1 Nephi 5:9 — LeGrand Baker — Lehi’s Priesthood

1 Nephi 5:9  

9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.

Nephi does not indicate which sacrifices and offerings were performed, but at least three would have been appropriate. A thank offering is the most obvious as a celebration that the boys had returned safely and successfully. Since Nephi had become unclean by his contact with Laban’s corpse, a “purification from sin” offering to cleanse him would have been necessary.{1} Another important sacrifice was a reaffirmation of family ties with God by symbolically sharing a family meal with him. Moses reminded the Israelites that when they entered the promised land:

7 And there ye shall eat before the Lord your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee (Deuteronomy 12:7).

It is significant that Nephi writes that his parents “did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings.” Our edited version of the Law of Moses{2} suggests that only the descendants of Levi could officiate in offering sacrifices, yet elsewhere in the Old Testament we find Solomon and other kings, and Elijah and other prophets offering sacrifices. This indicates that people holding the Melchizedek Priesthood also had that authority.{3} Lehi was a prophet who had been in the presence of God,{4} so we can be sure he had the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that he performed the sacrifice and offerings by the authority of that priesthood.

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FOOTNOTES

{1} See Jacob Milgrom, “Sacrifices and offerings,” in Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1991), 766-67.

{2} For a discussion of ancient Jewish editors who changed the books of Moses see Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, first edition, 57-74; 2011(paperback) edition, 55-65.

{3} Psalm 110 says that the anointed king was “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” Paul later quoted that and other scriptural references to kingship when he showed that the Savior was the King of Israel (Hebrews 5:6).

{4} Without the Melchizedek priesthood “no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live” (D&C 84:19-22).

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