1 Nephi 14
Through the Wilderness to the Promised Land
(1 Nephi )
1 Nephi 14:2 The House of Israel:
According to Chauncey Riddle, there are special code words or word usages in the Book of Mormon which are not culturally transparent to the user of ordinary English. . . . The four major kinds of hidden meanings involve: (1) obscure usages, (2) technical usages, (3) metaphorical/allegorical usages, and (4) double entendres. . . . The phrase "the house of Israel" involves a double entendre. Double entendre is where there is a plain, straight-forward and legitimate ordinary interpretation of a language usage which is underlayed by a second, more significant but abstruse meaning.
One of the most common references in the Book of Mormon is to Israel and the house of Israel. The surface meaning of the name "Israel" is that it is a reference to Jacob, the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, and the father of the twelve tribes. A principal concern of the writers of the Book of Mormon is what had happened, what was happening, and what would happen in the future to the house of Israel, and particularly to their own family, a branch of the house of Israel. In general, Israel is important as a people in the history of the world because it is through Israel that the blessing of all nations by the seed of Abraham will be administered.
The tie to the seed of Abraham gives us a clue to the deeper, more important meaning of the name Israel. First we know that the name is a new name given to one who was a faithful servant of Jehovah. As a new name, it is given of Jehovah, or Christ, as a reward, and to signify a new relationship of the recipient to Christ. If we look at the name "Israel" etymologically, we see that it is purported to come from two roots. One of the roots means "mighty, a prince, one who rules." The other root ["el"] is the Hebrew name for God. The standard references tell us that the name Israel means "he will rule as God," or "he rules as God."
Now it is plain that he who rules or will rule as God is Jehovah, himself, or Jesus Christ. Thus, "Israel," the new name for Jacob is also a name of God himself, even as was Abram's new name (Abraham). The conclusion is that the house of Israel is the house or family of Jehovah, the house of Christ. The children of Israel are thus of two kinds: the seed of the flesh, the literal descendants of Jacob; and the children of the new and everlasting covenant, who are the children of men who have come unto Christ and have become his sons and daughters, his seed (see Mosiah 15:10-11 for example). [Chauncey C. Riddle, "Code Language in the Book of Mormon," F.A.R.M.S., pp. 1-2, 16-18] [See the commentary on the name Abraham -- 1 Nephi 22:9; see also the commentary on the name Jesus -- 2 Nephi 25:19]
1 Nephi 14:3 The Lamb of God (Chiastic Center):
In the companion volume to this commentary, The Covenant Story, which contains the text of the Book of Mormon, the term "Lamb" as a title of the Lord has been bolded in order to emphasize its significance as a central message of the book of 1st Nephi. The term "Lamb" (with it's covenant sacrificial and atonement symbolism) has been cited as the "literal" chiastic center of 1 Nephi. It sits at the center of 164 elements repeated in reverse order, extending from "the Lamb of God" (1 Nephi 14:3). (See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:2.) While the term "Lamb" is used 57 times in chapters 10-14 of 1 Nephi, it is used only 14 other times in the rest of the Book of Mormon:
by Nephi 4 times (2 Nephi 31:4,5,6; 33:14)
by Alma 2 times (Alma 7:14; 13:11)
by Amulek 1 time (Alma 34:36)
by Mormon 1 time (Helaman 6:5)
by Moroni 5 times (Mormon 9:2,3,6; Ether 13:10,11)
Interestingly, the deity title "Lamb" does not occur in the Old Testament portion of our present King James Version. However, Isaiah's mention of one who is "brought as a lamb to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7; see Mosiah 14:7) in his prophecy of Christ is most revealing. The title "Lamb of God" is first mentioned by John (John 1:36), and the title "Lamb" occurs 25 times in the book of Revelation. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [For interesting commentary relative to "the Lamb," see 1 Nephi 10:10; 11:32-33; 12:11; 12:18; 13:28; 13:39; 14:3]
1 Nephi 14:9 Mother of Abominations:
According to Kevin and Shauna Christensen, we should examine both the narrative and the symbolic complex to which the "mother of abominations" symbol belongs (see 1 Nephi 14:9-16). Far from being a statement about gender, it derives from the internal logic of a symbolic narrative. And as we shall see, that symbolic narrative grows out of a specific cultural context. The Christensens note the words of Northrop Frye concerning "mother of abominations":
We have next to set this apocalyptic structure in its context. In the first place, there is the problem that the nations outside Israel--Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Phoenicia--are as a rule more wealthy, prosperous, and successful than Israel. They possess the power and domination that the Israelites themselves desperately longed to possess, and would certainly have regarded as a signal mark of divine favor if they had possessed it. The only recourse is to show this heathen success in a context of demonic parody, as a short-lived triumph that has all the marks of the real thing except permanence. It follows that there must be two forms of demonic imagery: the parody-demonic, attached to temporarily successful heathen nations; and the manifest, or you-just-wait demonic, the ruins and wasteland haunted by hyenas and screech owls that all this glory will inevitably become . . .
