamental problem seen by Nephi. What would cause many to stumble were those things “taken away out of the gospel” (1 Nephi 13:29, 32).  Second, the Gentiles would take away “many covenants of the Lord” (1 Nephi 13:26). This step, too, could be taken without deleting any words from the Bible as such. The knowledge and benefit of the covenants of God could become lost simply by neglecting the performance of ordinances, or priesthood functions, or individual covenants as the Lord had taught.  Third, Nephi beheld that there were “many plain and precious things taken away from the book” (1 Nephi 13:28). This step was apparently a consequence of the first two, since 13:28 begins with the word “wherefore.” Thus, the eventual physical loss of things from the Bible was perhaps less a cause than a result of the fact that, first, the gospel, and second, the covenants had been lost or taken away.  Citation

That article also explains how the BoM responds to those three phases.

29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—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.

Does this verse imply that the changes were made *before* the book circulated widely?  I

Note that the Gentiles which went over the many waters were able to have the Spirit of God with them and to prosper, despite the fact that plain and precious things had been removed from their book and Satan was able to have power over them.  What might we conclude from that?

Review v20-29, looking for things that should shape your understanding of the Bible.  What do you see here that impacts how you read the Bible?

Going back to my issues above with the view of history presented in this chapter, might this be an acceptable conclusion to draw:  “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).”  Is that a fair summary?

30 Nevertheless, thou beholdest that the Gentiles who have gone forth out of captivity, and have been lifted up by the power of God above all other nations, upon the face of the land which is choice above all other lands, which is the land that the Lord God hath covenanted with thy father that his seed should have for the land of their inheritance; wherefore, thou seest that the Lord God will not suffer that the Gentiles will utterly destroy the mixture of thy seed, which are among thy brethren.

Is there any way to read this as *not* being about the US?  If it is about the US, then doesn’t that imply that the BoM peoples lived in the US?

This is the first reference to Nephi’s seed in a long time.  Why are they re-introduced here?

31 Neither will he suffer that the Gentiles shall destroy the seed of thy brethren.

32 Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness, which thou beholdest they are in, because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, whose formation thou hast seen.

So the Spirit was guiding them, but they are in an awful state of blindness?

33 Wherefore saith the Lamb of God: I will be merciful unto the Gentiles, unto the visiting of the remnant of the house of Israel in great judgment.

How does the second half of this verse relate to the first half?

34 And it came to pass that the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying: Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel—and this remnant of whom I speak is the seed of thy father—wherefore, after I have visited them in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb—I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.

NB this is the first reference to Lehi’s (not Nephi’s, not his brothers’) seed.  Why is it used here?

Why “mother of harlots”?

Does this mean that only “much” of the gospel has been restored?

NB that the angel is speaking to Nephi, but quoting the words of the Lamb, which is mentioned at the beginning and the end of the verse.  Why does the Lamb speak directly here?

35 For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.

NB that bow the Lamb is speaking directly (through the angel?) to Nephi.

Does this verse move us backwards in time from the previous verse?  If so, why the disjunct?

Remember that gift-giving was for kings in the ancient world, so this is a big deal, I think.

Why is the solution to an imperfect book another book, and not something else?

Grant Hardy:

From the perspective of the readers, the angel is obviously speaking of the Book of Mormon, but Nephi, at this point, gives no indication that he recognizes the visionary volume as including a history that he himself would someday compose.  Citation:  Understanding the Book of Mormon, A Reader’s Guide

What I find interesting about this is that the modern reader knows more than Nephi does.  It seems that most scripture wants to create a situation where the writer knows more than the reader.  Why does this happen here, and is it destabilizing to the extent of completely upending the enterprise of scripture writing?

36 And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.

Why do we go to “my” here?  Why the addition of rock and salvation to lamb?  Is the lamb speaking the words “my rock and my salvation,” or is that the angel’s or Nephi’s description of the Lamb?

37 And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.

Does “gift and power” in this verse relate to the same phrase in v35?

