1 Ne 1:5-15
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The relationship of verses 5-15 to the rest of Chapter 1 is discussed at Chapter 1.
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- 1 Ne 1:4-18: The Book of Mormon begins with open heavens. The Book of Mormon story begins (after three verses of introduction about the record) with an account of many prophets preaching how to avoid destruction, of Lehi receiving two visions, and of Lehi joining those other prophets in preaching. Thus, among the first messages taught by the Book of Mormon are the reality of revelation and of the need for revelation to address the circumstances of the day.
- The heavens remain open throughout the Book of Mormon. Ainadom's statement that he is unaware of any revelation in his day is widely seen as an indication of widespread apostasy at a low point in Nephite history in the days before king Mosiah I flees from the land of Nephi to Zarahemla. (Omni 1:11). Moroni concludes the Book of Mormon with a strong statement that revelation will never cease so long as there is faith among mankind. (Moro 7:36-37).
- 1 Ne 1:4-5, 18: Lehi's example in responding to prophets. Lehi's belief in the message of the prophets is shown by his reaction in praying with all his heart in behalf of his people (1 Ne 1:5) and then joining the prophets in preaching that message. (1 Ne 1:18). Nephi does not record that the prophets called upon the people of Jerusalem to join them in preaching, but only called upon them to repent. (1 Ne 1:4). Lehi, however, goes beyond a minimum requirement of personal repentance by praying to the Lord with all his heart on behalf of his people and by actively seeking to cause his people to repent by joining the prophets in preaching. This can serve as an example for how we respond today to the preaching of inspired church leaders.
- 1 Ne 1:5-6: Lehi's prayer on behalf of his people with all his heart. Nephi makes it clear that Lehi's prayer on behalf of his people is not perfunctory, but is offered "with all his heart." This phrase is often used in the scriptures to indicate great sincerity inn following or approaching God. (See, 2 Kgs 23:25; D&C 42:25). It is while praying "with all his heart" that Lehi receives his first vision. (1 Ne 1:5-6). Nephi also records that at the conclusion of Lehi's second vision "his whole heart was filled." (1 Ne 1:15).
- 1 Ne 1:4-6: Revelation pattern. In these verses we see the first instance of a pattern for revelation that is repeated in the Book of Mormon: (1) A prophetic message is heard (1 Ne 1:4); (2) a prayer of faith is offered (1 Ne 1:5); (3) revelation important to the individual's success and survival is given (1 Ne 1:6-15); and (4) the relevant portion of the message is delivered to others. (1 Ne 1:18).
- This pattern is repeated when Nephi likewise: (1) hears the message of Lehi's vision of the tree of life (1 Ne 8:2; 1 Ne 10:17); (2) Nephi ponders the message in faith (1 Ne 11:1; also 1 Ne 15:6-8); (3) receives revelation (1 Ne 11:2-6); and (4) shares the message with others (1 Ne 15:21ff).
- This pattern is also repeated when Enos likewise: (1) was taught a message by his father Jacob (Enos 1:3); (2) cried in mighty prayer (Enos 1:4); (3) received revelation about the safety of his own soul (Enos 1:5-8); and (4) then received revelation for welfare of others and delivered that revelation. (Enos 1:9-19).
- 1 Ne 1:8: Lehi thought he saw. Nephi's report that Lehi "thought" he saw God being praised expresses uncertainty about what he saw. This idea is developed in the discussion regarding certainty of interpretation at 1 Ne 11:9-11.
- 1 Ne 1:8: God on his throne being praised. Lehi's second vision opens with a scene familiar in the prophets: a "theophany," or a vision of "God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God." (1 Ne 1:8). See the list of theophanies collected at Revelation 4.
- The discussion of councils at Amos 3:7 suggests that theophanies are to be equated with councils in heaven and that theophanies legitimize prophetic calls. The theophany at the beginning of Lehi's second vision can thus be understood not only as a personal witness of God, but also as a personal witness of the decision of the council in heaven that legitimizes his call to preach that decision. While not conclusive on this point, some passages in Nephi's writing can be read consistent with this understanding. Nephi begins with a vision of a council in heaven in which Lehi joins in praising God. (1 Ne 1:8-15). Nephi ends ends with a promise that those who receive the Holy Ghost can likewise "shout praises to the Holy One of Israel." (2 Ne 31:13). In this light Nephi's text can be understood as inviting readers to progress from a report of the heavenly council to eventual participation in it.
- 1 Ne 1:8: God being praised by concourses of angels. In this theophany, God is surrounded by "concourses" of angels in the attitude of singing and praising. A concourse is, defined literally, a complete circle. (cite). Thus, central to Lehi's understanding of the heavens, is a sacramental act of praise, a great, celestial prayer circle.
