1 Nephi 15
Through the Wilderness to the Promised Land
(1 Nephi )
1 Nephi 15:5 I Was Overcome . . . Because of the Destruction of My People:
The vision of the future destruction of his people created the kind of distress in Nephi that only a righteous parent can feel for wayward children. As Nephi reports:" I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall." (1 Nephi 15:5)
According to Douglas and Robert Clark, one cannot fully appreciate Nephi's grief without considering the larger covenant context of his writings, in particular the Abrahamic covenant (see 1 Nephi 6:4, 15:18; 17:40; 19:10; 22:9; 2 Nephi 8:2; 27:33; 29:14). As one eminent modern scholar has observed about that Abrahamic covenant, "Its core is the blessing and promise of posterity; this is linked with a promise of victory, and the effect of the blessing on the nations."339 Specifically, because Abraham had not withheld his son Isaac, the Lord had sworn to him, "In blessing I will bless thee" (Genesis 22:17). According to some, this slavishly literal translation for Genesis 22:17 in the King James text tends to obscure the meaning. In Hebrew the juxtaposition of different forms of the same verb acts as an intensifier,340 so that the meaning is, as more modern translations express it, "I will indeed bless you"341 or "surely bless you"342 or "greatly bless you"343 or "bless you abundantly"344 or "shower blessings on you."345 Furthermore, the Lord promised, "In multiplying I will multiply thy seed" (again the verbal intensifier) "as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies" (Genesis 22:17) (a promise of victory346), "and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 22:17). . . . Against such a background Nephi's grief becomes as profound as was his "delight" in the Lord's covenant to Abraham (see 2 Nephi 11:5). [E. Douglas Clark and Robert S. Clark, Fathers and Sons in the Book of Mormon, pp. 15-16]
1 Nephi 15:11 Do Ye Not Remember the Things Which the Lord Hath Said?:
In response to Nephi's question, "Have ye inquired of the Lord?" his brothers said, "We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us." Nephi then replied, "Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?" (1 Nephi 15:11) and then apparently quoted from a scriptural text, "If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you." According to McConkie and Millet, this promise had apparently been recorded on the plates of brass. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 116]
1 Nephi 15:13 The Grafting In of the Natural Branches through the Fulness of the Gentiles:
According to Dennis Largey, one strength of the Book of Mormon is that it restores and expands upon doctrinal concepts that are only briefly mentioned in the Bible. One example is found in the New Testament book of Romans. The apostle Paul described himself as the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). In his epistle to the Romans he referred to the Gentiles as being a wild olive tree, to be grafted into the natural tree (i.e., Israel), to partake of the root. He told the Gentile audience that the natural branches were broken off because of unbelief and warned them that since "God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. . . . For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:21,25; italics added).
Here, there is no sustained discussion concerning his reference to "the fulness of the Gentiles." By way of commentary, in 1 Nephi 15:7 we read: "And they [Laman and Lemuel] said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive-tree, and also concerning the Gentiles." In reply, Nephi taught:
Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel?
