What, on Earth, are you doing, for Heaven’s sake?


God’s will is not done on Earth, as it is done in Heaven:

after this manner
therefore
you should pray

our father
who is in the sky
holy is your name
may your reign come
may your will be done
in the earth
as it is in the sky

[Matthew 6:9-10]

This is a back-handed admission that God’s will is not accomplished on Earth.  What we see in our present order of things here does not reflect the sociality which exists, coupled with eternal glory, there [D&C 130:2].  Another way to say this is that there is a disconnect between the rule and order of our heavenly Parents’ kingdom in the sky — and the rule and order of humankind on this planet.

The disconnect between Earth and Heaven is purpose-full:

and the gods also said

let there be an expanse
in the midst of the waters
and it shall divide the waters
from the waters

and the gods ordered the expanse
so that it divided the waters which were under the expanse
from the waters which were above the expanse
and it was so
even as they ordered

[Abraham 4:6-7]

This “expanse” [referred to in Moses’ accounts as a “firmament“] is the vaulted dome we see when we look up at the sky.

As an aside:

  • It’s important to remember that scriptural cosmology is not taken from scientific, astronomical cosmology — but is always given from the frame of reference “upon which thou standest“.
  • Therefore, you see the ancient Hebrew cosmology [as well as that of the Norse, and others] described in holy books as a flat-disk Earth with a dome-like Sky suspended over it — despite the fact that it is undisputed [scientifically] that the Earth is a sphere and the Sky is all of outer-space surrounding the Earth for billions of light-years in every direction.
  • People naturally describe the Earth as flat and the Sky as a vaulted dome when they’re speaking from the frame of reference of being a human standing upon the ground.  For example, you give someone directions by telling them to go “straight” a certain distance and then to turn — despite the fact that their course would actually be “curved” on our spherical planet [if we were speaking from a context-less, scientific perspective].  And we do things like ask when the “sunrise” will be or when the stars will “come out” — despite the fact that the sun is stationary relative to Earth [so it doesn’t “rise” or “set”] and that the stars are always “out” [just visible or not].
  • So there is no need to attempt to take the scriptural description of a four-cornered, flat-disk Earth under a vaulted Sky-dome as scientific fact — nor is there need to be bothered by the fact that it’s not “really” like that.  Remember that the Lord always describes cosmology from the frame of reference of what it looks like to a person standing upon the ground of this Earth.

Now back to the point at hand — the expanse or separation placed between Earth and Heaven was purposeful.  Everything God creates has purpose and value.  His creative activities of the second day were planned and were declared “good”.  Which means that the disconnect between “there” and “here” is supposed to be there.

You live upon an assortment of atoms obeying the laws of physics:

We live on a collection of minerals, and we’re housed in an arrangement of atoms that are given order by a unique string of deoxyribonucleic acids.  All these elements were forged elsewhere in interstellar factories that exploded in supernovae and moved all these heavier atoms to our corner of the galaxy, where we find ourselves today.  And all of that is totally disconnected from any meaning, purpose, order, or teleology.

Now, we should not suppose that just because our physical theories in science have given us a complete description of how we [as protons, neutrons, and electrons interacting through electromagnetism, the nuclear forces, and gravity] are governed — that everything anyone would ever want to take seriously is identifiably reducible to that thing as a collection of particles moving around in space and time according to the Standard Model.  Our physical theories might give us the correct “rules” by which everything in the universe interacts — but that can never tell us [as human-beings on planet Earth] how to “play a good game” of Life based on these “rules” — or how to deal with complex questions regarding economics, meteorology, ethics, sociology, etc.

There are no external derived “meanings”, “purposes”, or “morals” that come as a consequence of the scientific laws.  Physics and chemistry are not teleological [trending towards a certain “goal” or “desired” outcome] — atoms are not “trying” to do anything.  However human-beings, as biological systems and social animals, are.  We have a life that must have meaning for us to value it, but live in a universe with no meaning to offer.

Therefore, successfully figuring out the fundamental laws that govern how physical matter behaves was a comparatively easy task — it’s still deciding by what laws we can best act within this world that obeys the laws of physics that is the hard part [because the answer to that is nowhere found, as such, in the physical “rules”].  Knowing the rules of chess and how each piece moves doesn’t not, necessarily, make you a good chess player— but, if you’re going to be a good player, then your strategy better not include things like moving the Knight diagonally [which is inconsistent with the rules of the game].

Your test is to see how you will connect Earth with Heaven:

Even though the desire for meaning or purpose is innate in every human mind — we don’t get to make demands of the universe.  Demanding purpose or reasons out of things will not make them come about.  The two are completely disconnected [the universe from purpose, Earth from Heaven].

So — if you want to find it — then you’ll have to connect your life with meaning, purpose, and value for yourself.  That firmament, divide, or immense gulf was placed between you [here on Earth] and your meaning/purpose so that you can find it amidst the random chaos of protons, neutrons, and electrons interacting by electromagnetism, the nuclear forces, and gravity [which is all that is going on “down-here”] however you see fit.

This dark and dreary wilderness, this large and spacious field, is separated from Heaven so that we can take the images of meaning and order that we desire — and bring them into reality [our reality].  That we may take broken and scattered pieces and breathe into them the breath of life — take the Word and make it Flesh.  In us.

The fundamental activity is to personify the unconscious drives and forces within the human mind — and then bring yourself into a relationship with them consciously [by your own free-will and choice].  And that’s really what a “test” is — a space in which you may take the image of a real thing and see what you’ll do with it, or a space where someone can see if you are able to select an image that represents a real thing that’s “in play”, “out-there” from a set of false images that are empty and void and don’t have a “real” existence outside of the testing ground.

Find it in the person of Jesus Christ:

in Christ
the fullness of divinity lives
in bodily form
and in him
you find your own fulfillment

[Colossians 2:9-10]

The most basic meaning of the Hebrew “elohim” is that of “powers“.  The “god” you choose to follow will be the “power” by which you connect your Earth with Heaven [the system you use to collapse that expanse, making it “on Earth” as it is in “Heaven”].  One’s “god” will be a reflection of how their mind takes its place in the universe and how they find meaning and value in life.  Thus, if you choose to worship a violent god, then your actions and worldview will be contentious and hostile.  If your dominant god is compassionate, then you will experience your life through the lens of acceptance, mercy, and forgiveness.  Etc.

If the God that created the universe [Jehovah, YHVH — or EE-Yow-Way-EE] were to be embodied and expressed as a human-being on planet Earth — then that would look exactly like the life of Yeshua of Nazareth.  So — any human-being on planet Earth attempting to claim “God” as being in support of their behavior or upholding their beliefs must square that claim against the normative claims made by Jesus’ words and life.

For me to find my own fulfillment in Christ calls me to be committed to the basic concept of servanthood and compassion [see The Revelation of God in Jesus Christ].  In doing that, I have voluntarily bound myself to Christ and his word by my covenant to obey his every commandment.  This voluntary servanthood [or yoke] that I take upon myself binds me to the fundamental reality that “God” is to be found in being under the most, serving the most, and being connected to the most [instead of the other way around].

This, for me, makes the person of Yeshua of Nazareth the very bridge, pillar, rod, or ladder that I use to connect Earth [my life here as a physical collection of atoms bumping into other collections of atoms according to the laws of physics] with Heaven [my innate desire for meaning, purpose, value, and order that emerges from and endures beyond what I’m doing here as collection of particles moving around in space and time], and is how I bridge that firmament or expanse placed between the two.

When Jacob left the land of Beersheba and traveled towards Haran,

he arrived at a certain place
and stopped there for the night
because the sun had gone down
and he took the stones of that place
and used them for pillows
and lay down there to sleep
and he dreamed
and behold
a ladder set up on the earth
and the top of it reached to heaven
and behold
the angels of god ascend and descend upon it
and behold
YHVH was there
standing over him

[Genesis 28:12-13]

With the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ — a perpetual intercourse has been opened-up between Heaven and Earth through the mediation of him who was God manifested as a human.

and Yeshua said to Nathanael

amen
amen
I say unto you
hereafter
you will see the sky open
and the angels of god ascending and descending
upon the son of man

[John 1:51]

The angels ascending and descending “upon the Son of Man” stand as a metaphor taken from the custom of dispatching couriers [angelos or messengers] from the nobleman to an ambassador in a foreign setting — and from the ambassador back to the nobleman.  So it is the person and teachings of Jesus Christ that stands as the medium through which we are to connect on life here on Earth — with our teleological goal of Heavenly order and purpose.

Jesus was explaining to Nathanael that the “greater things” we are able witness upon becoming familiar with the person who was Jesus Christ will be the very connection/bridging of the expanse that we all experience between Heaven and Earth.  That is what he was offering Nathanael.

That was the dream/desire of Jacob when he was leaving Beersheba traveling towards Haran and he saw the ladder/pillar extending from the Earth up towards the Sky.  And this is still the dream/desire of every human-mind that looks around at the world we find ourselves born into and seek to find our own purpose/meaning in.

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The Written Records


Jesus didn’t write any scriptures.  The apostles didn’t write the gospels down as things were happening.  They didn’t sit in that upper room during Pentecost, making sure they got everything written down so they could go out and organize the church of Christ based on the authority of their scriptures.

The point with written scriptures is that they must be understood as the product of believers in Christ organized as his church – not what believers in Christ need to use to become organized as his church.  The written records are the trail that’s left behind – not the hand guiding us through.

The scriptures are just printed ink on processed wooden pulp.  Destroy every copy of the written word of God – and it wouldn’t do a thing.  Because a group of believers in Christ would just produce more scriptures.  Only dead congregations, who have no real connection with God through the spirit of prophecy and revelation, would be scrambling – because they lack the ability to produce anything new.  They can only re-tell the stories they’ve inherited from a by-gone generation.

It’s essentially idolatry [see, Making an Image out of God] – to look at the image that’s pointing and cling to and serve it, rather than to Look, Follow, and Live [see, …and the labor which they had to perform was to look…].

The church of Jesus Christ is not established on scriptures:

A book cannot authenticate itself.  It takes an outside authority to do that.  Written records become “scripture” when the church of Christ covenants to be bound to that written record by common consent.  That means that the 66 books that make up the King James canon have authority as “the Bible” by virtue of the Catholic Church’s word alone – not by virtue of them simply being “the Bible”.

Further, you accept the English word-choice of the King James translation by virtue of the word of the Church of England alone – God did not dictate the creation story to Moses, or the epistles to Paul using 1611 English words.

The reason the King James text is also known as “The Authorized Version” is because, prior to its commission – there were many attempts by English commoners [i.e., not clergy or royalty] to translate the Bible into English [the language of the unlearned common-folk].  This threatened the power of the elites – who believed that the translations of the commoners did not, “conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy.”

So, a new state-sanctioned English translation was commissioned that would render phrases in such a way as to justify and legitimize the hierarchical authority of the crown and of the church.  And it would be the only one “Authorized” by the state and the church for use.

Joseph Smith’s view of the bible:

  • It can be ambiguous,

“The teachers of religious understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.”

This ambiguity in the meaning of revelations happens when interpreters make false assumptions about the Bible and then just start guessing away at the correct interpretation.

They’ll assume the scriptures are cryptic [that they’ll say “A”, when they really mean “X”], are relevant [that all the narratives can be applied as personal lessons], and are perfect [that there are no contradictions, missing pieces, or extraneous material].  Their guessing either takes place horizontally [applying the past to the present] or vertically [applying the physical to the spiritual].

The meaning of the word of God should not be guessed at in this way.  Guessing is what Laman and Lemuel did.  Guessing is what Judeans did with Jesus’ parables.  Guessing is what the brethren at Jerusalem did [see, And they understood me not, for they supposed].  The meaning of scripture [in a gospel context] has only one signified attached to it.  And there is only one way to “figure out” what it means –to ask God what it signifies.

  • irrelevant,

The Bible contains revelations given at different times to different people under different circumstances.”

The blessings promised in the scriptures pertain to the people to whom they were spoken.  The laws outlined in the scriptures were tailored to the conditions under which they were given.

For example, at Wheat & Tares I commented on the definition that “hot drinks” in D&C 89 means “tea and coffee”.  The standard interpretation used by the church in regards to verse 9:

and again
hot drinks are not for the body
or belly

[D&C 89:9]

says that Joseph and Hyrum Smith all told members that “hot drinks” meant “tea and coffee”.  Sounds pretty straight-forward.

But – so what if Joseph or Hyrum in fact did say that “hot drinks” meant “tea and coffee” to this-or-that member back in the 1830’s?  That’s all well-and-good because that’s what the saints were in the habit of drinking hot at the time the revelation was given.  Brigham Young reasoned:

I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned [in D&C 89]; that is very true; but what were the people in the habit of taking as hot drinks when that revelation was given? Tea and coffee. We were not in the habit of drinking water very hot, but tea and coffee — the beverages in common use.

Now – to follow his reasoning – if the saints ended-up falling out of the habit of drinking tea and coffee hot and started drinking other things hot or started drinking tea and coffee cold — then the revelation still calls us to be guided by the general concept of avoiding the habitual drinking of hot liquids [rather than be bound to the specific conceptions of tea and coffee per se].

