2 Nephi 1
A Covenant Plan of Salvation
2 Nephi 1 (Lehi As Moses):
According to Noel Reynolds, it could easily be said that Lehi was a Moses figure, for he led his people out of a wicked land because of commands received in visions from God, through the wilderness, across the sea, and to a promised land. And then he died, leaving it to others to establish the covenant people in the promised land. So it is worthy of note that in his final words to his people, Lehi invokes the very phrases and concepts used by Moses in his farewell address to the Israelites, as recorded in Deuteronomy. There are 14 Mosaic themes and circumstances that Lehi invoked in his sermon recorded in 2 Nephi 1. Illustrations of close parallels in Deuteronomy, particularly chapter 4, will be noted:
(1) Rehearsal of Blessings: Lehi "rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them" (2 Nephi 1:1, 3, 10). Likewise, Moses rehearsed the blessings that the Israelites had received (see Deuteronomy 4:323-38)
(2) Appointment of a Successor: In the speeches in Deuteronomy, Moses declares Joshua as his successor (see Deuteronomy 1:38, 3:28; 31:3, 7, 14, 23). Lehi similarly seizes on the occasion of his impending demise to appoint Nephi as his successor (2 Nephi 1:28)
(3) These Are Considered the Prophet's Last Words: Lehi's perception that his life is near an end drives the timing of his remarks (2 Nephi 1:13-15). The Lord denied Moses the opportunity of entering "that good land" and thus Moses "must die in this land" (Deuteronomy 4:21-22).
(4) Apostates Will Be Cursed, Scattered, and Smitten: Lehi focuses tightly on the choice between receiving a blessing or a "sore cursing" (2 Nephi 1:21-22). Moses repeatedly warns the Israelites of a choice between a blessing and a cursing (see Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 28:15-20).
(5) Statutes and Judgments Are to Be Remembered. For both Lehi and Moses, the way to avoid the frightening curses is to "remember to observe the statutes and the judgments of the Lord" (2 Nephi 1:16). Moses repeatedly refers to the statutes and judgments of God (see Deuteronomy 4:1, 5, 8, 14, 40, 45). "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them" (Deuteronomy 5:1).
(6) Keep the Commandments and Ye Shall Prosper in the Land: Moses warns Israel, "Keep . . . the words of this covenant . . . that ye may prosper in all that ye do" (Deuteronomy 29:9, see also 28:15, 29; 7:11-15). The words of the Lord to Lehi, "Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land" (2 Nephi 1:20; 4:4). This formula (also given to Nephi--1 Nephi 2:20-21; 4:14) was used by Nephite prophets over the next millennium and repeated (almost 20 times) throughout the Book of Mormon.
(7) Rebellions and Murmurings Are Rehearsed: Lehi rehearses his peoples rebellions and murmurings, particularly against both him and Nephi during their ocean crossing (see 2 Nephi 1:2, 24-26). Moses repeatedly pointed out his people's rebellions under his leadership (Deuteronomy 9:7-8).
(8) The New Land Is a Choice Land: Moses declared the Lord gave the Israelites their new land (see Deuteronomy 5:16; compare 27:2). Moreover, their continued possession of this bountiful land was contingent on their keeping the commandments (see Deuteronomy 8:1, 7-10). Lehi's land was choice above all others (2 Nephi 1:5-9).
(9) The New Land Is a Covenant Land: Lehi explicitly notes that "the Lord God hath covenanted with me [that this] should be a land for the inheritance of my seed" (2 Nephi 1:5). Moses similarly reminds Israel that God himself declared his covenant unto them; and he warns Israel not to forget the covenant, "for the Lord thy God is a merciful God [and] he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them" (Deuteronomy 4:31; see also 5:3, 7:9; 29:24-28).
(10) The People Can Be a Choice and Favored People: Lehi expresses the wish that his people "might be a choice and a favored people of the Lord" (2 Nephi 1:19). In so doing he echoes the prophecies of Moses, who taught the Israelites that they were "an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 7:6; see also 7:14; 4:20, 37; 28:1, 9; 26:18-19).