Jim F.:  “The writings of the Book of Mormon contain “the gospel [. . .] and my rock and my salvation” (verse 36). Why does the Lord describe the gospel as “my rock”? In what other ways does he use “rock” and how might it be related to his use here? (Compare, for example, Matthew 16:18.) Why does he describe the gospel as “my salvation” rather than just “salvation”? What does it mean to bring forth Zion (verse 37)? Is the last part of the verse (“and whoso shall publish peace . . .”) parallel to the first part, making “bring forth Zion” and “publish peace” parallel? What does it mean to publish peace?”

38 And it came to pass that I beheld the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the book of the Lamb of God, which had proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew, that it came forth from the Gentiles unto the remnant of the seed of my brethren.

39 And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.

Skousen reads “and also to the Jews” here.

What are these books?  How do you know?

40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles 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 Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.

Skousen omits “Son of” from this verse.

41 And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.

“Thy seed” is interesting here–we have this progression where Nephi has seed, where it is destroyed, where it is referred to as mixed with that of his brethren, and here it is back as seed.  One wonders if this is more metaphorical than literal.

The last phrase suggests a relationship between the oneness of the record and the oneness of God.  What is this relationship?

42 And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations, both unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles; and after he has manifested himself unto the Jews and also unto the Gentiles, then he shall manifest himself unto the Gentiles and also unto the Jews, and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.

Poetic Parallelism:

A unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren,
B and also the Jews
C who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets
and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.
40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast
seen among the Gentiles,
D shall establish the truth of the first,
E which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb,
F 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,
G that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the
Savior of the world;
H and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.
41 H And they must come according to the words which shall be
established
G by the mouth of the Lamb;
F and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed,
E as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb;
D wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God
and one Shepherd over all the earth.
42 C And the time cometh that he shall manifest himself unto all nations,
B both unto the Jews
A and also unto the Gentiles;  Citation

What I like about that structure is that it puts the emphasis on the H line, or the idea of coming to the Lamb and being saved.

Considering all of chapter 13, is this just “a history lesson in advance”?  To what moral or devotional purpose can you put these facts?

CHAPTER 14
1 And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks—

Can you think of examples of stumbling blocks that have been removed?

2 And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.

W1828 “confound” — “To mingle and blend different things, so that their forms or natures cannot be distinguished; to mix in a mass or crowd, so that individuals cannot be distinguished.”

NB a reference to Lehi’s seed again (unless this is more metaphorical–fathers in general?).  The idea that people can be “adopted” in to be considered part of Lehi’s seed suggests that the line of descent is, perhaps, more symbolic than literal.

3 And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell—yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.

What does this verse, particularly the part about those who dug the pit being thrown into it, teach us about sin and punishment?

Who are the devil’s children?

Does filled by those who digged it mean that they will fill it with dirt–or with their bodies?

4 For behold, this is according to the captivity of the devil, and also according to the justice of God, upon all those who will work wickedness and abomination before him.

This verse suggests that both the devil’s and God’s wills are aligned here. (It feels sort of wrong to say that, but I think you know what I mean.)  What’s going on in this verse?

5 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, Nephi, saying: Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them; and thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish.

We know that the angel has been speaking unto Nephi, why mention it again?

The word “repent” hasn’t been used in this chapter yet.  Is the angel referring to things outside of this chapter, or should we interpret v1-4 as being about repentance, even though that word wasn’t used?

Are the words of the angel here a summary up to this point?  If so, what purpose would that serve for Nephi (and us)?

6 Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God.

7 For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.

Skousen reads “unto destruction” instead of “into destruction.”

Joe Spencer:

It’s only at this point that there is any talk of a good church—before this, all talk of churches has been talk of the great and abominable.  Citation

8 And it came to pass that when the angel had spoken these words, he said unto me: Rememberest thou the covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel? I said unto him, Yea.

Why does the angel ask him this?  Is it possible that the angel thought Nephi might answer “no”?

9 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil.

Skousen writes that for the 1837 edition, Joseph Smith changed “founder” to “foundation.”

What is the link to the previous verse?

10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.

Note that if you do not choose to be a member of the church of the Lamb, you are automatically a member of the g and a church.

Jim F.:  “How do we know which church we are in?”  (That’s such a great question.)

11 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.

A link to the whore in Revelation?  Does her sitting upon many waters relate to the waters (fountains, etc.) in Lehi’s vision?  To the many waters that the Gentiles crossed?