As an example of this structure, let us look at a group of female figures in the Bible. We may divide them into two groups: the maternal and the marital, mother figures and bride figures. Apocalyptic mother figures include the Virgin Mary and the mysterious woman crowned with stars who appears at the beginning of Revelation 12, and who is presented also as the mother of the Messiah. Bridal figures include the central female character of the Song of Songs and the symbolic Jerusalem of Revelation 21 who descends to earth prepared "like a bride adorned for her husband" and is finally identified with the Christian Church. . . . Eve in particular is the intermediate female maternal figure, "our general mother," in Milton's phrase, going through the cycle of sin and redemption . . .
The demonic counterpart of the Bride who is Jerusalem and the spouse of Christ is the Great Whore of Revelation 17 who is Babylon and Rome, and is the mistress of Antichrist. . . .
But, of course, Israel itself is symbolically the chosen bride of God, and is also frequently unfaithful to him. . . . Thus, the forgiven harlot, who is taken back eventually into favor despite her sins, is an intermediate bridal figure between the demonic Whore and the apocalyptic Bride, and represents the redemption of man from sin.333
Thus the image of the great whore has a specific context as one symbol among many, some positive, some negative, some transitional, in a complex narrative of covenant, fall, forgiveness, judgment, and redemption for Israel collectively. Remember that in this scenario, the female symbols, positive and negative, represent all of us, male and female. [Kevin and Shauna Christensen, "Nephite Feminism Revisited: Thoughts on Carol Lynn Pearson's View of Women in the Book of Mormon," in FARMS Review of Books, Volume 10, Number 2, 1998, pp. 31-32]
1 Nephi 14:10 Behold, There Are Save Two Churches Only:
In Nephi's vision, the angel said to him,
thou knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish. Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God . . . Rememberest thou the covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel? . . . 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" (1 Nephi 14:5, 10)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written: "There is only light and darkness; there is no dusky twilight zone [in regard to covenant salvation]. Either men walk in the light or they cannot be saved. Anything less than salvation is not salvation. It may be better to walk in the twilight or to glimpse the first few rays of a distant dawn than to be enveloped in total darkness, but salvation itself is only for those who step forth into the blazing light of the noonday sun." (The Millennial Messiah, p. 54).
According to Joseph McConkie and Robert Millet, many in the religious world claim that no church is better than any other, just different. As "all roads lead to Rome," it is reasoned that all beliefs must lead to heaven. If all religious paths do indeed lead to heaven, the righteous will be at a considerable disadvantage. If the gates of the celestial city are to be thrown open that widely, why the need for Apostles and prophets, their doctrines, their priesthood and keys; indeed, why the need for the Savior himself and a strait and narrow way? The doctrine of one true church is as offensive to much of the Christian world today as was the testimony of Christ anciently that he was "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. I, pp. 109, 111]
Note* There is only one true way to eternal life and that is by obedience to valid covenants. That is what the Book of Mormon testifies. When one comes to an understanding of the Lord's covenant process of salvation, what great things the Lord did with our fathers in bringing them to a knowledge of this covenant process, and that this message is being sent forth to all the world, then one can not help but become convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations (see the Title Page) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
1 Nephi 14:12 Saints:
In 1 Nephi 14:12 we find that Nephi "beheld that the church of the Lamb . . . were the saints of God." One might wonder just what constitutes a "saint." According to the LDS Bible Dictionary, the word saint is a translation of a Greek word also rendered "holy," the fundamental idea being that of consecration or separation for a sacred purpose. [Or in other words, "saints" are people who have been separated from the world by covenant to be God's holy servants.] We find in the New Testament that the saints are all those who by baptism have entered into the Christian covenant (see Acts 9:13,32,41; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:14-15).
