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God in 1 Nephi 10

GodHoly GhostLamb of God

The LordLord GodMessiahOne

ProphetRedeemerSaviorSon of God

1 Nephi 10:3

In the own due time of the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches us to have a long and patient view of history

That after they should be destroyed, even that great city Jerusalem,

and many be carried away captive into Babylon,

according to the own due time of the Lord,

they should return again, yea, even be brought back out of captivity;

and after they should be brought back out of captivity

they should possess again the land of their inheritance.

Nephi’s next explanations of what his father said to the family are a bit curious.  The last thing he said, in 8:38, was that his father ceased speaking to them.  Then he explained the Small Plates situation, and how the Lord had commanded that he make them.  But where he picks up seems to be a more thorough re-telling of what Lehi said to his sons after telling them about his dream/vision.  It looks like Nephi thought he was finished writing about this incident, but his Chapter 9 interlude of Small Plate explanation reminded him of the sort of things he was to write, so he said he “must speak somewhat” more about his father and brothers.  It may also be that Nephi was eager to write about his own Tree of Life vision, but he recognized that he needed to explain exactly what he had heard from his father, which prompted him to go to the Lord for more light and knowledge.

Curiously, Nephi’s next reference to the Lord is another reminder that the Lord has His own timetable, and we must patiently respect that.  This is the same lesson we discussed in relation to the making of the Small Plates for a purpose known only unto the Lord, and which Nephi apparently never learned during his lifetime.  

Nephi says that the people will be brought back out of captivity in the “own due time of the Lord.”  In the midst of sorrows and difficulties they seem to stretch endlessly forward.  With an eye of faith we can see that they do end.

1 Nephi 10:4

A Prophet – a Messiah – A Savior

The Book of Mormon introduces Jesus as a Prophet, a Messiah, a Savior

Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem,

a Prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews --

even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.

Lehi now begins to testify of Christ, referring to him by three titles:  prophet, Messiah, and Savior.  

A prophet is called and sent by God with a message for the people.  The Old Testament is written by many prophets, and many more are mentioned by name.  God always works through prophets.  

A messiah is anointed, generally to lead and govern.  King Saul and King David were anointed.  Israel wanted to follow anointed ones – kings – though kings, wielding government sanctions, have more leverage for evil than prophets.  The Old Testament speaks of anointed ones, or of the anointed one, but only in the Book of Daniel, who was a contemporary of Lehi, is the word also translated “Messiah.”

A savior saves people from danger.  The Lord is often referred to as the Savior in the Old Testament.  A Boy Scout who stands on the river bank and throws a tethered life line to a drowning person is a savior, but he didn’t even have to get his feet wet.

Prophets are rejected because people don’t want to be told what to do, even by God.  Messiahs are rejected because powerful people do not want to be replaced in government.  Saviors are rejected because people do not want to believe they are in any danger that they can’t handle themselves.

1 Nephi 10:5

This Messiah – this Redeemer

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the prophets all testified of the Redeemer of the world

And he also spake concerning the prophets,

how great a number had testified of these things,

concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken,

or this Redeemer of the world.

Lehi adds a fourth title to the as-yet unnamed Jesus Christ:  Redeemer.  According to its Hebrew root and Old Testament context, a redeemer is “one charged with restoring the rights of another and avenging his wrongs.”  Redeemers played an important role in ancient Israel, helping people who had fallen upon hard times, or who had gotten themselves into trouble, by sacrificing a portion of their own possessions in behalf of their brethren.  The Lord is also named as a Redeemer in the Old Testament.

In our current culture we frequently lump all these titles together as synonyms and use them indiscriminately to describe aspects of Jesus’s life and atonement.  But even in the brief synopsis written by Nephi, Lehi presents them discretely and progressively, thus:

The Prophet speaks, inviting all to hear God’s message (and is rejected).

The Messiah offers leadership in a kingdom (and is rejected).

The Savior reaches out His hand to help and defend (and is rejected).

The Redeemer sacrifices something to restore His people (and is rejected).

1 Nephi 10:6

Rely on the Redeemer

The Book of Mormon teaches that everyone needs Jesus, the Redeemer

Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state,

and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.

