1 Nephi 13

Through the Wilderness to the Promised Land

     (1 Nephi )


  

1 Nephi 13-22 (Structural Purpose)

 

     Nephi makes dual mention of the Lord's "marvelous work": in chapter 14 of 1 Nephi and also in chapter 22 (see 1 Nephi 14:7; 1 Nephi 22:8). According to Avraham Gileadi, that twofold mention accords with the prophetic idea of a twofold witness. But more than that, Nephi gives us the opportunity to discover other things about the Lord's "marvelous work" by comparing his two sequences. . . . A reassuring thing about studying the scriptures is that we rarely find isolated words or expressions. Instead, the scriptures provide us with patterns of things. . . . The prophet Nephi knew what he meant and he imbedded the meaning in his writings. . . . According to this topological mindset, so characteristic of all the holy prophets, "what has been shall be" constituted a manner of prophesying (compare Ecclesiastes 1:9; 3 Nephi 23:3). What was past, the prophets invariably used as a type of the future; and what was future they described in terms of the past. Such an approach to prophecy placed them under constraint to use language consistently. That consistency with words gave the reader a proper sense of what the future might hold. It linked the past and the future in one continuum. . . . Thus, a key to the great and marvelous work of the last days--its nature and timing--is given in the Book of Mormon in the very way its authors use those words. . . .

     In 1 Nephi 13-14, Nephi predicts a sequence of events for the times of the Gentiles which leads up to the restoration of the gospel among them. . . . Nephi goes on to describe events that follow the restoration of the gospel. . . . which include the "great and marvelous work," which causes an irrevocable division between those who will be saved and those who will be damned (1 Nephi 14:7). . . .

     Nephi picks up his latter-day theme again several chapters later, in 1 Nephi 22. He again predicts, in order:

     the maturation of the mighty nation of America among the Gentiles and its scattering of Lehi's descendants (1 Nephi 22:7);

     the "marvelous work" among the Gentiles (1 Nephi 22:8-11);

     the fulfillment of the Lord's covenants with the house of Israel in bringing them out of bondage, both physical and spiritual, and gathering them to their lands of inheritance (1 Nephi 22:12);

     the wrath of God descending on the nations of the earth (1 Nephi 22:13-16);

     the Lord's deliverance of the righteous by his power (1 Nephi 22:17-24); and

     the Lord's millennial reign as Israel's divine King (1 Nephi 22:24-28).

 

     By comparing Nephi's two sequences of events (1 Nephi 14 and 22), we thus learn that the Lord's great and marvelous work involves the destruction of the wicked and the restoration of the righteous of the Lord's people. . . . Nephi, however, teaches much more about the Lord's great and marvelous work than just providing us with two complementary sequences of events. Let's look for instance, at what he has to say in the chapters that separate his two sequences. First, we find five biographical chapters (1 Nephi 15-19) . . . let's refer to these five chapters as the "journeying narratives." Next, Nephi includes two chapters from the book of Isaiah (1 Nephi 20-21; compare Isaiah 48-49), which speak of the destruction of the wicked and of the gathering and restoration of the tribes of Israel at the same time (1 Nephi 20:18--21:26; compare Isaiah 48:18--49:26). A closer look at this intervening material thus reveals that Nephi places the two Isaiah chapters strategically. By means of the Isaiah material, Nephi seems to be telling us about the great and marvelous work without directly mentioning it.

     By the same token, the journeying narratives, which come just before the Isaiah material, provide important information. They show how the Lord delivers the righteous of his people from destruction in a day of great judgment and restores them to a land of inheritance (1 Nephi 15-19). These turn out to be the very kinds of events Nephi associates with the Lord's marvelous work (see 1 Nephi 22:8-12). In other words, the journeying narratives and the Isaiah chapters resemble each other in an important respect: each describes the same kinds of restorative events, one by way of narrative, the other by way of prophecy.

     When we examine the journeying narratives and the Isaiah chapters more closely, we find that everything Nephi includes between the first and second versions of his prophetic sequence pertains to that sequence. . . . The narratives foreshadow what will befall Israel in the last days, while the Isaiah chapters prophesy it directly. . . . Far from being a loose arrangement of material, Nephi's entire account is organized into a sophisticated literary structure. In keeping with Hebrew stylistic method, Nephi has arranged his material so that its very organization reveals a prophetic message. By its means he tells us things he could not tell us another way (see 1 Nephi 14:25,28). . . .

     As the climax, or centerpiece, of Nephi's sequence, the great and marvelous work deserved to be detailed somewhere. Nephi accomplished this structurally by giving us two versions of his sequence that highlight the great and marvelous work, and then interposing the journeying narratives and the Isaiah chapters between the two. [Avraham Gileadi, The Last Days: Types and Shadows from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, pp. 55-68]

 

1 Nephi 13:1-3 Other Nations:

 

     According to John Sorenson, most Latter-day Saint readers have supposed that the "other nations" (1 Nephi 13:1-3) in Nephi's vision who overran the promised land after Columbus' discovery were the European "Gentiles." But does it make sense that the fate prophesied by Lehi would be delayed until 1,100 years after Cumorah? "Many nations" nearby in the Americas could have entered the lands of the American Israelite groups on short notice. Linguistic reconstruction tells us about one of the later groups--Nahua speakers, which included the Aztecs. None of them came into Mesoamerica until after the Book of Mormon account had been sealed up, yet soon they came to dominate much of the area. [John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 84]

 

1 Nephi 13:3 The Nations and Kingdoms of the Gentiles:

 

     McConkie and Millet assert that for the Nephites, "Jews" are nationals, persons from the kingdom of Judah (See 2 Nephi 30:4; 33:8). On the other hand, "the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles" (1 Nephi 13:3) are persons from elsewhere. In this sense, the Latter-day Saints are called Gentiles (see D&C 109:60). In this vision the "nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles" are the European nations. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 89]

 

1 Nephi 13:6 I Beheld This Great and Abominable Church:

 

     According to Stephen Robinson, in 1 Nephi 13-14, the prophet Nephi relates a vision in which he saw the future of the world and its kingdoms as it related to his posterity. Nephi's vision is the type of revelation known in biblical literature as apocalyptic, a type represented in the New Testament most fully by the revelation of John. The two revelations have more in common, though than apocalyptic form, for they both deal in part with an often misunderstood concept; the great and abominable church of the devil. The visions together give us prophetic information about the matter.

     The major characteristics of the "great and abominable church" (1 Nephi 13:6) described in 1 Nephi may be listed as follows:

     1. It persecutes, tortures, and slays the Saints of God (see 1 Nephi 13:5).

     2. It seeks wealth and luxury (see 1 Nephi 13:7-8).

     3. It is characterized by sexual immorality (see 1 Nephi 13:7).

     4. It has excised plain and precious things from the scriptures (see 1 Nephi 13:26-29).

     5. It has dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people (see 1 Nephi 14:11).

     6. Its fate is to be consumed by a world war, when the nations it incites against the Saints war among themselves until the great and abominable church itself is destroyed (see 1 Nephi 22:13-14).

