Whoa. Okay, chapter four. Things have escalated quickly. Hello Saints. My name is Jeff.
I am a pastor exploring everything I can about the church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. And I’ve been making videos for months where I explore Latterday Saint belief and tradition and even history. But the one thing I’ve not done yet is I’ve not read the book of Mormon and obviously say it’s important that I do this because if I want to really understand Mormonism as I’ve always understood it, I need to read the book of Mormon. And in this video I’m going to be reading through the very first book in the book of Mormon, which is First Nephi.
I think it’s important for me to reaffirm that, yes, I am in a quest for truth and that as I do this, I am actually praying that the Lord would guide me in the truth so I would be able to discern and see clearly and hear him clearly, which is something that I do anytime. I even sit down and read the Bible. I’m always in a pursuit of truth. So my main objective in these videos is to go through a section of the book of Mormon to read, to recap and react. So let’s dive into first.
Nephi okay, I’ve officially finished reading First Nephi and I can now say I have read the book of Mormon. I can’t say that I’ve finished it yet, but I can at least say that I’ve read it. All right, so now I’m going to do a recap and I’m going to talk a little bit about the overall story and some of the contents of First Nephi. And due what I would call in my context a survey over the entire book, the book from what I could tell was really two types of literary forms. There is narrative which is essentially telling the story of what’s going on with Lehigh and his son Nephi and some of his other sons and his family and a few other individuals.
So narrative, storytelling and prophecy. There was a lot of visions that were being discussed both from Lehigh and also from Nephi. This is a form of literature that isn’t completely unfamiliar to something you would see in the Bible. It reminded me a little bit of the book of Daniel which is sort of a mix of narrative and prophecy. Although Daniel is separated kind of in half, the first half is more narrative, the second half is more prophecy whereas First Nephi was a little bit more mixed together.
But it essentially tells a story of a family that lived around the time of the Babylonian exile of the Jews in the lower kingdom of Judah during the time of Zedekiah, which is what you could read about in Second Kings and Second Quranicals. And Lehigh and his sons nephi, Layman, Lemuel, Sam and a few other individuals are existing at this time when essentially Judah is about to fall. Lehigh has a vision. He shares it with the Jews. It’s not well received.
So he goes into the wilderness with his sons, and then his sons come back to obtain these plates from Labin that has these brass plates that inscripted on them is the record of their fathers. And when they go to obtain these plates. Laban isn’t having it. He’s not going to give it to them. But this whole thing about going to get the brass plates, one thing that’s jumping out at me, and this is really fascinating to me is that Nephi is being commanded to kill Labin.
That’s jumping out of me just because I don’t know if I know of any time in the Bible where God commands one person to kill someone else in order in this case to get something from them. I know that there were invasion forces that would go in and I know these are the things talked about in the Old Testament that can be really difficult for us and that is the command to kill as part of an invasion agenda and then people being stoned when they didn’t follow certain aspects of the law. In fact, I was just reading a couple of weeks ago in numbers where an individual was stoned for not keeping the Sabbath. I think he was like picking up sticks on the Sabbath. But that was in accordance with the law.
So this just jumped out at me and all that as it came to passes that’s jumping out at me too. There are a lot of and it came to pass, but we’ll talk about that more later. But moving on from there, the Sons meet up with their mother, Serie A. And Lehi and as they are now in the wilderness, there’s a family dynamic that sort of emerges here. And it really kind of reminded me of what I see in Genesis with Jacob and Joseph and his brothers.
Lehi looks a lot like Jacob as sort of the patriarch of the family. Nephi looks a lot like Joseph, this favored son, or the son who is actually closer to the father. And then you have Sam, who reminded me of Benjamin in the book of Genesis. Sort of the brother that is even closest to Joseph and also has some more favor and is less contentious as the rest of the brothers, which we see that a lot. So far here in one stniefi.
And you also see that in Genesis this is where the visions come in. And Lehigh receives a vision regarding the Tree of Life. And there’s a few things in here that I’m not going. To totally unpack. But there’s a building full of scoffers, and you don’t find out until later what that building represents.