The revelation meant “tea and coffee” for them [because that’s what they were in the habit of drinking hot] — but it does not necessarily mean that for us today [if we get in the habit of drinking other liquids hot or drinking tea and coffee cold].

When the Lord said “Don’t drink hot drinks,” Joseph/Hyrum rightly took a look at what the saints were in the habit of drinking hot at that time — and they concluded that it was tea and coffee — so the leaders rightly taught the people to not drink tea and coffee.  But the interpretation of “tea and coffee” pertains to them – given under conditions where the people were in the habit of drinking tea and coffee hot.

  • transmitted erroneously,

I believe the Bible as it came from the pens of the original writers.  Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, and designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.”

If our understanding of some particular point of doctrine is based on a scripture that is the translation of a translation of a translation – that was taken from a copy of a copy of a copy – and somewhere along the line [there are centuries between the original and what we have extant, in many cases] a rendering was screwed-up [whether accidentally or maliciously] – then it may well reveal how weak some of our beliefs could be.

Our centuries long history and traditions of scriptural interpretation, some of Joseph’s wording choices in the Book of Mormon, and much our the temple endowment ceremony are all based on the scriptural renderings common at the time [taken from the King James English text].

I’ve heard people say that:

You’ve got to believe that God created the universe in six 24-hour periods because it says it right there in Genesis, ‘And the evening and the morning were the ____ day.’  The Bible clearly says ‘day’.

When, in reality, the Bible clearly says “yohm”, as it was recorded in Hebrew.  That’s a word that could mean a variety of things in English.

And even getting back to the original Hebrew can be more complex than it might seem at first.  The Meru Foundation found that the origin of the Hebrew characters lie in a series of ritual hand-gestures — or sign language.

Also, the Chronicle Project has found an alternate system for how the written Hebrew characters work, and publishes alternate, “original meaning” renderings of the Hebrew scriptures.

  • and incomplete.

Much instruction has been given to man since the beginning that we do not now possess […] to say that God never said anything more to man would be claiming a new revelation – because such a thing is nowhere said in that volume by the mouth of God.”

In The Concept of Race, in the Gospel, I wrote:

The best thing to do is to take it as granted that the current scriptural record we have in the Bible is a pretty incomplete picture concerning the affairs of God throughout the whole human race.  The Bible is the book that’s come by way of the Jew and is their record — and so we find that it deals primarily with Arabians [go figure].

Until the scriptural record is more complete — until we receive the prophets of the other nations, tribes, and people, with their prophetic records that will come forth from Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Pacific Islands, etc. — we cannot speak with certainty of how God has dealt with the other races and if there are promises made to them that we know that of.

Now, I’m not trying to say that we can draw no good lessons from our historical translations and traditions.  I’m not saying all current Biblical teachings should be repudiated.  Rather – it’s that any explicit meaning we’re going to gather from them ought to be accepted with the understanding that it comes skewed.  That the scriptures come to us as time-and-space artifacts of a particular culture – given in their language and suited to their circumstances.

What we have is just what we have.  It’s better to be honest about what we’ve got with our scriptural record — rather than try to pedestalize it into something it’s not meant to be.

Religions become concerned with ethical behavior and doctrine, and using the scriptures as an all-encompassing moral rule-book – instead of being concerned with changing people’s minds/hearts and how they view/experience their world, using the scriptures as a collection of stories that motivate believers to go live-out their own stories.

The problem with approaching religion as though it were a method of relaying ethics and doctrines from “the Good Book” is that ethics only teach us how to live as though you were one with your neighbor.  You learn the modes of action that imply a compassionate relationship with another person.  It offers you incentive to act in a certain way – but it cannot generate the genuine feeling of it.

While there may be certain ethical implications of having made a covenant with the fundamental Reality of existence – such things neither add to or subtract from current pool of human ethical wisdom.  It is not the domain of religion to lay down specific “hither thou shalt come and no further” guidelines for human behavior that transcendent time, space, culture, and circumstance.

Rather, religion is about providing the environment for people to experience the miraculous works of God and manifestations of the spiritual gifts.  Because once the experience is had – the very way in which a person approaches and experiences human problems/decisions will be altered.

The gospel is about that transcendent experience of a direct connection with God — one that smashes a hardened, left-brain sensation of being separate and opens a person up the fluid, right-brain awareness that all creation is a continuous and connected event that we are all a part of .

Next Article by Justin: The Revelation of God in Jesus Christ

Previous Article by Justin:  The Concept of Race, in the Gospel

(What R. U. Scared Of ?)

Lehi’s Trek to China and North America


Note: to see how this idea popped into my head and began to develop, read all the comments on the Selections from the Book of Laman post, beginning with this one.

Jerusalem to Lemuel

600 years before the coming of Jesus Christ, the prophet Lehi, who “dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days” (1 Ne. 1:4) left the land and “departed into the wilderness” (1 Ne. 2:4), coming “down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea” and “traveling in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Ne. 2:5.) He “traveled three days in the wilderness,” pitching “his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water” (1 Ne. 2:6.) He called the valley Lemuel and the river Laman.1

Two trips back to Jerusalem

While in Lemuel, Lehi sent his four sons back to Jerusalem twice. The first time they came back with the plates of brass and the servant of Laban, whose name was Zoram. The second time they came back with Ishmael, his wife, his daughters, and his two sons, as well as the wives (Lehi’s daughters)2 and children of his two sons.

The Liahona appears

One night, after Ishmael’s family had arrived in Lemuel, the Lord commanded Lehi “that on the morrow he should take his journey into the wilderness” (1 Ne. 16:9.) The very next morning, Lehi found the Liahona upon the ground, which was “a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither [they] should go into the wilderness” (1 Ne. 16:10.) From this point on, the group followed the direction in which the Liahona pointed.

Lemuel to Shazer

From Lemuel (called after the son of Lehi), they “traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction” (1 Ne. 16:13) and camped at a spot they called Shazer (possibly the name of a son of Ishmael.)3

Shazer to the place where Nephi’s bow broke (Camp #3)

From Shazer they “did travel for the space of many days, slaying food by the way” (1 Ne. 16:15) and followed “the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea” (1 Ne. 16:14) until they stopped at the place where Nephi broke his bow. This was their third mentioned camping spot, or Camp #3. They had been traveling, up to this point, nearly a south-southeast direction.

It was at this place that the party learned the principles under which the Liahona both operated and ceased to function, which knowledge caused those who were murmuring against the Lord to “fear and tremble exceedingly” (1 Ne. 16:27.) When the camp had received food and in their joy had humbled themselves and given thanks to the Lord, they began again their journey, and this is what Nephi wrote:

Camp #3 to Camp #4 (somewhere close to the land of Jerusalem)

And it came to pass that we did again take our journey, traveling nearly the same course as in the beginning; and after we had traveled for the space of many days we did pitch our tents again, that we might tarry for the space of a time. (1 Ne. 16:33)

The words “traveling nearly the same course as in the beginning” do not mean “traveling nearly the same direction as in the beginning,” as it is typically interpreted, but they mean “traveling nearly the same path as in the beginning,” or, to be plainer, it means they retraced their steps. In other words, they first traveled nearly a south-southeast direction for the space of many days along the banks of the Red Sea, all the way down until they came to the place where Nephi broke his bow, and then they traveled nearly a north-northwest direction for the space of many days, retracing nearly the very same path that they had traveled downward, following the Red Sea up, until they came close to where they had first left the land of Jerusalem.

Ishmael’s death at Camp #4

Nephi wrote, “And it came to pass that Ishmael died” (1 Ne. 16:34.) It was here, at the camp that was close to the land of Jerusalem, that Ishmael died.

Ishmael’s burial at Nahom and the return to Jerusalem

“And it came to pass that Ishmael…was buried in the place which was called Nahom” (1 Ne. 16:34.) Ishmael was buried at an already existing place called Nahom, which was either in the land of Jerusalem or in the regions round about. If Nahom was in the land of Jerusalem, then after going to Nahom the party returned to their camp. But if Nahom was not in the land of Jerusalem, then after the party went to Nahom they also went to the land of Jerusalem and then back to their camp. Regardless of where Nahom was located, we know for a fact that the group returned to the land of Jerusalem after Ishmael’s death, because of what Nephi wrote.

Nevertheless, Nahom was likely the Ishmael family cemetery located somewhere in the land of Jerusalem. So, the entire camp (including Lehi) took Ishmael’s body back to the land of Jerusalem, to Nahom, and buried him there, and then possibly also obtained additional supplies for the next, very lengthy segment of their journey. For example, Nephi’s bow needed to be replaced, as well as the bows of his brothers, etc. After doing what they needed to do in Jerusalem, including dedicating Ishmael’s grave at Nahom, etc., which would have been the duty and privilege of Lehi to do, Lehi brought them all out of the land of Jerusalem and they came down into the wilderness to their camp.

Lehi brought the daughters of Ishmael out

Undoubtedly, Lehi revealed at this time, or by this time, the new plans, namely, that they were going nearly eastward of this point into a strange wilderness (into all the countries that were to the east, all the way to China.) Nephi then makes five statements of fact:

And it came to pass that [Statement of Fact #1] the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, [#2] because of the loss of their father, [#3] and because of their afflictions in the wilderness; [#4] and they did murmur against my father, [#5] because he had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem… (1 Ne. 16:35)

Notice that Nephi categorically states that “he [Lehi] had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem” (1 Ne. 16:35.) Keep in mind that this is Nephi’s statement of fact, not Ishmael’s daughters’ opinion. It is not, as many believe, Nephi’s observation of these girls blaming Lehi for his sons’ actions. If the daughters of Ishmael were merely playing the blame game, assigning fault to Lehi, Nephi would have worded it in a way that would have indicated that, for example: “they did murmur against my father, because they said that he had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem,” in other words, he would have worded it as if it were not a literal fact. But Nephi does not state it from the girls’ perspective, but instead he states it as a literal fact, from his own perspective.

Question: Who brought the daughters of Ishmael out of the land of Jerusalem the first time? Was it Lehi?

Answer: No, it was the sons of Lehi. Lehi was at the camp of Lemuel when Nephi and his brothers brought the daughters of Ishmael out of the land of Jerusalem. Yet, here we find Nephi stating that Lehi brought the daughters of Ishmael out of the land of Jerusalem!

Question: Then when did Lehi bring the daughters of Lehi out of the land of Jerusalem?

The obvious answer: is that Nahom was a burial place in the land of Jerusalem and that after the burial, Lehi led the party back to their camp in the wilderness, so that Nephi’s statement is a literal occurrence, Lehi literally, not figuratively, having led them out of the land.

We must perish in the wilderness with hunger

Ishmael’s daughters complained that “after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger” (1 Ne. 16:35.) There was definitely food in Jerusalem, but the act of coming back down to camp in the wilderness meant having to resume hunting food again. Up until Ishmael’s death, they had had success hunting, although at the place where Nephi broke his bow, they came close to starving.

Why were they once again concerned with hunger? There were probably two reasons, one dealing with their current situation (see the Blessed again with food section below) and one dealing with the future. Regarding the future, it may have been that Lehi had already revealed to the family that, although they were now close to Jerusalem, they were not going to return to Jerusalem but were going to travel “nearly eastward” into a strange wilderness, one that no one was familiar with. Now hunger is back in their minds, for who knows how to obtain food in unknown parts?

The desire to return again to Jerusalem

Nephi wrote that the daughters of Ishmael “were desirous to return again to Jerusalem” (1 Ne. 16:36), which indicates that they must have returned to Jerusalem once before. In other words, they were led out of Jerusalem by the sons of Lehi, arriving in Lemuel, and then they returned to Jerusalem and were led out of the land of Jerusalem by Lehi, arriving in Camp #4, and finally they expressed a desire to return again to Jerusalem.

This shows that Nahom and Camp #4 were most definitely near Jerusalem, which means they retraced their steps back up the banks of the Red Sea. Ishmael, then, must have died near Jerusalem, and then the party must have taken his body to Jerusalem (returning to Jerusalem), buried him with his people (in Nahom), and then come back down to the camp outside of Jerusalem. Nephi’s words, then, make sense when he says that Ishmael’s daughters complained against Lehi and Nephi and desired to return again to Jerusalem.

Let us slay our father, and also our brother

The camp’s close proximity to Jerusalem (and its influences) explains why Laman conspired with the others to kill his father and younger brother. They were close to Jerusalem, yet Lehi and Nephi were determined not to return again to it. As the party was no longer “lost in the wilderness” down in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula, nor at the mercy of Lehi and his Liahona to make sure they were safe, Laman and the others, finally knowing where they were and how to get to Jerusalem, could kill Lehi and Nephi and return to the land of their inheritance without problems.

If Camp #4 and Nahom were, instead, at the bottom of the Arabian peninsula, as many scholars think, Laman’s conspiracy to kill would not make any sense, for if he had succeeded, the Liahona would have ceased functioning and they would have been lost in the wilderness and unable to obtain food or find their way back to Jerusalem.

Some strange wilderness

At Camp #4, Laman complained that Nephi was “thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness” (1 Ne. 16:38.) This is another indication that Laman and the rest of the camp were already aware of the new traveling directions, which were to be “nearly eastward from that time forth” (1 Ne. 17:1.) Going into the far east from the land of Jerusalem may have definitely been considered as some strange wilderness, or lands completely unknown to the Israelites.

