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1 Nephi 13
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1 Nephi 13
1 Nephi 13:1–4
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.
Just prior to this part of the vision, Nephi had seen the ultimate destruction of his people, with the eventual dwindling in unbelief of the seed of his brethren, the Lamanites. Just as the Nephite dwindling in unbelief led to the loss of their protection under God’s promise of the land, the Lamanites would also lose any protection. When Nephi says that they “became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people,” it was an indication that because of their unrighteousness that they were open to destruction.
The next part of the vision will show how that destruction will begin. It begins in a different location. Nephi sees many nations and kingdoms. He had seen the land of promise in which there were “multitudes of people, ye, even as it were in number as many as the sand of the sea” (1 Nephi 12:1). Now he sees nations and kingdoms. He doesn’t tell us how he distinguished between the large numbers of people in the land of promise and these nations and kingdoms, but he saw them, and needed to be told that they were the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.
The very first thing that he sees among all of these Gentile kingdoms is the creation of a great church. Why?
Nephi had received a promise that they would be protected in the land upon righteousness. The struggle to be sufficiently righteous is the story of the Nephite people. Nephi learns that it is not only the Nephites, but all the world, that will struggle against the great and spacious building that would pull them from righteousness. Nephi’s understanding of the duality of righteousness and unrighteousness, or white and delightsome, and dark and loathsome, will be exemplified in the conflict between the Church of the Devil and the Church of Yahweh.
1 Nephi 13:5–9
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.
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.
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.
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.
9 And also for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.
The angel defines the nature of the great and abominable church as directly antithetical to Yahweh. Where Yahweh’s church produces saints of God, the abominable church tortures them. Yahweh’s church promises life to its believers. The abominable church slays them.
The great and abominable church is also defined as the opposite of Nephite egalitarian ideals. As king Mosiah will later teach, “there should be an equality among all men” (Mosiah 27:3. The vision shows the great and abominable church aspiring after gold, silver, and precious clothing, and harlots. It is not hard to see that that is the theme that Jacob, Nephi’s brother, preached against in his sermon before the temple. Nephi preached against the Nephite tendency to seek for wealth in gold and silver, to have many wives, and to wear costly apparel.
The great and abominable church is equated with the great and spacious building, and it is never far away from the Nephites, or indeed, any of us. It is the representation of the temptations that pull us away from the narrow path and the iron rod.
The beliefs and practices that characterize the great and abominable church were present among the Nephites at least as early as Jacob. That Nephi doesn’t see the formation of the church of the Devil until later does not mean that it didn’t exist prior, only that it becomes relevant to the final unrighteousness of all of Lehi’s seed and their destruction as nations only after the coming of the Gentiles from across the waters—the next part of the vision.
1 Nephi 13:10–14
10 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren.
11 And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren.
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.
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.
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.
Nephi, as a man of the Old World, understood that Yahweh was God over the whole earth. Thus, the Nephites are protected in the New World while they are righteous. Nephi saw that when they were no more righteous, they were destroyed as a people. The Lamanites also dwindled in unbelief, and their destruction as a nation (or as nations) was to come when the spirit of the Lord brought other people to the New World. If the seed of Lehi was not to be righteous, then the Lord would import a people who could be righteous.
This begins with a man, and that man brings others. The result is that there were “many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise.” These newcomers were brought by the hand of the Lord, and therefore considered righteous. They scatter and smite the unrighteous seed of the Lamanites.
This is a symbolic action, and explains why the Gentiles overrun those the Lord had previously brought to the New World. It should not be assumed that these Gentiles were individually righteous or that all Lamanites were wicked. This is a contrast between types, not specifics. Just as there will be only two churches, of the Devil and one of Yahweh, there are only two types of people in conflict, the righteous and the unrighteous. The image supersedes precision for the purposes of the vision.
1 Nephi 13:15–19
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.
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.
17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.
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.
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.
These verses provide the vision’s definition of the newly arriving Gentiles. They are part of the explanation of the war between the Church of the Devil and Church of Yahweh, and they are therefore defined in such a way that their ascendance over the remnants of the Lamanites will be the logical fulfillment of prophecy. Thus, they are described as the complete opposite of the Lamanites who are already in this world that the Gentiles are just entering.
Remember that in the previous chapter (1 Nephi 12: 23), the Lamanites were described as “a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” The Gentiles are clearly opposites: “white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.” The description of the Gentiles intentionally reverses the description of the Lamanites.
It is also important that Nephi indicate that the Gentiles “did humble themselves before the Lord.” These Gentiles will enter a land to which a promise has been attached. There will be prosperity, but only upon conditions of righteousness. Nephi’s vision sets the Gentiles up as the inheritors of the promise of the land. They are righteous. Therefore, they prosper. Specifically, they will prosper over the Lamanites who have dwindled in unbelief.