And then prophecies continue to come forth in chapter ten, the Destruction of Jerusalem, the Babylonian exile. There’s prophecy of the messiah. And it’s very specific here, talking about in 600 years, in One Nephi, ten four through six, there’s prophecy about John the Baptist. There’s prophecy about the death, the resurrection and the Holy Spirit. And there are details here in chapter ten of one Nephi that are incredibly specific.
They are more specific than anything I have ever seen in the Old Testament. There is a lot of messianic prophecy in the Old Testament and there’s also prophecy of the Holy Spirit being poured out on old flesh in books like Joel. But there are details about the timing the Messiah would come in 600 years that there would be a forerunner John the Baptist that would baptize Jesus. Which leads us to chapter eleven where Nephi then has a vision of the tree of life and he sees a lot of the things that Lehigh saw but also more details about what’s going to happen with the Messiah. In verse 15 of chapter eleven there’s a virgin who’s called beautiful and fair above all virgins.
It also seems to be indicating her skin color that she was white. I don’t believe that historically we believe that she was white. I know that some people might say it’s not talking about her skin but it’s hard for me not to read it this way. So yeah, for me this not only doesn’t really seem accurate but it’s really bothersome to me if I’m just going to be honest with you. I know that issues of race and skin color plays into at least the reputation of Latterday Saint belief and this is the first time I’ve seen it sort of emerge here.
My attention was caught by verse 16 in chapter eleven where specifically it’s talking about the condescension of God. That sounds trinitarian to me because you know, evangelicals and Protestants we do believe in the Trinity that Jesus is God and we use that language a lot when talking about God becoming flesh. We call it the Great condescension. So that had some familiar language to me that would line up with how I would view things though I know it’s probably more nuanced and a less trinitarian explanation from a Latter day Saint doctrinal standpoint. And then again there’s more details about the baptism of Jesus very specifically talking about the setting where Jesus would be baptized and a dove in the form of the Holy Ghost.
But the details here are so much more vivid than anything you would see in the Old Testament. If I’m going to be honest as an evangelical it’s hard for me not to see this and say well, Joseph knew all these things because he’s read the gospels and he’s sort of retroactively making it appear as though all these details were known 600 years before Jesus. I know that might be hard for some Latterday Saints to hear but I’m really just giving my honest perspective as someone who spends so much time studying the scriptures. Nephi’s vision continues in chapter twelve and things get very eschatological or start talking about the end times, there’s wars, there’s judgment. And Nephi also begins to give some insight on what’s going to happen even with the offspring of his family, where Nephi’s descendants would be warring with the descendants of his brothers and that all of them would dwindle into unbelief.
And then the next couple of chapters, chapters 13 and 14, are really intriguing to me because you’re seeing prophecy now about the colonization of America. It appeared to me like there could have been even prophecy of the American Revolution, prophecy of the Book of Mormon, and then things start getting into sort of this awful state of blindness that had overtaken the church up until the time where the Book of Mormon was then revealed to Joseph Smith, which gets into chapter 14. Chapter 14 talks about two churches, very specifically two churches. One an Abominable Church whose founder is the devil and the other is the Church of the Lamb of God. And the language talked about this Abominable Church is pretty stark language, calling that church the horror of the earth.
Now, I’m going to be honest that whenever I was reading that, based on the fact that I’ve not read anything in the Book of Mormon, I’ve not even looked at a lot of critiques of the Book of Mormon. But I have gone to Palmyra and I am aware of the first vision. And I know that Joseph Smith claimed that when Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to him, they communicated that all other Christian creeds or the denominations associated with creeds were an abomination and that God was going to reveal to him what the restored church should look like. So at first reading it seemed as though according to the first vision, that these two churches are talking about the restored church, which is the Church of the Lamb versus all other churches, or the Abominable Church. Now, I talked to a couple of Latterday Saints after reading that and they were telling me that that’s not necessarily the case.
There was a time where there was a belief that the Abominable Church was specifically referring to the Catholic Church, but there’s been a backing away of that. But I will say on the first pass I was associating the idea of the Abominable Church. I would probably put myself in that category, a non restored church being Abominable, but leave some comments in the comments section and help me understand if that’s not the case. Chapter 15 was really interesting to me because it’s talking about the Gentiles being grafted in to Israel, which sounds very familiar again to some New Testament language in Romans chapter eleven specifically. I have not seen anywhere else in the Old Testament that type of language being used.