 

     Five of the six characteristics identified in 1 Nephi are also attributed to Babylon in the book of Revelation. . . . The one characteristic not common to both prophetic descriptions is Nephi's statement that the great and abominable church has held back important parts of the canon of scripture. This omission in Revelation is not surprising since John's record is one of the scriptures Nephi says was tampered with (see 1 Nephi 14:23-24).

     Perhaps the greatest difficulty in understanding Nephi's description of the great and abominable church is what seems to be a contradiction between chapter 13 and chapter 14. In 1 Nephi 13 the great and abominable church is one specific church among many--"most abominable above all other churches" (1 Nephi 13:5) . . . The apparent contradiction comes in 1 Nephi 14:10, in which we are told that the devils's church consists of all those organizations not associated with the Church of Jesus Christ: "Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil."

     How can this be? . . . The answer is that the term "great and abominable church" is used in two different ways in 1 Nephi 13-14. In chapter 13 it is used historically, and in chapter 14 it is used typologically. In apocalyptic literature--remember that both Revelation and 1 Nephi 13-14 are apocalyptic in nature--the seer is caught up in vision and sees things from God's perspective. Time ceases to be an important element; this is one reason the chronology in Revelation at times seems to be scrambled: with God there is no time as we reckon it (see Alma 40:8). Thus apocalyptic visions are highly symbolic . . . Once we understand that the term great and abominable church has two uses, the one historical and the other archetypal, the rest becomes easier. . . .

     Because apocalyptic literature is dualistic, it deals with types; everything boils down to opposing principles: love and hate, good and evil, light and dark. There are no gray areas in apocalyptic writing. In this sense "there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil" (1 Nephi 14:10). . . .

     Clearly whatever denominational name we choose to give it, the earliest apostate church and the great and abominable church that Nephi and John describe are identical. the fact is, we don't really know what name to give it. I have proposed hellenized Christianity, but that is a description rather than a name.

     The historical abominable church of the devil is that apostate church that replaced true Christianity in the first and second centuries, teaching the philosophies of men mingled with scriptures. It dethroned God in the church and replaced him with man by denying the principle of revelation and turning instead to human intellect. As the product of human agency, its creeds were an abomination to the Lord, for they were idolatry: men worshipping the creations, not of their own hands, but of their own minds. [Stephen E. Robinson, "Nephi's "Great and Abominable Church," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 7/1, 1998, pp. 34-39] [See also Stephen E. Robinson, "Early Christianity and 1 Nephi 13-14," in The Book of Mormon: First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, pp. 177-191]

 

1 Nephi 13:6 The Great and Abominable Church:

 

     According to John Tvedtnes, the Gog and Magog prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 is paralleled by John's writings in Revelation 17-20 concerning his vision, part of which speak about the great "whore," the "mother of harlots" (Revelation 17:1-6, 15-18) which falls (Revelation 18:1-3) and whose "smoke rose up for ever and ever" (Revelation 19:1-3). It seems that John either borrowed words from the writings of Ezekiel or else they both experienced the same vision.

     Another prophet who experienced the same vision as John was the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi, who, having been informed that John would record the vision, was told to write only part of what he saw (1 Nephi 14:25-28). So it is noteworthy that Nephi, in writing of his vision, not only refers to the great "whore" (1 Nephi 14:10-12), but employs the term "great and abominable church" (1 Nephi 13:6-8, 26-28; 14:3, 9, 15-17; 22:13-14; 2 Nephi 6:12; 28:18-19) in reference to that term.

     With these facts in mind, it is most interesting that in the Doctrine & Covenants 29:21, we read that "the great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire, according as it is spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel the prophet." (emphasis added) While the "great and abominable church" is described by Nephi, this term is not used in the biblical book of Ezekiel nor elsewhere in the Bible. How then, one might ask, can the Doctrine and Covenants attribute such a prophecy to Ezekiel seeing how this passage ("spoken by the mouth of Ezekiel") is found in all manuscripts and early publications of this revelation with only minor variations, none of which affect the wording?

     One of the possibilities is that the text of the book of Ezekiel may have been modified, resulting in the loss of this prophecy from the Bible (see 1 Nephi 13:26). Several of the Church Fathers of the first centuries of the Christian era quoted items from Ezekiel that are not found in the biblical book of that name. Epiphanius (ca. A.D. 315-403) attributes to Ezekiel the story of the blind and lame men,309 which is also found, without attribution, in TB Sanhedrin 91a-b310 but which is unknown form the biblical Ezekiel.

     Additionally, during the rabbinic council held in Yabneh (Yamnia) in A.D. 90 to determine which books would be accepted as authentic scripture, there were many disagreements over the canonicity of Ezekiel, whose description of the temple service in the last days (chapters 40-48) contradicted the rules laid down in the Torah. Of this, one of the rabbis said, "When Elijah comes, he will explain the difficulty" Others were not content to wait so long. Rabbi Hananiah literally burned the midnight oil for many nights revising the text of Ezekiel. The Talmud said of him: "Blessed be the memory of Hananiah, son of Hezekiah: if it had not been for him, the book of Ezekiel would have been 'hidden' (i.e., withdrawn from public reading), . . . What did he do? They brought him three hundred measures of oil, and he sat down and explained it."311 By this, it was understood that the rabbi had modified the text to make it acceptable to the council.312

     This story suggests the possibility that the passage relating to the latter-day destruction of "the great and abominable church" may have been omitted form the book of Ezekiel, either inadvertently or during a deliberate modification of the text.

     Another possible explanation for the absence of the passage from the book of Ezekiel is that it was included in another of Ezekiel's books that is no longer extant. Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century A.D., declared that Ezekiel had "left behind him in writing two books" containing prophecies about the calamities that would befall the Jews.313 Among the Dead Sea Scrolls are five fragmentary copies (4Q385, 4Q386, 4Q387, 4Q388, 4Q391) of a text that has been termed "Pseudo-Ezekiel" because it contains passages from the biblical Ezekiel that vary from what is found in the standard Masoretic Hebrew text and some material not found in Ezekiel at all. Strugnell and Dimant have referred to the text as "Second Ezekiel."314

     It is unlikely that Nephi had access to the writings of Ezekiel, for he lived in Babylon at the time that Lehi's family left Jerusalem. But the similarity between the prophecies suggests that Ezekiel, like John and Nephi, shared the same vision of the future destruction of the wicked. [John A. Tvedtnes, "Ezekiel's "Missing Prophecy," in Voices of Old Testament Prophets: The 26th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, pp. 110-119]

     Note* Apparently Isaiah also saw the same vision or one similar to that of Nephi, for in expounding Isaiah's prophecies (1 Nephi 20-21--compare Isaiah 48-49), Nephi declares: "And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads . . . and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it" (1 Nephi 22:13-14) Later, after quoting a large section of Isaiah's writings (2 Nephi 12-24--compare Isaiah 2-14), Nephi also declares: "But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof" (2 Nephi 28:18) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 13:12 I . . . Beheld a Man among the Gentiles:

 

     According to Reynolds and Sjodahl, there is nothing in itself, improbable in the assumption that Columbus had the blood of Israel in his veins. On the contrary, his character and his mission were of such nature as to lend some color to that assumption. Nephi saw him "among" the Gentiles (1 Nephi 13:12), but that does not necessarily mean that he was a Gentile. I am inclined to the view that Nephi, when stating that he was "separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters" (1 Nephi 13:12), in reality says that they were brethren and that was the main element that separated them from each other. But, be that as it may, the following lines are of interest in this connection:

           The story of the Jews in America begins with Christopher Columbus. On August 2, 1492, more than 300,000 Jews were expelled from Spain . . . and on August 3, the next day, Columbus set sail for the west, taking a group of Jews with him . . . Columbus himself tells us that he consorted much with Jews. The first letter he wrote detailing his discoveries was to a Jew. Indeed, the eventful voyage itself which added to men's knowledge and wealth "the other half of the earth," was made possible by Jews.

