1 Ne 13 Nephi switches continents.
Now Nephi will see many nations and kingdoms of Europe and Asia. The time period covered in chapter 13 extends approximately from the destruction of the Nephites, in 385 AD, to the 20th century. This chapter chronicles the church of Europe in the Middle Ages, Columbus, other explorers and their conquests, changes made to the Bible when it was compiled, the founding fathers, the Revolutionary War, the effect of the Bible on the Europeans and early Americans, the re-establishment of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the early church leaders, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and the preaching of the gospel to the descendants of the Lamanites. It is amazing that this chapter could contain that much history in only 42 verses.
1 Ne 13:3 Who are the kingdoms of the Gentiles?
Based on the context of Nephi's vision, the kingdoms of the Gentiles are those nations which were under the influence of the great church (v. 4). This would approximate the influence of the Roman Empire and include all of Western Europe, most of Eastern Europe, some of Asia Minor, and some of Northern Africa.
1 Ne 13:5 The great and abominable church
Bruce R. McConkie
"Nephi saw the 'church which is most abominable above all other churches' in vision. He 'saw the devil that he was the foundation of it'; and also the murders, wealth, harlotry, persecutions, and evil desires that are part of this organization (1 Ne 13:1-10)
"He saw that this church took away from the gospel of the Lamb many covenants and many plain and precious parts; that it perverted the right ways of the Lord; that it deleted many teachings from the Bible; that it was 'the mother of harlots'; and finally that the Lord would again restore the gospel of salvation. (1 Ne. 13:24-42.)
"Similar visions were given to John as recorded in the 17th and 18th chapters of Revelation. He saw this evil church as a whole ruling over peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues; as being full of blasphemy abominations, filthiness, and fornication; as having the name, 'MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH'; as drunken with the blood of the saints; as revelling in wealth and the delicacies of the earth; as making merchandise of all costly items and of 'slaves, and souls of men.' And then John, as did Nephi, saw the fall and utter destruction of this great church whose foundation is the devil.
"In this world of carnality and sensuousness, the great and abominable church will continue its destructive course. But there will be an eventual future day when evil shall end, 'and the great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire.' (D. & C. 29:21; Ezek. 38; 39; 1 Ne. 22:23; Rev. 18.) Before that day, however, desolations will sweep through the earth and the various branches of the great and abominable church 'shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood.' (1 Ne. 22:13-14; 14:3.)" (Mormon Doctrine, pp.138-9)
1 Nephi 13:8 Behold the gold, and the silver… and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church
In 1510, Martin Luther visited Rome. As a German monk, he was associated with a group of pious priests who took their stewardship seriously. What he saw in Rome shocked him:
“The abysmal ignorance, frivolity, and levity of the Italian priests stupefied him. They… were flippantly unbelieving and would address the sacrament saying, ‘Bread art thou and bread thou wilt remain, and wine art thou and wine thou wilt remain.’ (The doctrine at the time was that the bread and wine actually turned into the body and blood of Christ by a process called transubstantiation. The priests were mocking this doctrine) To a devout believer from the unsophisticated Northland such disclosures were truly shocking...
[Hearing] of the immorality of the Roman clergy… [Luther wondered] if there were a hell Rome was built upon it… the district of ill fame was frequented by ecclesiastics (priests). He heard there were those who considered themselves virtuous because they confined themselves to women.” (RH Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, [Peabody Mass., Hendrickson Publishers, 1950], p. 31)
1 Ne 13:9 For the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God
The saints to which Nephi refers are righteous Christians who brought to pass the Reformation. The passage is interesting because it refers to saints at a time when the Lord's truth, his priesthood, and his church had long been taken from the earth. Nonetheless, the Lord inspired righteous men to bring to pass the Reformation, knowing that there could be no Restoration without there first being a Reformation. These early reformers suffered terrible persecution and death at the hand of the ruling religious and political authorities.