Blessed again with food

Ishmael’s death and the need to bury him at Nahom, must have interrupted the normal day to day (hunting) activities, and may have had the result of them not obtaining any or sufficient food for the entire group. When they returned from Jerusalem, having buried Ishmael at Nahom, Ishmael’s daughters’ complaints that “we must perish in the wilderness with hunger” must have been because the camp was starving. All the subsequent murmuring (and subsequent conspiracy to kill) must also have exasperated the situation so that they could not obtain any food, whatsoever.

In such a situation, and being close to Jerusalem where they knew there was food, it was natural for the daughters to desire to return again to the land of Jerusalem. It also is understandable that Laman once again saw Lehi (and Nephi’s) leadership as deficient, for they were yet again in a state of starvation. Also, as they had returned to the land of Jerusalem and seen that it still had not been destroyed per Lehi’s words, this might have given Laman and the others “evidence” of the falsehood of Lehi’s prophecies, giving them justification in killing the two “false prophets.”

The situation at Camp #4 does not make any sense if it occurred at the bottom of the Arabian peninsula. If they were perishing with hunger down there, instead of close to Jerusalem, it makes no sense to desire to return again to Jerusalem. In other words, if Camp #4 and Nahom were down there, then it took “the space of many days” to get there, which means if they had decided to turn around and return again to Jerusalem, they still would have died of hunger, for it would take “the space of many days” to return to Jerusalem, much too long a trip to survive without food. The record only makes sense if Camp #4 and Nahom were locations close to Jerusalem.

At any rate, the “voice of the Lord” was with the camp and it “did chasten them exceedingly,” so that they “did repent of their sins” and “the Lord did bless [them] again with food, that [they] did not perish” (1 Ne. 16:39.)

The journey to the east begins

From this camp near the land of Jerusalem, after being blessed again with food, they “did take again [their] journey in the wilderness” and “did travel nearly eastward from that time forth” (1 Ne. 17:1.) Nephi also stated that they “did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness” (1 Ne. 17:4.)

They needed to start their journey far enough south to no longer be within the land of Jerusalem, yet also far enough north to miss running into a large body of water coming in from the Persian Gulf. This would, of necessity, place their starting location a little north of 30 degrees North Latitude, which helps to narrow down the paths they possibly could have taken. The map above has the eastern leg of their journey beginning at 30º 47’ 1″ North Latitude and gives them a straight path to the eastern coast of China and also to North America, missing every island in the ocean.

the space of many days” vs. “the space of many years”

They wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander. (Mosiah 7:4)

To a Nephite, 40 days was “many days”.

Nephi always referred to the walk from Shazer to Camp #3 as requiring “the space of many days” (1 Ne. 16:17) and the walk from Camp #3 to Camp #4 as also requiring “the space of many days” (1 Ne. 16:33.) He never referred to these trips as lasting “many years.” But after they left Camp #4, they completely changed direction and then they were spoken of as traveling “for the space of many years,” not days. This indicates that the distance they traveled nearly eastward of Camp #4 was significantly farther than the combined distances they traveled between Shazer and Camp #3 and between Camp #3 and Camp #4, which is consistent with a trip to China.

Eight years of travel

Traveling “nearly eastward from that time forth,” beginning at a place close to the land of Jerusalem (Camp #4), they would have traversed the entire Asian continent, passing through Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Tibet and finally arriving at the eastern coast of China, stopping somewhere around the area of Xiangshan, Ningbo, Zhejiang, China, perhaps a little south of Bogushan Island. Using the standard 32 points of a compass, this means they were traveling either East by North4 (78.75º) or East by South (101.25º) or some other bearing even closer to East (90º) for eight years, without variation in direction, along a loxodromic line. The map above has a nearly eastward line with a bearing somewhere around 90.33º.

Eight years is 2920 days. The journey from Camp #4 to Bountiful was a little over 5000 miles, which averages to about 1.7 miles gained per day. Now, that might not sound like much distance covered, but when you consider the terrain they went through, the severe and rapidly changing weather conditions, and the fact that they couldn’t go around any obstacles, it starts to make sense. (Just take a look at the terrain of the path on the map above.)

On the other hand, eight years of travel does not make any sense for an Arabian Sea route. The eastward route that most scholars think Lehi took along the bottom of the Arabian peninsula would have taken most travelers “a matter of weeks, not years”.   To solve this apparent problem, it is assumed they spent an inordinate amount of time at one or more locations, one researcher even going so far as to suggest that the family must have been enslaved by other tribes for much of the eight years.

When you do the math for an Arabian Sea path, it just does not add up to what Nephi wrote. It is approximately 1200 miles from Jerusalem to the 19th parallel and another 800 to 1200 miles to the eastern shore of Arabia. If we add that together we get about 2400 miles. How many miles can a person walk in a single day? About 20 miles. So, traveling 20 miles a day it would take you 120 days to traverse the entire distance. Now, if it took them 8 years to do it, that would be 2920 days, of which 120 were spent walking and 2800 spent resting in camp! Now, does that sound to you like a grueling journey?

The daughters of Ishmael said, “We have wandered much in the wilderness” (1 Ne. 16:35.) Nephi described their wanderings in the wilderness as having “suffered many afflictions and much difficulty, yea, even so much that we cannot write them all” (1 Ne. 17:6.) Laman and Lemuel stated that “we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years” and that their women “suffered all things” (1 Ne. 17:20) and that “these many years we have suffered in the wilderness” (1 Ne. 17:21.) And many other descriptions such as these paint a picture of a lot of walking and suffering and very little rest, the exact opposite of what it should have been if they had been traveling to the Arabian Sea for eight years.

But if they were traveling to China, the need for 2920 days becomes apparent. Traveling to China, some days they might cover 20 miles, and other days, depending on the terrain, they might cover a whole lot less ground. Other days they would need to stop to rest, to obtain food, to wait for weather to clear, etc. The continent of Asia is so vast and varied and dangerous, the weather patterns so extreme and quick changing, that it makes perfect sense that it would take them eight years to traverse it.

Preaching and gathering converts along the way

During this eight year journey they undoubtedly preached the gospel to those with whom they came in contact and obtained converts who joined their journey to the promised land. Miracles attended them constantly, such as the miracle of the sweet meat as well as the miracle of the “light in the wilderness” (1 Ne. 17:13) that the Lord provided for them without fire. So, as they passed through these Gentile lands, word would have been spread by the inhabitants about the great magician Lehi and his “light without fire” and other miracles wrought by the party. Some would have fled the region, but others, out of curiosity would have sought the party out and perhaps have converted to the Lord.

By the time they reached Bountiful, on the eastern coasts of China, they probably had quite a number of people who had been added to their party, including Chinese converts. This might explain how the Eskimos arrived in America. It is widely believed they walked over from the Bering Strait, but perhaps their original ancestors were converts of Lehi from China and surrounding regions.

When they built the ship to cross the large waters, they entered into it “every one according to his age” (1 Ne. 18:6.) That’s kind of a strange way to enter a ship unless the party was vastly more numerous than just the families of Lehi and Ishmael. Which means that this ship was probably much larger than anyone has previously thought, requiring a special divine design to sustain the entire party upon the waters for the duration of the trip. Thus, it was not built after the manner of men.

Lehi, in the promised land, prior to his death, prophesied that “the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (2 Ne. 1:5.) This was both a future and present prophecy (“should” not “shall”), applying to the converts they had already gained from other countries, who were led by the hand of the Lord over the ocean in the boat, as well as to any future foreigners.

When this numerous company arrived in the promised land, after Lehi died, Laman conspired to kill Nephi and assume control of the group. Nephi was warned to flee out of the land and take all those who would go with him. The record indicates that they had gained converts on their journey. In other words, that it was not just the two families of Lehi and Ishmael that came over in the boat:

Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words. (2 Ne. 5:6)

Sherem, the anti-Christ, is said to have shown up on the scene in America. “There came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem” (Jacob 7:1.)  He is never referred to as a Nephite, nor as a Lamanite. The China passage with converts model may explain why that is so. He may have been the son of one of the Gentile converts on the ship, gone to live apart from the two main groups (Lamanites and Nephites) and then, when Sherem was a man of age, he returned to the Nephite group preaching his message of lies. He had a knowledge of their language and their religion, so he must have had ties to someone that was on that ship.

Laman and Lemuel and the Liahona

In the trek eastward, there is no mention of any more murmurings from Laman and Lemuel. Even the women stopped murmuring because the Lord miraculously made them “strong, yea, even like unto the men” (1 Ne. 17:2), a necessity due to the tough terrain they were traversing. The whole party was entirely at the mercy of the Liahona. That device had to work in order for them to survive in the unknown wilderness in which they found themselves, so Nephi and Lehi were safe from the murderous intentions of Laman and Lemuel for the entire eight years of travel. Only at Bountiful, in its relative safety and as the camp settled into the beautiful surroundings and enjoyed the plentiful resources, did Laman again begin to oppose the plans of the prophets, because they did not need (nor want) to rely upon the Liahona for what they needed to survive.

In fact, at every location in which Laman and Lemuel threatened the life of one or both prophets, it was because they felt they could do without the Liahona. They tried to kill Lehi at Lemuel, which was three days’ walking distance from Jerusalem. They tried to kill Nephi on the trip down to the wilderness from Ishmael’s house. And they tried to kill both of them at Camp #4. At each of these locations, Jerusalem was within easy walking distance and they knew where they were. In other words, they did not need the Liahona to survive in those places. But at Shazer, at the place where Nephi broke his bow, and on the entire journey to China, they never attempted to kill them, because their very lives depended on the device working. Even upon the waters, in which they were in their wrath, they did not kill Nephi, only choosing to bind him. Why? Because if Nephi died, the Liahona would cease functioning and they would also die. Finally, at the promised land, with no more need for reliance upon the Liahona for survival, the way was cleared to finally kill Nephi.

Laman and Lemuel had a love/hate relationship with the Liahona. Although it kept them alive, which they loved, they hated having to rely upon it. They wanted to rely upon their own arm of flesh, and not upon the Liahona, which was a type of the word of God.

Bountiful, China

After eight years of travel, they came to the land of Bountiful and remained there “for the space of many days” (1 Ne. 17:7.) Some scholars, believing that Bountiful lies on the coast of Oman, on the Arabian peninsula, have created a list of characteristics of the area:

…the Book of Mormon goes further by specifying various characteristics of [Bountiful]:

1. Bountiful is “nearly eastward” from a place which was called Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1).

2. The text implies that the terrain and water sources from Nahom eastward permitted reasonable access from the interior deserts to the coast (1 Nephi 17:1-3).

3. Bountiful was a fertile region (1 Nephi 17:5-6).

4. It was a coastal location (1 Nephi 17:5-6).

5. Fruit and wild honey and possibly other food sources were available (1 Nephi 17:5-6; 18:6).

6. The availability of natural fruit (1 Nephi 17:5-6; 18:6) and the bountiful nature of the region suggest the availability of fresh water at this location.

7. Timber was available that could be used to construct a ship (1 Nephi 18:1).

8. A mountain was nearby (1 Nephi 17:7; 18:3).

9. Substantial cliffs, from which Nephi’s brothers might attempt to throw him into the sea, are near the ocean (1 Nephi 17:48).

10. Sources of flint (1 Nephi 17:11) and ore (1 Nephi 17:9-10) were available in the region.

11. Suitable wind and ocean currents were available to carry the vessel out into the ocean (1 Nephi 18:8-9).

(Taken from here.)

China is a perfect match for Bountiful and I am not the only one who thinks so.  The location on the eastern coast of China marked on the map at the top of this post has (or likely had 2600 years ago) everything that the scholars say Bountiful was supposed to have.

For example, here is a topographical map of China that shows that there are several mountain peaks in the vicinity. To the west of the city of Hangzhou, there is an 1873 meter peak (Lianhua Feng – Lotus Peak – 30º07’30″N 118º10’00″E). Northwest of that is an 1774 meter peak (Baimaijian). To the west of Lotus Peak is an 1474 meter peak (Lu Shan). To the south of Lotus Peak is a 2157 meter peak (Wugang Shan). And south-southeast of Lotus Peak is a 1921 meter peak (Huangmaojian). These latter two peaks are close to the beach location marked on the map at top. Nephi may have gone to one of these peaks to receive instructions regarding the construction of the ship.

There also appears to be highly elevated land (cliffs, perhaps) at the sea shore. In short, the topography of this area fits the descriptions of the topography of Bountiful. Ore, timber and flint are all in local abundance. The only thing that needs to be verified is whether wild honey and fruit grew there 2600 years ago.

The sea voyage to the promised land

Sailing “nearly eastward” from China at around 30 degrees North Latitude and keeping a straight course, Lehi’s group would have landed in North America at the narrow neck of land we know as Baja California.  The eastward trek of the map at the top has a path that leads directly to Bahia de Tortugas, Baja California Sur, Mexico (29º 38’ 42″ North Latitude and 114º 51’ 22″ West Longitude).

Answering an objection

The following is an objection based upon a purported revelation:

There’s a revelation given to Joseph Smith that explains the path Lehi and his family took as being a predominantly south/southeast route. The revelation even goes on to give the latitude at which they landed on the west coast of the South American Continent. It’s in Fred Collier’s “Unpublished Revelations” Vol 1, around section 30.

