1 Nephi 15 God in the Book of Mormon

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God in 1 Nephi 15


Everlasting God • God • Lord

Messiah • Redeemer • Rock • Salvation

Spirit • Spirit of the Lord •  True Vine


1 Nephi 15:1


Nephi Returns


And it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had been carried away in the Spirit,

and seen all these things, I returned to the tent of my father.


Nephi has returned from the high mountain, where he was taken by the Spirit, to the place where he sat pondering in his heart, and now makes his way back to Lehi’s tent.  


1 Nephi 15:3


Look unto the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches

that many things are hard to understand if one does not look to the Lord


For he truly spake many great things unto them,

which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord;

and they being hard in their hearts,

therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.


When people are confronted with something difficult to understand, they may have various reactions.  Many people will ignore the hard thing.  Laman and Lemuel did not do this.  They cared enough about what they had heard from their father to argue about it, but they were unwilling to go to the true Source of knowledge.  People today engage in endless discussions, where opinions go around and around.  Nephi says that when confusion arises, we should inquire of the Lord, and look unto the Lord.  Obviously he has just done that, and he knows that it works.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is “beautifully simple and simply beautiful.”  Even children can understand, and be prepared for baptism at age 8.  The Book of Mormon, following Nephi’s model, is plain and simple.  There seems to be little need for additional light and knowledge.

Nephi says that Lehi’s words were “great.”  Another prophet’s words were once labeled “great:”  Jesus, after His resurrection, told the Nephites that “great were the words of Isaiah.”  Certainly they are hard to be understood.  We may ignore them, or skip over them, or argue about them; Jesus commanded us to search them diligently, and Nephi says that when we encounter hard, great ideas, we ought to inquire of the Lord and look unto the Lord.


1 Nephi 15:8


Inquire of the Lord

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Lord should be a major resource for learning


And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?


Nephi’s question is not a request for information.  He already knows they haven’t.  It is a reminder to them, an encouragement to seek a better way to get an answer to their questions.

Many people today encounter new information that stimulates questions.  They can ignore it, worry about it, ask someone with faith (like younger brother Nephi) about it, or inquire of the Lord.  Or they can search the Internet to access a whole host of opinions, whether anchored in a testimony of the truth or dedicated to destroying faith, or somewhere in between.  

Nephi’s plaintive suggestion – Inquire of the Lord – is the best foundation for answering questions, when accompanied with Nephi’s attitude of inquiry – desire, belief, and pondering. (1 Nephi 11:1)  


1 Nephi 15:9


Doubt says the Lord will not reveal

The Book of Mormon teaches us

not to doubt the Lord’s willingness and ability to answer our questions


And they said unto me:

We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.


They’re right, of course.  The Lord didn’t make things known to Laman and Lemuel.  Their victim statement accepts no responsibility for His silence – they are just the hapless unchosen ones.  In their statement the Lord is the active subject, while they are the passive non-recipients.  It’s His fault.  We cannot state from the record what their desires were, or whether they spent any time pondering rather than disputing, we do know about their state of belief: They held a belief that the Lord would not reveal anything to them.


1 Nephi 15:10


Keep the Commandments

The Book of Mormon teaches us that keeping the commandments

is part of the process to receive answers to our questions


Behold, I said unto them:

How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord?

How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?


Laman and Lemuel have asked a specific doctrinal question.  But Nephi is not answering that question; he’s looking at the problem of them not being able to receive the answer for themselves.  And with the perspective of his own vision fresh in his mind, he addresses the root of the problem: They don’t keep the commandments of the Lord, so of course they can have no confidence that He will hear and respect their requests.  

Nephi has turned their conversation around and is now asking them questions.  The value in keeping the commandments is so plain and simple and clear to him – can’t he get them to understand that?  These are more than rhetorical questions – he probably would like to hear what they have to say for themselves.  What reason can they possibly give for not keeping commandments?


1 Nephi 15:11


“Ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive”

The Book of Mormon teaches

that God makes known His secrets to the faithful and diligent


Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said? --

If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith,

believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments,

surely these things shall be made known unto you.


Nephi is quoting the Lord directly, but we have no record of when the Lord said this.  I assume either it was from the Brass Plates or it was part of Lehi’s teachings. It was something that Laman and Lemuel had been taught and should have known.  

This “Ask and ye shall receive” verse outlines, in the Lord’s own words, His description of the process of receiving information from Him.  

1.  Harden not your hearts.  A hard heart, like a stiff neck, cannot change.  The person has already made a decision, embraced an opinion or an idea, and will not consider that his ideas may be wrong or incomplete.  The Lord respects our agency and will not throw miracles at those who’ve chosen to be hard-hearted.  The first step must be the person’s availability.

