1 Nephi 22 — LeGrand Baker — Nephi’s Conclusion

1 Nephi 22 —- Nephi’s Conclusion

First Nephi is a chiasmus with chapters 20 and 21 mapping to Lehi’s sode experience, and chapter 22 mapping to Nephi’s testimony that he has “a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God.”

Nephi was a literary genius. Richard Dilworth Rust’s analysis of the Book of Mormon is sufficient evidence of that.{4} Nephi had seen the plans of the Council in Heaven, which included the future of his own people, and the meaning and extent of the Atonement. For ten years, under the direction of the Lord and the tutelage of the Spirit, he had worked on an incredibly intricate and perfectly structured chiastic poem. He had interwoven the most important doctrines of the gospel, the cosmic epic that is found in the world’s best literature, the intricacies of the ancient temple drama, and the story of his own life into a magnificent epic poem.

The masterful pattern of that chiastic poem begins in the first few verses of First Nephi. There he sketched out the whole outline of his work, telling also that many prophets had warned the people of the destruction of their city and of their own dispersal. Then, in verses 7-15, he tells of his father’s sode experience when Lehi saw God and received instructions from Jehovah.

From there the chiasmus eventually focuses on the Tree of Life, then returns to where it began. In chapters 20-21, Nephi quotes Isaiah’s account of the Prophet Joseph’s assignment in the premortal spirit world, and of the promise that the Prophet would restore not only the gospel and the temple but also the scattered people Israel. Nephi then concludes as he began, with an overview of his entire work. A description of the pattern is this:

.     A. Introduction [temple] (chapter 1)
.        B. Scattering of Israel foretold (1)
.            C. Lehi’s sode experience (1)
.                D. Sons go and return safely (2-6)
.                    E. Wives and family (7-8)
.                        F. Two records – key to First Nephi (9)
.                            G. Predictions about the future (10)
.                                H. Tree of Life (11)
.g. Predictions about the future (12-15)
.                        f. Liahona – key to successful journey (16)
.                    e. Sons marry (16)
.                d. Arrive safely at Bountiful (17-18)
.            c. Joseph Smith premortal assignment (20-21)
.        b. Gathering of Israel foretold (21)
.    a. Conclusion [temple] (22)

Even here at the conclusion of First Nephi, perhaps especially here, Nephi does not for a moment get out of character as the master story teller. After quoting Isaiah, he introduces enough conversation between himself and his brothers to maintain the tension he has developed in the personal story he is telling.

1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had read these things which were engraven upon the plates of brass, my brethren came unto me and said unto me: What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh?
2 And I, Nephi, said unto them: Behold they were manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit; for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets, which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh.
3 Wherefore, the things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations.
4 And behold, there are many who are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem. Yea, the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away.
5 And since they have been led away, these things have been prophesied concerning them, and also concerning all those who shall hereafter be scattered and be confounded, because of the Holy One of Israel; for against him will they harden their hearts; wherefore, they shall be scattered among all nations and shall be hated of all men.
6 Nevertheless, after they shall be nursed by the Gentiles, and the Lord has lifted up his hand upon the Gentiles and set them up for a standard, and their children have been carried in their arms, and their daughters have been carried upon their shoulders, behold these things of which are spoken are temporal; for thus are the covenants of the Lord with our fathers; and it meaneth us in the days to come, and also all our brethren who are of the house of Israel (1 Nephi 22:1-6).

Nephi has described the “temporal” gathering of Israel, but in doing so he has also called our attention to the conclusion of Isaiah 49 which he has just quoted. Thereby he has brought us to the restoration of the ancient temple drama where the sacral “kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers” (1 Nephi 21:23). Then, using that bit of conversation as a spiring board, he delivers his final address to his reading audience. He is, as ever, cautious not to say too much, but being certain that he says enough.