The purported revelation is quoted in the following online document:

The matter of Lehi’s landing site has been the subject of much debate, for obviously, pin-pointing the actual site where Lehi’s colony landed would tend to isolate the regions he and his family came to occupy. Knowing how important such a discovery would be, several sites have been proposed over the years, but none more controversial than one made by Frederick G. Williams who claimed Lehi landed in Chile. Unfortunately that theory was based on very shaky grounds, and thus the cause of much contention. The original theory was based on a lone statement by Williams, who, sometime between 1836 and 1845, wrote down a comment about Lehi’s party landing at 30 degrees south latitude in Chile during his association with the Prophet. It went as follows:

The course that Lehi traveled from the city of Jerusalem to the place where he and his family took ship, they traveled nearly a south, south east direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of North Latitude, then nearly east to the Sea of Arabia then sailed in a south east direction and landed on the continent of South America in Chili (sic.) thirty degrees south Latitude.[1]

(Taken from here.)

That doesn’t sound to me like a revelation given by the Prophet, but as mere speculation on the part of Williams. The same page continues:

We might be puzzled somewhat by the details contained in this statement which give it a certain air of believability, but we must remember that most of these directions were already given in the scriptures. For example, we learn of the direction Lehi and his family journeyed once they left Jerusalem in 1 Nephi 16:13, where we read they traveled in a south, southeast direction. (Continuing in that direction would have taken them to 19 degrees north latitude, another natural assumption.)

And that, I think, is the whole point. Everyone (including Williams) reads the Book of Mormon account, looks at a map, and assumes that they entered the water at the Arabian Sea. For more in depth analysis of Frederick William’s claim, please see the entire document.

A straight course

The Arabian Sea route does not work because if Lehi’s party turned eastward at a southern point on the east side of the Red Sea, and then traveled nearly eastward for eight years, they would end up zigzagging around. If they walked a straight course nearly eastward, it would not take them eight years to cross such a short distance.

Additionally, once they got to the Arabian Sea, built the ship and launched, they would not be able to travel in a straight course, but would have to navigate around India, Australia, etc., zigzagging around to get to the promised.

The Liahona was a type or shadow of the word of God, and it functioned in the same way as His word, bringing them in a straight course to the promised land. When they got the Liahona, it pointed south-southeast until they got to where Nephi broke his bow. Then it pointed in the opposite direction, towards Jerusalem. When they finally were ready to make the trip to the promised land, it pointed east, towards the promised land. Its course at this point, had to be a straight, not crooked, course or path, because it was a type of the word of God.

And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.

And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.

And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.

Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;

Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.

And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.

For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise. (Alma 37:38-45)

Thus we see that the Arabian Sea route cannot have been the path taken by Lehi’s party, for when the Liahona began pointing to the promised land, it pointed to them a straight course. The course from their camp near Jerusalem to the eastern coast of China was straight, as straight as any arrow. And if you continue on that path into the sea, not deviating one bit, it points a straight course to North America, landing them in current day Mexico.

Now, we know that their path on the sea was straight, for Nephi states that “we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Ne. 18:8.) And after Laman and Lemuel’s rebellion upon the waters, and the action of the storm driving them “back upon the waters for the space of four days” (1 Ne. 18:15), when the Liahona began working again, they “sailed again towards the promised land” (1 Ne. 18:22.) So, they sailed “nearly eastward” from the eastern coast of China in a straight course towards the promised land.

The Arabian Sea path would have had the ship sailing, at times, away from the promised land, or not towards it. Therefore, it cannot be the route they took, for such a route would invalidate the statements of the Book of Mormon itself, concerning how the Liahona worked.

With this understanding in mind, statements such as these make much more sense:

But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth. (Alma 7:9)

For I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness; I perceive that ye are in the path which leads to the kingdom of God; yea, I perceive that ye are making his paths straight. I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round. (Alma 7:19-20)

Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing. (1 Ne. 10:8)

And it may suffice if I only say they are preserved for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God; for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round. (Alma 37:12)

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (2 Ne. 9:41)

O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy. (2 Ne. 4:33)

The journey of Lehi’s camp to the promised land from Jerusalem was a type of our journey back to God. There was no deviation in the course, except insofar as they disobeyed the commands of God and were driven back or did not go forward, tarrying in one location because the Liahona would not work while they were slothful. Everything that was in their way—and if you look at the map above and click the terrain button, you will see that much of the land they passed through before arriving in Bountiful, China was impassable—was to be cleared by the Lord, whether by removing it, climbing over it, or simply making it disappear. At no point were they to go around obstacles in their path. The trip was designed to demonstrate the power of God to them. It was to be an impossible trip made possible by the miracles of God.

Nephi’s prayer in 2 Ne. 4 also demonstrates an undeviating course. When he pleads with the Lord to not place stumbling blocks in his way, he speaks from experience, having passed through the mightiest stumbling blocks of all, the exceedingly high mountains of Asia. He never prays to be given a path around his obstacles. The objects in his way are to go around him, not he going around them. When he pleads with the Lord to clear his way before him and not hedge his way, he is again speaking from experience, having seen the power of God make the earth “pass away,” and “cause the rough places to be made smooth, and smooth places” (1 Ne. 17:46) to be broken up. Laman and Lemuel witnessed these miracles, too, which is why he said to them that “ye also know” (1 Ne. 17:46.)

All these things happened in their eight year trek across Asia, while following an undeviating, straight course to the promised land. Jacob said “that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea” (Jacob 4:6.) You can bet that such gifts came in handy as they plugged onward and eastward through the Asian continent. For, again, it was never the design of God that they go around obstacles, such as mountains, but to either go over them, or through them, or to use their faith to remove them from their path, that the course of the Lord would remain straight and that God could show forth His power to them, that they might glorify His name and that the whole journey would serve as a type.

How the Liahona worked

The Liahona contained two spindles, both of which operated in a miraculous manner. One spindle pointed to true north, differing from normal compasses, which point to magnetic north. Nevertheless, the Liahona was still called a compass despite its apparent violation of the laws of physics. The other spindle pointed the way the party was to go. When they were finally on the trip to the promised land, that spindle pointed nearly eastward, to an exact spot of land, the very place they were to land their ship on the western coast of North America. No matter which direction they turned the Liahona, each spindle always pointed to those two spots: one pointing to true north and the other pointing to the landing spot on the west coast of North America.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them. And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things. (1 Ne. 16:28-29)

Alma said, “[The Liahona] was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness” (Alma 37:39), not the direction. Lehi’s party had to do two things with the Liahona: first, they had to give “faith and diligence and heed” (1 Ne. 16: 28) to the pointers (spindles), and secondly, they had to give “faith and diligence” (1 Ne. 16:29) to the writing that appeared upon it from time to time.

How the Liahona worked

Obeying the spindles

One spindle pointed to them the course, while the other spindle (which pointed to true north) allowed them to know the direction, they were to travel. The difference between course and direction is significant. The course is the path they were expected to travel and there was just one such prescribed path. If they did not travel on that specific course, the Liahona stopped working. And they were expected to go along the path and in the direction that the spindle pointed, regardless of the obstacle that may have been in their path. If they tried to deviate to go around an obstacle, the Liahona stopped working. If they tried to go around an obstacle, so that they were now on the other side of the obstacle, but in the apparent path that the Liahona had previously pointed out (when it was working), it still did not begin working. Any deviation was a sin, because they did not give faith, diligence and heed to the pointer and the path it pointed out.

To cause the Liahona to begin working again, they had to return to the point at which it worked previously, and then resume following the spindle from that point onward, through the obstacle they had attempted to avoid. Thus, it was impossible for them to find the promised land except by following the precise path that the Liahona pointed out to them. There were no short cuts. The manner in which they got the Liahona working again was also to serve as a type, for the repentance process. When we repent, we “return” to the Lord. When they repented from their course deviation, they “returned” to the point prior to where they had deviated from the course.

Obeying the writing

In addition to following the precise course pointed out by the spindles, they also had to follow whatever other instructions were written upon the Liahona from day to day. The spindles and the writings were designed to both test and develop their faith and diligence. The writings developed faith by giving instructions in order to have miracles happen, that they would be able to find food, warmth, light, healing and have the obstacles in their way overcome. The whole thing was miraculous, through and through. In other words, none of the instructions were mundane, or of a non-miraculous nature. Whatever they were instructed to do by the writings, was, essentially, impossible to do. But they were expected to do it anyway. In this way, “they had…many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day” (Alma 37:40.)

The writing part of the Liahona is what both Nephi and Alma referred to as “small means.” The writings were similar to how Elisha healed Naaman of leprosy, who was instructed to dip himself seven times in the Jordan. The whole premise of being healed in this way is preposterous, yet the miracle occurred anyway. Such were all of the written instructions upon the Liahona. Great and marvelous and miraculous works were accomplished by the party when they had faith in the writings and were diligent in following them precisely, despite the rational mind’s natural rejection of them.

When they did not exercise faith to make the Liahona work, the spindles (both of them) no longer pointed to their two locations. (Perhaps they just spun around or dipped or joined together or did some other thing that alerted the party that the device no longer worked.) And the miraculous writings stopped appearing, “and then those marvelous works ceased” (Alma 37:41.)

Both spindles were fixed

The direction of the spindle that pointed to the promised land was always fixed. It did not point to them a series of directions to get to the promised land, such as east, then northeast, then southeast, then east again, so that they could go around obstacles in their path, but it simply pointed a straight course to the promised land, or it pointed to the exact spot at the promised land that the Lord was leading them to, as well as the course they were to travel. It did this whether over land or over sea.

The Liahona operated in a similar way for the first leg of the trip, pointing to a spot nearly south-southeast of Lemuel, somewhere down the eastern coast of the Red Sea. When they got to that spot, it pointed nearly north-northwest to a spot close to Lemuel, then it pointed to Camp #4, which was close to Jerusalem, so that the party “traveled nearly the same course as in the beginning”, or retraced nearly the same path they had already traveled. Finally, it pointed to some exact location in North America. In each of these occasions in which it pointed to different, but exact places, it was a straight course. There was no crooked wandering involved, only wandering in a straight course, because this is how it worked, after the manner of the Lord.

The voyage over sea was also straight

When Nephi stated, “and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth” (1 Ne. 17:1) everyone misinterprets him as referring only to that portion of their journey which was over land, and not to that portion which was over water. They assume that once upon the waters of the sea, the ship traveled a crooked path. But this assumption is taken only because everyone thinks they launched from the Arabian peninsula. The truth of the matter is that Nephi’s words apply to the entire journey, over land and sea, all the way to the promised land. They traveled “nearly eastward from that time forth” over both land and water.

The course of their travels.” (Nephi’s summary of 1 Nephi)

The Arabian Sea path theory is wrong because of the nature of Nephi’s account. Although the account is an abridgment, Nephi is giving us compass directions so that we know where they went. He tells us nearly south-southeast. Then he tells us they retraced their path, nearly to Jerusalem. Then he tells us that they visited Nahom (to bury Ishmael), an already existing place in Jerusalem, as if we ought to know where that place is. Then he tells us Lehi leads the party out of Jerusalem, to their camp. Then he tells us they went from that time forth nearly eastward. Nephi tells us these directions because it is enough information for us to figure out their path, both on the land and on the sea.

The Arabian Sea path theory, though, would have Nephi give us directions on the land only, and then when it comes to the sea path, well, then he does not tell us where they went, nor where they landed in America, because they zigzagged around on the water, supposedly. So, perhaps they landed in Chile, perhaps somewhere else. It is anyone’s guess.

In other words, the Arabian Sea path theory, which is false, defeats the purpose of Nephi in showing us the path they took.

Who cares that you launched from the Arabian peninsula, Nephi? We still don’t have enough information to know where you landed in the Americas!”

Of course, such is not case. We now know both the path taken by the party over land, over sea, and also the approximate spot they landed at the promised land. And the whole thing is consistent with the scriptures, without having to wrest what they have said about how the Liahona actually worked, etc.

Footnotes

1 The average daily walking distance for humans over level land is about 20 miles a day, however a loaded camel can traverse about 25 miles a day. This means that for the three days of travel, the family may have covered anywhere from 60 to 75 miles from the northern rim of the Red Sea. Owing that they were trying to escape an assassination attempt upon Lehi, they might have been in a rush to get as far away and as quickly from Jerusalem as possible, so their walk was very possibly quite brisk, which may have allowed them to cover more ground than average for each of these three days.

At the far end of possibilities, in terms of the distance they may have been able to cover in three days, lies Wadi Tayyib al-Ism, which is at the 75 mile mark, just about the right distance for loaded camel travel and which has all of the right characteristics for being the valley of Lemuel, as well as the “only observed continually running source of water in the entire region.” The stream technically empties into the Red Sea from underground, diving “beneath a gravel bed 600 or so yards from the shoreline,” though there is geological evidence that at one time in the past the water level of the Red Sea connected to the mouth of the river, so that it was actually observed to empty into it. This may be where Lehi made his first camp.

2 Charlotte wrote:

We know Nephi had sisters because they are mentioned in 2 Nephi 5:6 (“Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.”)

1 Nephi 2:5 lists the people that traveled in the wilderness with Lehi. (“And he came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea; and he did travel in the wilderness with his family, which consisted of my mother, Sariah, and my elder brothers, who were Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.”)

