When the vision Lehi had was also revealed to Nephi, by his own request from the Lord, he was shown everything from the “beginning to the end” and specifically what his part in this grand scheme was to be, or what he was elected to do. In other words, he was shown that “his calling and election” was to “keep the record”. This is very important for us to understand so that we can also see that this “calling” was faithfully fulfilled, making his calling and election sure.
The vision itself was recorded over the course of four chapters beginning with Chapter 11 in the first book of Nephi. In Chapter 11 we are shown the “Condescension of God” by viewing the life of the Savior, Jesus Christ. We are taught of His ministry among the inhabitants of the “Old World” or Israel, and how they would reject Him, and by so doing, become a lost and scattered people. I can only imagine the pain that this vision would cause Nephi, as he saw the future destruction of his ancestors, brought about because of their pride and worldly aspirations, as they fought against the Lamb and His twelve apostles. I believe it was necessary to show Nephi the dismal state that they would be in so that he would recognize the importance of the work he was given to do, to make sure the record he was called to keep actually would be kept.
In chapter 12 Nephi is shown further destruction, only this time it was concerning his direct line, or “seed”, which would inhabit the “land of promise”, or the America’s. His vision includes the rapid rise of his people, in both number and greatness, as well as the growth of the “seed of his brethren” too. He sees conflict and contention between the two groups in the form of wars and great “slaughters with the sword”, culminating in a great “mist of darkness” with natural disasters occurring in the land. This view, however, was only a precursor to the event that was most central for his posterity, that of the coming of the resurrected Christ to the America’s.
Nephi is also given a view of the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ during the time of the Savior’s visit to his posterity, and the calling of the twelve disciples who would lead that Church. Subtly, we are also reminded by the angels words the order of Christ’s kingdom and of the fact that Nephi is part of the remnant of the house of Israel.
1 Nephi 12:9And he said unto me: Thou rememberest the twelve apostles of the Lamb? Behold they are they who shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, the twelve ministers of thy seed shall be judged of them; for ye are of the house of Israel.
This reminder is ever present in the pages of The Book of Mormon so that we will be aware of the promises given to “the remnant” and the mission they will fulfill.
Also contained in the verses of Chapter 12 are the definitions of some of the symbols that Lehi told his family about concerning the vision he saw.
Mist of darkness:
1 Nephi 12:17And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.
Fountain of filthy water, or river of filthy water:
1 Nephi 12:16And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell.
Large and spacious building:
1 Nephi 12:18And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.
Finally Nephi sees the years following the appearance of the Savior, starting with four generations of love and peace, and the unfortunate evolutionary process of their downfall, resulting in a “dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people.”
In both Chapter 11, where Nephi sees his ancestry scattered, and Chapter 12, where he sees his posterity scattered as well, he is given a view of the awful state of his people and their need to be “gathered” and taught correct principles.
Again, I believe it was important for him to be shown this dismal predicament, for him to understand the great importance of his calling he will be given to “keep the record”. His record would ultimately “show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—“(as found in the title page of The Book of Mormon itself).
The Book of Mormon will be the great gathering tool needed to fulfill the promise of God to Adam. It is part of the great plan of happiness, and Nephi has a very important role to play in that plan.