           The pleasant story that it was Queen Isabella's jewels which financed the voyage has disappeared under cool research. There were three Maranos or "secret Jews" who wielded great influence at the Spanish Court: Luis de Santangel, who was an important merchant of Valencia and a "farmer" of the royal taxes; his relative Gabriel Sanchez, who was the royal treasurer; and their friend, the royal chamberlain, Juan Cabrero . . . Santangel craved permission to advance the money himself, which he did, 17,000 ducats in all, about $20,000, perhaps equal to $160,000 today.

           Associated with Columbus in the voyage were at least five Jews: Luis de Torres, interpreter; Marco, the surgeon; Bernal, the physician; Alonzo de la Calle, and Gabriel Sanchez . . . Luis de Torres was the first man ashore . . . He settled in Cuba." (The International Jew, Dearborn, Michigan, 1920, p 33)

[George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 120]

 

1 Nephi 13:12 The Spirit of God . . . Wrought upon the Man and He Went Forth upon the Many Waters, Even unto the Seed of My Brethren

 

According to a book by Arnold Garr, Christopher Columbus left many statements in his journals and other personal writings in which he boldly declared that he believed the Lord directed him in his great undertaking. Referring to his first voyage to America, he once stated, "With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies (Columbus most often referred to the New World as the Indies). . . . This was the fire that burned within me. . . . Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit" (West and Kling, 105). (p. 3)

     Sources on Columbus' life are replete with evidence that one of his major motivations to sail to the Indies was to spread Christianity. He once wrote the following to Amerigo Vespucci (the explorer for whom America is named): "I feel persuaded by the many and wonderful manifestations of Divine Providence in my especial favour, that I am the chosen instrument of God in bringing to pass a great event--no less than the conversion of millions who are now existing in the darkness of Paganism" (Lester 79) (p. 30).

     Columbus was fond of quoting John 10:16: "And other sheep I have that are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice: and there shall be one fold and one shepherd" (Watts 93; West and Kling 229) (p. 31).

     Beginning with the decision Christopher made concerning his point of departure, and continuing all the way through to his return voyage to Spain, we can find numerous junctures at which the Lord manifested his hand in Columbus' key decisions (p. 41).

     It is amazing, said George E. Nunn, a prominent geographer, that Christopher "did not make a single false move in the entire voyage" (Nunn 43) (p. 39).

     The route Columbus chose has stood the test of time: five hundred years of sailing have proven it the best possible course for sailing west from southern Europe to North America. Nunn suggested that Columbus' successful navigation was the result of "an application of reason to . . . knowledge" (Nunn 50). Columbus, however, gave credit to the Lord, even though he was a successful seaman and an accomplished navigator. (p. 41)

     On the way to America, Columbus changed course only twice during the entire 33 days at sea. The first alteration was on 7 October. Until that time, Christopher had sailed due west for 28 days. Then he noted in his journal that a great multitude of birds passed over, going from north to southwest. Bartolome de Las Casas, the man who transcribed Columbus' journal, wrote that from this observation, the Admiral "decided to alter course and turn the prow to the WSW [west southwest]" (Fuson 71). Professor Morison claimed that if Columbus had not changed course, "the voyage would have taken a day longer" (Morison 1:283). That extra day would have been critical, since two days before the eventual sighting of land, the crew threatened mutiny. Every extra day at sea heightened their anxiety; the Admiral's time-saving change of course on 7 October, therefore, just may have saved the expedition (p. 43).      

     After sunset on 11 October, just a few hours before land was sighted. For no apparent reason, Columbus gave orders to change direction from west southwest back to the original course of due west (Dunn and Kelly 59). He gave no explanation for the change, but it was, nevertheless, an excellent choice. Had he continued on the west southwest course instead of steering due west, he would have missed the island of San Salvador, and would likely have ended up on the deadly reefs along the coast of Long Island (in the Caribbean), perhaps never returning to Spain (Morison 1:295). Many historians have attributed these changes in course to luck or chance, but Las Casas said, "God gave this man the keys to the awesome seas, he and no other unlocked the darkness" (Las Casas 35) (p. 44).

     The route the Admiral chose for his homeward journey is yet another example of his being inspired of God. On 14 January 1493, he recorded in his log, "I have faith in Our Lord that He who brought me here will lead me back in His pity and mercy . . . no one else was supportive of me except God, because He knew my heart"(Fuson 174). Columbus did not return to Spain by the same southern sea passage that had carried him to America. Instead, he sailed northeast and caught winds coming out of the west that took him back across the Atlantic to the Azores. Once again, Nunn asserted that Columbus' navigational decisions were remarkable: "So much has been said about his discovery of America that it has been lost to sight and thought that he also discovered both of the great sailing routes in the North Atlantic" (Nunn 50). With no prior trans-Atlantic sailing experience, how did Christopher enjoy such good fortune on both legs of the trip? One noted historian declared, "there can be no doubt that the faith of Columbus was genuine and sincere, and that his frequent communion with forces unseen was a vital element in his achievement" (Morison 1:65).

     Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid, Castile, on Wednesday, 20 May 1506. His last words were "in manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum' ('into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit')" (Taviani, The Great Adventure, 248) (p. 69). [Arnold K. Garr, Christopher Columbus, A Latter-Day Saint Perspective, pp. 3, 30-31, 39, 41, 43-44, 69]

 

1 Nephi 13:12 He went forth upon the many waters, even to the seed of my brethren (Illustration): Map of Columbus' First Voyage to the New World. [Arnold K. Garr, Christopher Columbus, A Latter-Day Saint Perspective, p. 40]

 

1 Nephi 13:12 I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man (Illustration): "Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)" [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1115]

 

1 Nephi 13:12 [The Spirit of God] wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren (Illustration): Landing of Columbus at the Island of Guanahani, West Indies, 12 October 1492. Artist: John Vanderlyn, 1847. Courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol, National Graphics Center. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Ensign, October 1992, front cover]

 

1 Nephi 13:12 Separated from the Seed of My Brethren by the Many Waters:

 