The power of the promise of the land is reasserted with these newly dominant Gentiles. Now that they are in the land of promise and now that they inherit that promise—still upon conditions of righteousness—they are also dominant above those of their former brethren who fight against them.
Plain and Precious Truths Lost and Restored
1 Nephi 13:20–25
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.
21 And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?
22 And I said unto him: I know not.
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.
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.
25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
Because the Gentiles are now in the land of promise, it is important that they prosper in the land. This is the symbolic effect of the promise of the land. If you are righteous, you prosper. Nephi has previously shown that the Gentiles who came were both protected and victorious. Now he establishes the nature of their righteousness.
Nephi is establishing a parallel between the Gentiles who inherit the land and the promise, and the Nephites who originally had been given the land of promise. For both, the promise was conditional. For both, it included protection from other nations who battled against them. For the Nephites, it was their brethren the Lamanites. For the Gentiles, it was their “mother Gentiles.” In both cases, the enemies are designated as relatives who turn against them.
Now, the vision introduces a Gentile book. This will parallel the Nephite book.
For Nephi, it was important to show that the book was related to the brass plates. Nephi clearly understood that the children of Israel had scripture. He knew that the plates of brass contained many of them. What he did not know was whether the tradition would continue. He learns that it will. Thus, the word of God begins the same for both the Old and New World peoples, but then the records continue separately in the two hemispheres. Both continue to be the word of God and will eventually be brought back together.
1 Nephi 13:26–29
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.
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.
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.
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.
Even though the Gentiles will have a book that contains the words of the prophets, there will still be a need which will be fulfilled by the Nephite book, as will be shown later. The reason is that there have been plain and precious truths taken from the Old World book. What are those plain and precious things?
Nephi does not say specifically. However, we get a hint when he notes that what he writes on the small plates will be “the more plain and precious parts” of the revelations he has received (1 Nephi 19:3). In other words, we can see what Nephi considers most plain and precious by examining what he chooses to emphasize.
Just as did his father, Nephi emphasized the atoning mission of the Messiah. Both of those two prophets show by their emphasis what they thought to be missing from the teachings of their brethren in the Old World. We need not wonder about missing words or verses. It is a missing concept, and one that had at least begun to fade from Israelite religion in Lehi’s day.
1 Nephi 13:30–32
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.
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.
The vision now begins the process of bringing together what were separate strands of God’s dealings with the children of Israel. For Nephi, this is confirmation that they will be gathered in to Israel, as God promised. The theme of their gathering will be important in Nephi’s later writings and also be an important theme for Jacob.
The first message is that while the Nephites are to be destroyed as a people, and that the remnant Lamanites would also fall to the coming Gentiles, the children of Lehi would not be utterly destroyed. Nephi sees that the Gentiles would neither destroy “the mixture of thy seed, which are among thy brethren,” nor “the seed of thy brethren.” Both Nephites and Lamanites will be preserved up to, and after, the time of these Gentiles upon the land.
This is important because the Gentiles will need Lehi’s seed (specifically the record they kept). Nephi notes that while the Gentiles have the gospel, they are missing plain and precious parts. Nephi will see that it is in the Lord’s mercy that the seed of Lehi will provide what the Gentiles lack.
1 Nephi 13:33–37
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.
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.
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.
36 And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.
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.
Most often, when the scriptures speak of God visiting his people “in great judgment,” it isn’t a good thing. Here it is. The Lamb of God says that he will be “merciful unto the Gentiles.” He does not visit condemnation upon them, but restoration of the plain and precious parts of the gospel. He will do that with a book from the New World children of Israel, a book that will contain his words, a book that records his gospel as he, himself, taught it when he manifested himself unto Nephi’s seed.
Not only will God gather his children from their scattered corners of the world, he will gather his words which had been scattered by the great and abominable church. The separated children of Israel, and the separated threads of the words of truth will be brought together and made white again. After than joining, Yahweh says: “blessed are they who shall see to bring forth Zion at that day.”
Fate of the Righteous and the Wicked
1 Nephi 13:38–42
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.
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.
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.
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.
The reunification of the children of Israel with the adopted children of Israel from among the Gentiles will be accomplished by the unification of the records. The angel tells Nephi that not only will the Bible and the Book of Mormon be united in their declaration that the records of the prophets and apostles are true, but other records would as well.
We do not know what those other records are. Perhaps they are records waiting to be discovered. Perhaps, however, they are the numerous records from history that are helping to establish the history surrounding the events from the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
This ends a chapter in our current Book of Mormon but did not end in the original. Nephi’s vision continues in the next chapter.
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