(11`) God Will Be Good and Merciful to the People: Lehi echoes a persistent Mosaic theme when he consistently explains God's actions towards his people in terms of his mercy and "infinite goodness" (see 2 Nephi 1:3, 10). Moses explains that God is faithful and keeps "covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations" (Deuteronomy 7:9; see also 7:12).
(12) The People Must Choose between Good and Evil, Life and Death: Moses tells the Israelites, "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil" (Deuteronomy 30:15); see also 30:19). Lehi elaborates extensively on this formula1 by linking it to the transgression of Adam and Eve, which they committed in the hope of gaining a knowledge of good and evil and the difference between them. But, as Lehi goes on to explain, it is the redemption from the transgression accomplished by the Messiah in the fulness of times that makes men free to choose between the two (see 2 Nephi 2:18, 26, 27; see also 2:11, 2:30).
(13) By Their Testimony, God's Prophets Are Clean from the Sins of Their People: Both Moses and Lehi use the occasion of their final speeches to absolve themselves of responsibility for the future lapses of their people (see Deuteronomy 4:15; 2 Nephi 1:17, 16, 21-22, 15; 2:30).
(14) The Covenants Will Affect Both Present and Future Generations: The final Mosaic theme that Lehi weaves into his own discourse is the idea that, because of these covenants, the blessings and cursings that will come upon the people will affect multiple generations (see 2 Nephi 1:18). Similarly, Moses warned his people (see Deuteronomy 4:25; 7:9; 4:9-10).
Such parallels bring added weight to the testimony of both Nephi and Moses. [Noel B. Reynolds, Lehi As Moses," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 9, Num. 2, 2000, FARMS, pp. 27-35]
Note* Once again "the last records" which Nephi saw come forth in vision unto the Gentiles (the Book of Mormon . . . ) "shall establish the truth of the first" (the Bible) (see 1 Nephi 13:40). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 1:1 Our Father:
According to John Welch, since Lehi is the only figure in the Book of Mormon called "our father" (2 Nephi 1:1), this designation appears to be a unique reference to Lehi's patriarchal position at the head of Nephite civilization, society, and religion. .
Seeing Lehi in the patriarchal tradition is borne out by the fact that Lehi was remembered by Nephites from beginning to end as "father Lehi," just as Israelites have always known Abraham as "father Abraham." [John W. Welch, "Lehi's Last Will and Testament: A Legal Approach," in The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, the Doctrinal Structure, pp. 69-70]
2 Nephi 1:4 I Have Seen a Vision, in Which I Know That Jerusalem Is Destroyed:
Randall Spackman states that for many years people have assumed that when Lehi said, "I have seen a vision, in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed" (2 Nephi 1:4), his statement implied that Lehi's group did not know of the destruction of Jerusalem until they were in the New World. This would mean that they would have had to leave Jerusalem at least 12 to 14 years prior to 586 B.C., the year that Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. However, Spackman has pointed out that at any time following his vision in the first year of Zedekiah's reign, Lehi could have factually proclaimed, "I have seen a vision in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed." Lehi did not need another vision to confirm Jerusalem's destruction. Furthermore, according to 2 Nephi 25:9-10, the destruction of Jerusalem came "immediately after my father left Jerusalem." [Randall Spackman, "An Introduction to Book of Mormon Chronology" F.A.R.M.S., p. 14] [See Appendix A]
2 Nephi 1:4 I have seen a vision, in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed (Illustration): Destruction of Jerusalem. Lehi prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed because of its wickedness. Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 19]
2 Nephi 1:5 We Have Obtained a Land of Promise:
Among the covenant promises that Lehi rehearsed unto Nephi's brethren was that of "a land of promise" (2 Nephi 1:5) The blessings and stipulations of those blessing concerning that promised land are found in verses 5-12.
According to Amy Hardison, ancient covenants spelled out the attending blessings and curses. Deuteronomy 28 lists seven different covenant blessings: fruitfulness, rain, protection, abundance, a holy identity, land, and ascendancy over other nations. These blessings were present when the people were faithful. Concerning the promise of land we find:
The Lord . . . shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways. (Deuteronomy 28:8-9).