And that led to another really interesting part in chapter 15. Verses 26 through 36 in first, Nephi in chapter 15 are talking about a judgment and a very binary view of the afterlife of hell versus heaven. I actually was resonating with some of what was being communicated here that there’s a filthiness that can’t dwell in heaven so those that are unrighteous would not be able to enter into heaven but would be sent to hell. And that’s in my context tied to the holiness of God that God in his holy presence cannot dwell with unholiness. Which is why mainstream Christians do have this binary view that anyone who has not been made holy by the blood of Christ would be the owners of their sin and as a result they could not dwell in God’s presence so that they would spend eternity in hell.
So this didn’t really sound like the idea of the three levels of heaven that I know the latterday St church teaches which I’m pretty sure is talked about in doctrines and covenants. It seemed more like a heaven and hell idea. So I found that section pretty interesting. Chapter 16 move away from prophetic visions and get back to the narratives talking about Lehi and his sons in the wilderness and how they were led by a ball to go to specific areas. And after eight years in chapter 17 while they’re in the wilderness, commanded to build a ship.
And this starts to set the stage, from what I understand would be crossing the ocean and going to a sort of new promised land, which we would understand as the American continents. There’s an interesting description or parallel that’s made in chapter 17 that I’m not going to spend too much time on, but I did find it enlightening where Nephi is sort of talking about those who have the promises of God are generally led into new lands as opposed to those who want to stay in an old land and live in rebellion. And as a result, they’re destroyed. I think that that’s something that we see pretty consistent in the Old Testament. I thought that was an interesting parallel that’s tied to this call for Lehigh Nephi and the brothers to head in this direction where they would cross an ocean into a new promised land.
I want to focus a little bit on chapter 18 because there were a bunch of things that caught my attention and it will help me sort of demonstrate how I am conditioned to read the Bible and those muscles were sort of being activated as I was reading chapter 18 of First Nephi. So there’s two ways in which I handle the Bible that’s super important. The first is to understand that it is God’s revelation to mankind so that we can know what he is like and what he desires. So that we can be in restored relationship with Him and know what it means to not just obey Him, but to receive his invitation of reconciled relationship so someone doesn’t have to have a college degree or a seminary degree in order to understand that invitation. So whenever I go to the Bible though I have gone to seminary.
And there are some ways that I will approach it in an academic sense, even to preach sermons and do study like that. I also set specific time aside where I’m wanting to just understand on a spiritual level what God has for me, just as a spiritual being, just as an image bearer whom he is pursuing to bring back into relationship with him. So I don’t want you to think that my approach to the Bible is always one that is purely academic or purely critical, but that leads to the second way that I handle the Scriptures, and that is in a critical sense. And when I say critical, I don’t mean negative. I mean I handle it critically from an analytical standpoint.
It’s a willingness to ask questions so that I can better understand the text and understand the context and understand the audience and the message. That’s really key whenever I’m communicating God’s word or preaching a sermon. So you might even hear in biblical studies settings a concept called Hermeneutics. And this is ways of making sure that we are properly interpreting a passage and coming at it from a balanced analytical approach. I’m not going to get into this a ton, but there’s a few critical approaches that we can take.
Historical criticism, which is analyzing the text based on extra biblical historical information, whether it’s records or archeology form criticism, which gets into the type of writing and literary patterns. Source criticism, which gets into the process by which the original documents were compiled. Textual criticism, which gets into manuscript evidences and copies. Socioehetorical criticism, which gets into sort of how the original author was using specific approaches to communicate to their original audience. So these are different ways that I will approach the Bible to sort of understand any given passage.
And some of those impulses were firing when I was in chapter 18 where Nephi is building the ship and they depart and they encounter a storm. In this whole process, there are a few details that jumped out to me that I am compelled to study a little bit further. So one of them is this. In verse 21 of chapter 18, there’s a reference to a compass. From what I understand, compasses didn’t come about until much, much later.
So I would be doing a little bit of a historical analysis of what might have been used as compasses back then. Is there another instrument that might have been used that in the original language might have been referring to a different instrument that Joseph was just translating into compass? I also noticed in verse 24 the idea of seeds. Is there botanical evidence in North America of Middle Eastern vegetation that might line up with the type of seeds that they brought with them? I have heard people make reference to the animals that in verse 25 were observed when they arrived in the Promised Land.