I think it is commonly believed that the sisters of Nephi are not listed because they are female, and that answer satisfied me when I first asked the question as a young woman. However, that explanation is no longer satisfactory. I don’t think it makes sense when you consider that Sariah is a woman and she made it onto the list.

Some time ago, before I had really gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon, I decided to read it again, and that verse (1 Nephi 2:5) stuck out to me. At the time, I believed that the sisters of Nephi should have been listed, and I confess it started to kind of bother me. At the time, I felt like I had two choices: I could believe this verse was a flaw; that Nephi made a mistake when he left his sisters off the list; I could criticize the best book ever written and one of the greatest prophets this world has ever known; I could let that verse put doubt into my mind about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Or I could have faith that there is a perfectly good explanation.

I chose faith.

We always have a choice between faith and doubt.

And God blessed me for it.

There came into my mind a perfectly good explanation: the sisters of Nephi were perhaps already married to the sons of Ishmael and weren’t part of the household of Lehi anymore. I felt at peace and I went back to re-read the narrative to confirm that the idea was in harmony with the scriptures.

I found that the theory does indeed fit the scriptures, and that it actually helps to explain some curious parts of the story.

It helps explain why Ishmael’s household was willing to follow Nephi into the wilderness. I can just imagine the sisters of Nephi wanting to go with their mother and helping to convince their husbands that it was a good idea. Also, Ishmael was not just a family friend but was actually related to Lehi by marriage. Ishmael and Lehi perhaps had grandchildren in common. My husband and I were the first ones in our families to get married, and our families have always been close. Our families still have an Epiphany party together every January, and my father-in-law often has dinner with my parents, even though my husband and I live too far away to attend. There are other examples as well of how our families are close. Because of this, it is easy for me to imagine the strong connection Ishmael and Lehi might have had.

It’s one thing for a theory to make sense, but it’s something more for there to be scriptures that support the theory. Besides the sisters not being listed in 1 Nephi 2:5 but showing up in the story later, I have found a few more scriptures that help to convince me that my theory is right.

1 Nephi 7:1 mentions the need for Lehi’s sons to get married, but doesn’t say anything about his daughters needing to get married: “AND now I would that ye might know, that after my father, Lehi, had made an end of prophesying concerning his seed, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto him again, saying that it was not meet for him, Lehi, that he should take his family into the wilderness alone; but that his sons should take daughters to wife, that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.”

One of the strongest verses in support of my theory is this one. When Nephi and his brothers were leading Ishmael and his household into the wilderness, some of the party rebelled against Nephi. 1 Nephi 7:6: “And it came to pass that as we journeyed in the wilderness, behold Laman and Lemuel, and two of the daughters of Ishmael, and the two sons of Ishmael and their families, did rebel against us; yea, against me, Nephi, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters.” Notice that this verse says “the two sons of Ishmael AND THEIR FAMILIES.” This is a clue that the sons of Ishmael were already married at this point.

1 Nephi 16:7 lists several marriages that took place in the wilderness, but it doesn’t mention the sons of Ishmael getting married. “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also Zoram took the eldest daughter of Ishmael to wife.”

There is no mistaking the fact that the sons of Ishmael were married at some point. Several scriptures mention their wives or their families (see, for example, 1 Nephi 7:6; 1 Nephi 16:27; 1 Nephi 18:9). I suppose there might be another theory that allows the sons of Ishmael to be married to women other than Nephi’s sisters, but there is some additional evidence that they were indeed married to Nephi’s sisters: Lehi calls the sons of Ishmael his sons (2 Nephi 1:28: “And now my son, Laman, and also Lemuel and Sam, and also my sons who are the sons of Ishmael, behold, if ye will hearken unto the voice of Nephi ye shall not perish. And if ye will hearken unto him I leave unto you a blessing, yea, even my first blessing.”), which makes the most sense if they were his sons-in-law. He does not call Zoram his son (2 Nephi 1:30: “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, forever.”) so I don’t think Lehi considered the sons of Ishmael to be his sons in a figurative sense.

If you believe Nephi’s sisters were married to the sons of Ishmael (no matter when they actually married them), you might notice that in 2 Nephi, when Lehi has died and the party separates into two groups, the story seems to imply that the sons of Ishmael go with Laman (2 Nephi 4:13: “And it came to pass that not many days after his death, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the admonitions of the Lord.”) and the sisters of Nephi leave their husbands to go with Nephi (2 Nephi 5:6, quoted in full above).

All-in-all, I think the scriptures support my theory more than they support the idea that the sisters of Nephi traveled into the wilderness with Lehi from the beginning and married the sons of Ishmael later.

3 The average distance they could have traveled between Lemuel and Shazer would have been 80 miles walking and 100 miles with loaded camels. To recap: it took three days to get to the valley of Lemuel and four more days to get to Shazer. Shazer, then, was seven days’ walking distance (one week) from the land of Jerusalem, or between 140 (at 20 miles per day) and 175 (at 25 miles per day) miles away.

4 Using the Rule of Marteloio, for every 100 miles they traveled East by North (78.75º) or East by South (101.25º), it means that their position relative to East (90º) was as if they traveled 98 miles East and then traveled 20 miles either North or South. For a bearing of 91º or 89º, the Rule of Marteloio would put you 1 mile North or South for every 54.635 miles you travel East.

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Zion will not be Established by Unrelated Persons


My text for this post is Acts 2:37-47

37 Now when the people heard Peter preach the word of God, they were pricked in their hearts and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?

38 Then Peter said unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  39 For this promise is to you, and to your children, and to all the Gentiles, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!

41 Then those who gladly received the word were baptized:  adding 3,000 believers that day.

42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching, in fellowship with each other, in breaking of bread, and in prayers.  43 And fear came upon every one of them:  and also many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  44 And all that believed gathered together and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and imparted them to all, according to anyone had need.   46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread at every house, they did share their meals with gladness and simplicity of heart,  47 all while praising God and having favor with all the people.

And the Lord was adding those being saved to their assembly daily.

After preaching a scriptural exposition along with an eyewitness declaration of the risen Christ, Peter instructs converted hearers [those with the softened, or “pricked”, hearts]:

  • Repent
  • Be baptized in the name of Jesus
  • Receive the gift of the Holy Ghost

Those who, with gladness received the word of God as delivered by an eyewitness were baptized.

Now what?

Once the heart had been softened, repentance had come, baptism had been performed, and the gift of the Holy Ghost had been received — these believers formed a community.  This group was characterized by:

This group of believers didn’t see things in terms of an institution and meetings — but as one family under God.  In the LDS context, we’d refer to this type of community as “Zion“.  Among these believers, open wonders and signs were commonplace and worship services and prayer were joyful experiences that were operated according to the best gifts of the Spirit.

This abundance of spiritual manifestations was seen because this group of believers was equal in the bonds of all things — earthly first, and then heavenly:

Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.

and

That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things.  For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;

They did not see property as something exclusive to themselves alone, but as something for all to have equal claim on to meet their needs.  In such a community:

all children are alike unto [the members]; wherefore, [they] love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike [unto them].

When property rights are a concern, paternity is frantically ascertained and protected because when people own property as individuals in a money-based system — they want to project those rights for their future seed through inheritance.  This is the reason why polyandry is almost always a no-go for most people [LDS or not].  Disgust for even the idea of polyandry is the one place where Mormon monogamists and Mormon polygynists will find complete agreement.  Once women are allowed polyandrous marriage covenants — only maternity can be truly known, whereas paternity will always unknown.  And the heart of patriarchal societies is insecurity over paternity.

Zion:

The heart of a Zion society, by contrast, is charity.  Zion takes the “equal in the bonds of earthly things” principle to apply not only to money-free communities — but even further to include the bonds of matrimony, applying it to multihusband-multiwife communities.

Zion requires great intimacy and connection among the members.  The church lacks this intimacy and connection because we are all still strangers.  The only way to achieve Zion, or even a Zion-like atmosphere at church, is for the men and women to all be connected to each other through covenants.  As it stands, we are connected to Christ through covenants, but not to each other.  As long as we remain unfettered by covenant relationships with each other, we will never achieve Zion and our conversations [and actions] will never approach the level of intimacy and sharing required of that ideal.

Kinship ties:

The type of community described in Acts 2 [which is Zion] is not established by groups of unrelated people.  Without kinship ties, community will only be maintained by sheer effort of will.  When things get difficult, people will defend family first.  Most non-related groups of LDS that go off to form their own Zion community run into failure because, no matter how pure the intentions up front, when things get stressful or tough we align with family, which causes division.

The same thing is seen among other Christians who want to “get away” from the institutional church experience by starting a home church.  These attempts to “do church” more scripturally just end up being slightly less controlled replications of the same dynamic that they were trying to get away from.

This is all because a sense of familial love must exist prior to gathering — it does not come as a result of gathering.  Without charity pervading, such communities will only have joy in their works for a season.

The “church” are the called-out ones.  It is the assembly of justified believers in Christ — and it comes as a manifestation of the communal feelings generated by virtue of their relationship as one family under God.  Think about your own family.  You meet together — but you don’t have meetings.  You meet because of the feelings that being “family” produces — the feelings of family are not produced by your meetings.

In the church today, we invert the whole thing:

  • Instead of our congregations being a natural outflow of the connectivity we share — we try to have “church” be the precondition to creating it.
  • Instead of leaders who habitually serve the members, submitting to the will of the people — we have leaders who are used to being habitually obeyed by members.
  • Instead of the ministry bringing a miracle and then requesting a meal — we have leaders who demand support first, the blessings to follow.

If the church actually wanted Zion, then I think most would be surprised over the number of non-LDS who would be ready to sign on for it — if it meant living for a higher purpose.  But they don’t.  Marching orders are to get as much education as you can, so you can make as much income as you can, so you can pay more tithes and offerings.  It’s to live as normal of a life as you can — with just a bit of Mormon flare to it [e.g., serve a two-year mission, civilly marry in a temple, pay 10% of your paycheck to the church, abstain from the parts of the word of wisdom most important to Heber Grant, do hometeaching, etc.]

The current focus is on keeping many small, separate nuclear families [many small, separate Zions].  The tribal model takes this and connects the dots.  It says, establish Zion by connecting the already existing separate nuclear families into a bone fide tribe of Israel.  Connectivity is the key.

Next Article by Justin:  To serve Him is to follow Him; that where He is, the servant may be found

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The role of angels in Nephite preaching


Mormon, speaking at the end of the Nephite civilization, summarized the role of angels among the Nephite church:

…[M]y beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness. And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him. And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men. (Moroni 7: 29-32)

Angels performed three tasks among the Nephites: 1) they called men to repentance, 2) they fulfilled and did the work of the covenants of the Father, and 3) they prepared the way among the children of men.

Angels accomplished all three tasks by declaring the word of Christ to chosen vessels of the Lord, which were men and women of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.

After listening to an angel, a chosen vessel was instructed to bear testimony of Christ. This was done by going on missions and preaching the gospel to all who would hear, bearing testimony of what the angel had said.

Those who listened to a preacher’s message, which was the word of God communicated by an angel, could then plant that word in their own hearts and have the power of the Holy Ghost generate faith in them.

The investigator of the gospel, after repenting and exercising strong faith in Christ, with a firm mind in every form of godliness, would pray to the Father in the name of Christ, and ask to see, hear and know the things taught by the preacher, after the same manner or in the same way that the preacher learned it, and God would then send down another angel to the new convert, confirming his faith and giving him a witness.

Finally, the new convert would start preaching what the angel had told him and the process would repeat over and over again. In this way, the Father brought to pass His covenants among the Nephites (and Lamanites).

Angels were the trial of faith, as well as the witness

When Moroni wrote

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10: 4)

this wasn’t a unique promise that only applied to what he was writing. This was a standard practice among the Nephites. The Nephite preachers would teach those listening to their words to ask God, in the name of Christ, for a witness by the power of the Holy Ghost that the words they were saying, communicated by an angel, were true. They taught the people to obtain the very same testimony that the preachers had received. They taught them to ask God to confirm the word they had received by sending an angel to them and declaring the word of Christ to them, just as was done to the preacher. In this way, both preacher and hearer would see eye to eye.

As Alma said, “For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and the knowledge which I have is of God.” (Alma 36: 26)

The trial of their faith, then, was to receive the angelic message (communicated by the preacher) and to repent and exercise faith to the point that they, also, prayed down an angel. Once the angel came down and gave them the same message, their trial of faith was over and they had the witness that they were taught to seek by the missionary.

Again, when Moroni wrote that “he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost,” he was speaking as a Nephite, with the understanding and learning of a Nephite. The Nephite understanding was the following:

Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. (2 Nephi 32: 2-3)

So, when Moroni wrote “he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost,” he had in mind that God would manifest the truth by sending an angel to declare the word of Christ, because all Nephite preachers understood that angels spoke by the power of the Holy Ghost and that this was how the Father fulfilled His covenants (by sending angels).

(Keep in mind that the words of Moroni found in Moroni 10: 4 were written to the Lamanites and not to the Gentiles. The Lamanites are the Lord’s ancient covenant people and He will fulfill His covenants to them as He did anciently: through the ministration of angels.)