Why is this very powerful figure symbolized by a woman?

Stephen E. Robinson:

While the book of Revelation does not use the exact phrase great and abominable church, both John and Nephi use a number of similar phrases to describe it. They call it the “Mother of Harlots, and Abominations,” “mother of abominations,” and “the whore that sitteth upon many waters.” (Revelation 17:1, 5; 1 Nephi 14:10–11). The major characteristics of the great and abominable church described in 1 Nephi may be listed as follows:

  1. It persecutes, tortures, and slays the Saints of God (see 1 Nephi 13:5).
  2. It seeks wealth and luxury (see 1 Nephi 13:7–8).
  3. It is characterized by sexual immorality (see 1 Nephi 13:7).
  4. It has excised plain and precious things from the scriptures (see 1 Nephi 13:26–29).
  5. It has dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people (see 1 Nephi 14:11).
  6. Its fate is to be consumed by a world war, when the nations it incites against the Saints war among themselves until the great and abominable church itself is destroyed (see 1 Nephi 22:13–14).

Another symbol used in the book of Revelation to represent the great and abominable church, as well as worldliness and wickedness in general, is Babylon. Five of the six characteristics identified in 1 Nephi are also attributed to Babylon in the book of Revelation:

  1. Babylon is drunk with the blood of the Saints, the martyrs of Jesus, and the prophets (see Revelation 17:6; 18:24).
  2. She is known for her enjoyment of great wealth and luxury (see Revelation 17:4; 18:3, 11–16).
  3. She is characterized by wanton sexual immorality (see Revelation 17:1–2, 5).
  4. She has dominion over all nations (see Revelation 17:15, 18; 18:3, 23–24).
  5. Her fate is to be consumed by the very kings who, because of her deceptions, have made war on the Lamb (see Revelation 17:14–16; 18:23).

The one characteristic not common to both prophetic descriptions is Nephi’s statement that the great and abominable church has held back important parts of the canon of scripture. This omission in Revelation is not surprising since John’s record is one of the scriptures Nephi says was tampered with (see 1 Nephi 14:23–24).  Citation

Stephen E. Robinson has some really important things to say about interpreting the great and abominable church here.

12 And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.

At what point in history is this?

(How) does the “numbers are few” relate to the numberless concourses of people?

What, if anything, does this verse teach us about the growth of the church?

13 And it came to pass that I beheld that the great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God.

Skousen reads “did gather together in multitides” here.  That is a huge difference in our understanding of who/what this mother of abominations is.

Is the woman in this verse the same as the whore?  Is something happening where she changes from a whore to a mother?

If you assume that this verse is about current times, it leads one to view the world in a very black-and-white, us-against-them sort of a way.  How do you reconcile that with modern prophetic teachings that recognize the good that all good people do, as well as the good in all churches, etc.?  Is this black-and-white view useful?  Harmful?  Both?

14 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.

Are the saints and the covenant people the same group?  If so, why refer to them in two different ways?

15 And it came to pass that I beheld that the wrath of God was poured out upon that great and abominable church, insomuch that there were wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds of the earth.

Are these literal wars, or is this symbolic?

16 And as there began to be wars and rumors of wars among all the nations which belonged to the mother of abominations, the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold, the wrath of God is upon the mother of harlots; and behold, thou seest all these things—

We had the harlot, then the mother of abominations, and now the mother of harlots.  Are these all the same thing, or different things?

17 And when the day cometh that the wrath of God is poured out upon the mother of harlots, which is the great and abominable church of all the earth, whose founder is the devil, then, at that day, the work of the Father shall commence, in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel.

This verse almost reads as if those terrible events -cause- the Father to begin his work.  Is that what is meant here?  If so, what might we learn from that?

Isn’t it correct to say that the work of the Father commenced well before this, if there are saints gathered and armed?  Or are we disrupting the temporal sequence again?

Skousen writes that for the 1837 edition, Joseph Smith changed “founder” to “foundation.”

18 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

19 And I looked and beheld a man, and he was dressed in a white robe.

20 And the angel said unto me: Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Does this mean that Lehi’s “man in the white robe” was the same guy?  If so, why would John the Revelator have been given the task of guiding Lehi through his vision?  If not, what is the relationship between this guy and Lehi’s guy?