- 1 Ne 1:9: One descending out of heaven; luster. The description of the "One" whose luster is "above that of the sun at noon-day" and the capitalization of the word One making it a title strongly suggest this is the Savior (see General Conference talk below).
- Definitions of "luster" include brightness or splendor. Webster's 1828 Dictionary includes the phrase "as the luster of the sun or stars" to illustrate the meaning of this word. In modern times luster can also mean "a glow of reflected light." But the numerous references to Christ being the light of the world suggest that, when referring to Christ in a glorified condition, that luster would be a light from within rather than a reflected light. (John 1:4-9; John 8:12; D&C 88:6-13).
- 1 Ne 1:7-8, 12-15: Overcome, then filled with the Spirit. Following his first vision, Lehi is "overcome" by the Spirit and the things he saw and heard. This condition shifts dramatically in verse 12 during the second vision when Lehi reads from the book that is given to him and is "filled with the Spirit of the Lord." Do books and scrolls symbolize calls? And could that explain the difference. Or is it simply that this is the focal point of his vision?
- In verses 7-8 Nephi states that Lehi is overcome by "the Spirit," while in verse 12 he is filled with "the Spirit of the Lord." This difference may be intended for literary effect, but it is likely not substantive. While overcome by "the Spirit," Lehi is carried away in a vision of God, during which Nephhi expressly states that Lehi is filled with "the Spirit of the Lord."
- In the first vision, the emphasis was on what Lehi sees and hears. In the second vision the emphasis is on what he sees and reads.
- 1 Ne 1:13-15: Destruction and mercy. Verse 13 speaks of the abominations and destruction of Jerusalem. Then in verses 14-15, Lehi rejoices in God's mercy. This juxtaposition may seem strange. But: (1) verse 14 mentions many other great and marvelous things that Lehi saw that we are not told; and (2) verses 9-12 describe (presumably) the Savior and disciples preaching the gospel and thus providing a way for the inhabitants of the earth to not perish. Whatever the motivation for Lehi's praise of God, it is clearly motivated by God's mercy. "And, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!" (1 Ne 1:14).
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Prompts for life application
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- 1 Ne 1:4-5, 18: Responding to instruction from church leaders. Lehi responded to the message of prophets in his day by praying to the Lord with all his heart on behalf of his people and by joining the prophets in sharing their message. How do we respond to instruction from church leaders today?
Prompts for further study
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- 1 Ne 1:5: "Lehi ... prayed unto the Lord." How did Lehi react after hearing the prophets' message? What can we learn from Lehi's reaction?
- 1 Ne 1:5: "went forth." Where was Lehi headed? Is Nephi saying Lehi was one of the prophets, mentioned in the previous verse, who went to Jerusalem and preached repentance unto its inhabitants? Or was Lehi following their example and providing a second round of repentence preaching?
- 1 Ne 1:5: "prayed." Why did Lehi pray after he had "went forth"? Why didn't he pray beforehand? At what point in his travels did he stop to pray?
- 1 Ne 1:5: "all his heart." If Lehi was commanded to love the Lord with "all his heart" (see Deut 6:5), and love his neighbor as himself (see Lev 19:18), then why is this phrase used to describe his prayer for the people?
- 1 Ne 1:5: "in behalf of." What is to be made of this phrase? Was Lehi simply asking the Lord to forgive "his people"? Or was he perhaps praying as, or in the place of, as proxy for, his people?
- 1 Ne 1:5: "his people." Who was Lehi praying for? The Jews at Jerusalem? Or perhaps his fellow members of the Tribe of Joseph? Members of the Tribe of Joseph already scattered or carried away into captivity?
- 1 Ne 1:5: Number of Visions. Did Lehi have one or two visions? Did the second begin with him seeing “God sitting upon his throne” (verse 8)? Or was the second vision really just a continuation of the first vision? If the pillar of fire in the first vision is connected to Christ's second coming (see D&C 29:12), and the second vision portrays a heavenly being descending from heaven to earth, then are the two visions actually two pieces of the same thing? Do these verses provide no details about the content of the first vision, and then several details about the content of the second vision, because the two visions were really one vision and the details of the second were just a continuation of what was seen in the first?
- 1 Ne 1:5: Did this vision signal Lehi's call as a prophet? Or was he already serving as one? Had he left his house to pray for the people because he was a prophet? Or was he seeking the Lord's will and finding out that the Lord wanted him to serve as a prophet? Why does the verse say Lehi was "carried away" if this language is not used elsewhere in the scriptures to describe visions? Or is this usage comparable to Nephi's discussion of being "carried away in the Spirit" (see 1 Ne 11:19, 1 Ne 11:29, 1 Ne 14:30, and 1 Ne 15:1) or to descriptions of people who fell into trance-like states and were "carried away in God" (see Alma 19:6)? Is this a foreshadowing of what will happen to the inhabitants of Jerusalem if they reject the message Lehi is about to receive in his vision (see 2 Ne 25:10-11)?