Lehi says that all people must rely on this Person, this Redeemer, or they are forever lost and fallen.  This is a most unpopular position in our culture.  We resist strongly someone else telling us that there is something wrong with us.  We insist that we know what’s good for us, what’s right for us, and no one has a right to tell us how to live our own lives.  We resent being judged by others.  How much is this a cultural bias, and how much a human tendency?  How much of this was present in ancient Israel?  How hard is it for people, moving along in their self-satisfied lives, to recognize their need for a Redeemer?

1 Nephi 10:7

A prophet to come before the Messiah

The Book of Mormon teaches

that God sent a prophet to come before the Messiah

And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah,

to prepare the way of the Lord

Now Lehi says that a certain prophet will come before the Messiah, the Anointed One, to prepare His way.  Again Lehi is precise in his choice of title for Jesus: an anointed one, the King, does have a herald to announce His coming.

1 Nephi 10:8

Prepare ye the way of the Lord

A Book of Mormon prophet saw and described

the future mission of John the Baptist

Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness:

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight;

for there standeth One among you whom ye know not;

and he is mightier than I, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

And much spake my father concerning this thing.

Lehi describes exactly what John the Baptist would say in preparing the people for Jesus.  “Prepare the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.”  In this symbolism of the King’s arrival, the people must clear his highway so that he can easily travel along it.  Nothing in Jesus’s life was easy, of course.  But John the Baptist cleared the paths of people’s hearts, where Jesus works.  John preached repentance, and before people can recognize their need for a Redeemer, they must experience humility, repentance, and a change of heart and focus.

John taught that Jesus was “mightier than I.”  John could preach, and people could repent, but only the atonement of Jesus Christ made all that effective.

1 Nephi 10:9

He would baptize the Messiah with water

The Book of Mormon prophesied that the Messiah would be baptized with water

And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan;

and he also said he should baptize with water;

even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.

Lehi foretells that John the Baptist would baptize the Messiah, and emphasizes that he would baptize him with water.  To English speakers, water is the only medium considered for baptism, whether one considers baptism to be sprinkling, pouring, or submerging.  But to a Hebrew-speaker, the root word was used more commonly than solely as a religious ritual.  It often means “overwhelm,” so one could be baptized by debt, or by fear or by work.  

Might the emphasis on baptism by water, specifically for the Messiah, imply a different or additional initiation into his role, which already implies anointing by oil?

1 Nephi 10:10

He would baptize the Lamb of God

The Book of Mormon, another witness for Jesus Christ, prophesied of the witness that John the Baptist would give of the Lamb of God

And after he had baptized the Messiah with water,

he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God,

who should take away the sins of the world.

One continues to have the impression in this section that this writing is merely notes taken on a great lecture.  The original speech must have been compelling and cohesive and eloquent, whereas the notes are just bullet points.

Jesus is now referred to as the Lamb of God, for the first time in the Book of Mormon.  This is a culminating title, depicting the final awful and supernal role He would take upon Himself of sacrifice for humankind.

In the simple yet profound ordinance of baptism the candidate is submerged completely in the water.  Then the one having authority from God lifts him up, and the ordinance is complete.  

Lehi links Jesus’s baptism with the fact that He will take away the sins of the world.  Our baptism links us to the Lamb of God, who first underwent the very same ordinance, and then made it effective through the suffering required to effect the atonement.  This suffering was a “baptism” wherein He was overwhelmed by the powers of hell, and by all the pains and griefs and sorrows and sins of all humanity.  He was submerged in it.  It could have destroyed him, as water can drown, but He came up out of it triumphant.  Any one of us would have been destroyed by it; in fact, we would have been destroyed merely by our own sorrows and sins. But because He overcame them all, and we follow Him, first symbolically through the waters of baptism and then in our life pattern, He, our Authority, raises us up out of all the travails and destruction of mortality.

1 Nephi 10:11

He is manifest through the Holy Ghost

The Book of Mormon explains that all of humanity

may know Christ through the Holy Ghost

And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words

he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel

which should be preached among the Jews,

and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief.

And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come,

and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead,

and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.