21 Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been.

How might you read the Book of Revelation differently in light of this verse?  What is in there that consists of “things which have been” (in Nephi’s past tense)?

22 And he shall also write concerning the end of the world.

23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.

Why “just”?  Is the point supposed to be that we don’t need to wonder if the many destructions in the Book of Rev are “just”?

Does this mean that the Book of Revelation is the book referred to above?  If so, why is it the one mentioned, when we might consider the gospels more important?  If not, then why is it singled out here as getting the same treatment as the book mentioned above?

Jim F.:  “Verse 23: Nephi says that the John’s revelation was “plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.” However, in 1 Nephi 15:3 he says that Lehi’s revelation was “hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord.” Does this mean that Lehi’s revelation is, in itself, more difficult to understand than John’s or is something else going on here?”  I would add:  does this suggest that ‘being easy to understand’ isn’t always the point (or is this a Lehi fail)?  What does this suggest about revelation?

Unless you believe that Rev has been virtually re-written, then I think we have to assume that apocalyptic can count as “plain.”  What does this mean, and how should it inform our reading of Revelation?

24 And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.

25 But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them.

Why would it be important to the Lord that only John, and not Nephi, write these things, especially since we have multiple instances of duplicated records from the BoM to the Bible?

Why does Nephi bother including all of this in his record, so that we know that he saw things that he didn’t write and that John would write them?

26 And also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them; and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel.

Who are these others?  Why mention them?

27 And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel.

Why would this information have been given to Nephi?  Why would it be important for him to bear record of it?  What effect does it have on the reader? What might we say about John’s agency if this were known to Nephi 600 years or so before John was born?

Why is the name not included until the very end of the account–what effect does that have on the reader?

28 And behold, I, Nephi, am forbidden that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw and heard; wherefore the things which I have written sufficeth me; and I have written but a small part of the things which I saw.

29 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.

Is what Lehi saw identical?  If so, then why do Lehi and Nephi put such different spins on it?

30 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. Amen.

General Thoughts:
(1) What does Nephi’s vision teach us about historiography?  About specific historical events?  About the relationships between prophets and prophetic records?

(2) The BoM has been criticized for including abundant detail of historical events *before* Joseph Smith’s time but not after his time, something seen as all the more damning since a BoM written “for our day” should, presumably, include more of the events of our day.  How would you respond to these arguments?

(3) I think, in our pride, we have chosen to emphasize the strands of the vision that makes our (European American) ancestors look good.  We choose not the emphasize The Other Parts, the parts about them being in “a state of awful wickedness” so they “stumble exceedingly”  (1 Ne 13:29, 32, 34).

(4) Is Nephi’s vision (or, at least, this part of the vision) to be read as an apocalyptic work?  If so, then we would not want to read it as “history written in advance” but rather as “truths taught symbolically.”  What is appropriate here?  We think that apocalyptic was a popular genre when people were persecuted; is that the case here?  Does the continuation of Nephi’s vision as John’s vision demand that we read this as apocalyptic?  I’m also curious about the fact that Nephi’s vision is a continuation of Lehi’s and John’s is a continuation of Nephi’s.  What’s up with the Great Chain of Visions?  Are *all* visions part of one apocalyptic script?

(5) If you read ch13-14, you could be forgiven for thinking that the entire Bible *was* the Book of Revelation, or maybe that the only significant part of the Bible was the Book of Revelation.  Why might this be?  Does ch13-14 encourage us to read Revelation differently?

(6) If you were to develop a “theology of war” based on these chapters, what would it look like?

Additional Resoureces:

Nephi’s Great and Abominable Church

Connections Between the Visions of Lehi and Nephi

Chart Comparing Lehi’s and Nephi’s Visions
(Note:  some entries on this chart I am not at all sure about–some are very clearly parallel, but others are quite speculative and I don’t necessarily agree with them.)