7 And it meaneth that the time cometh that after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded, that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered.
8 And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.
9 And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles; and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel, unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
10 And I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations.
11 Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm{5} in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel.
12 Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel (1 Nephi 22:7-12).{6}

In verse 9, Nephi had used the Abrahamic Covenant as the springboard to launch his assurances that the fulness of the gospel and its temple would be restored in the last days. The covenant of Abraham includes a promise of invulnerability.{7} That does not mean an invulnerability against sorrow or pain but against whatever forces are poised to prevent one from fulfilling one’s eternal covenants. Just as with individuals who are promised that they will be able to fulfill the covenants they made at the Council in Heaven, so also the Lord has given the collective Zion a covenant of ultimate invulnerability. It is that the Lord and his children shall reign triumphantly at the end of this world, notwithstanding all attempts by men and devils to prevent their individual or collective success.

Nephi describes their enemies as “all the proud and they who do wickedly” and they who “will harden their hearts against the Holy One of Israel.” There is an ominous ring about the individual responsibility in those words. The enemies are individuals who worship a fiction. Pride is a bubble without content. It is an illusion that one invents to sustain his own self-aggrandizement.

One is reminded of Moroni’s warning, “…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.” In its context (the next words are “awake and arise from the dust.” Moroni 10:30-31). one lays hold upon every good gift with one’s hands, just as one would have to restrain his hands if he were to “touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.”

There is no need to speculate about the meaning of “will harden their hearts against the Holy One of Israel.” Alma defined that term for us as not knowing the mysteries (Alma 12:9-11).

If Nephi had that same definition in mind when he wrote that they would “ harden their hearts against the Holy One of Israel,” then he was not referring to people who just did not know or did not care to know. Rather, he was describing individuals who had chosen to disregard—and had thereby ceased to know— “the mysteries of God.”

Nephi had seen the same vision that was shown to John the Beloved, so it was appropriate that he should conclude his discussion of the gathering of Israel with a review of that visions’ report of the final destruction of the enemies of righteousness. As a kind of summary of the last part of John’s book of Revelation Nephi wrote:

13 And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood.
14 And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.
15 For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned.
16 For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.
17 Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.
18 Behold, my brethren, I say unto you, that these things must shortly come; yea, even blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke must come; and it must needs be upon the face of this earth; and it cometh unto men according to the flesh if it so be that they will harden their hearts against the Holy One of Israel.
19 For behold, the righteous shall not perish; for the time surely must come that all they who fight against Zion shall be cut off.

John concludes his account of the revelation with a testimony of the ultimate triumph of the Savior. That testimony begins, “(Revelation 21:1.)

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely (Revelation 21:1, 5-6).

Nephi quoted Moses to establish the same principle:

20 And the Lord will surely prepare a way for his people, unto the fulfilling of the words of Moses, which he spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that all those who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people.
21 And now I, Nephi, declare unto you, that this prophet of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel; wherefore, he shall execute judgment in righteousness (1 Nephi 22:20-21 ).

Moses’s prophecy is found in his last great sermon to his people. He said,

15 The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken (Deuteronomy 18:15).

The Savior confirmed Nephi’s interpretation of Moses’s promise when he said:

23 Behold, I am he of whom Moses spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people (3 Nephi 20:23).

Nephi’s descriptions in verses 13 through 19 do not suggest a people who are living basically good lives, who are fighting against people who are typically “worldly.” Rather, his descriptions of those in each group suggest they are a covenant people—who have made covenants with God that are broken by those in one group but kept by those in the other group. In that context, Nephi’s promise is that during one’s intensely personal conflict between righteousness (zedek) and evil, there will be only one sure antidote against the evil of the last days: follow the Savior. “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.”

In his prophecy, Nephi has gone beyond the period of the restoration and is focusing on the conclusion of this world’s history. He first addresses the condition of the wicked:

22 And the righteous need not fear, for they are those who shall not be confounded. But it is the kingdom of the devil, which shall be built up among the children of men, which kingdom is established among them which are in the flesh—
23 For the time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet.

After this great destruction, then comes the peace that is the millenial reign of the Savior.

24 And the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall,{8} and the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power, and great glory.
25 And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture (1 Nephi 22:24-25).

This is a summation of the concluding scenes of the ancient Israelite temple drama.{9} “And he [the Holy One of Israel] gathereth his children [Psalm 2] from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him [Psalm 23]; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.” That sounds like this prophecy by Isaiah:

10 Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40:10-11).