Joseph Smith once came across John Foxe's, Book of Martyrs. John Foxe had lived in the 1500's and personally witnessed the persecutions and martyrdoms of many early reformers. Edward Stevenson later described the Prophet's reaction to the book:
"He expressed sympathy for the Christian martyrs and a hope for their salvation. He asked to borrow the book, promising to return it when he should meet us again in Missouri. On returning it he said, 'I have, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, seen those martyrs. They were honest, devoted followers of Christ, according to the light they possessed. They will be saved.'" (S. Michael Wilcox, Fire in the Bones, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2004] pp. 16-17)
For what crimes were these early saints destroyed? In England, "The principal cause... was for teaching their children and family the Lord's Prayer and Ten commandments in English." Parents who taught these things to their children "were burned. Their children were warned to forget the offending words placed in their memory by loving parents and to remember only the fate they had suffered... a standard question of the Inquisition was, 'Have you read or do you own the scriptures in the common tongue?" (S. Michael Wilcox, Fire in the Bones, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2004] pp. 1-4) William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English prior to the King James commission, was hung and then burned in 1536. His generation of English Reformers were similarly executed. On the continent, thousands were executed and persecuted by various elements of the Inquisition. In the mid-1500's in England, Queen Mary became known as "bloody Mary" by executing those in support of an Anglican church. "It is a broad fact that during the last four years of Queen Mary's reign no less than 288 persons were burnt at the stake for their adhesion to the Protestant faith."
1 Ne 13:12 Who is this man among the Gentiles?
"During seven long years Columbus importuned King Ferdinand for a hearing. But he was generally regarded as a visionary. Even the children in the streets knew him as one mentally unsound. When, at last, the learned council condescended to make a report, it was to the effect that the plan was too foolish to merit attention. 'It is absurd," they said, "to believe that there are people on the other side of the world, walking with their heels upward, and their heads hanging down. And then, how can a ship get there? The torrid zone through which they must pass, is a region of fire, where the very waves boil. And even if a ship could perchance get around there safely, how could it ever get back? Can a ship sail uphill?'
"With such arguments the wise men of Spain were about to drive Columbus out of the country. In fact, he decided to go to France. But, fortunately, the queen, Isabella, had as much to say in such matters as her royal consort. And she listened to friends of Columbus. She was even willing to raise money on her jewels to defray the expenses of a voyage. But this was not required of her. Luis de Santangel, who held the keys to the treasury of Aragon, looked after the finances. The agreement between the regents and Columbus was signed on April 17, 1492. Columbus shed tears of joy. He had reached the goal, after eighteen long years of labor, disappointments and heartache.
"Columbus is described as a man of commanding presence, tall and powerful, fair, ruddy complexion, and blue-grey eyes. By the time he sailed for the new world, his hair had turned white. His bearing was courteous and his conversation was captivating. Notwithstanding all discouragement, he never lost faith in his divine calling and mission.
"It was on August 3, 1492, that Columbus with three vessels-the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Niña, with 90 souls on board-set out from Palos, Spain. It was on October 12, the same year that Columbus with a retinue of officers and men set foot on the beach of an island which he named San Salvador." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 119)
1 Ne 13:12 the Spirit of God...came down and wrought upon the man
"According to the vision of Nephi, it was the Spirit of God that prompted first Columbus and then the Gentiles to go forth upon the waters.
"That Columbus considered himself inspired is well authenticated history. The following from an enlightening article by Mark Petersen on, 'American History and Nephi's Vision,' published in the Deseret News, March 25, 1933, proves that he was very much conscious of his divine calling:
"Many biographies have been written concerning Columbus. We take one at random, and quote from 'Columbus, Don Quixote of the Seas,' by Jacob Wasserman, translated into English from the German by Eric Sutton and published in Boston:
"'On page 18 of this book, Columbus is directly quoted as follows:
"'From my first youth onward, I was a seaman, and have so continued until this day. Wherever ship has been I have been. I have spoken and treated with learned men, priests and laymen, Latin and Greeks, Jews and Moors, and with many men of other faiths. The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and he bestowed upon me courage and understanding; knowledge of seafaring he gave me in abundance; of astrology as much as was needed, and of geometry and astronomy likewise. Further, he gave me joy and cunning in drawing maps and thereon cities, mountains, rivers, islands and the harbors, each one in its place. I have seen and truly I have studied all books, cosmographies, histories, chronicles and philosophies, and other arts, for which our Lord with provident hand unlocked my mind, sent me upon the seas, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my emprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the HOLY GHOST INSPIRED ME?'
