Evidence #344 | June 6, 2022

Lehi’s Calling (Conclusion)

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Scripture Central

Abstract

Like several prophetic call narratives recorded in the Bible, Lehi’s prophetic calling has a conclusion separating it from the next literary unit.

In Nephi’s summary of his father’s record, Lehi is introduced to a council of divine beings (1 Nephi 1). In several ways, the details of Lehi’s heavenly encounter follow the pattern of prophetic call narratives found in biblical and pseudepigraphic literature.1

One common feature of the call narrative is the conclusion. As explained by Blake Ostler, the call narrative “usually concludes in a formal way, most often with a statement that the prophet has begun to carry out his commission.”2 The conclusion also may include “the awakening or return to earth of the recipient [of the revelation], the departure of the revealer, or the consequent actions of the recipient.”3 Several examples of conclusions in biblical texts will be provided below, after which the conclusion of Lehi’s prophetic call will be given in detail.4

Conclusions in Call Narratives in Biblical and Pseudepigraphic Texts

In Isaiah’s prophetic call, found in Isaiah 6, he asks the Lord how long the people will remain in their state of spiritual blindness (v. 11). This was in direct response to Isaiah’s commission to tell the people “Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not” (v. 9). The Lord’s answer—which outlines the future destruction, captivity, and eventual revitalization of Israel—fittingly concludes the call narrative (vv. 11–13). After this, a new chapter begins with new talking points introduced by the phrase “And it came to pass” (Isaiah 7:1). From this point forward, Isaiah begins to fulfill his commission by traveling to and communicating with Ahaz on behalf of the Lord (vv. 3–25).

The conclusion to Jeremiah’s prophetic call is somewhat more ambiguous. Ostler places it at Jeremiah 1:10: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” The Lord then continues his dialogue with Jeremiah for several passages and finally concludes, “And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee” (v. 19). This juncture may be the more fitting conclusion for several reasons.5

Jeremiah preaching to the people. Attribution unknown. 

Ezekiel’s prophetic call concludes in Ezekiel 3:11: “And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.” After this, Ezekiel is carried away by the Spirit to several different locations and begins to carry out his commission (Ezekiel 3:12–26).

The Conclusion in Lehi’s Call Narrative

Because of Nephi’s editorial activities, it is somewhat difficult to identify precisely where Lehi’s prophetic calling concludes, especially under the assumption that Nephi was drawing upon a more extended call narrative from Lehi’s own writings (see 1 Nephi 1:16). The best candidate for a formal conclusion in Nephi’s version of his father’s call appears to be the report of the people’s rejection in 1 Nephi 1:20 and then the Lord’s reassuring response in 1 Nephi 2:1:

“And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away. … For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life. (1 Nephi 1:20–2:1)6

After this passage, Lehi is given a related but separate commission to take his family into the wilderness (1 Nephi 2:2). This shift in topic—introduced by the phrase “And it came to pass”—shows that the preceding narrative was clearly finished.7 This doesn’t signal an end to Lehi’s prophetic activities altogether;8 it just means that the literary unit containing his initial prophetic calling and commission has formally ended.

Lehi and his family prepare to depart into the wilderness. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 

It is possible that in Lehi’s original account, the conclusion corresponded (like it does in the biblical narratives) with him beginning to fulfill his prophetic commission. However, just when readers might expect an account of the commission to be given and fulfilled, Nephi interrupts the narrative with some editorial comments. After omitting these details, it appears that Nephi instead opted to conclude the narrative by reporting on the people’s rejection of Lehi and the Lord’s reassurance that he would be blessed (1 Nephi 1:20, 2:1).

Conclusion

As found in other prophetic call narratives surrounding Lehi’s day, Lehi’s initial commission comes to a fitting end before the story moves on (1 Nephi 1:20; 2:1). Nephi’s statements in 1 Nephi 1:20 are conclusive enough, in fact, that later editors chose to create a chapter break at this juncture, even though a break isn’t present here in the original manuscript.9

Stephen O. Smoot, “The Divine Council in the Hebrew Bible and the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 27 (2017): 155–180.

John W. Welch, “The Calling of Lehi as a Prophet in the World of Jerusalem,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, ed. John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely (Provo: FARMS, 2004), 421–448.

Blake T. Ostler, “The Throne-Theophany and Prophetic Commission in 1 Nephi: A Form Critical Analysis,” BYU Studies Quarterly 26, no. 4 (1986): 67–95.

Isaiah 6:9–13Isaiah 7:1Jeremiah 1:10Jeremiah 1:19Ezekiel 3:11Ezekiel 3:12–261 Nephi 1:201 Nephi 2:11 Nephi 2:2

Isaiah 6:9–13

Isaiah 7:1

Jeremiah 1:10

Jeremiah 1:19

Ezekiel 3:11

Ezekiel 3:12–26

1 Nephi 1:20

1 Nephi 2:1

1 Nephi 2:2

Literary Features
Lehi's Calling
Lehi's Calling (Conclusion)
Book of Mormon

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