2.  Ask in faith.  The faith is not a generalized faith, but a 4th Article of Faith kind of faith – faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, including His kindness and mercy and forgiveness, for who can come before the Lord unblemished?

3.  Believe that ye shall receive.  It’s not difficult to believe in a historical Jesus, in a divine Son of God Jesus, in an atoning Savior.  The greater challenge is to see ourselves in His plan, encompassed by His atonement, and receiving through His grace.

4.  Be diligent in keeping His commandments.  Information from the Lord often involves increased responsibility.  Why should He give revelation to those who have not obeyed what He has already given?


1 Nephi 15:12


The Spirit of the Lord teaches

The Book of Mormon teaches that the house of Israel is like an olive tree,

with graftings and prunings


Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive-tree,

by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father;

and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel,

and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?


Nephi abruptly stops reprimanding his brothers for not seeking their own revelations, and begins to answer their specific question.  He immediately cites the Spirit of the Lord in his father as the source.  He does not say that he himself has the Spirit of the Lord, but it is implied in his ability to interpret the allegory.  This is therefore a subtle continued encouragement for his brothers to get that same Spirit.

Fresh from his great vision, Nephi can speak confidently about his family being a branch broken off.  He has seen their growth as a people, as well as their decline and the conquest and ascendency of the Gentiles.

But even before experiencing this vision, an important part of Nephi’s faith has been his willingness and ability to see himself and his family in the scriptures.  Nephi was willing to compare his brass-plates acquiring mission to Moses’s mission in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt.  (I Nephi 4:2,3)

Laman and Lemuel saw an unhappy family wandering around in the wilderness, having lost their prior possessions, possibly being led by a mad man.  Nephi saw an incipient nation, led by revelation.  

Many people feel like exceptions.  “Well, yes, families are important, but my family doesn’t count, because blah, blah, blah.”   Etc.  They may have some belief in God’s plan, but see themselves as outside the pale.  They see others’ lives as important and great, but their own as insignificant.

We will do well to follow Nephi’s example, and believe that the Lord is able and willing to help us in our righteous desires.  Believe that all the scriptures apply to us.  Discern where we are on the olive tree, and be sure that we’re part of the good fruit.


1 Nephi 15:13


God’s plan extends through many generations after the Messiah’s coming

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the fulness of the gospel has come to the world in these latter days


And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning

the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is,

that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief,

yea, for the space of many years,

and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body

unto the children of men,

then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles,

and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed --


Nephi’s brothers have asked about, and Nephi is explaining what Lehi had said in 1 Nephi 10:14.  While it may have been cryptic to his brothers, to Nephi it was very clear, because he had just seen it and had it explained to him by an angel.  Nephi can take the input of the allegory and output a clear explanation based on his vision.  But he doesn’t just repeat the words of his vision; he has internalized it, and can tailor his explanation to his brothers’ understandings.  In his vision, Jesus was referred to as the Lamb.  But in his explanation, Nephi reverts to calling Him the Messiah, a term recognized by all the house of Israel, even those who have not accepted Him as Savior, Redeemer, and Lamb of God.  

The “fullness of the Gentiles” is a new phrase.  We might speculate on its meaning based on the European ascendency and conquest during the Age of Exploration.  However, its curious juxtaposition with the “fullness of the gospel” and the opposite “dwindling” causes us to suspect a chiasm, which is indeed what we find in this verse.


A. Concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fullness of the Gentiles, is

B. That in the latter days,

C.  When our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief

B. Yea, for the space of many years and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men,

A. Then shall the fullness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed.


The turning point of this chiasm is the dwindling in unbelief.  Nephi is speaking wistfully to his brothers, who have not dwindled, but have never grown in belief. They’re already stunted.  Although Nephi had been traumatized by seeing his own seed’s demise and near-obliteration (verse 5), he does not share this with his unbelieving brothers, or appear to hold it against them.  He merely speaks of “our seed.”  Dwindling in unbelief may seem a poor climax to a chiasm, but it is necessary to appreciate the restoration of the fullness of the gospel, just as the Fall is necessary to appreciate the Atonement.  Maybe we should envision this chiasm rotated 90 degrees:  A           A

B      B

C

“Latter days” is expounded to mean after many years, and many generations after the Messiah comes.  The coming of the Messiah is already 600 years in the future, and the latter days is beyond that.  While it is all very real and vivid to Nephi, who saw it, it must have been very vague and shadowy to his brothers, who don’t even look at their own future, much less that of their descendants and the world.