"'On page 46 of the same book, we read that in the year of his success, Columbus wrote upon one occasion to King Ferdinand: 'I CAME TO YOUR MAJESTY AS THE EMISSARY OF THE HOLY GHOST.'" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 121)
1 Ne 13:14 the seed of my brethren...were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten
The 1981 Book of Mormon Student Manual reads:
"The fulfillment of Nephi's prophecy concerning the scattering of the seed of his brethren is so vast a topic as to fill volumes and can be touched on here only briefly. It is one of the most tragic stories of history, equaling in many ways the persecution and suffering of the Jewish people through the centuries. (See 1 Ne 19:13-15)
"From the time Columbus landed in the West Indies, the destruction and driving of the Indian people began. The extent of this destruction has only recently started coming to full light. For example, Wilbur R. Jacobs a noted historian, refutes the earlier projections made by European and American scholars of the Indian population at the time Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere in 1492. Estimates used to place the Indian population of North America at about a million, and in both North and South America at no more than 8 million. However, according to Jacobs, modern projections which are widely accepted today place the total at 90 million for the whole of the Western Hemisphere and nearly 10 million in North America alone. (See "The Indian and the Frontier in American History-A Need for Revision," Western Historical Quarterly, Jan. 1973, p. 45.) When this total of 10 million Indians living in North America is compared with the estimated 235,000 who were alive at the turn of the twentieth century, one begins to glimpse the scope of the tragedy...
."...That story was repeated numerous times at the hands of men like Cortez, Pizzaro, and DeSoto, in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States. The scenes viewed by Nephi six hundred years before Christ were fulfilled with horrible reality. As one author put it:
"'Here was a race in process of being engulfed in an irresistible flood of peoples of an utterly different culture. Dislocated from their accustomed seats, transplanted again and again, treated by whites as hostile encumbrances of the fertile earth to be brushed aside or destroyed, bewildered by a type of economy for which they were unprepared, decimated by disease and vices to which they had built up no resistance, repeatedly seeing solemn treaties violated, subject to shifting governmental policies, preyed upon by incompetent and greedy officials, and at times demoralized by an excess of well intentioned but ill directed paternalistic kindness, it is a wonder that the Indians survived.' (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, The Great Century, vol. 4, p. 323)" (Book of Mormon Student Manual, 1981, pp. 34-5)
1 Ne 13:13-19 The pilgrims, the Revolutionary War, and the founding fathers lay the foundation for the Restoration
An article in the June 1999 Ensign, entitled "Preparing for the Restoration," discusses these historical developments as preludes to the restoration of the gospel:
"On the occasion of the Church's centennial in 1930, the First presidency declared: 'It was not by chance that the Puritans left their native land and sailed away to the shores of New England, and that others followed later. They were the advance guard of the army of the Lord, [foreordained] to establish the God-given system of government under which we live....and prepare the way for the restoration of the Gospel of Christ.'
"President Ezra Taft Benson taught that 'all of the great events that have transpired [in America], including the coming of Columbus and of the Pilgrim fathers, were foreseen by ancient prophets.' After prophesying about Columbus, Nephi continued: 'I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters' (1 Ne 13:13). Writers such as Plymouth Plantation governor William Bradford (1590-1657) described the persecution and imprisonment the Pilgrims endured in Europe before they fled to America in search of religious liberty.
"Nephi foresaw that the colonists would 'humble themselves before the Lord' (1 Ne 13:16). William Bradford recorded that as the Pilgrims set sail on their voyage to America, 'they had a day of solemn humiliation,' their pastor proclaiming 'a fast, that we might humble ourselves before our God.' Acting under inspiration, the Pilgrims drew up the Mayflower Compact, said to be 'the first written constitution in North America,' which called for obedience to laws enacted by the group rather than decreed by a monarch.
"The Puritans subsequently settled in Massachusetts Bay and eventually absorbed the Pilgrims. However, the Puritans were not tolerant of those who did not believe as they did. One of the dissenters among the Puritans was Roger Williams, who believed in religious freedom and maintained that the apostolic church organized by Christ was no longer on the earth. After banishment, Williams and his followers founded Providence, Rhode Island, and adopted principles that became important traditions in the United States, such as democracy, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.
"Colonists in other parts of America also worked for religious freedom. Under the leadership of the Calvert family, Roman Catholics settled in Maryland and in 1649 passed the Act of Toleration, which advocated freedom of conscience. In 1681 the king of England granted a charter of land to devout Quaker William Penn, whose colony in Pennsylvania became a model of religious tolerance. Of these colonists President Benson wrote, 'The Pilgrims of Plymouth, the Calverts of Maryland, Roger Williams, William Penn-all had deep religious convictions that played a principal part in their coming to the New World. They too, I believe, came here under the inspiration of heaven.'