Lehi’s Vision Nephi’s Vision Nephi’s Interpretation to his brothers Other Notes
dark and dreary wilderness high mountain (11:1)
Lehi left alone by man Spirit leaves and angel comes
man in a white robe Spirit of the Lord, and then angel
large and spacious field
tree after desiring to know the interpretation of the tree, Nephi sees Jrsm, the virgin, and the child tree “of life” represents the love of God (11:22, 25)
fruit (sweet, white)
river of water baptism by JBap in the Jordan (11:26-27) gulf separating righteous and wicked; hell (15:27, 29-30)
rod of iron Jesus’ mortal ministry and apostles’ preaching (11:28-33) judgement day–the “bar” of God (see 15:32-33) (I am not convinced by this.) angel says that it represents the word of God (11:25)
straight and narrow path
fountain Lehi makes no distinction, but later, angel says that there was a fountain of living waters that represents the love of God (11:25)
river of filthy water represents the depths of hell 12:16
numberless concourses of people multitudes gathered to fight against the apostles (11:34)
mists of darkness ‘natural disasters’ at time of Christ’s death in the new World (12:4) represents the temptations of the devil (12:17)
(1) on path, mists -> wander off, lost (8:21-23) multitudes on land of promise, Nephi + brothers’ seed (12:1)
(2) cling, partake, ashamed, forbidden paths, lost people who survive to be there at Christ’s visit to Americas –interesting that in 12:5, they are multitudes who had not fallen–cf group (3) below (cf. 4 Ne 1:15–’love of God’)(see also 12:19:  “I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed [the great and spacious building], and the temptations of the devil [the mists of darkness], I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed. “) 12:22-23 covers the wandering in forbidden paths and getting lost
great and spacious building multitude fighting apostles is in large and spacious building; house of Israel fighting (11:35)
Nephi sees building fall (70CE destruction of Jrsm?  apostasy in general?)
=great and abominable church
angel says it represents the pride of the world (11:36)
people in building
gap in recounting of Lehi’s dream (8:29) presumably 1 Ne 13, since it is between (2) and (3), but not covered in Lehi’s vision–so Columbus, settlers, Am. Revolution, Restoration
(3) hold fast, fall down, partake, not heed (8:30) some people in last days (14:7, 10)
or 4 generations after Christ’s visit in 4 Nephi
(4) press/feel toward building, drown, wander, strange roads some people in last days (14:7, 10)
(5) great multitude enters building 14:11-12:  church of devil will greatly exceed saints
river gulf separating

Chart based on this and this.

Corbin T. Volluz:

Just as the dream of Lehi left the reader hanging, so does the vision of Nephi. This similarity in abrupt endings of Nephi’s vision and Lehi’s dream tends to confirm the hypothesis that the vision of Nephi is an interpretation of Lehi’s dream, up to and including the cliff-hanger ending. But at the conclusion of Nephi’s vision, we learn the reason behind the premature finale.  Nephi was forbidden by God to record the conclusion of the vision.  Citation

Discussion based on the chart:

Note that you could almost auto-generate discussion questions based on the chart by asking “Why is X an appropriate symbol for Y?” “Why does Lehi see X but Nephi’s parallel is Y?” “Why is there no parallel in [Lehi or Nephi]‘s vision to this part of [Nephi or Lehi]‘s vision” for every row on the chart.

Should Lehi’s location “in the wilderness” (where he literally is) versus Nephi’s high mountain (giving, literally, an overview, but not engaged with the action on the ground) set up for us the two different viewpoints of the vision?  If that is the case, are there other elements in the vision that are symbolic in a similar sense–that is, in terms of giving us information about the visionary instead of the vision per se?

Why is Lehi a participant but Nephi is an observer?

Why does Nephi dialogue with the angel/Spirit but Lehi doesn’t?

Why did Nephi choose not to record Lehi’s words that correspond to 1 Nephi 13?  (And it’s kind of fun to think about what symbols might have been used there in Lehi’s vision.)

John Welch:

The two visions are very different in character. Lehi’s dream is intimate, symbolic, and salvific; Nephi’s vision is collective, historic, and eschatological. Yet both visions embrace the same prophetic elements, only from different angles.  Citation

Do you agree with that?  What do you conclude from the fact that the same core of visionary material could be used to reach such different conclusions?   What does this teach about about interpretation of visions–or, more generally, of the scriptures?

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