From Lehi onward

The role of angels in Nephite preaching began with Lehi. Lehi began his ministry in Jerusalem with a vision of “God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God” (1 Nephi 1: 8.)

Lehi taught all six of his sons the gospel he had received from God and then taught them that they could go to God in prayer and ask to receive the very same manifestations he had received. This is why we find his fourth son, Nephi, writing the following:

And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of hold as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. (1 Nephi 10: 17)

Nephi had these desires to see, hear and know what his father had seen, heard and known, in the very same manner as his father had experienced it, because Lehi had taught his entire family this doctrine of seeing eye to eye, and had encouraged them to learn these things for themselves, by going directly to God. This is why we find Nephi so upset with his brothers Laman and Lemuel:

And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them. For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought…

And they 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.

And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?

And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.

Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—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. (1 Nephi 15: 2-3, 7-11)

“Surely these things shall be made known unto you.” Nephi said this at the beginning of the Nephite civilization. This is the same “manifestation of the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost” that Moroni wrote about to the Lamanites at the end of the Nephite civilization. It refers to the ministration of angels, in which angels declare the word of Christ, as one did to Nephi when he desired to see, hear and know.

The confirmatory role of angels was firmly established in Nephite church culture from the beginning, with Lehi and his six sons. Of the seven men, Lehi, Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi and Jacob all are explicitly stated in the record as having seen angels. And the last-born son, Joseph, was said to have been a just and holy man (Alma 3: 6), the implication being that he, also, saw angels.

All recorded Nephite preachers (as well as Samuel the Lamanite) found in the Book of Mormon saw angels before they went out to preach. For example, the sons of Mosiah and Alma the Younger saw an angel and then went forth telling people what they saw and what the angel said. None of the preachers kept angelic visitations to themselves, but freely bore testimony of the declaration of the word of Christ received by the angels. These experiences weren’t “too personal” or “too sacred” to share with others. On the contrary, they were only too eager to get the word out, for they wanted the residue to have faith in Christ through the word of Christ communicated (to the preachers) by the angel. When asked how they knew the things that they preached, they were quick to say it was by angelic ministration:

Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?

And he said: An angel hath made them known unto me. (Alma 11: 30-31 – Amulek)

And behold, thus hath the angel spoken unto me; for he said unto me that there should be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours. (Helaman 14: 26 – Samuel the Lamanite)

Therefore, as Aaron entered into one of their synagogues to preach unto the people, and as he was speaking unto them, behold there arose an Amalekite and began to contend with him, saying: What is that thou hast testified? Hast thou seen an angel? Why do not angels appear unto us? Behold are not this people as good as thy people? (Alma 21: 5 – Aaron, son of Mosiah)

And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me. (Mosiah 3: 2 – King Benjamin)

Widespread angelic ministration was a hallmark of the Nephite church because Lehi’s sons Nephi, Sam, Jacob and Joseph had continued the teaching of their father Lehi, that all converts ought to get confirmation from an angel after receiving the word from a preacher. They passed this teaching onto their children, who passed it onto their children, and on and on throughout their generations to the very end of the Nephite church.

When Alma spoke the following words to the people of Ammonihah around 82 B.C.:

For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory.

And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice.

And it shall be made known unto just and holy men, by the mouth of angels, at the time of his coming, that the words of our fathers may be fulfilled, according to that which they have spoken concerning him, which was according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them. (Alma 13: 24-26)

the “unto many” that he referred to were the members of the church of his day. This wasn’t a select few leaders, one or two here or there, a quorum of three or twelve or fifteen, it was the general membership of the church. These ancients had all received angelic ministrations because this is what they were taught to do. This was how they tried their faith and received a witness of its veracity.

The same gospel, given to the Gentiles

The gospel given to the Nephites, including the eye to eye doctrine of confirmatory, angelic ministrations, was prayed (in faith) by the ancient inhabitants of this land to go to the Lamanites of a future day, hence the appearance of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is a record of angelic sermons, or words of Christ received through angelic means. It is designed to be this way so that when the Lamanites receive it, they will, like their ancestors, seek to obtain a manifestation of its truth through angelic ministration, once again repeating and initiating the ancient gospel given to the Nephites. In order to see eye to eye on angelic ministration, you must have a preacher preaching a message received through the means of angels. That is what the Book of Mormon is. So, the Lamanites then, when they read of Nephi’s visions, or Lehi’s visions, or Jacob’s or Alma’s or any one of the angelic visitations and declarations found in the record, will be able to put that word in their hearts and exercise faith and pray down the angels to manifest the same things to them by the power of the Holy Ghost.

This was the intent and faith and prayers of the ancients for this record, to jump start the Lamanites and to give them the same gospel which the ancient inhabitants lived.

On the other hand, the Gentiles who obtained the book could also have the same gospel, if they wanted it. The angelic word is there, if they wanted to apply it as the Lamanites of a future day would. But history has shown the Gentiles to be a hard-hearted, faithless bunch. Joseph Smith tried to get the people to see what he saw, to behold the same visions, to see the same angels, to receive the same message—in other words, to accept the gospel given to the Nephites—but the Gentile church is more or less content with having one man in charge who receives from the Lord, and then having that man (or a small group of men) tell them what to do. Joseph was only able to get a few individuals to behold the marvelous power of God that he beheld, such as Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Sidney Ridgon. Everyone else pretty much rejected the eye to eye doctrine found in the Book of Mormon. Hence the condemnation found upon the church today.

No angels = no faith = no salvation

The doctrine the Nephites preached was not the doctrine the modern Gentile church preaches and practices. Yet, it is the very doctrine that God wants everyone to live, which is why He brought it forth.

Mormon stated that if the ministration of angels ever ceased, it would be “because of unbelief, and all is vain.” The cessation of the appearance of angels among the Gentile church is proof positive that the church is condemned, or to be plainer in writing, damned, because “if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.” (See Moroni 7: 37-38.)

Let me re-phrase that to be clearer in writing. If angels ever cease appearing to the Gentile church of God, then faith will have ceased also among the church of God, and awful is the state of the church of God, for the church of God will be as though there had been no redemption. Notice, in particular, Mormon’s words: “for they are as though there had been no redemption made.” Abinadi and Alma also used such a phrase:

But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God. (Mosiah 16: 5)

And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness. Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will. Then, I say unto you, they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption. (Alma 12: 16-18)

So, according to the above scriptures, if the Gentile church of God no longer has angels appearing to them, it is because they don’t have faith, and therefore they are under the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will, and they (the church of God!) are enemies to God. They, then, are not in a redeemed or saved condition, but are damned. All because they do not exercise faith to behold angels, as did the ancient Nephite church.

Remember, the Lord stated in D&C 84: 55-57 that the entire church was brought under condemnation because they did not do what was written in the Book of Mormon. This condemnation has never been lifted.  Even now, we give a lot of lip service to it, but do not live its teachings.

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The Will of God and Faith


Romans 9: 6-24 [English Standard Version]:

…it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written [in Malachi], “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God’s part?  By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?  Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory — even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

The two historical cases:

Looking at Paul’s logic — because God chose one of Abraham’s spouses over the others, it follows that claiming descent from Abraham was not sufficient to make one an heir to God’s promise:

And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Further because God chose one of Rebekah’s twins over the other, claiming descent from Isaac was not sufficient to make one an heir to God’s promise.

And Isaac intreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.  And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the Lord.  And the Lord said unto her, two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

NOTE:  However, Rebekah was told that the older would serve the younger.  Given the Lord’s vernacular for presidency/leadership as voluntary servitude – perhaps this was a misunderstood revelation, and that misunderstanding led things to play out the way they did.  Just a thought.

The extrapolated case:

From these two historical cases, Paul theroizes that it is then likewise true that claiming to be “of Israel” cannot demonstrate that a person is right with God [or justified].

The implication made by using Abraham and Isaac as examples, is that being a justified believer is still a function of God’s choice [like choosing Sarah’s son over Hagar’s, and choosing one of Rebekah’s sons over the other].   He either made you for glory or for wrath and you are in no place to dispute His choice for you.

This is the Calvinistic doctrine of “irresistible grace” — wherein they conclude that it is not possible for humans to have any role in justification — because how could we do anything more than God could do Himself?

What about faith?

However, Paul consistently stresses “faith” as the means of access to God and to a justified state with Him:

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.  Is he the God of the Jews only?  is he not also of the Gentiles?  Yes, of the Gentiles also:  Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

and

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

and

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

and

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

and

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Faith = Word of God + Belief + the Spirit:

So, if humans have access to God by virtue of faith — then it must still be God’s irresistible choice as to who “gets faith” and who does not — right?  To answer this question, it requires one to look at Alma’s preaching on the subject of faith that is found in Alma 32:

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed.

Equating the word of God with a seed is also done in Luke 8: 11;  1 Peter  1: 23; Romans 10: 17; and Galatians 3: 2-9.  The farmer analogy is quite accurate.  The right-brain-hearts of humans are soil, which can be at varying degrees of receptiveness for the seeds, which are the various doctrines of God, the devil, and of men.  The faith that will justify a person with respect to God comes as the ever-good seed is allowed to germinate and grow in the right-brain-heart.

Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart,

This “place” is given in the right-brain-heart.  It involves the concept of yielding [Mosiah 3:19] or being lowly, humble, and teachable.  Broken soil [or a softened right-brain-heart] is a result of a person humbling him/herself — thereby having a broken heart or contrite spirit.  This is equivalent to being “poor in heart” — which Alma observed that the Zoramites were:

of whom were poor in heart, because of their poverty as to the things of the world.

In their case, worldly poverty had brought them to this “lowliness of heart” state:

And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?

Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed — yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.

So, Alma describes two options for softening the right-brain-heart:  a person may wait for certain circumstances to bring about a state of humility [or soft ground], which will make him/her open and receptive to the word — or a person may exercise self-motivation by virtue of the power of the word alone [motivated by the promises of the Lord], and give place for that seed on his/her own.

Also, if a person’s circumstances do not cause him/her to be humble and they cannot seem to humble themselves before the Lord, then the Lord provides another tool for a man or woman to obtain the required humility:  fasting and prayer.

Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.

This is how the ancients did it, because this is how it is done.

Continuing one with Alma’s preaching in chapter 32:

behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed,

The seed Alma spoke of was:

the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.

This is the ever-good seed.  Any seed that is planted and persuades a person to believe in and plant this ever-good seed, is also a good seed.  While any seed that is planted and persuades a person not to believe in and plant the ever-good seed, is not a good seed.  None of this has anything to do with religion or churches.  All seeds are judged to be good or evil by how they measure up to the ever-good seed and whether they point people towards, or away from, it:

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

Continuing on in Alma 32:

if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord,

Unbelief is equated by Alma with resistance.  Resistance requires effort or work.  It means to oppose with force. The opposite of resisting would be to bow, give in, submit, succumb, surrender, or yield.  All of these words imply a lack of effort or ceasing to work.

As belief is an entirely passive act, any effort whatsoever on a person’s part will stand as an obstacle or impediment to the formula for obtaining faith.  It is like someone pushing you and simply allowing yourself to be pushed — or being in a river that is pushing you downriver and allowing yourself to be carried along.  No effort.  This is belief.

The moment there is resistance [in the slightest degree] to that push, even to just change the direction of travel one inch, it will decrease belief — ultimately turning it into its opposite [disbelief or doubt], which is a state of resistance to the Spirit of the Lord.

behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves — It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

This is a formula — akin to a scientific equation or cooking recipe.  Following the steps with the outlined ingredients will always produce the same result.  If a person varies one step or another — or rationalizes that a certain step is not required — or puts in some of their own effort into the formula — anything different causes “user error” and faith will not result.

The desire to believe:

But what can a person a person do if he/she is having problems with the formula?  There are certain signs following them that believe.  The purpose of these signs is to give the professed believer [and also the church] a means to discern justified believers in Christ [saints, who possess faith] from non-justified believers in Christ [Christians, who do not possess faith] — this is the fruit by which you may know them.  If one finds that he/she is not able to:

In my name they shall do many wonderful works; In my name they shall cast out devils; In my name they shall heal the sick; In my name they shall open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf; And the tongue of the dumb shall speak; And if any man shall administer poison unto them it shall not hurt them; And the poison of a serpent shall not have power to harm them.

or

And these signs shall follow them that believe — in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.

Then Alma advises that:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words

What will “awake and arouse your faculties”?  This was mentioned earlier in describing how to soften the soil:

  • One could be compelled by circumstances to have a desire to believe.
  • One could be motivated by virtue of the promises of the Lord in His word to desire to believe.
  • One could fast and pray until a desire to believe stirs in his/her right-brain-heart.

Again, “let this desire work in you” is the same as being in that river of water that is pushing you downriver, and instead of resisting, just allowing yourself to be carried along.

God’s will is your faith:

God works according to the faith of the children of men — meaning according to the formula outlined above.  Thus, the doctrine of God saving people by virtue of His will and choice is true.  However, that He works according to our faith means that His “choice” cannot be outside the bounds of an agent’s faith.

There is no such thing as something operating solely according to the will of God without the context of our faith.  Things operate solely according to the faith of agents — and this is God’s will.  This is why, for example, when Alma and Amulek were beholding the destruction of the saints by fire — and Amulek says to Alma:

How can we witness this awful scene?  Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us [which power comes by faith], and save them from the flames.

we read that Alma replies:

The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand.