And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed. (1 Nephi 15:12-13; italics added)
Here Nephi not only answered his brothers' questions, but also gave the New Testament student a definitive statement of interpretation to Paul's reference. In the latter days, the fulness of the gospel would come to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles would then take it to the house of Israel. This would cure the blindness that "happened to Israel" which Paul talked about in Romans 11, for as Nephi further taught, "They shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is the Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel" (1 Nephi 22:12). [Dennis Largey, "The Book of Mormon, an Interpretive Guide to the New Testament," in The New Testament and the Latter-day Saints, 1987, pp. 138-139] [For a much greater elaboration on the concept of the wild olive-tree, see the commentary on Jacob 5--Zenos' Allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Tree]
1 Nephi 15:15 The True Vine . . . the True Olive-Tree:
According to Reynolds and Sjodahl, an olive branch was the emblem of peace. The door and posts of the entrance to the temple, and also to the holy of holies, were made of olive wood, to symbolize the access to God through peace as a result of the atonement. The two large cherubim on the ark were also made of olive wood. (1 Kings 6:23,31,33). [George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 148]
1 Nephi 15:18 Pointing to the Covenant Which Should Be Fulfilled in the Latter Days; Which Covenant the Lord Made to Our Father Abraham:
According to Russell M. Nelson, the Book of Mormon teaches that we or modern Israel are among the covenant people of the Lord (1 Nephi 14:14; 15:14; 2 Nephi 30:2; Mosiah 24:13; 3 Nephi 29:3; Mormon 8:15). And, most remarkably, it teaches that the Abrahamic covenant will be fulfilled only in these latter days (1 Nephi 15:12-18; 3 Nephi 20:25-31). In 1 Nephi 15:18 we find the following:
Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
The Lord bestowed this Abrahamic covenant upon the Prophet Joseph Smith for the blessing of him and posterity after him (see D&C 124:56-59). Did you know that Abraham is mentioned in more verses of modern revelation than in all the verses of the Old Testament? Abraham is mentioned in 506 verses of scripture, 289 of which are in modern revelation. [Russell M. Nelson, "Remnants Gathered, Covenants Fulfilled," in Voices of Old Testament Prophets: The 26th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, p. 9, 18] [See Abraham 2:9-11]
1 Nephi 15:18 Which Covenant the Lord Made to Our Father Abraham:
According to Bruce R. McConkie, Abraham first received the gospel by baptism (which is the covenant of salvation): then he had conferred upon him the higher priesthood, and he entered into celestial marriage (which is the covenant of exaltation), gaining assurance thereby that he would have eternal increase; finally he received a promise that all of these blessings would be offered to all of his mortal posterity. (Abraham 2:6-11; D&C 132:29-50) Included in the divine promises to Abraham was the assurance that Christ would come through his lineage, and the assurance that Abraham's posterity would receive certain choice, promised lands as an eternal inheritance. (Abraham 2; Genesis 17;l 22:15-18; Galatians 3) All of these promises lumped together are called the Abrahamic covenant.
This covenant was renewed with Isaac (Genesis 24:60; 26:1-4, 24) and again with Jacob. (Genesis 28; 35:9-13; 48:3-4) Those portions of it which pertain to personal exaltation and eternal increase are renewed with each member of the house of Israel who enters the order of celestial marriage; through that order the participating parties become inheritors of all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (D&C 132; Romans 9:4; Galatians 3; 4) [Bruce R. McConkie, "Abrahamic Covenant," in Mormon Doctrine, p. 13] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 22:9; Helaman 8:18; 3 Nephi 20:25, 20:27, 25:4-5; Mormon 5:20; Ether 13:11]
1 Nephi 15:18 In Thy [Abraham's] Seed Shall All the Kindreds of the Earth Be Blessed:
It should be noted that Paul identifies Christ as the seed of Abraham that will bless all nations. In Galatians 3:15-20:
Brethren, I speak after the [covenant] manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; But God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
1 Nephi 15:18 Which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham (Illustration): Abraham on the Plains of Mamre. Artist: Harry Anderson. [S. Michael Wilcox, "The Abrahamic Covenant," in The Ensign, January 1998, p. 43]
1 Nephi 15:28 An Awful Gulf Which Separated the Wicked from the Tree of Life:
According to Hugh Nibley, the separation of people by an "awful gulf" (1 Nephi 15:28) begs a cultural note. Remember, Joseph Smith was a product of New England, but Lehi's story-setting was in the desert wilderness. As one walks along in the desert he will encounter one of these awful gulfs. You see them in Canyonlands, etc. There you find a 2,000-foot drop between one side of the canyon and the other. The two sides are almost right together, but you couldn't get from the one to the other. That's exactly what happens to the wicked. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, p. 136]
1 Nephi 15:30 The Justice[s] of God:
In the Original Manuscript, the phrase "justice of God" reads "justices of God." In Hebrew the plural form is often used to intensify or heighten the idea of the singular. [Zarahemla Research Foundation, Study Book of Mormon, p. 33]