1 Nephi 2:4-7 — LeGrand Baker — Lehi’s Tent As a Tabernacle

1 Nephi 2:4-7 
4. And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness. …
6. And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water.
7. And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our.

Even though Nephi tells us in the beginning of his story that his father’s family took more than one tent with them on their journey (v.4), Nephi never mentions his own tent—but throughout his account of their travels in the wilderness, Nephi makes frequent reference to his father’s tent. Many of those references imply that the tent had significance beyond being simply a portable house. It is not a coincidence that Nephi first mentions his father’s tent in conjunction with their building a sacrificial altar.{1}

Lehi’s vision of the tree of life was pivotal to Nephi’s own story and became a cornerstone of all of the rest of the Book of Mormon’s testimony of the Savior. Nephi tells about that vision in some detail, then makes a point of associating the vision with the importance of his father’s tent, writing:

1 And all these things did my father see, and hear, and speak, as he dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel, and also a great many more things, which cannot be written upon these plates (1 Nephi 9:1).

The phrase these things is often code and is a major key in understanding the prophets of the Book of Mormon. Almost every time it is used it is a veiled reference to the sacred things of the Israelite or Nephite temple services, or else to a vision that explains them. In this verse these things refers to Lehi’s vision of the tree of live. Then Nephi tells us of his father’s prophecies, and again reminds us:

16 And all these things, of which I have spoken, were done as my father dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel (1 Nephi 10:16).

In light of those frequent and important references to their activities in and around Lehi’s tent, it is appropriate to ask, “How much did they know about temple worship?” Or, perhaps a better question is, “How much do we know about what they knew?” The answer to that question is found as part of the Lord’s instructions to the Prophet Joseph about the purposes of the Nauvoo Temple.

33. For verily I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me;
34. For therein are the keys of the holy priesthood ordained, that you may receive honor and glory.
35. And after this time, your baptisms for the dead, by those who are scattered abroad, are not acceptable unto me, saith the Lord.
36. For it is ordained that in Zion, and in her stakes, and in Jerusalem, those places which I have appointed for refuge, shall be the places for your baptisms for your dead.
37. And again, verily I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?
38. For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise [Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem] that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.
39. Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.
40. And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people (D&C 124:33-40).

When one considers that before Lehi left, King Josiah had substantially changed the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama, that the Temple had been taken over by apostate sun worshipers (Ezekiel 8:16-17),{2} | and that soon after the Temple itself was about to be destroyed by the Babylonians, it is justifiable to assert that one of the major reasons Lehi and his family left Jerusalem was to preserve for themselves and their posterity the rites, ceremonies, and covenants of the Israelite temple service. That being so, the question, “How much did Lehi and Nephi know about their temple?” can be answered with a single phrase: all that was necessary!

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FOOTNOTES

{1} Other examples are 1 Nephi 2:15-16, 2:22, 3:1-6, 4:38, 5:7, 9, 7:5, 21-22, and 15:1.

{2} For a discussion of the Jewish apostates use of the Temple in Jerusalem see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, First edition, p. 45-74; Second edition, p. 47-65.

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