This covenant promise of land was but a type and shadow of the ultimate promised land, the celestial kingdom. [Amy Blake Hardison, "Being a Covenant People," in Covenants Prophecies and Hymns of the Old Testament, p. 27] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:20; 1 Nephi 5:5; 1 Nephi 17:36-38; Ether 2:8]
2 Nephi 1:14 The Cold and Silent Grave, from Whence No Traveler Can Return:
According to Robert Smith, perhaps the earliest and most consistently repeated claim made against the Book of Mormon is that Joseph Smith quoted Shakespeare at 2 Nephi 1:14: "Awake! and arise from the dust, and hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; . . ." The claim began with Alexander Campbell and, until recently, nearly all anti-Mormons continued to repeat it in almost parrot-like fashion. The following comes from Shakespeare:
Hamlet, III, i, 78-80, "But that the dread of something after death, / The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns."
Before the reader starts to question the Book of Mormon, the problem that must be solved is whether Shakespeare was the originator of this idea. The present state of research permits us to take the entire section of 2 Nephi 1:13-15 and to demonstrate that the constellation of ideas and expressions found there (and in parallel texts) were available from Mesopotamia to Egypt in Lehi's own time--especially in Egypt. Some examples are as follows:
May you not go on the roads of the western ones [the dead]
They who go on them [travelers] do not return. (Pyramid Text 217ab)
There is nobody who returns from there. (Papyrus Harris 500, col. VI, line 8)
On her descent into the Netherworld, the gatekeeper of the Netherworld asks the goddess Inanna:
Why, pray, have you come to the "Land of No Return,"
On the road whose traveler returns never,
How has your heart led you? (Sumerian Descent of Inanna)
The Semitic version of the same story has lines similarly applicable to Lehi's imagery:
To the house from which he who enters never goes forth;
To the road whose path does not lead back. (Descent of Ishtar, obv., lines 5-6)
[Robert F. Smith, "Shakespeare and the Book of Mormon," F.A.R.M.S., pp. 1-4]
2 Nephi 1:14 Hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave (Illustration): Lehi Blesses His Sons in the Wilderness. Artist: Ronald Crosby. [L.D.S. Church, The Ensign, March 1977, inside back cover] [see also The Ensign, January 1988, p. 30]
2 Nephi 1:15 Encircled About Eternally in the Arms of His Love:
Near the end of his life, Lehi declares to his sons that "the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love" (2 Nephi 1:15). According to Hugh Nibley, the idea of being encircled about by the Savior's arms has parallels in the celebration of Yom Kippur. The root is kpr, and kippur is the "act of atoning." . . . The kapporet [the thing that covers] is where God appeared to forgive the sins of the people [like that which covers the mercy seat]. In [Yom Kippur] it was the front curtain or the veil of the tabernacle. After the people had completed all the rites and ordinances of atonement, then the veil was parted and God (the Savior) was supposed to speak from the tabernacle and tell the people that their sins were forgiven and they were welcomed to his presence. That's this idea of being taken back into his embrace again, "encircled about eternally in the arms of his love." . . .
"The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there" (2 Nephi 9:41). He will receive you personally, take your hand, and give you the signs and tokens himself when you come, as he did to the Nephites when he visited them after his resurrection (see 3 Nephi 11:13-17). Every one of them he received individually, even the children (see 3 Nephi 17:11-25). One by one, he blessed them and received them. He called each person by name and identified himself to each one. This is what we do here in the rite of the Atonement in Israel. It's very clear as a matter of fact. Exodus is where it is set forth in the Old Testament, and then in all the books of Moses you have the rite of the Atonement. It's very important.