While Nephi gives the baptism of Jesus two verses, he skips over the whole life of Jesus in half a verse, and really only briefly mentions His death and resurrection.   That’s chronologically accurate.  Jesus’s ministry lasted only three years, just a drop in the ocean of human existence.  But its significance permeates the whole, and that significance must be manifest in some way other than personal knowledge, personal acquaintance with the mortal Jesus.  Because Nephi himself has learned of the goodness of God through the Holy Ghost, he knows how powerful that is, and he states that the Gentiles will learn of Jesus through the Holy Ghost.

1 Nephi 10:13

Fulfilling the word of the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Jewish Diaspora

was in fulfillment of God’s plan

Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.

When Lehi strikes out into the wilderness with his family, he is not acting as a lone survivalist, and individualist.  He is aware of his place in the house of Israel.  Thanks to the records they obtained from Laban, he intends that his family always retain their identity as children of Abraham.

Lehi has, in the previous verse, made brief reference to the House of Israel likened unto an olive tree whose branches are broken off and scattered.  This is later expounded upon in much greater detail (Jacob 5), and credited to the prophet Zenos, about whom the Old Testament is silent.  

Prophecy, or the word of the Lord, predicts historical movements.  Here Lehi is indicating that while the Lord says it will come to pass, individual agency makes it so.  He understands how his current individual and family obedience to the Lord is fulfilling the word of the Lord on a much grander scale.

What does the word of the Lord say about our time period?  The most recent word I have heard is that the Lord is hastening His work.  How are you participating in making the hastening of the Lord’s work a reality?

1 Nephi 10:14

Come to the knowledge of the true Messiah

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Jews will be gathered

as they come to know Christ as their promised Messiah and Savior

And after the house of Israel should be scattered

they should be gathered together again;

or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel,

the natural branches of the olive-tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of

the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.

This is again a brief synopsis of a topic much better developed in Jacob 5 by Zenos, the original writer.  Lehi has jumped from his family’s participation in the scattering of Israel to a time in the far-distant future when the scattering will be reversed.  However, in the present verse, he presents the scattering as a spiritual phenomenon, wherein the reversal is a return – not necessarily to a promised land, but to God Himself.  It will be a return to the true Messiah. No matter what land they live in, and under what government they are subject to, they will recognize the true Messiah as their Lord whom they follow, and as their Redeemer to whom they owe everything.  He will no longer be someone else’s Lord and Redeemer, but theirs.

It might be well to discuss the title “Lord” at this point.  Most of the references to “Lord” in the Bible are translated from the word YHWH, the proper name of the God of the Hebrews.  The King James Translators, out of respect for the name of Deity, used the title Lord, but they made it all capital letters so that it would be easy to identify what the original word was.  In other cases “Lord” is translated from “Adonai,” which means master or owner, as in the English “lord.”   However, “Adonai” means more than Lord.  It also conveys the idea of solidity, of a foundation, very fitting as a description for Jesus.

Unlike the King James Bible, the Book of Mormon has no all-capped “LORD.”  We do not know whether the original word, in any case, would have been JHWH or Adonai.  We may wish to assume that, as in the Bible, “the Lord” was originally JHWH, and “my Lord,” “his Lord,” “our Lord,” etc. would more properly have been Adonai.

 In any event, “the Lord” generally refers to Jesus Christ.  The identity is sure; the relationship is critical.  How is the Lord your Lord?

1 Nephi 10:17

The Holy Ghost comes by faith

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the Holy Ghost is a gift from God which comes by faith

And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision,

and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost,

which power he received by faith on the Son of God --

and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come --

I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things,

by the power of the Holy Ghost,

which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him,

as well in times of old

as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

In this interim passage between his father’s words and his own vision, Nephi introduces yet another key title and identity of the Messiah – He is the Son of God.  It is not clear how Nephi learned this – through something Lehi said that he didn’t record, or looking ahead at his own vision, where he definitely learned for himself the nature of the Son of God.  But the title is of great import, coming as it does on the heels of the other descriptive titles which have been discussed.  The God whom we met in Chapter 1, who receives praise and adoration in heaven, yet involves Himself intimately with people on earth, has a Son who likewise cares for humanity.  The Lamb of God is not owned by God, or a pet, or a laboring beast, but is in very deed His Son.