However, because the phrase is an exact quote used by the Savior, it leads one to believe that the phrase itself is older than Nephi, and that both he and the Savior are quoting a prophecy we no longer have in our canon. The Savior said:

14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (John 10:14-16).{10}

26 And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth (1 Nephi 22:26).

14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

That is exactly the point: Satan has no power except the ability to make suggestions. When individual Saints take no heed of the suggestions, it is for them as though Satan has ceased to exist, for he has no way to impact their lives. However—and this is a big “however”—he can still suggest to others that they attack the integrity and the purpose of the faithful Saints. When Moroni returned the plates to the Prophet Joseph, the Lord explained that even though Joseph remained faithful, Satan would seek to get at him through other people who would seek to destroy him in order to prevent him from keeping his covenants and accomplishing his work (D&C 10).

The point is this: God is not warning Joseph about any danger of Joseph’s falling into any further temptation. However, he is warning him that there are others whom Satan can use to attack Joseph. Similarly, in the Apocrypha, the Savior is reported to have warned the ancient apostles: “The perfect man not only cannot be restrained, but also cannot be seen. For if he is seen he will be put under restraint.”{11} Personal anonymity shields us within God’s promise of invulnerability and opens opportunities to for us achieve our purposes and keep our eternal covenants.

27 And now behold, I, Nephi, say unto you that all these things must come according to the flesh.
28 But, behold, all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people shall dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel if it so be that they will repent.
29 And now I, Nephi, make an end; for I durst not speak further as yet concerning these things (1 Nephi 22:27-29).

This was one of several times that Nephi was stopped by the Lord as he tried to teach us. His words are reminiscent of Job’s exclamation, “Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.” Only Nephi spoke words that he did understand—ideas that could not be spoken more clearly— but that we must understand. There are things which we must learn, which we cannot be taught except by the Holy Ghost. In his brilliant subtextual sermon, Nephi has brought us to the very gate of these things. He did it again at the conclusion of Second Nephi, when he wrote,

7 And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be (2 Nephi 32:7).

In a sermon he delivered at the temple, Nephi’s brother Jacob identified the gate we must enter.

41 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.
42 And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them (2 Nephi 9:41-42).

Now, Nephi’s  concluding words are an invitation to each of us to find the key and enter that gate.

30 Wherefore, my brethren, I would that ye should consider that the things which have been written upon the plates of brass are true; and they testify that a man must be obedient to the commandments of God.
31 Wherefore, ye need not suppose that I and my father are the only ones that have testified, and also taught them. Wherefore, if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day. And thus it is. Amen (1 Nephi 22:30-31).

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FOOTNOTES

{1} The LDS Bible Dictionary suggests that the “land of Sinim” is “possibly the land of China.”

{2} For a discussion of establishing the king’s feet as part of his coronation see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 569-83; Second edition, p. 408-17.

{3} For a discussion of establishing the sacred marriage as part of his coronation see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 495-97; Second edition, p. 358-59.

{4} Richard Dilworth Rust, Feasting on the Word: The Literary Testimony of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 196.

{5} For a discussion of this topic, see Todd M. Compton, “The Handclasp and Embrace as Tokens of Recognition,” By Study and Also By Faith, 1:611-42.

{6} Nephi is referencing to one or both of the following passages from Isaiah:

29 Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the mighty One of Israel (Isaiah 30:29).

24 Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:
25 And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:
26 And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.
27 Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.
28 And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord
shall be consumed (Isaiah 1:24-28).

{7} The promise is: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee” (Abraham 2:11).

{8} “Calves of the stall” was apparently a colloquialism that connoted peace and security. It may have been used in an ancient scripture we no longer have but which was on the brass plates. Malachi uses it (Malachi 4:2), and it was quoted by the Savior in Third Nephi: “But unto you that fear my name, shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall” (3 Nephi 25:2).

{9} For a discussion of last day of the ancient Israelite temple drama see
Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 605-40; Second edition, p. 431-57.

{10} See: 3 Nephi 15:14-24 Alma 5:38-41, Helaman 7:17-20, Psalms 80:1, Isaiah 63:10-13

{11} Gospel of Philip in New Testament Apocrypha, ed. Wilhelm Schneemelcher, 2:201 # 106.

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