We have a section on this in the Egyptian writing on embracing at the veil. Here is a picture from the twenty-fifth dynasty. This would be the last king of the Taharkan Dynasty. . . . The king is being embraced by his father after obtaining all things. . . . The two arms are embracing, and they are embracing the djed symbol, which represents the marrow in the bones. This is called "health and stength." He says here, "I give thee all life and power." This is a picture of the symbol for life--actually the umbilical cord, the navel. The other is was, which is always rendered as "power in the priesthood, authority to speak for priesthood, etc." Also, this is the embrace. These are the symbols of embracing. The two fans protected the king when he went forth according to Moet. They embraced him on either side. The kings always had those two fans called the shuit or the khaibit. This is the counterweight which hangs on the breast to impart breath and life. Here we have the process going on from a famous picture in the temple of Karnak where he is washed here and then clothed. He is anointed and then he is introduced into the presence of the king. Then the king is going to embrace him. The final step is this embrace. So there's this idea of being one. You can't be closer to a person than when you embrace. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, pp. 250, 253-254, 257] [See the commentary on Enos 1: 2]
Note* The word "encircle" appears 18 times in the Book of Mormon, almost always in a situation connoting good or evil, salvation or destruction. It might be wise to study the parallels. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 1:21-24 My Sons . . . Be Men, and Be Determined in One Mind and in One Heart:
[See the commentary on 1 Nephi 1:1]
2 Nephi 1:28 If Ye Will Hearken unto [Nephi] I Leave unto You . . . My First Blessing:
Thomas Valletta notes that the "first blessing" Lehi refers to is the birthright blessing, which was generally the right of the firstborn male child, based upon obedience. "This generally included a land inheritance as well as the authority to preside." (LDS Bible Dictionary, s. v. "Birthright," 625). [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 73]
2 Nephi 1:30 I Know Thou Art a True Friend:
According to David Lamb, though the scriptures abound with numerous covenant terms and statements, one of the most beautiful is the usage of the word "friend." In its covenant context, the word "friend" means more than just an acquaintance or one who is known, liked and trusted; it signifies that a covenant has been made between two individuals. . . . Abraham is referred to as a "friend of God" because of his covenant relationship with the great Jehovah. Isaiah 41:8 states: "But thou, Israel, art my servant Jacob whom I have chosen, The seed of Abraham my friend."
As with the Bible, recognition of the word "friend" as a covenant term may greatly enhance our understanding of certain passages encountered within the Book of Mormon scriptures. A prime example of this is found in 2 Nephi 1:30 as Lehi extends his final blessing to Zoram, the former servant of Laban:
And now, Zoram, I speak unto you:
Behold, thou art the servant of Laban;
Nevertheless, thou hast been brought out of the land of Jerusalem,
And I know that thou art a true friend unto my son, Nephi, for ever.
The usage of the word "friend" in this context refers to more than just a friendly relationship; it is a covenant term which tells us that Nephi and Zoram are in covenant. As Lehi's blessing over Zoram continues, he states that because Zoram has been faithful (to his covenant with Nephi), his seed will be blessed even as the descendants of Nephi, his covenant partner. [David Lamb, "Friend: A Covenant Term," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 51] [See the commentary on Mosiah 4:4]
2 Nephi 1:30 And I Know That Thou [Zoram] Art a True Friend unto My Son, Nephi, Forever:
In 2 Nephi 1-4, the prophet Lehi is pronouncing upon the heads of his children certain covenant blessings. In this regard it is interesting that he blesses Zoram, who was given a "place" among the family according to the covenants Nephi made with him (see 1 Nephi 4:31-35).
Amy Hardison writes that anciently, covenants were written with a specific vocabulary. Inside the covenant context, certain words had official and legal meanings that sometimes differed from their normal, everyday use. For instance, one of the words is "friend." In Isaiah 41:8 God chooses and blesses Israel because she is "the seed of Abraham my friend." Friendship is a binding of hearts and souls. We often describe this relationship with such phrases as "bosom buddies" or "soul mates." We attain a similar but far more sacred friendship with God by making covenants with him. Each covenant raises the level of our purity so we are more like him. Each covenant binds us to him in purpose and heart. This covenant unity, or sacred friendship, grants great blessings to us and our posterity. President George Q. Cannon stated:
When my boys go out on a mission, I say to them, "Boys, God is your father's friend; He has always been his friend; you can trust Him and can call upon Him with confidence; for I tell you that while I live and keep His commandments, God will watch over my children and will preserve and bless them." And He has done it. So it will be with every faithful man and woman.2
It should be noted also that God intends his covenants to span generations and even eternities (as with Zoram and Nephi--"forever"). [Amy Blake Hardison, "Being a Covenant People," in Covenants Prophecies and Hymns of the Old Testament, pp. 24, 26-27] [See the commentary on Alma 20:4]