     According to Potter and Wellington, in the vision of Nephi (1 Nephi 11-14) it becomes evident that the land of promise would be across the "many waters" (1 Nephi 13:12). Until Nephi had this great vision, we cannot be sure that anyone in Lehi's group really knew the magnitude of their journey ahead. It is hard to imagine what went through the minds of Nephi and Lehi when they realized the staggering scope of the project they needed to accomplish in order to get to the land of promise. They would need to build an ocean-going ship large enough to accommodate the entire extended family and all their provisions. They would be required to sail this ship an unbelievable distance, through myriads of different currents and tides, from silent calms to raging storms, through all sorts of varying conditions. How could Lehi and Nephi accomplish such a task? By going one step at a time and learning "line upon line." Lehi and Nephi would have known of only a few places where such ships were built and sailed far into the ocean, but the important point here is to realize that they DID know about these places. These could have included the Mediterranean ports of the Phoenicians, the ports of the Arabian Gulf and Mesopotamia, and those of southern Arabia. As a businessman, Lehi might have had contact with entrepreneurs from all these areas. The important lesson for Lehi and Nephi to learn was in which direction the Lord wanted them to go. The Lord would soon provide them with such divine assistance by way of the Liahona. [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 71] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 16:13]

     Note* In view of where Lehi DID go (the land bountiful on the shores of the Indian Ocean--Dhofar) it is most intriguing how the prophets spoke concerning two locations associated with the Indian Ocean--Ophir and Tarshish. For more information see the commentary on 2 Nephi 23:12 and 2 Nephi 12:16. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 13:13 Other Gentiles . . . Went Forth out of Captivity:

 

     According to Mark E. Petersen, when it is realized how despotic the European kings were at this period, it is easily understood that the colonists did indeed flee from captivity and oppression. Under such kings as James I of England, there was hardly a semblance of freedom. He was the supreme dictator in government, in economics, in education (what there was of it), and in the state of religion. He controlled the detailed lives of his people.

     France, Spain, England, and Portugal were the principal powers involved in the discovery and exploration of America, and this is significant. All were ruled by despots, and when immigrants finally were allowed to leave the "mother countries," they indeed fled from captivity. The history of the Pilgrims and Puritans gives ample evidence of this fact. [Mark E. Petersen, The Great Prologue, pp. 32-33]

 

1 Nephi 13:13 Other Gentiles . . . Went Forth out of Captivity:

 

     In 1 Nephi 13:13 we have reference that Nephi "beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters." According to Mark E. Petersen, the history of the Pilgrims and Puritans gives ample evidence of the type of captivity they left to come to a land of freedom and liberty. However, we quote herein a story published in the 1933 manual for deacons quorums of the Church to illustrate that the captivity was literal--even a captivity behind jail doors. The story follows:

           If one were to search among all the Prophet Joseph Smith's progenitors for one who best typified his righteous zeal for true freedom and his dauntless devotion to truth, perhaps no finer exemplification could be found than his fifth great-grandfather, the Rev. John Lathrop.

           He was a young minister of the Church of England, happily married, with a family of beautiful children. He labored faithfully until in his conscience he felt he could no longer approve the things he must teach. He resigned his position, left the church, and in 1623 became pastor of the First Independent Church of London.

           Persecution raged against him and his little band of devoted followers. They were forced to meet secretly, to escape the anger of the opposing bishop. One day, as they met in worship they were discovered by agents of the bishop, who suddenly invaded their meeting place, seized forty-two of their number, and sent them in fetters to the old Clink Prison, in Newgate. Finally all but Mr. Lathrop were released on bail, but he was deemed too dangerous to be set at liberty.

           During these months of his imprisonment a fatal sickness had seized upon his wife, and she was about to die. Upon his urgent entreaty, the bishop consented for him to visit his dying wife if he would promise to return. He reached home in time, gave her his blessing, and she passed away. True to his promise, he returned to prison. His poor, orphaned children wandered about in helpless misery until someone suggested that they appeal to the bishop at Lambeth. One can picture the mournful procession as they came before him and made known their sorrowful plight.

           "Please, sir," they cried piteously, "release our father or we too shall die." The bishop's heart was softened and touched with pity, and he granted to John Lathrop his freedom if he would promise to leave the country and never return.

           Gathering around him his children and 32 of his congregation, he sailed to America, settling in New England, where he was warmly welcomed and soon became one of the leaders among the Puritans of his day.

[Mark E. Petersen, "American History and Nephi's Vision," published in the Deseret News, March 25, 1933. Quoted by George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 121-122]

 

1 Nephi 13:14 [The Seed of My Brethren] Were Scattered before the Gentiles and Were Smitten:

 

     The fulfillment of Nephi's prophecy concerning the scattering of the seed of his brethren is so vast a topic as to fill volumes and can be touched on here only briefly. It is one of the most tragic stories of history, equaling in many ways the persecution and suffering of the Jewish people through the centuries.

     From the time Columbus landed in the West Indies, the destruction and driving of the Indian people began. The extent of this destruction has only recently started coming to full light. For example, in 1973 Wilbur R. Jacobs, a noted historian, refuted the earlier projections made by European and American scholars of the Indian population at the time Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere in 1492. Previous estimates had placed the Indian population of North America at about a million, and in both North and South America at no more than 8 million. However, according to Jacobs, projections which are widely accepted today place the total at 90 million for the whole of the Western Hemisphere and nearly 10 million in North America alone.315 When this total of 10 million Indians living in North America is compared with the estimated 235,000 who were alive at the turn of the twentieth century, one begins to glimpse the scope of the tragedy.

     Jacobs writes:

           What happened to all those Indians? Cook and Dobyns, researchers in the spread of epidemic diseases among Indians, argue convincingly that millions of Indians were killed off by catastrophic disease frontiers in the form of epidemics of smallpox, bubonic plague, typhus, influenza, malaria, measles, yellow fever, and other diseases. (Besides bringing Old World strains of virus and bacteria, Europeans brought weeds, plants, rats, insects, domestic animals, liquor, and a new technology to alter Indian life and the ecological balance wheel.) Smallpox, caused by an air-borne virus, was and is about the most deadly of the contagious diseases. Virulent strains, transmitted by air, by clothing, blankets, or by slight contact (even by an immune individual), snuffed out whole tribes, often leaving only a handful of survivors. Although some kinds of epidemic diseases might be reduced to a mild virulence among Indians (as among whites) after generations of exposure, smallpox was undoubtedly the Indians' worst killer because it returned time and again to attack surviving generations of Indians to kill them off too.316

 

     As terrible as it was, decimation by disease was not the only tragedy to befall the descendants of Lehi. The Indians as described by Columbus were "gentle beings, souls of hospitality, curious and merry, truthful and faithful, walking in beauty and possessors of a spiritual religion."317 They were not prepared for the ruthless, predatory nature of the white men who came in search of gold and converts. "The situation was as if a mysterious stranger, announcing himself with words of love, welcomed with delight as a guest, embraced as a friend, given the run of the house and taken into the family's bosom, had suddenly revealed himself as no man at all but a devouring werewolf."318 Immediate exploitation of the Indians as a cheap source of slave labor took place. Thousands were shipped to Europe and thousands of Europeans came to America to receive "a grant of land with accompanying unpaid, forced, Indian labor for life."319 Collier writes:

           But in the West Indies it was not decimation that befell the Indians--the peoples whom Columbus had found to be gentle, merry and walking in beauty--it was annihilation. Since the supply was supposed to be unlimited in the beginning, these chattel slaves were worked to death. So terrible was their life that they were driven to mass suicide, to mass infanticide, to mass abstinence from sexual life in order that children should not be born into horror. Lethal epidemics followed upon the will to die. The murders and desolations exceeded those of the most pitiless tyrants of earlier history; nor have they been surpassed since." 320

 

     Collier notes that the Indian population of Haiti and Santo Domingo, estimated to be between two and three hundred thousand when Columbus arrived, had plummeted to less than five hundred natives surviving in 1548, only fifty-six years later!321

     That story was repeated numerous times at the hands of men like Cortez, Pizzaro, and DeSoto, in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. The scenes viewed by Nephi six hundred years before Christ were fulfilled with horrible reality. As one author put it:

           Here was a race in process of being engulfed in an irresistible flood of peoples of an utterly different culture. Dislocated from their accustomed seats, transplanted again and again, treated by whites as hostile encumbrances of the fertile earth to be brushed aside or destroyed, bewildered by a type of economy for which they were unprepared, decimated by disease and vices to which they had built up no resistance, repeatedly seeing solemn treaties violated, subject to shifting governmental policies, preyed upon by incompetent and greedy officials, and at times demoralized by an excess of well intentioned but ill directed paternalistic kindness, it is a wonder that the Indians survived.322

[Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121-122, 1981, pp. 34-35]

     Note* If we include the Polynesians as the children of Lehi, then the picture is even more bleak. According to Bruce Sutton, when Captain Cook visited the Marquesas in 1774, he estimated there had to be a teeming population of between 50,000 and 100,000. By the time the French extended thier control over the Islands, after years of wars, diseases and deaths, the population had dropped to 20,000. This decline in population continued. By 1872, there were only 6,200 inhabitants in the Islands. The 1902 census listed only 3,500, and the 1929 census listed only 2,075 native inhabitants of the Marquesas Islands. In varying degrees, a similar story could be repeated for most of the lands of Polynesia. This was a tragic era in the history of European settlements in the Pacific. [Bruce S. Sutton, Lehi, Father of Polynesia: Polynesians Are Nephites, p. 20]

 

1 Nephi 13:14 [The Seed of My Brethren] Were Scattered before the Gentiles and Were Smitten:

     According to John Sorenson, in 1560, Father Bartolome de Las Casas estimated that forty million native Americans had perished "unjustly and through tyranny" in New Spain in the two generations after Columbus's discovery . . . [John L. Sorenson, "Digging into the Book of Mormon," in the Ensign, Sept. 1984, p. 33] [See the commentary on Moroni 9:20]

 

1 Nephi 13:14 [The seed of my brethren] were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten ( Illustration): "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," by A&OR. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1105]

 

1Nephi 13:15 [The Gentiles] did prosper (Illustration): "And I beheld the spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land," by A&OR [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1107]

 

1 Nephi 13:18 I Beheld That the Power of God Was with Them:

 

     Reynolds and Sjodahl note that George Washington acknowledged the sovereignty of the Lord and the importance of religion as a condition of national success. In his Farewell Address he expresses this as follows:

           Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked--and I ask it of you--Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation deserts the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on the minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

 

[George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, pp. 124-125]

 

1 Nephi 13:23 It Proceedeth out of the Mouth of a Jew:

 

     According to Cleon Skousen, in 1 Nephi 13:23 the angel seems to be referring primarily to the Old Testament (he gets to the New Testament in verse 24). The statement of the angel that the Old Testament came forth from "a" Jew is highly significant. This undoubtedly refers to the famous Jewish scribe, Ezra, who was the compiler of the Old Testament record which we use in modern times. Ezra was not a prophet but a priest and a scholarly scribe who lived in Babylon. Nearly a century before his time, the Jews had returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. and rebuilt the temple of Solomon which was dedicated in 516 B.C. In spite of this, however, Ezra heard that they were not obeying the commandments of God but were desecrating the sacred temple rites with their impure lives. He therefore went to Jerusalem to start a massive reform movement. Once he arrived in Jerusalem, however, Ezra discovered the Jews had lost practically all of their scriptures. It will be recalled that in ancient times the scriptures were maintained as separate books, and one by one these had become lost. Ezra therefore gathered together all of the prophetic writings which he had brought with him as well as those he was able to find in Jerusalem, and compiled them into a single canon of scripture which became our Old Testament. It is estimated that Ezra did most of this work between approximately 450-400 B.C. This allowed him to include the writings of Malachi who lived during the latter part of this period. The Jews then went into 400 years of dark ages so Malachi is the last prophet cited in the Old Testament. In view of these known historical facts it is literally true that the existence of our present Old Testament scripture is the direct result of the careful compilation made by Ezra, and it was entirely accurate for the angel to say that this book proceeded from the mouth of "a" Jew. [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 1106] See the commentary on 1 Nephi 5:11: 5:18]

 

1 Nephi 13:23 It Proceedeth out of the Mouth of a Jew:

 

     According to George Reynolds and Janne Sjodahl, the prophet here in 1 Nephi 13:23 is speaking on the Old Testament, as it was to appear through the labors of Ezra and his associates and successors. Ezra undertook the work of collecting all the sacred writings that existed at his time. This work included not only the discovery of copies in various places, the rejection of those that were not authentic and the copying of manuscripts the contents of which could not otherwise be secured, but also the correction of the text, after careful examination of the variations that must have been found. It was this work that was shown to Nephi in his vision of the Old Testament, and therefore, he, very properly, says he beheld it coming "out of the mouth of a Jew" (1 Nephi 13:23). [George Reynolds and Janne Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 4, p. 262]

 

1 Nephi 13:24 The Book Proceeded Forth from the Mouth of a Jew:

 

     According to Robert Parsons, if we accept this meaning of the phrase, "the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew" (1 Nephi 13:24), we would have to accept the idea that Ezra's collection of writings more nearly approached what was in the brass plates than the writings now contained in our Old Testament, since the angel also told Nephi that the book contained the fulness of the gospel. The fulness of the gospel of necessity would include a correct understanding of the creation, the fall, the atonement, and the principles of faith, repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost. All of these are essential for one to enter the celestial kingdom, and the fulness of the gospel prepares and qualifies one to enter that kingdom. Since the Pearl of Great Price and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible make it abundantly clear that much has been lost from the Old Testament, and since our King James Version of the Bible agrees to a great extent with the Dead Sea Scrolls, it seems apparent that many Old Testament losses occurred before the time of Christ. However, since Paul seems familiar with the Tame and Wild Olive Tree allegory (Romans 11:17), and since Jude refers to writings in the book of Enoch (Jude 1:14), perhaps losses after the time of Christ also occurred. Elder Mark E. Petersen wrote: "When Nephi spoke of the 'plain and precious' parts of the scripture which were eliminated he spoke of the witness of Christ which is no longer in the Old Testament."323

