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God in 1 Nephi 13

GodHoly GhostLamb

Lamb of GodLordLord God

SaviorShepherd • Son of the Eternal Father

Spirit of God • Spirit of the Lord

1 Nephi 13:14

The wrath of God was upon the natives

The Book of Mormon teaches

that God sponsored the colonization of the Promised Land

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.

The wrath of God now enters the narrative more specifically, manifested through the Gentile invasion.  Nephi speaks of “many multitudes.”  This may refer to different nationalities who came exploring the New World.  It also provides a separation from the previous verse, where he saw “other” Gentiles led by the Holy Spirit.  He does not say that all these multitudes were thus led, or that they all went out of captivity.

The Spanish and English treated the native Americans differently.  

The Spanish sought to Christianize them while they enslaved them, at the same time accidentally depopulating many areas through their European diseases.  They interbred extensively, so that today few inhabitants south of the border know anything about their native ancestry.  Those who do are still in turmoil with the children of their Gentile conquerors.

The English made and broke treaties with them, while driving the survivors from their lands of inheritance farther and farther west, and also in some cases infecting them with diseases.  Those who are left remain largely a separate people, with a pretense of autonomy, but relegated to the poorest lands of America and dependent on the (Gentile) government for its largesse in their survival.  Plagued by alcoholism, another curse from their European conquerors, their own tribal governments make up for their subjugated state by exerting oppressive control over the lands, so that the native Americans themselves cannot establish businesses on the Reservation.

In either case the natives were scattered; their civilization, if not their genetic presence, became extinct.

1 Nephi 13:15

The Spirit of the Lord was upon the Gentiles

The Book of Mormon teaches

that God helped the Gentiles obtain the Promised Land for their inheritance

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.

The Spirit of the Lord is credited with allowing the Gentiles to obtain (conquer) the land, and prosper.  Again, the Spanish and English accomplished this in different ways.

The Spanish sought for gold, and they certainly obtained it, making the Spanish empire very prosperous for centuries.  It caused an inflation problem, however, and in the end probably hurt Spain more than it helped.  

The English, too, were able to grow their empire, thanks to their settlements in the New World.  They prospered through obtaining the raw materials from their colonies, and from their monopoly on selling their own manufactured goods back to them.  But this helped spur the American revolution, leading to the end of their empire.

In both cases, though the mother countries did not continue to prosper through their conquests, the settlers in the New World thrived.  The Spanish slave-holders on their sugar plantations and the English frontier families settling a continent drove the native populations off their lands and possessed them for themselves, and prospered in the process.

1 Nephi 13:16

The Gentiles were humble before the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches that humility brings the power of the Lord

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.

Nephi has spoken of “many multitudes” of Gentiles.  He now returns to a specific group, only those who went forth out of captivity.  He has previously stated that these Gentiles were led here by the Spirit of the Lord.  He now tells us that they continued to have His power, because of their humility.

We have already seen that the Great and Spacious Building is the pride of the world.  And we know that the evils of pride are a major theme in the Book of Mormon, that the Nephite civilization fell because of their embracing pride, and that the American nation would be and is plagued by that same moral failure.  This verse is one of hope:  It assures us that our American heritage is originally one of humility before God.  It reminds us that this humility is the key to enjoying the power of the Lord.

1 Nephi 13:18

The power of God was with them

The Book of Mormon teaches that God’s wrath is against

those who stand in the way of those who are protected by His power

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.

The American colonists’ humility was not just the first generation of Pilgrims and Puritans:  It extended 150 years to the Revolutionary period that Nephi now sees.  He sees that the wrath of God is upon their mother Gentiles (England), which means England is going to lose the war.  Was England the worst offender against God at this period of history?  Or is this another case of the wrath of God working to implement His plan for maximum opportunities and growth for all his children, which would happen with the founding of America’s government of freedom?

Wars are easy to start.  “Bullies” are not just a modern phenomenon; they are one basic aspect of the natural man.  Armed conflict, one people group against another, is always happening in many corners of the world, which occasionally flares up to suck in larger groups.  Wars form a major part of traditional history courses, including their dates and the fine leaders who initiate them, who we admire and to whom we give the epithet “great:”  Alexander the Great (conqueror of the Mediterranean area), Peter the Great (who began the Great Northern War, 1700-1720), Charles the Great (who conquered much of Europe), etc. When many people think of patriotism, their first thought is “supporting the troops who are defending our freedom.”  They’re always “defending our freedom,” as long as there is military action.  We may not trust our politicians when it comes to their fiscal, regulatory, or political decisions, but when they send our troops into battle we always believe that they are “defending our freedom.”  

I doubt that God takes sides in all these attacks and oppressions, or that He always saves those who are more innocent.  However, He can use this basic human propensity to accomplish His purposes.

1 Nephi 13:19

Delivered by the power of God

The Book of Mormon teaches that the American colonists

won their War for Independence because God delivered them

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.

Many European nations had cast their eyes upon American soil – England, Netherlands, France, Spain, Sweden, Russia, Denmark-Norway – and had greater or lesser footholds and settlements in this New World.  But God planned for a new nation, and little by little He removed the foreign powers, leaving a land of liberty for the Gentiles.