Tradition has somewhat warped the meaning of the word "saint" down through time. Bible scholars have incorrectly reasoned that since what was set apart for God must be without blemish, then a "saint" must be "free from blemish," whether physical or moral. [LDS Bible Dictionary, pp. 767-768]
According to Bruce R. McConkie, the term "saints" is one of the most frequently used designations of the Lord's people. Saints are named nearly 40 times in the Old Testament, over 60 times in the New Testament, about 30 times in the Book of Mormon, and over 70 times in the Doctrine and Covenants. [Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 667]
1 Nephi 14:24 The Things Which This Apostle of the Lamb Will Write:
Nephi saw everything in vision that John the Revelator saw but was commanded not to write what John would write. Nephi used the term "lamb" when referring to Jesus Christ more than any other Book of Mormon writer (see the commentary on 1 Nephi 10:10). John used the term "Lamb" more than any other New Testament writer (twenty-eight times in the Book of Revelation). Their unique use of this word suggests that they were given the same vision. [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Study Book of Mormon, p. 30]
Note* For the benefit of the reader, the term "lamb (of God)" has been highlighted in the text of The Covenant Story for the chapters which deal with Nephi's Vision (1 Nephi 11-14). In just these few chapters the term "the Lamb (of God)" not only appears over fifty times, but is connected with Christ and defined in a multitude of ways. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
1 Nephi 14:26 And Also Others Who Have Been, to Them Hath He Shown All Things:
During his heavenly vision, the prophet Lehi was given a book to read. From that book he learned of the fate of the city of Jerusalem (see 1 Nephi 1:11-13), and he also learned about the coming of the Messiah (see 1 Nephi 1:19). Nephi later experienced a vision concerning the future of his descendants (1 Nephi 13-14). He then informed his readers that he had been shown these things by "the angel of the Lord" (1 Nephi 14:29) "and also others who have been, to them hath he shown all things, and they have written them, and they are sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb" (1 Nephi 14:26).
John Tvedtnes comments that in Jubilees 3:21-29, we read that Jacob, during his second vision at Bethel (when returning from Syria), read from seven heavenly tablets brought to him by an angel. The tablets recorded all that would happen to his sons in the future, and Jacob documented this and everything else he saw in the vision. The story is told in first person in a Dead Sea Scrolls fragment, (4QAJa ar), which is sometimes called the Apocryphon of Jacob.
The Cologne Mani Codex cites portions of the now lost Apocalypse of Enosh (Enosh was the son of Seth and grandson of Adam). The Apocalypse, a first-person account, notes that an angel appeared to Enosh (spelled Enos in the King James Bible) and brought him to a mountain, where "He spoke to me and said: 'The Pre-Eminent Almighty One has sent me to you so that I might reveal to you the secret (things) which you contemplated, since indeed you have chosen truth. Write down all these hidden things upon bronze tablets and deposit (them) in the wilderness.'" The abbreviated account then notes that "many things similar to these are in his writings (which) set forth his ascension and revelation, for everything that he heard and saw he recorded (and) left behind for the subsequent generations."334
Adam evidently hid the book away, for four generation later its location (in a cave) was revealed to Enoch in a dream. Enoch read the book and then hid it away. The book was later delivered to Noah by the angel Raphael, and from it he learned how to build the ark. Before entering the ark, Noah hid the book away, but it seems that he later retrieved it, for he passed it to Shem, who transmitted it to succeeding generations.
In Jewish and Samaritan tradition, when Moses ascended the mountain to converse with God, he actually went to heaven.335 One Samaritan text says that "he ascended to heaven, and the Torah [law] was put on his hand."336 According to Jubilees 1:27-2;1, an angel of the presence337 brought to Moses tablets containing the history of the world, from the first creation until the sanctuary of God would be built forever in the midst of Israel. Moses was instructed to copy part of the account, and this portion formed the basis of the Pentateuch and of Jubilees itself. The commentary on the law of Moses written by the Samaritan Marqa (Memar Marqa) also says that Moses, enthroned in the presence of God and angels, wrote down the words of the heavenly book as dictated to him by God.338 The story is confirmed in Moses 1:40-41; 2:1, where we read that God dictated to Moses and told him to write his words in a book (compare with Jubilees 1f:4-5, 26).