     In light of all we know today, perhaps a better interpretation of "the book [that] proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew" would be to identify it as the Bible, which came from the mouth of Jesus and also the mouths of many Jews. This would be consistent with 1 Nephi 13:24, which states that the book contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bore record, and verse 25, which states that "these things [the book] go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles." However, a distinction should probably be made between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Greek Septuagint translation (around 250 B.C.) and the Dead Sea Scroll Old Testament manuscripts (around 200 B.C. to A.D. 70) were already corrupted before the New Testament was written. The New Testament was pure at first but was later corrupted. Thus, there never was a time in which both the Old Testament and the New Testament were uncorrupted at the same time, though the component parts of each of the testaments were pure when they "came from the pen of the original writers." [Robert E. Parsons, "The Great and Abominable Church," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 48-51]

 

1 Nephi 13:26 They Have Taken Away from the Gospel . . . Many Parts Which Are Plain and Most Precious:

 

     In prophesying of the coming forth of the Bible, Nephi says concerning the contents of the book that "they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious" (1 Nephi 13:26). McConkie and Millet address the question, "What are some examples of these plain and precious matters which have been expurgated from the original biblical records?" May we not ask what became of such matters in the Old Testament as the identity of Jesus Christ as Jehovah, the ordinances of salvation (baptism, confirmation, sealings, and eternal marriages), the age of accountability, the premortal existence of man, the nature and functions of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the typology of the Law of Moses, and particulars concerning such doctrines as the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement? These and a myriad of others--including such issues in the New Testament as the timeless nature of the Atonement (retroactive and proactive), the doctrine of celestial marriage, and a distinction between the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the signs of the times incident to the Second Coming -- were lost to the world until the "times of restitution" began in the spring of 1820. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 98] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 9:13; Jarom 1:2]

     According to Clay Gorton, the books of the following prophets are mentioned but not included in the Bible: the book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18); the book of Gad the seer, (1 Chronicles 29:29); the book of Nathan the prophet (2 Chronicles 9:29); the book of Shemaiah the prophet (2 Chronicles 12:15); a writing from Elijah the prophet (2 Chronicles 21:12); the writing of Hezekiah king of Judah (Isaiah 38:9). [H. Clay Gorton, The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban, p. 17]

 

1 Nephi 13:26 They Have Taken Away from the Gospel of the Lamb Many Parts:

 

     According to John Welch, in 1 Nephi 13, Nephi explained in some detail how the apostasy from early Christianity would occur. First Nephi 13:24-32 seems to identify three stages in this process--not just one.

     1. This stage would have occurred simply by altering the meaning of the things taught by the Lord without necessarily changing the words themselves.

     2. The Gentiles would next take away "many covenants of the Lord" (1 Nephi 13:26). We can note that this step, too could be taken without deleting any words from the Bible as such. The knowledge and benefit of the covenants of God can be lost simply by neglecting the performance of ordinances, priesthood functions, or individual covenants.

     3. Nephi understood this step as a consequence of the first two, for 1 Nephi 13:28 begins with the word "wherefore." Thus, things that were lost from the texts of the Bible were not necessarily a cause, but a result of the fact that, first, the gospel, and second, the covenants of the Lord had been lost or taken away.

     Understanding this process helps us to see how the Book of Mormon corrects this situation. It contains the fulness of the gospel (see D&C 20:9). [John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple, and The Sermon on the Mount, pp. 88-89]

 

1 Nephi 13:28 There Are Many Plain and Precious Things Taken Away from the Book:

 

     Nephi sees in vision that "after the book [of the Lamb of God] 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" (1 Nephi 13:18). While acknowledging the possible deletions and variations that might have entered into the book itself, Reynolds and Sjodahl bring up another perspective, which is the loss of numerous supportive texts that may have provided additional insight and testimony to this book.

           People have a wrong idea of the civilization of the early ages. They are apt to think of the people as ignorant, unable to read and write. But not so. . . . Books were numerous. In the famous Alexandrian library, there were at one time circa 700,000 volumes. During the siege of the city by Julius Caesar, part of the library was destroyed by fire, but the loss was somewhat repaired by the turning over of the collection at Pergamos to Cleopatra by Mark Anthony. It remained for the so-called Christian Roman emperor, Theodosius the Great, to destroy that precious collection of literature, in the interest of the church, in the year A.D. 389. Similar acts of vandalism have occurred again and again. Precious books were given to the flames. The same policy was resurrected in America by the first Spanish missionaries who made bonfires of the literature of the Mayas. The vision of Nephi was fulfilled literally.

[George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 129]

 

1 Nephi 13:28 There Are Many Plain and Precious Things Taken Away from the Book, Which Is the Book of the Lamb of God:

 

     In Nephi's vision (1 Nephi 13) he beheld that when the record of the Jews, which contained the covenants of the Lord, which he had made with the house of Israel, proceeded forth, it contained the plainness of the gospel of the Lord (vv. 23-24). However, after being subjected to the great and abominable church, the book of the Lamb of God would have "many plain and precious things taken away" (1 Nephi 13:28). According to Joy Osborn, it is not known what scriptures and beliefs the house of Israel may have taken with them as they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians, then disappeared into the north; but we do know that the Jews, whom the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel declared to be even more wicked than Ephraim and Samaria, had begun a serious effort to remove all scriptural references to the coming of Christ as the sacrificial Lamb who would die for their sins. Hugh Nibley writes:

           One of the first, and certainly the greatest, of Christian Apologists was Justin Martyr. In his famous dialogue with the Jew Trypha, he charges 'the teachers and the leaders of the Jews with having deliberately defaced and, where possible, removed from the scripture every trace of the true Messianic Gospel which the Jews themselves had once taught. (Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon , p. 312)

 

     Justin Martyr had accused the Jewish doctors of "removing passages which they found distasteful" from the scriptures. Martyr declared: "You know very well that your teachers whenever they detect anything in our scriptures that might refer to Christ, diligently efface it." (Dial. 120)

 

[Joy M. Osborn, The Book of Mormon -- The Stick of Joseph, p. 222]

 

1 Nephi 13:28 There Are Many Plain and Precious Things Taken Away from the Book:

 

     Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that several Bible scholars have concluded that there are many passages of scripture that were deleted from the canonical Bible in use today. Adam Clarke quoted Justin Martyr, an early Christian writer who taught that a certain passage had been taken out of the Book of Ezra:

     And Ezra said to the people; This Passover is our Savior and our Refuge: and if ye will be persuaded of it, and let it enter into your hearts, that we are to humble ourselves to him in a sign, and afterwards shall believe in him, this place shall not be destroyed forever, saith the Lord of Hosts: But if ye will not believe in him, nor hearken to his preaching, ye shall be a laughing-stock to the gentiles. . . .

 

     This passage," Justin says, "the Jews, through their enmity to Christ, blotted out of the book of Ezra. He charges them with canceling several other places through the same spirit of enmity and opposition."324

 

     Also in "Dialogue with Trypho," Justin Martyr writes: "And since this passage from the sayings of Jeremiah is still written in some copies (of the Scriptures) in the synagogues of the Jews (for it was only a short time since they were cut out), . . . from the sayings of the same Jeremiah these have been cut out: "The Lord God remembered His dead people of Israel who lay in the graves; and He descended to preach to them His own salvation."325 The deleted text clearly makes reference to the Savior's visit to the spirit world, during the time that His body slept in the tomb--as recorded in Peter's first general epistle (1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:5-6).

[Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 18]

 

1 Nephi 13:28 There Are Many Plain and Precious Things Taken Away from the Book:

 

     Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that while the Book of Mormon testifies to the authenticity of the Bible, it does not claim that the Bible is without error. It specifically states that there were many "plain and precious things" that were deleted from its pages through the evil works of men. (See 1 Nephi 13:20-32; 19:10-12; 20:1-3; 2 Nephi 3:5-22; Alma 33:3, 13, 15; 34:7; 46:23-27; Helaman 8:19-20; 15:11; 3 Nephi 10:14-17; 12:13, 17-19, 22, 29-30; 14:1.)

     Scholars of the Bible have found indisputable evidence that the Bible has indeed suffered many deletions.326 Non Mormon scholarship has concluded that the gospels found in the New Testament have also been manipulated.327

     Critics often ask for specific examples of any "plain and precious things" found in the Book of Mormon that are not also found in the Bible. Below is just a very brief list of such examples:

     The Lord prepares a way for us to keep all of His commandments (1 Nephi 3:7)

     How mysteries are made known unto man (1 Nephi 10:19; Mosiah 2:9; Alma 12:10; 26:22)

     The process for receiving revelation and inspiration (1 Nephi 17:45; Enos 1:10)

     The gentiles to assist the house of Israel (1 Nephi 22:8-11; 2 Nephi 10:18)

     The law of consecration (2 Nephi 2:2)

     The reason God allows evil and opposition to continue in the world and the importance of moral agency (2 Nephi 2:2, 10:16)

     The purpose of Adam's fall & man's existence (2 Nephi 2:22-25)

     The lost prophecy of the latter-day Joseph (2 Nephi 3:6-16)

     God's word is not limited to the Bible (2 Nephi 29:3-13)

     The lost teachings of Zenos (Jacob 5:1-77)

     A description of the natural man, and how to overcome (Mosiah 3:19; Alma 5:6-45)

     How to retain the remission of sins (Mosiah 4:11-16)

     The true process of being born again (Mosiah 5:2-9; Alma 5:6-45)

     The office and calling of a seer (Mosiah 8:13-17)

     The manner in which faith is developed and maintained (Alma 32:26-34)

     The relationship between justice and mercy (Alma 34:15-16)

     The state of the soul between death a d the resurrection (Alma 40:11-14)

     Christians and Christianity flourished before the time of Christ (Alma 46:13-16)

     The symbolisms of the remnant of Joseph's coat (Alma 46:23)

     The perpetual cycle of the human experience: obedience-->blessings-->prosperity-->pride-->sin--punishment-->humility-->repentance-->obedience . . . (Helaman 12:1-3)

     The "other sheep" spoken of in John 10:16 are identified (3 Nephi 15:16-24)

     The powers of translated beings (3 Nephi 28:36-40)

     Baptism is only for those who are accountable (Moroni 8:5-23)

     The manner in which all truth may be verified (Moroni 10:4-5)      

[Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, pp. 16-17] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 29:3]

 

1 Nephi 13:28 There Are Many Plain and Precious Things Taken Away from the Book:

 

     According to Barry Bickmore, aside from the differences of opinion about which books should be canonical, it appears that certain parts of the canonical books have been removed by Jews and Christians alike! Justin Martyr accused the Jews of having removed certain passages from the Old Testament related to the Christian message [of salvation for the dead]. Justin quotes some passages which the Jews evidently removed from Esdras and Jeremiah and then declares:

           "And again, from the sayings of the same Jeremiah these have been cut out: 'The Lord God remembered His dead people of Israel who lay in the graves; and He descended to preach to them His own salvation.'"328

 

     Irenaeus also gives witness to this reading:

           And in Jeremias He thus announces His death and descent into hell, in the words: "And the Lord the Holy One of Israel bethought Him of His dead, who in the past had slept in the dust of the earth, and went down unto them, to bring the good news of salvation, to deliver them." Here He also gives the reason for His death; for His descent into hell was salvation for the departed.329

 

     Heneri Daniel-Rops quotes Origen saying that even the New Testament texts of his time (early third century) had been corrupted extensively:

           "Today the fact is evident, that there are many differences in the manuscripts, either through the negligence of certain copyists, or the perverse audacity of some in correcting the text."330

 

Sadly, this habit of "correcting the text" seems to have been quite common in antiquity. Bishop Dionysius of Corinth (A.D. 110-180) complained that "the devil's Apostles" had not only tampered with the scriptures, but his own writings:

           "It is, therefore not to be wondered at if some have attempted to adulterate the Lord's writings also, since they have formed designs even against writings which are of less accounts."331

[Barry Robert Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith & Early Christianity, pp. 60-61]

 

1 Nephi 13:28 There Are Many Plain and Precious Things Taken Away from the Book:

 

     Daniel Bachman cites the specific example of John 3:16 ("he gave his only begotten Son") to give the student some idea of how "plain and precious things" can be "taken away" from the Bible. He notes that many modern versions have changed this portion of the verse and removed the word "begotten" thereby removing the literal nature of Christ's Sonhood. Here is how seven modern versions translate the phrase:

     Living Bible:                        "he gave his only Son. . ."

     Today's English Version:            "he gave his only Son"

     NIV:                              "he gave his one and only Son"

     Phillips Modern English:            "he gave his only Son"

     RSV                              "he gave his only Son"

     Jerusalem Bible:                  "he gave his only son"

     New English Bible:                  "he gave his only Son"

 

     We find that when the word "begotten" is left out, the resulting phrase, "he gave his only son," essentially counters the truth that all men are literal spirit sons of God (Jesus being the only begotten son in the flesh).

 

[Daniel W. Bachman, "Commentary on John 3," unpublished paper]

 

1 Nephi 13:30 The Gentiles Who Have . . . Been Lifted up . . . above All Other Nations, upon the Face of the Land Which Is Choice above All Other Lands:

 

     The Book of Mormon prophesied that the land of America would become a land "choice above all other lands" (1 Nephi 2:20; 13:30; Ether 2:7). It also foretells that the American Gentiles would become the most powerful people on the face of the earth: "unto the pouring out of the Holy Ghost through me upon the Gentiles, which blessing upon the Gentiles shall make them mighty above all" (3 Nephi 20:27).

     Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that in 1830 when this prediction was first published, it must have sounded quite ludicrous, for this nation had scarcely begun its great experiment with democracy--and could hardly be considered a world power. Today, however, few can dispute the literal fulfillment of this bold prophecy. Not only does America dominate the world economy, and have the largest and best equipped military in the world, but it is also "choice above all other lands' in that it yields the more farm product exports than any other country in the world. It accomplishes this with a work force of only three-percent of the U.S. population. America's farmers are the most productive on earth--with the average farmer producing enough food for 78 people, and creating an annual value of 136 billion dollars (in 1980). The United States also leads all nations in mineral production and in manufacturing which produced about $140 billion and $1.85 trillion per year respectively in 1980.332

     The United States became a choice land in a political sense in that is leads the world in protection of human rights as enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. People from all over the world are trying desperately to immigrate to the United States, and participate in this grand experiment in democracy and personal freedom. [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, pp. 97-98]

 

1 Nephi 13:37 Blessed Are They Who Shall Seek to Bring Forth My Zion at That Day:

 

     Benito Pablo Juarez was born to Zapotec Indian parents in the year 1806, making him a contemporary of Joseph Smith. When Benito was only three years old, both of his parents died. His grandparents watched over him until the age of 13, but then they died also. Benito's life looked bleak, but just as the Lord had watched over an Israelite shepherd boy named David, and had watched over the boy Joseph who was taken away from his parents and sold into Egypt, and had watched over the poor backwoods boy named Abraham Lincoln; so the Lord would watch over Benito. After herding sheep for his uncle for a time, Benito wandered into the big City of Oaxaca, in the mountains of south central Mexico. His sister happened to be serving as a maid for a wealthy Spaniard, and through some providential circumstances, Benito came to be adopted by this family.

     Benito proved to be extremely bright, and was schooled in the traditional Catholic society of the priesthood. He manifested a desire to practice law and graduated from the University of Oaxaca with a law degree. For the next 12 years, Benito Juarez practiced law in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico and became a champion for justice. His integrity and concern for the poor became almost legendary. In 1847, as the Mormon pioneers moved west to Utah, Benito became the governor of Oaxaca, Mexico, and made the state a model of justice and organization. He reportedly was so organized that the people could set their clocks according to his schedule for going to work. Governor Juarez developed a strong love for democracy, but in so doing brought upon himself the ire of the establishment. He was exiled by the Mexican President Santa Ana in 1853, and spent two years in the United States.

     Benito Juarez returned to Mexico as minister of justice, and in 1857 he drafted the reform laws that brought about the disenfranchisement of the Catholic Church. In other words, he brought about the separation of the church and the government. The results of those laws were felt by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as Juarez's work opened the door for missionary work in Mexico. In reality, Benito Juarez' work meant the fulfillment of prophecy which the prophet Nephi recorded nearly 2500 years before:

           . . . 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 . . . (1 Nephi 15:13)

[Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, pp. 93-95]

 

     Most Latter-day saints are acquainted with the account of Wilford Woodruff where in vision he was visited by the founding fathers of America:

           The spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, "You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy . . . and were faithful to God." These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done . . . nothing had been done for them. . . . Heretofore our minds were reaching after our more immediate friends and relatives. (Wilford Woodruff, September 16, 1877, in Journal of Discourses, 19:229)

 

     Because of this vision, Wilford Woodruff visited the St. George temple on August 21, 1877, and was baptized by John D.T. McAllister for one hundred prominent men of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. (See Richard O. Cowan, Temples to Dot the Earth, pp. 79-80).

     Members of the Church from the United States of America take great pride in the list of names for which temple work was completed by President Woodruff: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, etc. However, unknown and unnoticed to most of these members is a name at the bottom of the list, a name easily recognized by the members of the Church from Mexico, the name of a poor little orphaned Zapotec Indian boy who grew to become a tool in the Lord's hand--Benito Juarez. "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" (1 Nephi 13:37). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

 

1 Nephi 13:37 Blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day (Illustration): That We May Be Redeemed. Artist: Harold I. Hopkinson. In August 1877, the Founding fathers of the United States appeared to Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Temple, asking that their temple work be done. President Woodruff reports that he "straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men." [L.D.S., The Ensign, September 1988, inside front cover]

 

1 Nephi 13:37 Blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day (Illustration): Benito Juarez (1806-1872). Drawing by Cliff Dunston. [Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 95]

 

1 Nephi 13:37 Zion:

 

     According to McConkie and Millet, in the Book of Mormon we encounter what the world would consider to be an unusual form and meaning for the word zion. In an Old Testament setting, Zion usually has reference to the holy mount or, by extension, to the city of Jerusalem. Here in 1 Nephi 13:37 and in numerous other places (e.g., 2 Nephi 26:29-31; 28:20-21,24; 3 Nephi 16:16-18) Zion seems to represent the gathering place of the believers, the society of the pure in heart, the setting for the Saints.

     Thus, once again we find that explanations for the origin and integration of the concepts in the Book of Mormon are not simple tasks, especially for the doubters of the world. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 103]

 

1 Nephi 13:39 I [Nephi] Beheld Other Books, Which Came Forth by the Power of the Lamb:

 

     Nephi wrote of his vision of the future: "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" (1 Nephi 13:39) A number of other Book of Mormon passages speak of the coming forth of ancient records in the last days (see 1 Nephi 14:25-26; 2 Nephi 27:10, 21-22; 30:3; Ether 3:27).

     According to John Tvedtnes, when Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, the concept of ancient records hidden away for future generations was foreign to Christians, who believed that the Bible was the most ancient of books and the most authoritative records from antiquity. All that was to change over the next century and a half, as new discoveries were made. The largest collections are the clay tablets known from dozens of sites in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, some of which date to the third millennium B.C. The number of known tablets is in the tens of thousands, while untold numbers lie beneath the earth waiting to be discovered. Biblical and other documents have been discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls and at nearby sites such as Masada, Nahal, Hever, Nahal Se'elim, Wadi Murabba'at, Khirbet Mird, and Wadi Daliyah. Other interesting collections of documents have been found in Egypt, including the Bodmer and Anastasi papyri, the Pistis Sophia and 1 and 2 Jeu, and, of course, the Nag Hammadi collection. As late as February 1998, Canadian archaeologists unearthed a collection of about two thousand papyrus rolls at Esment el-Kharab, near the Dakhla oasis in western Egypt.

     Because ancient records were revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith (the Book of Mormon and the records of Enoch, Moses, and Abraham, plus portions of the Doctrine and Covenants), members of the Church from very early on have not only taken a keen interest in extrabiblical books, but have also helped in publishing some of them. [John Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: Out of Darkness unto Light, pp. 167-173]

 

1 Nephi 13:40 These Last Records . . . Shall Make Known to All Kindreds, Tongues, and People:

 

     Nephi, the first prophet mentioned in the Book of Mormon recorded the prophetic words of an angel who declared that the Book of Mormon would be made "known to all kindreds, tongues, and people" (1 Nephi 13:40).

     Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that as of the year 2000 the Book of Mormon, including abridged editions, has been printed in 94 languages. Fifteen thousand copies of the Book are printed each day. There are now over one hundred million copies of the Book of Mormon circulating throughout the world. The Book of Mormon has been taken to so many nations for so long, that some editions have gone out of print with dying languages. (Ensign, May 2000, p. 112) [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, p. 90]

 

1 Nephi 13:40 These Last Records Which Thou Has Seen among the Gentiles Shall Establish the Truth of the First, Which Are of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb:

 

     [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 3:11; Alma 33:11; Helaman 8:17]