- 1 Ne 1:5: Parallels with Joseph Smith. How does Lehi's experience compare with Joseph Smith's experience? Holland, Jeffrey R. Daddy, Donna, and Nephi. Ensign, September 1976.
- 1 Ne 1:5: Revelation. What does the inclusion of Lehi's vision in I Nephi 1 tell us about the importance of ongoing revelation? See also, e.g.: 1 Ne. 2:1-2, 1 Ne. 2:16,19. Holland, Jeffrey R. Daddy, Donna, and Nephi. Ensign, September 1976.
- 1 Ne 1:5: Parallels with Moses. If the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush (Ex 3:2), then was something similar happening with Lehi as he beheld the fire upon the rock? If the Lord used the burning bush as an occasion to call Moses to a great work, then was a similar prophetic calling being extended to Lehi at this time? If Moses fel overwhelmed at the thought of battling Pharaoh for the freedom of the Israelites (see Ex 3:11), then was Lehi experiencing similar feelings when "he did quake and tremble exceedingly"?
- 1 Ne 1:5: In verses 9-11, Christ appears to Lehi and gives him a book to read. Is it significant that this revelation occurs by means of a revealed book rather than by Christ speaking to Lehi or in some other way? (Compare Ezek 2:9, Rev 5:1-5, and Rev 10:2, and 8-10.)
- 1 Ne 1:6: "pillar of fire." What is this thing that Lehi saw (verse 6)? Did Lehi connect it with the pillar of fire that accompanied the Israelites on their march out of Egypt? Was this the Lord's way of teaching Lehi that he is embarking on an exodus? Is the connection of a fire from heaven with a rock a hint that Lehi was in the process of offering a sacrifice upon an altar (see Judg 6:21)?
- 1 Ne 1:6: "quake and tremble." Was Lehi suddenly feeling this way because the vision left him with an acute awareness of his sins (compare to 1 Ne 22:23 and Isa 6:5)? Or is this what naturally happens to mortals when the Lord looks upon them (see Mosiah 27:31) and addresses them in his all-powerful voice (see Hel 12:9)? Or was Lehi experiencing, as a consequence of his mighty prayer on behalf of the people, something akin to what the sons of Mosiah felt, who "were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble" (Mosiah 28:3)?
- 1 Ne 1:7: "returned to his own house." Where was Lehi before he went back home? Why did he feel the need to leave home in order to offer a prayer?
- 1 Ne 1:7: "returned to his own house at Jerusalem." In verse 5 we learn Lehi prayed "as he went forth." Here we are told once again that Lehi's house is "at Jerusalem." Why tell the reader where Lehi's house is, when we were already told in verse 5 that Lehi "dwelt at Jerusalem" all of his days? did Lehi go forth to some land beyond Jerusalem? If so, did he go to some place beyond the borders of Jerusalem to pray? Also, did Lehi go forth with the intent to pray, or did he go forth and only at some point in his travels (perhaps during the normal course of his business), after reflecting on the echoes of the prophets back in Jerusalem, feel to pray? Of course, wherever he went, it was close enough to make the trip home in the same day.
- 1 Ne 1:7: "cast himself upon his bed." If the pillar of fire was a night-time experience for the Israelites as they escaped from captivity (see Ex 13:21), then is it likely that Lehi witnessed the pillar of fire at night and ready to retire to bed when the pillar vanished? Is the verb "cast" in this verse transitive or intransitive? If it was intransitive, then is it possible that Lehi was selecting himself to participate in the production that was about to unfold?
- 1 Ne 1:7: "saw and heard." If this phrase does not appear in the Old Testament, then what influenced Nephi to use it? Was there no such thing as silent visions in Old Testament times? What is this significance of this phrase, given that all but one instance of it in scriptures occur in the Book of Mormon?
- 1 Ne 1:8: Impact of the Vision upon Lehi. If Lehi was physically shaken by what he "saw and heard," (verse 6) then why was he soon after "overcome" by the things he had seen, and not by the things he had heard? Does this mean the things Lehi heard in his vision had more of a lasting impact upon him than the things he saw? Or is it possible the vision was primarily oral and the only visual component was the dazzling pillar of fire that danced upon the rock? Is Brant Gardner right that Lehi's experience was "enervating," just like Joseph Smith's early experiences with visions, or did Lehi "cast himself upon his bed" less out of exhaustion and more out of a desire to commence dreaming and continue receiving visions?
