Sunday, May 28, 2017

Unification of Worlds and Scriptures -- 1 Nephi Chapter 13

What Happens

"Nephi sees in vision the church of the devil set up among the Gentiles, the discovery and colonizing of America, the loss of many plain and precious parts of the Bible, the resultant state of gentile apostasy, the restoration of the gospel, the coming forth of latter-day scripture, and the building up of Zion."
1 Nephi 13 Chapter Heading


Nephi's vision continues. I really like the way the angel is making the vision interactive at the beginning of this chapter (and before). He shows Nephi something, asks what he sees to make sure he's on the right page, and then he explains it, or teaches him something about it.

Knowing a bit of history as we do, we can kind of see what is going on here. Satan builds up an evil church (which should really be a contradiction in terms, but unfortunately is not), and things are getting bad on one side of the "many waters" and then people are led to (re)discover the new world, which is Nephi's promised land. It's something that we know in the parable of the vineyard (Jacob 5) is a good thing, but it is also a tragic thing in so many ways. Nephi has to have some conflicting emotions here... he knows that there is at least a little mixture of his blood left in his family's descendants that are being scattered and smitten, and yet he also knows in his vision that "the power of the Lord was with" the people doing the smiting.

That's a theme that we don't usually talk about in the gospel a lot, but one that is very prevalent. Just like in the parable of the vineyard, sometimes the trees need to be pruned of the evil so that the good will grow, and sometimes God will "cut down that which cumbered this spot of ground" (Jacob 5:44), so that he can plant something else.  Nephi has already experienced this in a very personal way when he was commanded to kill Laban, and now he is seeing it in a much larger way.  I imagine that it was a hard thing for him, but also a very valuable perspective--knowing why it is all necessary probably softened the blow, and I think really prepares Nephi for his role in history.  

Nephi sees the book that the Gentiles carry with them, and I think it is interesting that the Angel tells him that it is like the plates of brass, except that there aren't as many prophecies.  You really have to wonder what all is in the plates of Brass if it was already more complete than the Bible 600 years before Christ. :)  And then Nephi gets a much more specific idea of his role in the restoration of the gospel and the plain and precious parts that have been left out or removed by the bad guys.  He goes forward from this knowing exactly why he is keeping the records that he makes, and who he is writing them for.  He knows us, at least in part, and like Moroni, speaks "out of the dust" (Moroni 10:27) directly to us.

I really love the end of this chapter as it talks about building Zion, and convincing people that the gospel is all one.  We sometimes take the scriptures for granted, but how important they are... how important they *all* are, together, in helping everyone to learn the same gospel and be on the same page with God.  And imagine Joseph Smith, translating all of this for the first time, and reading Nephi's vision about how important it was that all of this be restored, and be joined with the other scriptures to show the world that "there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth" (verse 41).  I'm not sure that we fully realize the importance to ourselves and to the world that we take the missing plain and precious things and understand how all the broken shards of the gospel fit into one whole.  Not, of course, telling everyone else that they are wrong, but in realizing, yes... that's good and true.  And there is more where that came from. :)  That strong vision and purpose comes across here, not only connecting Nephi and Joseph Smith in God's purpose, but pulling us in as well, urging us to continue the work. :)

Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion of Nephi's vision.

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