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|Parsing Nephi: First Nephi III (1 Nephi 10-14)|
Sep. 27th, 2011 at 4:00 am
Last year, I started a series of articles examining apparent chapter divisions within the original Book of Mormon manuscript as they apply to Nephi’s writing:
I then went on a general blogging slowdown, not just here but on my own four blogs as well. But I decided this past weekend that it was time to get myself in gear and finish up this series. Be sure to read the four posts above and especially the excellent comments to see where I’ve been and where I’m going. The new post is after the jump.
In Chapter III of First Nephi, Nephi gives us his third introduction in as many chapters, and again finds himself taking a detour from covering his “reign and ministry” to cover something more important (all quotes are from Skousen’s The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text):
And now I Nephi proceed to give an account upon these plates
Nephi covers exactly two things in Chapter III. The first is his father Lehi’s prophecy of a future Messiah and the forerunner Prophet who should go before Him. This is a more detailed followup to Lehi’s prophecies in the streets of Jerusalem:
And he testified that the things which he saw and heard,
But here in Chapter III, Lehi is giving the same prophecies and warnings, in apparently greater detail, to Nephi’s brothers, as a follow-up to his concerns about Laman and Lemuel as a result of his dream. He ties it into the scattering of Israel and then ties that into their own flight from Jerusalem and towards “the land of promise.” The account is brief –less that two pages in the Skousen edition — and Nephi defers the rest of the details to his “other book”.
Nephi’s Ascension Vision
The rest of Chapter III — roughly 14 pages in Skousen — is devoted to Nephi’s ascension vision, which blends together elements of both Lehi’s dream and Lehi’s prophecies, but covers much more than Nephi has reported from his father. Nephi was frank about what he wanted:
And it came to pass that after I Nephi having heard all the words of my father…
He then digresses momentarily to issue a short but stern “blessing/warning” sermon, promising that God will answer those who “diligently seek” but will “cast off forever” those who are “found unclean before the judgment seat of God.” He then adds, for the first time, his own prophetic imprimatur:
And the Holy Ghost giveth authority
The modern edition of the Book of Mormon places this statement at the end of 1 Nephi 10, wrapping up his sermonette, but I think Nephi meant it as much for all that would follow in the rest of Chapter III: his ascension vision:
And the Holy Ghost giveth authority
Nephi then records an expansive and detailed vision of future (to Nephi) history, all centered around the coming of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His gospel in the last days. Much has been written about this vision, and a discussion of it doesn’t really fit within the premise of these posts except to note this: Nephi is serving notice, both to his own posterity and that of his brothers, that he was by that point every bit as much a prophet and seer as his father Lehi. He closes up his chapter with that testimony:
And behold, I Nephi am forbidden
The first chapter set forth Nephi being dutiful and obedient. The second chapter set forth Nephi being believing and on the right path (as per Lehi’s dream). This third chapter establishes Nephi as a prophet in his own right. The next chapter- in my next post — is the true start of Nephi’s ministry. ..bruce..