Emboldened by his father Lehi’s detailed visions and by his own experience hearing the voice of the Spirit, Nephi wanted to “see and hear and know” for himself.  His desire was not a test of God’s reality, but a recognition that what one learns from God is important in this life and beyond.  Nephi expressed desires similar to Abraham, who desired greater knowledge, and to be a “follower of righteousness.”

 Nephi does not suggest that he was seeking a vision.  He was hoping for a message from the Holy Ghost, as he had previously received.  And he recognized that he would need faith for the Holy Ghost to communicate with him.

What kind of people seek more knowledge, diligently seeking God?  Are you that kind of person?  Or is the knowledge you have sufficient, because more knowledge would burden you with more responsibility?

1 Nephi 10:18

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever

The Book of Mormon teaches that God and His plan are constant

For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever;

and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world,

if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

Nephi wrote his record over 2000 years ago.  This verse explains why his writings are relevant to us today.  The God that he knows, that he is introducing us to, is the same now as in his time.  God’s ways are the same, the plan is the same:  repent and come to Him.  This is another reassurance of the utility of a study such as this.

1 Nephi 10:19

The Holy Ghost reveals mysteries

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the Holy Ghost reveals the mysteries of God to those who seek

For he that diligently seeketh shall find;

and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them,

by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old,

and as well in times of old as in times to come;

wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.

 Nephi also seems to be explaining that, contrary to what most Latter-day Saints actually believe, Nephi was nothing special.  The formula for receiving revelations from God is simple, and he gives it to us.  “One of the marvelous lessons we learn from the scriptures is that prophets are not the only ones who get to see the visions of heaven. All worthy people are entitled to marvelous experiences with the Spirit.  Joseph Smith once taught that ‘God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.’ Moses entreated, ‘Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets’ (Numbers 11:29). Nephi teaches us how to receive these blessings.” (Robert L. Millet)

Nephi is repeatedly testifying of the Holy Ghost as the conduit to spiritual knowledge, and faith and diligence as the means to access that conduit.

How important is the Holy Ghost in your life?

1 Nephi 10:21

No unclean thing can dwell with God

The Book of Mormon teaches that we will be judged,

and those who are unclean cannot be with God

Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation,

then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God;

and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.

This seems a rather abrupt condemnation in a section explaining how Nephi received his great vision.  I think Nephi was very much a black-and-white person.  I think he was explaining how important it is to receive knowledge from the Holy Ghost.  One must be diligent and faithful in seeking.  Then, as he thought about that, he thought about people who didn’t do this.  And it seems that in his mind a person is either seeking the Holy Ghost, or is seeking wickedness.  There is no middle ground.  There is no neutrality, no contentment with a “normal life.”  

On the other hand, Neal A. Maxwell said, “If the kingdom of God is not first, it doesn’t matter what’s second.”  Perhaps this isn’t just Nephi’s opinion.  

Nephi hauls his readers directly to God’s judgement seat.  So, go with him there, and explain to God what you have been seeking today.

1 Nephi 10:22

The Holy Ghost gives authority to speak

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the Holy Ghost authorizes God’s servants to speak sharply at times

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

Nephi concludes his testimony of the Holy Ghost by stating that in fact it was the Holy Ghost Himself who authorized him to challenge his readers.  So it is Nephi’s opinion, it is Neal Maxwell’s opinion, and it is the Holy Ghost’s opinion that if we are not actively seeking the Lord, through the Holy Ghost, we are instead seeking to do wickedly.

God in 1 Nephi 10 By the Numbers

25 verses

God is mentioned by name:  15 verses = 60%

God is mentioned by pronoun:  1 verse = 4%

Verses about God:  16 verses = 64%

God: 3

Holy Ghost: 5

Lamb of God: 1

The Lord:  6

Lord God: 1

Messiah: 7

One: 1

Prophet: 1

Redeemer: 2

Savior: 1

Son of God: 2

1 Nephi 9 1 Nephi 11