1 Nephi 1:11 — LeGrand Baker — Lehi’s Book and the Prophet’s Authority to Speak for God

1 Nephi 1:11

11 And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read.

There was an ordinance performed at the Council in Heaven and reaffirmed during a prophet’s sode experience whereby the servants of God were given the authority to speak the words of God. That ordinance is described in several different ways by several different prophets.

John the Beloved writes that he was given a little book to eat (Revelation 10:1, 9). That book becomes the key to our understanding the meaning of the book that Lehi was given to read.

In Section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Prophet Joseph answers a series of questions to explain the meanings of some of the symbolism in the book of Revelation. One of those questions is:

Q. What are we to understand by the little book which was eaten by John, as mentioned in the 10th chapter of Revelation?
A. We are to understand that it was a mission, and an ordinance, for him to gather the tribes of Israel; behold, this is Elias, who, as it is written, must come and restore all things (D&C 77:14).

Here the book is described as both an ordinance and the mission. The ordinance was John’s receiving and eating the book, and his mission was the words that were written in the book. This key about the meaning of that passage in the book of Revelation becomes a key to our understanding similar accounts of such ordinances and missions as they were described by other prophets.

Like John the Beloved, Ezekiel was given a book to eat:

And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe. Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll [scroll], and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll (Ezekiel 2:9-3:2).

Jeremiah described the ordinance differently, but it carried the same responsibility:

Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9).

Isaiah described the ordinance as cleansing his mouth and purging his sins. Then the Lord gave him instructions about his mission on earth.

6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me (Isaiah 6:6-8).

In two of the four accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, he says that he was told that his sins were forgiven before he received instructions about what he should do.{1}

Psalm 45 was acted on the stage near the beginning of the ancient Israelite temple rites and depicted the foreordination of the king. In the psalm, prior to God’s giving the words of the blessing, the narrator says to the king, “grace is poured into thy lips.” It is important to note that during the temple rites of Solomon’s Temple the audience did not just sit and watch the drama being performed but they actively participated. When the king received the ordinance and blessing, symbolically the men in the congregation, representing the members of the Council in Heaven, received the same ordinance and blessing.{2}

These accounts make it apparent that members of the Council in Heaven were given an empowering ordinance and explicit assignments that included instructions about what they were to teach the people when in mortality. When the prophet returns to the Council in his sode experience, he receives a renewal or a reaffirmation of that ordinance and those instructions.

Given both the variations and the similarities in the accounts by other prophets, one can easily recognize Lehi’s receiving and reading the book as a similar ordinance and a mission. Part of the mission was that he must warn the Jews of their impending doom. The other part is not revealed to us—except that we are told about his reaction to it—and judging from his words, we may infer that it included the promise that he would come to America, where his descendants would become a mighty people, and that they would be visited by the Savior. Nephi records, “for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him” (1 Nephi 1:15).


{1} The four accounts are quoted in my book, Joseph and Moroni, pages 5-8. The text of the book is available in the “published books” section of this website.
{2} Psalm 45 is discussed in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord: First edition pages 255-304; Second edition pages 191-217.


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