According to the Qur' an, Moses, John the Baptist, Jesus, and David received heavenly books (see Surah 2:50; 3:48; 17:57; 19:13, 31). [John Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: Out of Darkness unto Light, pp. 76-90] [See the commentary on Ether 3:25]
1 Nephi 14:29 I [Nephi] Saw the Things Which My Father [Lehi] Saw:
According to McConkie and Millet, the statement by Nephi that "I saw the things which my father saw" (1 Nephi 14:29) is strong evidence for the fact that Lehi's dream was far more extensive in scope than what is contained in Nephi's abridged account in 1 Nephi 8. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 115]
1 Nephi 14:29 I Bear Record That I Saw the Things Which My Father Saw:
Steven Olsen theorizes that the interpretive unity of Nephi's second record (small plates) is provided by his vision of the Savior and the plan of salvation in the promised land (1 Nephi 11-14). According to Olsen, this vision defines the covenant themes which permeate his writings.
Nephi's account of his vision is a literal representation of a portion of the plan of salvation. The difference between Lehi's dream and Nephi's literal vision lies at the heart of the message of the Book of Mormon. By representing the plan of salvation in literal historical happenings, rather than the allegorical terms of Lehi's dream, Nephi defined a consciousness of history in which God acts through spatial, temporal, and human contexts to effect the salvation of his children.
Nephi's vision identifies three essential elements to this plan of salvation: Christ's gospel, the Promised Land, and the House of Israel. In his record, they are defined in conventional terms, elaborated in prophecy and spiritual experiences and lived through historical experience.
It is interesting to note that of the more than 200 specific prophecies in the Book of Mormon, less than 10 are not expressly anticipated by Nephi. [Steven L. Olsen, Covenants in the Book of Mormon, Unpublished Manuscript]
1 Nephi 14:29 I Bear Record That I Saw the Things Which My Father Saw:
John Welch notes that in 1 Nephi 8, Lehi saw the tree of life, an iron rod, a great and spacious building, and various people reaching the tree or falling away. In 1 Nephi 11-14, Nephi beheld the condescension of God, the twelve apostles of the Lamb, wars between his posterity and the seed of his brothers, a great and abominable coalition of evil, and the eventual victory of God's people.
The two visions are very different in character. Lehi's dream is intimate, symbolic, and salvific; Nephi's vision is collective, historic, and eschatological. Yet both visions embrace the same prophetic elements, only from different angles.
Intriguingly, when we set these two visions side by side, they are indeed significantly the same, element for element (see the elements charted below). Although the casual reader might not see any connection between these two texts at first, the correlation between them is extensive and precise. It is unlikely that this occurred accidentally. Nephi was well aware of his father's vision, so much so that he desired "to behold the things which [his] father saw" (1 Nephi 11:3). As different as these two visions may appear at first glance, Nephi clearly and correctly bore record "that I saw the things which my father saw" (1 Nephi 14:29). Thus Nephi spoke from personal experience when he subsequently interpreted the meanings of the tree, the iron rod and the river of water in his father's vision (see 1 Nephi 15:21-29).
At the same time, Nephi's vision is not a mere rerun of Lehi's. The second clearly develops each element of the first, from different perspectives and for different purposes. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that Joseph Smith or others at first were aware of the nature or extent of this development, because the styles of the two texts are so different. [John W. Welch, "Connections between the Visions of Lehi and Nephi," in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., 1999, pp. 49, 52]
1 Nephi 14:29 I bear record that I saw the things which my father saw (Illustration): A Comparison of Lehi's Dream and Nephi's Vision. [John Welch and Morgan Ashton, "A Comparison of Lehi's Dream and Nephi's Vision," in Charting the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., Packet 1.
1 Nephi 14:30 And Thus It Is. Amen:
According to Reynolds and Sjodahl, the word "Amen," as a substantive, means "truth," as in Isaiah 65:16: "He who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of Truth (Amen); and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of Truth (Amen)." In the letter which John was directed to write to the bishop in Laodicea, Jesus calls himself, "Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God" (Revelation 3:14. See also Revelation 19:11). As part of the Mosaic ritual it was a strong confirmation, as in Numbers 5:22, or Deuteronomy 27:14-26. At the close of a prayer, as in Psalm 106:48, (Compare 1 Corinthians 14:16) it means, "May it so be." Our Lord frequently uses the word as a solemn affirmation, as for instance in John 3:3, "Amen, amen, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," where, however, the English version has, "Verily, verily."
The ancient Egyptians had a god, Amen, whom the priest at Thebes endeavored to introduce as superior to Osiris, but not successfully. . . . The name of this divinity is one evidence among many of the close association between the Hebrews and the Egyptians. [George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 144]