Because Alma and Amulek had the faith to stop the destruction — the Spirit needed to tell them that they should not use their gift because there was a wiser purpose in letting the saints die.  Should it be the case that God’s will can be done without regard for an agent’s faith — then there would have been no purpose in the Spirit telling Alma anything.  Alma would have just stretched forth his hand and watched as the flames kept on burning [Much like what many LDS experience with priesthood healings, etc.].

The principle is that God must act where there is faith, so the Spirit had to tell Alma not extend his hand [not to exercise his faith] so that the destruction would not stop.

Also, there are two examples from Paul.  In 1 Corinthians 14, he gives a command that members of the church who possess the gift of tongues refrain from using their gift in church meetings whenever a member with the gift of interpretation of tongues is not present:

…let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church;

No such instruction would be needed unless the gifts are available to be used at will by those who have faith.  If the gifts worked according to God’s will and choice alone, then the Spirit would simply not manifest tongues in cases when an interpreter was absent — and no one would need instruction from Paul.

Also, in Acts 21, we see Paul in a similar circumstance as Alma and Amulek.  Paul is told twice, through the gift of prophecy, not to go to Jerusalem.  In the wording of the Alma 14 story we could say:  “The Spirit constraineth Paul that he must not go forth unto Jerusalem.

And finding disciples, we tarried [at Tyre] seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

and

And as we tarried [at Ptolemais] many days, there came down from Judæa a certain prophet, named Agabus.  And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.  And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Yet, while Alma and Amulek chose to submit their faith to what the Spirit had told them — Paul chooses otherwise.  Exercising his faith — Paul feels it better to die at Jerusalem for the name of Jesus Christ.  When the people saw that Paul could not be persuaded, they acknowledged that:

The will of the Lord be done.

And His will is done — in these examples and in the example of exercising faith unto salvation.  It is God’s will that people work according to their faith — and His will is done when faith is used.  With respect to salvation, God chooses every person that He has the power to choose — and He only has power where there is faith.  Thus He “chooses” all those who have faith.

Next Article by Justin:

Previous Article by Justin:  The Tribal Church

See also:  The Faith of God Series, FPR post on LDS Cessationism, T&S post on LDS Cessationism, and W&T post on Alma 32

Lehi’s Josephite Prophecy


The chapter heading

The chapter heading of 2 Nephi 3 says the following:

Joseph in Egypt saw the Nephites in vision—He prophesied of Joseph Smith, the latter-day seer; of Moses, who would deliver Israel; and of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

I have always been taught that this particular chapter contains, as its heading indicates, a prophecy of Joseph in Egypt about Joseph Smith, Jun., Moses and the Book of Mormon.  I assumed that every mention of a seer was Joseph Smith and that every mention of a scriptural record was the Book of Mormon.  I no longer hold that view.

11 possible personages and 8 possible scriptural records

As I have gone through this chapter, comparing it to the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 50: 24-36, I have found 11 possible personages spoken of by either Joseph in Egypt or Lehi.    In addition, I see a possibility that 8 separate records are spoken of, not just one (the Book of Mormon).  Here is the list of people mentioned:

  • 1.  A righteous branch – per Lehi
  • 2.  The prophet Moses that delivers people from Egypt – per Joseph
  • 3.  A spokesman for Moses called Aaron – per Joseph
  • 4.  A seer (a choice seer) “like unto” Moses – per both Joseph and Lehi
  • 5.  A seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt, called Joseph – per Joseph
  • 6.  A seer “like unto” Lehi, called Lehi – per Lehi
  • 7.  A descendent of Joseph in Egypt (Joseph Smith, Jun.) who brings forth “expedient” words that “cry from the dust” (the Book of Mormon) – per Joseph
  • 8.  A spokesman for Joseph Smith (Sidney Rigdon) – per Joseph
  • 9.  A descendent of Lehi who brings forth Lehite scripture – per Lehi
  • 10.  A spokesman for the Lehite descendent – per Lehi
  • 11.  A Josephite restorer working miracles – per Lehi

Here is a list of possible scriptural records spoken of in these scriptures:

  • 1.  “a work” performed by a seer “like unto” Moses
  • 2.  “power to bring forth my word” and a “thing” brought “forth by his hand” by a seer “like unto” Joseph
  • 3.  “power to bring forth my word” and a “thing” brought “forth by his hand” by a seer”like unto” Lehi
  • 4.  The Brass Plates* (“that which shall be written by the fruit of thy [Joseph’s] loins”)
  • 5.  The Bible (“that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah”)
  • 6.  “judgment in writing” and “my law” by Moses
  • 7.  The Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith, Jun.
  • 8.  “the writing of the fruit of thy [Lehi’s] loins” (expedient words) by a descendant of Lehi

Same or different people/records?

Some of these individuals may be the same person, just as some of these records may be the same.  But, there is also the possibility that they are all different people and all different records.  It is possible to narrow things down a bit.  For example, let’s take a look at only the list of 6 people who were mentioned by Joseph in Egypt:

  • 1.  The prophet Moses that delivers people from Egypt – per Joseph
  • 2.  A spokesman for Moses called Aaron – per Joseph
  • 3.  A seer (a choice seer) “like unto” Moses – per both Joseph and Lehi
  • 4.  A seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt, called Joseph – per Joseph
  • 5.  A descendent of Joseph in Egypt (Joseph Smith, Jun.) who brings forth “expedient” words that “cry from the dust” (the Book of Mormon) – per Joseph
  • 6.  A spokesman for Joseph Smith (Sidney Rigdon) – per Joseph

Moses and Aaron (#1 and #2) can be set aside.  We know who they were and the records they brought forth.  Joseph and Sidney (#5 and #6) we can also set aside.  That leaves a seer “like unto” Moses (#3) and a seer “like unto” Joseph (#4).  Are these two seers the same person?  Are they all the same as Joseph Smith, Jun.?  That is the current interpretation of most LDS.  It may be the correct one.  However, verse 12, which speaks of the Brass Plates* and the Bible, presents a problem because the Brass Plates are listed as either making up “my word which shall have already gone forth among them” or as being “my word” which the seer “like unto” Joseph would bring forth.  During the time of Joseph Smith, Jun. the Brass Plates weren’t around, nor did Joseph translate them.  Therefore, Joseph doesn’t fit as this seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt.

That said, it may be that Joseph Smith may yet fulfill the prophecy of this seer if he comes back and translates the Brass Plates or if he comes back after the Brass Plates have been revealed.

The seer “like unto” Moses may also be Joseph Smith, but we don’t have much detail to go on, other than he will be “great like unto Moses” and will do “a work” to bring his brethren to a knowledge of the covenants that the Lord made with their fathers.  That can apply to Joseph Smith, or it may apply to some other seer.  The fact, though, that this seer will be “like unto” Moses and that Moses was a “deliverer” of the Lord’s people, may mean that the seer “like unto Moses” will also be a deliverer of the Lord’s people.  Did Joseph “deliver” the Lord’s people from a Pharaoh-type of individual?  No.

Again, the seer “like unto” Joseph is going to be like Joseph because “the thing which the Lords shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation.”  So, just as Joseph saved his family from starvation, so likewise the seer “like unto” Joseph will save the Lord’s people.  From starvation?  We don’t know.  We LDS often assume that everything is spiritual in the scriptures, but really, as Nephi said, things manifested to prophets by the voice of the Spirit are often “things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual”.

So, nothing concrete can be determined about the seer “like unto” Moses and the seer “like unto” Joseph.  We are free to interpret these seers as Joseph Smith (whether his future or past missions), but we are likewise free to interpret them as separate and distinct seers, one that will deliver the Lord’s people (temporally and spiritually) and one that will save the Lord’s people (temporally and spiritually).

However, what we do know is that the seer “like unto” Joseph will be named Joseph, like his father.  And the seer “like unto” Lehi will be named Lehi, like his father.  So, if there is a pattern here, we might surmise that the seer “like unto” Moses will be named Moses, like his father.  If this is a true pattern, then it will be a little easier to determine who these seers are when they show up, merely by finding out their names and their father’s names.

Lehi’s list of 6 seers

Here is the list of personages mentioned by Lehi in the Book of Mormon:

  • 1.  A righteous branch – per Lehi
  • 2.  A seer (a choice seer) “like unto” Moses – per both Joseph and Lehi
  • 3.  A seer “like unto” Lehi, called Lehi – per Lehi
  • 4.  A descendent of Lehi who brings forth Lehite scripture – per Lehi
  • 5.  A spokesman for the Lehite descendent – per Lehi
  • 6.  A Josephite restorer working miracles – per Lehi

I’ve already covered a seer “like unto” Moses.  The “righteous branch” we don’t know much about.  It may be Joseph Smith, or it may be some other seer.  We do know that this “righteous branch” is not the Messiah because Lehi explicitly says so.

A seer “like unto” Lehi, who is called Lehi after the name of his father, has not shown up, yet.  This man may be a descendant of Lehi or merely a descendent of Joseph in Egypt.  But we do know that Joseph Smith doesn’t fit because he had the wrong name.  Also, as this seer will be “like unto” Lehi, it may mean that he will save the Lord’s people in the same manner as Lehi did.  How did Lehi save the Lord’s people?  By leading them away from the apostate majority.

A descendent of Lehi (plus spokesman) still hasn’t shown up.  Also, the new Lehite record that this man will translate hasn’t come forth, as yet.  Joseph Smith doesn’t fit this bill as he’s got the wrong lineage.

Lastly, the Josephite restorer still hasn’t shown up.  Again, Joseph Smith’s lineage is wrong.  This man will be a descendant of Joseph, son of Lehi.  He will not be a Lamanite, Lemuelite, Ishmaelite, Jacobite, Zoramite, Mulekite or Nephite.  This narrows it down a bit.  Once we know the man’s lineage, it will be much easier to determine whether he is the man spoken of here by Lehi.

Prophecy is a pattern

In Lehi’s blessing to his son Joseph, he paraphrased Joseph in Egypt, using Joseph’s prophecies as a base or reference point, upon which to pronounce his own prophecies which were tailored to his son Joseph (son of Lehi).  Unless his words explicitly state that he is paraphrasing Joseph in Egypt, it may be rightly interpreted as being Lehi’s own prophecy, which he was pronouncing on the spot, being filled with the spirit of prophecy and revelation.  Keep this in mind.

Lehi wasn’t just a simple prophet.  He was a seer.  We don’t know if he possessed a Urim and Thummim, but we do know that he was a “visionary man”, seeing things in visions and dreams.  This is the mark of a seer, not a prophet.  But Lehi also prophesied of things.  So, he was a seer and a prophet.  And he received revelations, new commandments that pertained to the Nephites, altering the law which was given to Moses in significant ways.  He was a prophet, seer and revelator and a dispensation head, being the head of the so-called Nephite dispensation.  In fact, he was very much “like unto” Moses.  Lehi, then, was uniquely qualified to speak of seers, being one himself, and also of prophecies, having spoken and written many of his own, and of revelations, having revealed the word of the Lord to his people.

The tendency to treat 2 Ne. 3 as if Lehi was merely quoting Joseph in Egypt is tempting, as this is what non-prophets and non-seers typically do.  We non-prophets quote others whose words we consider greater than ours.  (For example, consider our favorite past-time of quoting general authorities.)  Instead of adding something new, our own prophecy, we rehash what others have already said.  But Lehi and Joseph were equals, seeing eye to eye.  They both were seers.  2 Ne. 3, then, should be viewed as Lehi’s prophecy, not as Joseph in Egypt’s prophecy.  The paraphrasing he does of Joseph in Egypt’s words is to launch his own prophecy, tailored specifically to his son’s lineage.  In other words, he took the words of Joseph as a pattern and applied it in his own prophecy.  So, when reviewing the differences between the two versions, each version should be taken as a separate and distinct prophecy.

Okay, let’s get into the text.

Lehi’s opening words to his son Joseph

In chapter 3 of 2 Nephi, Lehi gives a father’s blessing to his youngest son Joseph, prophesying concerning Joseph’s seed (the Josephites) in the latter days.  Lehi begins by wishing that the land (the American continent) be consecrated to Joseph and his seed (the Josephites) for their inheritance along with Joseph’s brothers, for Joseph’s “security forever,” if they would just keep the commandments of God.  Next, he wishes that God would bless Joseph forever and then prophesies, “thy seed shall not utterly be destroyed.”  (See verses 2 and 3.)

He then attempts to explain or expound upon his prophecy to Joseph, detailing exactly how it is that his “seed shall not utterly be destroyed.”  To do this, Lehi turns to the plates of brass, to a prophecy uttered by Joseph in Egypt.  Lehi cites and/or paraphrases the ancient Joseph’s words, reviewing “the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph.”  These words do not appear in the Bible (the stick of Judah) but they were found written on the plates of brass (the stick of Ephraim).  Luckily, however, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible contains a version of this prophecy.

A righteous branch; a prophet; neither of which is the Messiah

It may be helpful to compare the two versions.  I will put in bold type everything that is exactly the same.

