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1 Nephi 12
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1 Nephi 12
The Future of Nephi's Posterity
1 Nephi 12:1–3
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.
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.
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.
The scene of the vision shifts from showing the future mission of the atoning Messiah to showing the future of Nephi’s descendants. Perhaps this paralleled in some way Lehi’s concern for his immediate family, but Nephi’s vision is clearly more comprehensive than Lehi’s.
What Nephi sees is the future of his father’s seed, not just his. This vision includes the future Nephites and Lamanites together. Not only is this suggested because he speaks of multitudes of people that cannot be counted, but he beholds them gathered together to battle against each other. That is clearly a subtheme of Nephite history. Mormon preserves some accounts of battles, and sometimes simply marks conflicts, but there are very few periods of peace that last longer than a couple of years before some contention again occurs.
The next event will be the coming of Yahweh as a resurrected being. It is interesting that Nephi records nothing but conflict before that time. Perhaps this is a Nephite version of the New Testament prophecy that Christ’s Second Coming would be preceded by wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6, Mark 13:7). In the Book of Mormon, wars were a precursor to the First Coming, and the cyclical view of history would expect that they would become the precursor for the Second Coming.
1 Nephi 12:4–6
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.
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.
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.
Nephi sees the destruction that will precede the descent of the resurrected Jesus from the sky. Even in vision, this must have been an impressive destruction. Nephi appears to experience it, not simply see it. He says that he sees lightnings, but also that he hears thunderings and all manner of tumultuous noises. It is impressive to modern readers when we do no more than read it. It must have been supernally emotional to experience it as Nephi did.
The glorious result of the terrible destruction is that the resurrected Christ descends from heaven. Simply the appearance of Nephi’s God to his descendants would have been impressive, but the contrast was even more dramatic.
Mormon later writes the fulfillment of this prophetic vision, but he will give no indication that this prophecy had been so detailed. Mormon also indicates that he had not known of the small plates until he found them while searching for more information on king Benjamin’s reign. This suggests that the small plates had faded from Nephite memory, and that this marvelous vision wasn’t commonly available in order to predict the events that ultimately fulfilled the prophecy.
1 Nephi 12:7–10
7 And I also saw and bear record that the Holy Ghost fell upon twelve others; and they were ordained of God, and chosen.
8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the twelve disciples of the Lamb, who are chosen to minister unto thy seed.
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.
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.
When Lehi was called as a prophet, he saw twelve men descend with Yahweh. Nephi sees that there will be twelve called in the New World, just as there were twelve in the Old World. It is important for Nephi to know that his people are equally valued, and that the important aspects of the Savior’s ministry in the Old World will be available to his descendants.
He also understands that God will not cease to work with children of Israel in the Old World, and if there are to be twelve for the Old World and twelve for the New, it would be important to understand how they relate to each other. Rather than see their earthly functions, Nephi sees their eternal functions, each to be judges over the different divisions of the children of Israel, a set for the Old World and set for the New. The nature of history, and therefore the nature of the gospel in that history, would differ for the two hemispheres. It makes sense that they would each be judged of those who had experienced their respective worlds.
1 Nephi 12:11–15
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.
12 And I, Nephi, also saw many of the fourth generation who passed away in righteousness.
13 And it came to pass that I saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
14 And the angel said unto me: Behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren.
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.
The descent of the resurrected Jesus who will come to Nephi’s descendants will usher in a period of righteousness. The time period is emphasized by a parallel phrasing that provides an emphasis by the number used:
three generations pass away in righteousness
the fourth generation who passed away in righteousness
After the passing of the fourth generation, then the angel shows Nephi that wars begin. The vision of wars is clearly contrasted to the time of righteousness, but it isn’t directly tied to a period of peace. That is, we get the antithetical parallel of righteousness and war, not the more expected set of peace and war.
If we remember the nature of the promise of the land, it is that they prosper according to righteousness. Therefore, while peace and war might be a more direct literary set, contrasting righteousness and war is completely appropriate according to the promise of the land given to both Lehi and Nephi.
1 Nephi 12:16–19
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nephi sees, in verse 19, the final destruction of his people. He has been describing events in his vision, and then we have an interesting break with verses 16 through 18. Rather than describe what will happen, the angel reverts to Nephi’s dream and picks out elements.
The angel emphasized the fountain of filthy water and the depths of hell. Even in the presence of the tree and the fruit, there is the world and the opposite opportunity. On the one hand are the fruit of the tree and joy. On the other, the depths of hell and misery.
Thus, the mists of darkness can blind one’s way, and many are led to broad roads of the devil rather than the narrow path to the tree. The temptations of the secular world lead to pride, and that pride in the world becomes the terrible gulf that separates the large and spacious building from the Messiah, who is the Lamb of God. Without saying so, the large and spacious building is across the gulf from the tree.
Nephi sees that his people are destroyed. He also sees that God did not default on his promise. The promise was protection upon righteousness. Nephi sees that his people succumbed to the pride of the world and found themselves with a gulf between themselves and the narrow path, or the way of righteousness.
1 Nephi 12:20–23
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, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.
Nephi is pretty consistent in using the phrase “seed of my brethren” to indicate Lamanites—not Lamanites as a lineage, but as a designation of those who are not Nephites. Thus, he sees the Lamanites defeat the Nephites.
The history from that point will cover the time after the end of the Nephites and prior to the coming of the Europeans. Part of that history is a continuation of the Lamanite association with wars. Even without Nephites to battle, the Lamanites will continue to have wars.
It is not clear just how Nephi understood that after this point the Lamanites would dwindle in unbelief. Perhaps Nephi had not clearly seen the degree to which the later Nephite writers would chronicle Lamanite unbelief. Perhaps, it was their comparative righteousness at the time of the Nephite demise that allowed them to defeat the Nephites.
Whatever that meant, it is only after the demise of the Nephites that Nephi sees them become “a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” Whatever Nephi meant with those words, he doesn’t apply them until after there are no Nephites. Other Nephite writers, however, will use them for the Lamanites who are their contemporaries.
There is no chapter break at this point in the 1830 edition.
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