This chiasm demonstrates that the “fullness of the Gentiles” is not about their superior culture or wealth or leaning, but that they have received the fullness of the gospel, and they are to share it.  They have received “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together,” and they will give it out to others, that it will be “running over.” (Luke 6:38)

Here – this spot marks our place in the narrative, in the plan.  Are you enjoying the fullness of the gospel in your life?  Does the fullness of the gospel go forth from you to those in a dwindled state, or are you a bottleneck?


1 Nephi 15:14


They shall know their Redeemer

The Book of Mormon helps us come to the knowledge of our Redeemer,

and the very points of His doctrine


And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know

that they are of the house of Israel,

and that they are the covenant people of the Lord;

and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers,

and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer,

which was ministered unto their fathers by him;

wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer

and the very points of his doctrine,

that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.


As a Gentile who has been identified as Ephraim, I recognize that the restored gospel can bless all peoples.  Nephi focuses in this verse strictly on how it will bless his own family.

The Latter-day Saint view of Lehi as native American ancestor has experienced ebb and flow.  Many have assumed that he was the principal ancestor of all native Americans, because the Book of Mormon was the history of the whole of the continents.  More careful reading reveals that the book does not make any such claim, and in fact implies other, contemporaneous cultures.  So some Latter-day Saints believe that, as the Book of Mormon happened in a specific geographic locale, the native Americans of that region are the true “Lamanites.”  

Modern genetic theory postulates that anyone from many generations ago (a thousand years or so) who has current descendants will be the ancestor of everyone on his continent, plus.  As explained by Adam Rutherford, “This is merely a numbers game. . . Basically, everyone alive in the ninth century who left descendants is the ancestor of every living European today, including Charlemagne. . .”  https://www.theguardian.com/science/commentisfree/2015/may/24/business-genetic-ancestry-charlemagne-adam-rutherford

This indicates that Lehi, whose posterity began 2600 years ago, is the ancestor of all AmerIndians, and the Book of Mormon is a record of some of the ancestors of these groups.  You have sixteen great-great-grandparents.  The story of one of them is not the story of all of them.  And they have many descendants besides you, very likely extending to different regions of the country.  So the original view of Lehi as the ancestor of all native Americans is probably correct.  This verse is addressing all Latin Americans who receive the restored gospel.

Nephi has already taught us that the knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God are the highest favor from the Lord.  (1 Nephi 1:1)  In this verse, where we find the words “know” and “knowledge” six times, he lists eight things his descendants will learn through the fullness of the Gentiles, which enable them to be grafted back into the tree.  The eight items are listed chronologically.

1.  They are of the house of Israel.  Nephi repeatedly refers to their Israelite roots, and of course tells of their origins in and departure from Jerusalem.

2.  They are the covenant people of the Lord.  As we have seen, Nephi described in minute detail their exertions in acquiring their Israelite record, the Plates of Brass.  Their flight from Jerusalem is not merely to save their lives; they intend to preserve their heritage as covenant people of the Lord.

3.  Their forefathers.  Nephi says “know” or “come to the knowledge of” throughout this verse.  I’m not sure of the differentiation between them in general, but I do note that he uses both words to describe how the Lamanites will learn about their forefathers.  As a genealogist I can say that there is value in all levels of understanding about ancestors.  Sometimes we have only the names, dates, and places, and we can place them in historical context.  Other times (generally more recently) we have stories, which, no matter their nature or how brief, we can cherish. The Book of Mormon gives a general, sweeping view of the history of Lehi’s people through a thousand years.  It also presents close-up portraits of many individuals throughout that history.

4.  The gospel of their Redeemer, as ministered unto their fathers by Him.  His personal ministry to the congregation in Bountiful is described in 3 Nephi.  But the whole Book of Mormon includes his gospel, as he ministered to prophets.  

5.  Their Redeemer.  There is a “wherefore” division here; the knowledge shared by the Gentiles is not limited to the Book of Mormon, but also includes other revelations of Joseph Smith and other prophets.  It includes the Doctrine & Covenants, with a preface written by Jesus Christ, and consisting chiefly of his words.  

6.  The very points of His doctrine.  Of course we find abundance of doctrine in the Doctrine & Covenants, as well as the Book of Mormon, General Conference, and other modern sources.

7. How to come unto Him.  This list has approached the reader from history to doctrine to a personal melding of all these for the modern Lamanite’s own life.  With all this new information about his ancestors’ relationship to the Redeemer, including the general rise and fall of their civilization based on their loyalty to Him, and the specific stories of individual conversion and commitment, it is time for them to choose to come unto Him.

8.  And be saved.  The current-day stumbling blocks of universal salvation, no need for salvation, say a prayer for salvation, and other variations are swept away by the clear explanations in the Book of Mormon and other modern revelation.  The strait and narrow path is clearly outlined for all who wish to follow it to salvation.



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