Were those animals in existence in the Promised Land? At that time in 500 to 600 BC. And that also gets into some of the medals that were talked about. I’m sure that there’s explanations for where some of these details might not line up with what we understand was the case in the Americas at this time. But I just want to point this out because this would be a chapter from a more academic standpoint, I would be inclined to spend a lot more time digging and doing some research on some of these things.
Now, I want to say something regarding this that is going to require you to trust me. And that is I know I’m probably picking up on things that other people have talked about or referenced before. And I need you to know that I’ve purposely been staying away from people who are overly critical or trying. To dissect the Book of Mormon because I really do want to come at it with my own spiritual awareness as I’m pursuing truth before God and also to come at it as objectively as I can, just as a student of the Bible and how I would approach the Book of Mormon in the same way that I approach the Bible. So if I’m saying something that sounds like criticisms that other people use to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, that really isn’t necessarily my intent right now.
I’m just demonstrating for you a process that I take when I study the Bible and how that’s activating. Some of the ways that I’m wanting to engage the text here in the Book of Mormon. Chapter 19 starts getting into more messianic prophecy. Verse 17 of chapter 19 really caught my attention. I appreciated the reference to the hope of the Messiah coming to every tongue and people group, which is something that I see a lot in the New Testament.
And then chapters 20, 21, 22 very much is a progression of prophecies about what the Lord was about to do in delivering the Jews from Babylon. Messianic prophecies similar to the Old Testament in chapter 21, and then chapter 22 feels more like eschatological prophecy, talking about the redemption of Israel and an ultimate judgment of evil and Satan in a more day of the Lord judgment standpoint or in time standpoint. The only other thing that I’d want to communicate that really stuck out to me as I studied first Nephi was there was a word that was used frequently and it’s the word church. That might seem strange that that caught my attention, but as someone who has not only studied the New Testament but I’m also studied in Greek to a certain extent, I recognize that that idea of church wasn’t really an idea until around the first century. In fact, when you read the New Testament and you see the word church, it is the Greek word echosia, which would not have originated in any ancient languages, especially around the time that Nephi would have been recording these things, unless, in fact, there was a word in reformed Egyptian similar to eclipse that would have been translated into church.
Now, I did talk to a Latter day Saint and they explained to me, well, we’re really just talking about congregations or assemblies and that might have been the best word that Joseph wanted to use in order for a 19th century audience to understand specifically what was being talked about. But I will say that that was something that really caught my attention and I was doing word count searches how many times the word church was used in First Nephi, how many times echlia or the word church was used in the New Testament. And then I did a word search on how many times the word church is used in the Old Testament and you don’t see it. You will see the assembly of God or when Israel gathers. There are certain Hebrew words in that regard, but none that an English translator would translate into church in the same way that we’ve seen here in One Nephi.
So I know that that’s a lot. This was really my first attempt to really provide a survey, a recap and even a reaction to some of the stuff that I’ve read. I think my bottom line reaction would be this it’s not boring. I will tell you that I’ve had a lot of people say, yeah, I have fun reading the Book of Mormon. It’s super boring.
I thought First Nephi was incredibly captivating and I’m sure that there are certain books in the Book of Mormon that might be a little bit more boring because there are books in the Bible that are a little bit more boring, leviticus. That doesn’t mean that they’re not significant. So I’m still going to read it all the way through. And I think the other thing that I would communicate by way of reaction is so far this story is pretty clear as to what is taking place. The idea of this family that lived in Jerusalem that then made their way out of Jerusalem and eventually made their way here and the reasons for that and how that sort of overlapped with Jewish history and the exile it all seemed relatively clear to me as to the veracity of certain details and some of that other stuff.
I’m not really going to get into that right now because I want to continue through this story and maybe in other videos I’ll do deeper dives on this. I’ll continue to do this and hopefully it continues to be informative and interesting and will help me more on this quest of exploration. So I truly can understand as much as I can about Latterday Saint beliefs, traditions, doctrines, and even in some of my friends as to why they have some of the convictions and beliefs that they have. So we’ll pick up here when I read second nephi. And until then, I’ll see you later.