"The final event that Nephi observed in his vision of the American colonies was the War for Independence. He wrote:
"'And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to do battle against them.
"And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.
"And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations' (1 Ne 13:17-19).
"President Wilford Woodruff taught: 'Those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth....General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord.' President Woodruff also related: 'Every one of those men that signed the Declaration of Independence, with General Washington, called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the House of God for them.'
"George Washington gave credit to God for the victory of the United States. In his farewell address to his army, he said: 'The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the [United] States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.' President Spencer W. Kimball said: 'The Lord permitted these few poorly armed and ill-clad men at Valley Forge and elsewhere to defeat a great army,...a few against the many, but the few had on their side the Lord God of heaven, that gave them victory. And there came political liberty and religious liberty with it, all in preparation for the day when a young boy would come forth and would seek and make contact with the Lord and open the doors of heaven again.'
"After the colonists won their independence, they experimented for a short time with a government under the Articles of Confederation. When they found that method inadequate, leaders turned their attention to drafting a new form of government. Few, if any, people on earth hold the resulting United States Constitution in higher esteem than do Latter-day Saints. The Lord has said: 'That every man may act in doctrine and principle...according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment...
"And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood' (DC 101:78,80).
"The Constitution and Bill of Rights applied directly to the needs of a new religion because they provided for freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly. Later the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that 'the Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard; it is founded in the wisdom of God. It is a heavenly banner.'" (Arnold K. Garr, June 1999 Ensign, pp 38-40)
1 Ne 13:23 The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews
The Book of Mormon... declares that the Bible is true, and it proves it; And the two prove each other true. (Ensign, Oct. 2011, 26)
Harold B. Lee
In this day when the Bible is being downgraded by many who have mingled philosophies of the world with Bible scriptures to nullify their true meaning, how fortunate that our eternal heavenly Father, who is always concerned about the spiritual well-being of His children, has given to us a companion book of scriptures, known as the Book of Mormon, as a defense for the truths of the Bible were written and spoken by the prophets as the Lord directed. (Ensign, Oct. 2011, 26)
1 Ne 13:23 it is a record like....the plates of brass, save there are not so many
Earlier in this commentary, we have discussed that the brass plates of Laban contained many prophecies not contained in the Old Testament. Here Nephi tells directly compares the size of the brass plates record to our Old Testament record and he states that the brass plates were larger. This means there must have been a lot of records contained in that work that we do not have now, probably much more than the three additional prophets that Nephi mentions: Zenos, Zenock, and Neum (1 Ne 19:10).
1 Ne 13:26 they have taken away....many parts which are plain and most precious
The ministry of Joseph Smith fortunately replaced many, but not all, of the plain and precious parts of the Bible which were taken away. His retranslation of the Bible restored great truths, especially about the events written in Genesis. This is seen in the entire book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis, especially chapter 50.
The historical events surrounding the creation of the New Testament record are poorly recorded. No single person or group has been attributed with the compilation of the Bible as we know it and the year that it was put together is still in dispute. Therefore, external evidence corroborating Nephi's claim is lacking. This in no way takes away from the truthfulness of his statement. There is evidence, however, that epistles of early church leaders were evaluated at different times and judgments were made as to whether they should be included as canon or not. Some of these works were probably spurious, but others were probably inspired. The historical record is complete enough to list some of these works and the confusion which at times prevailed over what records should be included in the New Testament. A historian of the 18th century named Mosheim recorded:
"As to the time when and the persons by whom, the books of the New Testament were collected into one volume, there are various opinions, or rather conjectures, of the learned; for the subject is attended with great and almost inexplicable difficulties to us of these latter times. It must sufficed to know, that before the middle of the second century, most of the books composing the New Testament were in every Christian Church throughout the known world, and were read and regarded as the divine rule of faith and practice.
"...Not long after the Saviour's ascension, various histories of his life and doctrines full of impositions and fables were composed by persons of no bad intentions perhaps, but who were superstitious, simple, and addicted to pious frauds; and afterwards various spurious writings were palmed upon the world, inscribed with the names of the holy apostles. These worthless productions would have wrought great confusion, and would have rendered both the history and the religion of Christ uncertain, had not the rulers of churches seasonably interposed, and caused the books which were truly divine and which came from apostolic hands, to be speedily separated from that mass of trash into a volume by themselves." (Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, 6th ed., 1868, pp. 36-39)
In light of Nephi's statement, one can't help but wonder if the works which are referred to by Mosheim as "spurious writings...worthless productions...mass of trash" weren't in actuality, "plain and precious." Here we see evidence that the "rulers of churches" interceded to decide what should be included and what should be excluded. Mosheim next chronicles a series of these other works which were excluded. They include the works of Clement, a bishop at Antioch and companion of the early elders of the church, the Epistle of Polycarp, who had direct contact with John, the Revelator, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, and many others.