And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die, and go unto my fathers; and I go down to my grave with joy. The God of my father Jacob be with you, to deliver you out of affliction in the days of your bondage; for the Lord hath visited me, and I have obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of my loins, the Lord God will raise up a righteous branch out of my loins; and unto thee, whom my father Jacob hath named Israel, a prophet; (not the Messiah who is called Shilo;) and this prophet shall deliver my people out of Egypt in the days of thy bondage.  And it shall come to pass that they shall be scattered again; and a branch shall be broken off, and shall be carried into a far country; nevertheless they shall be remembered in the covenants of the Lord, when the Messiah cometh; for he shall be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the Spirit of power; and shall bring them out of darkness into light; out of hidden darkness, and out of captivity unto freedom.  (JST Gen. 50: 24-25)

Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.  (2 Ne. 3: 5)

Notice that there is a difference between the two versions.  The JST seems to have Joseph in Egypt saying that God will raise up two things: 1) a righteous branch out of Joseph’s loins and 2) a prophet, raised up unto Israel.  This prophet was to deliver the people of the Lord out of Egypt in the days of bondage, and was not going to be the Messiah, so presumably this is Moses.  Again, the JST is talking of two separate things: a righteous branch and the prophet Moses.

But Lehi mixes the two together.   Lehi says that it will be a righteous branch that will be raised up unto Israel (not Moses, like Joseph in Egypt said), and that this righteous branch will not be the Messiah.  Lehi completely skips over all talk of Moses.

Okay, thus far we have:

  • A righteous branch mentioned by Joseph and Lehi (not the Messiah, according to Lehi)
  • A prophet mentioned by Joseph only (not the Messiah, according to Joseph in Egypt)

A seer (a choice seer) “like unto” Moses; Moses identified as the “prophet”

A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins.  (JST Gen. 50: 26)

For Joseph truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins.  (2 Ne. 3: 6)

Lehi ceases paraphrasing and here directly quotes from the plates of brass.  Now we have to add a third item on this list:

  • A righteous branch mentioned by Joseph and Lehi (not the Messiah, according to Lehi)
  • A prophet that delivers people from Egypt, mentioned by Joseph only (not the Messiah, according to Joseph in Egypt)
  • A seer (a choice seer)

The record continues:

Thus saith the Lord God of my fathers unto me, A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins, and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren.  And he shall bring them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers; and he shall do whatsoever work I shall command him.  And I will make him great in mine eyes, for he shall do my work; and he shall be great like unto him whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel, out of the land of Egypt; for a seer will I raise up to deliver my people out of the land of Egypt; and he shall be called Moses. And by this name he shall know that he is of thy house; for he shall be nursed by the king’s daughter, and shall be called her son.  (JST Gen. 50: 27-29)

Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.  And I will give unto him a commandment that he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him. And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work.  And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel.  And Moses will I raise up, to deliver thy people out of the land of Egypt.  (2 Ne. 3: 7-10)

With these verses we now read that Lehi is mentioning Moses and is identifying him as the delivering prophet.  So, our list is now:

  • A righteous branch (not the Messiah, according to Lehi)
  • The prophet Moses that delivers people from Egypt (not the Messiah, according to Joseph in Egypt)
  • A seer (a choice seer) that brings his brethren to a knowledge of the Lord’s covenants which he made with the fathers of Joseph in Egypt; and is considered great “like unto” Moses

A seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt, called Joseph

And again, a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins, and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins; and not to the bringing forth of my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them in the last days; wherefore the fruit of thy loins shall write, and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together unto the confounding of false doctrines, and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to a knowledge of their fathers in the latter days; and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.  And out of weakness shall he be made strong, in that day when my work shall go forth among all my people, which shall restore them, who are of the house of Israel, in the last days.  And that seer will I bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise I give unto you; for I will remember you from generation to generation; and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father; and he shall be like unto you; for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation.  (JST Gen. 50: 30-33)

But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.  Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.  And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.  And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise; and his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.  (2 Ne. 3: 11-15)

Now we have a new prophecy, of a new seer.  (The words, “and again,” found in JST Gen. 50: 30, tips us off that we are now talking of something different.  Also, the writings mentioned in these scriptures are the two sticks, the stick of Judah, which is the Bible, and the stick of Joseph, which is the Brass Plates*.)  Here is our list:

  • A righteous branch (not the Messiah, according to Lehi)
  • The prophet Moses that delivers people from Egypt (not the Messiah, according to Joseph in Egypt)
  • A seer (a choice seer) that brings his brethren to a knowledge of the Lord’s covenants which he made with the fathers of Joseph in Egypt; and is considered great “like unto” Moses
  • A seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt, that is given power to bring forth word and convince of word; shall be weak but made strong; shall be called Joseph; father’s name shall be called Joseph; etc.

A seer “like unto” Lehi, called Lehi

There is at least a possibility that Lehi, using Joseph in Egypt’s words found upon the plates of brass,inserted his own prophecy at this point. When Lehi said, “And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold,that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled,” this may have been either a direct quote from the Brass Plates or a paraphrase.  But his next statement may have been Lehi’s own prophecy, using many of the same words Joseph in Egypt used: “Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise; and his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.”

I’ll break the scripture down to better explain what I mean:

And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: [Lehi quoting or paraphrasing Joseph] Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I [Joseph] have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. [Lehi now begins his own prophecy] Behold, I [Lehi] am sure of the fulfilling of this promise; and his name shall be called after me [Lehi]; and it shall be after the name of his father [Lehi]. And he shall be like unto me [Lehi]; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people [Lehi’s people] unto salvation.  [Lehi switching back to Joseph’s prophecy] Yea, thus prophesied Joseph: I am sure of this thing, even as I am sure of the promise of Moses; for the Lord hath said unto me, I will preserve thy seed forever.  (2 Ne. 3: 14-16)

Assuming that Lehi prophesied of yet another seer to appear in the latter days, here is the list so far:

  • A righteous branch (not the Messiah, according to Lehi)
  • The prophet Moses that delivers people from Egypt (not the Messiah, according to Joseph in Egypt)
  • A seer (a choice seer) “like unto” Moses
  • A seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt, called Joseph
  • A seer “like unto” Lehi, called Lehi, having power to bring forth a “thing” that will bring Lehi’s people to salvation

Moses and Aaron

And the Lord sware unto Joseph that he would preserve his seed forever, saying, I will raise up Moses, and a rod shall be in his hand, and he shall gather together my people, and he shall lead them as a flock, and he shall smite the waters of the Red Sea with his rod.  And he shall have judgment, and shall write the word of the Lord. And he shall not speak many words, for I will write unto him my law by the finger of mine own hand. And I will make a spokesman for him, and his name shall be called Aaron.  (JST Gen. 50: 34-35)

Yea, thus prophesied Joseph: I am sure of this thing, even as I am sure of the promise of Moses; for the Lord hath said unto me, I will preserve thy seed forever.  And the Lord hath said: I will raise up a Moses; and I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing. Yet I will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for I will not make him mighty in speaking. But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand; and I will make a spokesman for him.  (2 Ne. 3: 16-17)

Our list continues:

  • A righteous branch
  • The prophet Moses that delivers people from Egypt
  • A spokesman for Moses called Aaron
  • A seer (a choice seer) “like unto” Moses
  • A seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt, called Joseph
  • A seer “like unto” Lehi, called Lehi

Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon

And it shall be done unto thee in the last days also, even as I have sworn. Therefore, Joseph said unto his brethren, God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land, unto the land which he sware unto Abraham, and unto Isaac, and to Jacob.  (JST Gen. 50: 36)

And the Lord said unto me also: I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman. And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it.  And the words which he shall write shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins. And it shall be as if the fruit of thy loins had cried unto them from the dust; for I know their faith.  And they shall cry from the dust; yea, even repentance unto their brethren, even after many generations have gone by them. And it shall come to pass that their cry shall go, even according to the simpleness of their words.  Because of their faith their words shall proceed forth out of my mouth unto their brethren who are the fruit of thy loins; and the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith, unto the remembering of my covenant which I made unto thy fathers.  (2 Ne. 3: 18-21)

Whereas the JST Bible (stick of Judah) just gives a summary: “and it shall be done unto thee in the last days, also, even as I have sworn”, Lehi’s words here, if taken to be a paraphrase or quote of Joseph in Egypt’s words, show that the Brass Plates go into much greater detail.  We learn that there will be a repeat of the Moses/Aaron scenario, that a descendant of Joseph in Egypt will have a spokesman and that this descendent will write “expedient” words, which words will “cry from the dust” and that these words are not called “my words” but “their words” (the writings of the fruit of the loins of Joseph).  From all this information it becomes easy to identify who this descendant is, who the spokesman is and what the record is.  Here is our updated list:

  • A righteous branch
  • The prophet Moses that delivers people from Egypt
  • A spokesman for Moses called Aaron
  • A seer (a choice seer) “like unto” Moses
  • A seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt, called Joseph
  • A seer “like unto” Lehi, called Lehi
  • A descendent of Joseph in Egypt (Joseph Smith, Jun.) who brings forth “expedient” words that “cry from the dust” (the Book of Mormon)
  • A spokesman for Joseph Smith (Sidney Rigdon)

A descendent of Lehi, a spokesman and some Lehite scriptures

The above scripture can also be interpreted as Lehi’s words, not Joseph’s.  So, when Lehi says, “And the Lord said unto me also”, he is not paraphrasing or quoting Joseph in Egypt, but actually giving his own prophecy, yet again.  In that case, there will be a descendent of Lehi raised up, as well as a spokesman, and this descendent will write Lehite scriptures which will be taken to the latter-day Lehites.  In fact, the scripture might actually have a dual fulfillment, one applying to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, and one applying to the Lehite descendent and spokesman.  In other words, “And the Lord said unto me also” might mean that the Lord said this to Joseph as well as to Lehi.  Based on that, here is the potential list:

  • A righteous branch
  • The prophet Moses that delivers people from Egypt
  • A spokesman for Moses called Aaron
  • A seer (a choice seer) “like unto” Moses
  • A seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt, called Joseph
  • A seer “like unto” Lehi, called Lehi
  • A descendent of Joseph in Egypt (Joseph Smith, Jun.) who brings forth “expedient” words that “cry from the dust” (the Book of Mormon)
  • A spokesman for Joseph Smith (Sidney Rigdon)
  • A descendent of Lehi who brings forth another book of Lehite scripture
  • A spokesman for the Lehite descendent

The Josephite Restorer

As we can see, our list is getting lengthy.  At this point, Lehi has sufficiently reviewed the covenants of the Lord made to Joseph in Egypt to explain how it is that the Josephites “shall not utterly be destroyed.”

And now, behold, my son Joseph, after this manner did my father of old prophesy.  Wherefore, because of this covenant thou art blessed; for thy seed shall not be destroyed, for they shall hearken unto the words of the book.  (2 Ne. 3: 22-23)

The reason given as to why they don’t get destroyed is that the Josephites of the latter-days “shall hearken unto the words of the book.”  The book is not named.  It could be the Book of Mormon, which cries “repentance unto their brethren” from the dust or it could be another Lehite book of scripture that does the same.  Or it could be both records brought together as one book.  Regardless of what the scenario is, the Josephites will end up hearkening and will repent of all their sins.

Because of their penitence, the Josephites will get an additional blessing.  Lehi now proceeds to give his own prophecy concerning the latter days:

And there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren.  And now, blessed art thou, Joseph. Behold, thou art little; wherefore hearken unto the words of thy brother, Nephi, and it shall be done unto thee even according to the words which I have spoken. Remember the words of thy dying father. Amen.  (2 Ne. 3: 24-25)

“And there shall rise up one mighty among them,” says Lehi.  Who is “them”?  It is the descendents (or seed) of Joseph, the son of Lehi.  It is the Josephites.  This Josephite restorer will be attended with miracles (working mighty wonders) and will bring to pass “much restoration” to the rest of the Lehites as well as to the whole house of Israel.  Here is the final list:

  • A righteous branch
  • The prophet Moses that delivers people from Egypt
  • A spokesman for Moses called Aaron
  • A seer (a choice seer) “like unto” Moses
  • A seer “like unto” Joseph in Egypt, called Joseph
  • A seer “like unto” Lehi, called Lehi
  • A descendent of Joseph in Egypt (Joseph Smith, Jun.) who brings forth “expedient” words that “cry from the dust” (the Book of Mormon)
  • A spokesman for Joseph Smith (Sidney Rigdon)
  • A descendent of Lehi who brings forth another book of Lehite scripture
  • A spokesman for the Lehite descendent
  • A Josephite restorer working miracles

Conclusion

There are potentially eleven people spoken of in this chapter.  Only one of them is plainly Joseph Smith.  And there are potentially eight books of scripture mentioned.  Again, only one of them is plainly the Book of Mormon.  In my view, 2 Nephi chapter 3 is not as cut and dry as the chapter heading would have us believe.

*Note: For more information, see the blog post, Why I Believe the Plates of Brass Are Next.

Update and correction (made 30 March 2014):

When I wrote the text above, I interpreted “that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah” as the Bible. Two years later I wrote the CTC post, which brought out the book of the Lamb of God stuff. Coming back to this post and reading it, I see that “that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah” is likely the book of the Lamb of God, per the CTC post, and not the Bible, as I had previously thought. The Bible is likely just a shadow fulfillment. For more info on the book of the Lamb of God, see the following post: 1 Nephi 13 & 14 commentary, using CTC’s view.

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