Nephi says that these Gentiles were delivered by the power of God, not by their own military efforts.  Of course, those military efforts were required, and God worked through them, but He intervened at crucial moments, when they had done all they could do.  Numerous times the weather changed precipitously in some particular - to a storm, a strong wind, a flood, a fog – which worked against the British and saved the cause of the Americans.  Even the infamous winter at Valley Forge was shortened and mitigated by an early run of fish in the rivers.  George Washington and other early Americans recognized and appreciated these miracles, but our modern society has forgotten them, or poo-poohs them, if remembered.

(See “Delivered by the Power of God:  The American Revolution and Nephi’s Prophecy,” by Jonathan A. Dibble.  )

1 Nephi 13:23

The book contains the covenants of the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches that the covenants in the Bible are of great worth

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.

Nephi sees that the liberated Gentiles have a book, which is easily identified as the Bible.  In colonial and early American households, a Bible was frequently the only book available in the house.  Children learned to read from the Bible, or the New England Primer, which carried many selections from and references to the Bible, such as “In Adam’s fall we sinned all.” Or “Zaccheus did climb the tree his Lord to see.”

This book is valuable to the Gentiles because of the covenants of the Lord, and they were acutely aware of that.  They likened themselves unto the House of Israel and being led out of Egypt and saved by the hand of the Lord.

Public schools teach that the American Founders studied classical Roman and Greek writers and political systems in order to arrive at the American Constitution.  There is truth in this assertion, but they as they read the complete histories and failures associated with these systems, they knowingly made significant adaptations to their system of republic.  They read widely – philosophers, historians, political thinkers.  But the most heavily-quoted source in all the Founders’ discussions was the Bible, with 34%.  The Book of Deuteronomy, or God’s Law, was the major source for the Founders’ ideas when establishing the Constitution.

(See “Early Americans Studied the Bible,” by Earl Taylor Jr, National Center for Constitutional Studies.

1 Nephi 13:24

The apostles bear record of the Lamb

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the Bible originally contained the fulness of the gospel

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.

Why does the angel say that the book proceeded “out of the mouth of a Jew”?  The Bible covers the history of the Jews before there were Jews, as written by Moses, of the tribe of Levi.  The prophets represent both the tribes of Judah and Joseph.  Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, was of the tribe of Benjamin.

In the context of this verse and other Book of Mormon references, “Jew” may mean any member of the House of Israel.  Or it may mean someone from the nation of Judah.  The angel says “a Jew” as a rhetorical device, a synecdoche.  It proceeded from all these prophets and writers of the House of Israel, and in its original form it was complete.

Though talking about the book, the Lord is in the center of this verse.  The book contained the fullness of His gospel.  We are reminded that the twelve apostles bear record of Him, which is the bulk of the New Testament.  They bear record of the truth which is in Him.  He said that He is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

The truth in the Lamb of God illuminates this confusing world with its tangled history and competing ideas.  It is a simple message of divine origins, choice and accountability, sin and the need for repentance, and the potential of a divine destiny, with the Lamb of God at the center, providing His saving atonement.

What truth of the Lamb of God do you cherish today?  

1 Nephi 13:25

The truth which is in God

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Bible holds God’s truth

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

The angel speaks less allegorically as he reiterates in this parallel statement.  The Book comes from the Jews, and in its original form it is pure, bearing the truth of God.

The truth which is in God encompasses His nature and objectives, His perspective on human lives, His directions for achieving eternal happiness.  Unlike truth related to physical existence, this truth cannot be discovered by scientific means, or deduced by philosophical methods.  It must be revealed.

1 Nephi 13:26

They took away from the gospel of the Lamb

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the abominable church took away many covenants of the Lord from the Bible

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 a 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.

I do not understand the meaning of this verse in a historical context, which I take to mean that our knowledge of history is incomplete, and a complete understanding will have to wait for more revelation or discoveries.

It is clear that the Bible does not lay out what we understand today as God’s covenant path, beginning with baptism, including the endowment, and concluding with eternal marriage.  Nor does the Book of Mormon, because it was written to dove-tail with the Bible, and point the way to further light and knowledge.

The Old Testament was a book, a canonized set of scripture.  If the Book carried by the Gentiles was pure and complete when it passed into the hands of the abominable church, one would suppose that the Jews still had a complete Old Testament, with all the plain and precious things and covenants which are lacking in the Book that went through the abominable church.  Such is not the case.    

The Bible mentions a number of books of scripture which are no longer extant (see LDS Bible Dictionary: Lost Scriptures).  The Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price quote a number of Old Testament-times prophets which are not found in the current Bible.  These passages are certainly plain and precious.  

The New Testament was a collection of letters and writings, which in the first few hundred years of Christianity were narrowed down to our current New Testament.

There are New Testament apocrypha available today.  We know historically that they were rejected from the body of canonized scripture by the medieval church.  However, they are anything but plain, being quite esoteric.  Not everything that glitters is gold, and not all ancient writing that claim divine origin are actually scripture.

Nevertheless, the message of this verse is that while information has gone missing from the Bible, we may be grateful that so much has been restored in our day through revelation.