- 1 Ne 1:8: "he saw the heavens open." Where did Lehi learn to describe his view of the heavens as a curtain or window being opened? Had Isaiah given him the mental image of a God who "stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain" (Isa 40:22)? Was he influenced by Ezekiel who said "the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God" (Ezek 1:1)? What impact did Elisha's conversation with a nobleman about "windows in heaven" (2 Kgs 7:2) have on Lehi? Was Lehi already aware of the promise that Malachi would later record, that when a person paid their tithing the Lord would open "windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Mal 3:10)? Did Nephi use this language to describe Lehi's vision because he considered his father's wealth a blessing for paying tithing? Was Nephi also making a connection between the heavens opening and the infinite blessings of the atonement that would result from the Savior's condescension to earth?
- 1 Ne 1:8: "he thought he saw God." Is Nephi helping to preserve his father's humility with this choice of words? Was the question on Lehi's mind whether he saw God with his physical eyes or his spiritual eyes? Was Lehi's encounter with God similar to apostles and disciples who could not tell whether their experiences with divine beings were "in the body" or "out of the body" (see 2 Cor 12:2-3 and 3 Ne 28:15)? Alternatively, was Lehi uncertain that the being he saw was actually God?
- 1 Ne 1:8: "God sitting upon his throne." If John W. Welch is right that, throughout the Old Testament, indivdiuals received a vision of the heavens, including God and his council, when they were called as a prophet, then who were the audiences that needed to see Lehi portrayed within this same literary formula? Was it people living during Old Testament times that needed to hear about Lehi being called as a prophet in the same manner as other Old Testmanet prophets, or was it principally people in modern times that needed to recognize the pattern in Lehi's calling as a prophet? Why does Lehi see the Celestial Kingdom in this way, as a place of praise rather than as a place of celestial work? Did Lehi and Nephi acquire a mental image of this scene from their reading of 2 Kgs 9:5 and 2 Chr 18:18?
- 1 Ne 1:10: Lehi sees twelve others following God. Are these the twelve apostles that were alive at the time of Jesus, or some other twelve?
- 1 Ne 1:11: What is the book (see verse 11) that is given to Lehi?
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Incoming Cross-References Not Listed in The Footnotes for These Verses.
- Verse 1:5: Ex 3:2, Jer 13:14, Jer 26:18, 1 Ne 2:13, 2 Ne 1:4, Hel 8:20, GS Nebuchadnezzar, TG Repent, Repentance, IN Lehi
- Verse 1:6: Ex 3:2, Lev 9:24, Judg 6:21, Jer 13:14, Jer 26:18, Jer 29:13, Ezek 1:1, James 5:16, 1 Ne 2:13, 1 Ne 11:14, 2 Ne 1:4, 2 Ne 4:24, Hel 8:20, GS Nebuchadnezzar, BD Fire, TG Fire, TG God, Presence of, TG Pillar, TG Quake, TG Repent, Repentance, TG Tremble, IN Fire, IN Lehi, IN Pillar, IN Quake, Quaking, IN Tremble, Trembling
- Verse 1:7: Jer 13:14, Jer 26:18, Jer 29:13, Ezek 1:1, James 5:16, 1 Ne 2:13, 1 Ne 11:14, 1 Ne 19:20, 2 Ne 1:4, 2 Ne 4:24, Hel 8:20, JS-H 1:20, GS Nebuchadnezzar, TG Overcome, Overcame, TG Repent, Repentance, IN Lehi, IN Overcome, IN Spirit, Holy / Spirit of the Lord
- Verse 1:8: 1 Sam 3:10, Jer 13:14, Jer 26:18, Jer 29:13, James 5:16, 1 Ne 2:13, 2 Ne 1:4, 2 Ne 4:24, Hel 8:20, D&C 110:2, GS Nebuchadnezzar, TG Carry, Carried, TG Heaven, TG Repent, Repentance, TG See, Saw, Seen, TG Singing, Sing, Sang, Sung, TG Throne, IN Angel, IN Carry, IN God, Manifestations of, IN Heaven, IN Lehi, IN Open, IN See, Saw, Seen, IN Sing, Sang, Sung, Singing, IN Spirit, Holy / Spirit of the Lord, IN Throne, IN Vision, Visionary
- Verse 1:9: 1 Sam 3:10, Jer 13:14, Jer 26:18, Ezek 1:1, 1 Ne 2:13, 1 Ne 5:4, 1 Ne 11:14, 2 Ne 1:4, Hel 8:20, D&C 110:2, GS Nebuchadnezzar, TG Noonday, TG Repent, Repentance, TG Sun, IN Descend, IN Lehi, IN Noon-day, IN Sun
- 1 Ne 1:10: One descending out of heaven. See “The Book of Mormon’s Witness of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 1987, 28J by Thomas Fyans.
- 1 Ne 1:10. For an odd poetic exploration of the significance of the book carried by this "One," see User: Joe Spencer/By way of introduction: t(h/r)e(e/mb)l(o/in)g(y/).
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