James E. Talmage recorded the importance of councils held later to determine what should be included as canon:
"In addition to individual testimony we have that of ecclesiastical councils and official bodies, by whom the question of authenticity [of the books of the New Testament] was tried and decided. In this connection may be mentioned the Council of Nice, 325 A.D.; the Council of Laodicea, 363 A.D.; the Council of Hippo, 393 A.D.; the third and the sixth Councils of Carthage, 397 and 419 A.D.
"Since the date last named, no dispute as to the authenticity of the New Testament has claimed much attention. The present is too late a time and the separating distance too vast to encourage the reopening of the question. The New Testament must be accepted for what it claims to be; and though, perhaps, many precious parts have been suppressed or lost, while some corruptions of the texts may have crept in, and errors have been inadvertently introduced through the incapacity of translators, the volume as a whole must be admitted as authentic and credible, and as an essential part of the Holy Scriptures." (A Study of the Articles of Faith, James E. Talmage, p. 248)
1 Ne 13:30 the mixture of thy seed, which are among thy brethren
The context of verse 30 is that the Americans would not utterly destroy the native American Indians, described by Nephi as the mixture of thy seed, which are among thy brethren. But how could Nephi's seed be alive in the 18th & 19th centuries? The simplified version of history records that the Lamanites killed the Nephites in about 385 AD. However, the Book of Mormon record states that there were Lamanites among the Nephites and Nephites among the Lamanites. These had chosen their allegience based on religious and political lines and not racial lines. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the promise was given to Nephi that some of his seed would be preserved even after the final destruction of the Nephites. This means that some Nephites who had defected to the Lamanite side would merge with Lamanite society (see Alma 45:13) and the blood of Nephi would be preserved.
Mormon records that some Nephites had been mixed with the Lamanites, And they (the records) have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites, even until they have fallen into transgression and have been murdered plundered, and hunted, and driven forth, and slain, and scattered upon the face of the earth, and mixed with the Lamanites until they are no more called the Nephites, becoming wicked, and wild, and ferocious, yea, even becoming Lamanites (Hel 3:16). Moroni's statement that after the final great battle that the Lamanites put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ (Mor 1:2) implies that there were Nephites who preserved their lives by denying the Christ and joined the Lamanite society.
1 Ne 13:37 Blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day...How beautiful upon the mountains shall they be
This passage has reference to the prophecy of Isaiah found in Isa 52:7, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace. Nephi was referring to those who would bring forth the kingdom of God in the latter days. Few would doubt that men like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith, Parley P. Pratt, Willard Richards, John Taylor, Oliver Cowdery, and a hundred others were foreordained to the great work of the Restoration. Sometimes, we underestimate the importance of an event because of our proximity to it. The Restoration of priesthood keys, saving ordinances, and temple worship is the key to saving the entire earth from destruction. This destruction would come with the Second Coming of the Lord. Joseph Smith was told what would happen without the Restoration, If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming (JS-H 1:39).
1 Ne 13:39 What are the other books?
The other books must be the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. It may also include those other works powerful enough to change the lives of men and women seeking for the truth.
1 Ne 13:42 the last shall be first and the first shall be last.
This scripture has been confusing to some but is quite simple. The "first" refers to the house of Israel; the "last" refers to the Gentiles. Christ made it clear during his ministry that he was sent only to the house of Israel. In speaking to the woman of Canaan, he said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt 15:24). Although the Jews had rejected the Lord on several previous occasions (during Old Testament times), the Lord in his mercy gave them the opportunity to accept Jehovah as he ministered among them in the flesh. It was not until the Jews had called for his crucifixion, consented to his death, and cried, His blood be upon us, and upon our children (Matt 27:25) that they lost the privilege of having the gospel preached preferentially to them. Shortly thereafter, Peter saw the famous vision which opened up the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles (see Acts 10). Therefore in Christ's day the Jews heard the gospel first and the Gentiles heard the gospel last. In the last days, the Lord would reestablish his kingdom through the Gentiles; they would be the first to hear the good word and the Jews would be last.