Evidence #321 | March 21, 2022

Lehi’s Calling (Intro)

Post contributed by


Scripture Central


The opening lines of Lehi’s record (as summarized by Nephi) are consistent with introductions found in prophetic books and prophetic call narratives surrounding Lehi’s day.

In a variety of ways, the account of Lehi’s prophetic calling in 1 Nephi 1 (wherein Lehi is introduced to a council of divine beings and receives a prophetic commission) adheres to a pattern found in biblical and pseudepigraphic literature surrounding the 6th century BC.1 One aspect of this pattern can be seen in the statements that preface his call:

For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed. (1 Nephi 1:4)

King Zedekiah. Image via lifegivingwaterdevo.org.

This brief historical note situates Lehi at a specific time (the first year) in the reign of a named ruler (Zedekiah) in a specific place (Jerusalem) and in a specific political and religious context (prophets are warning the people of destruction). As described by John W. Welch,

This was undoubtedly an unforgettably troubling year, for in the first part of December, 598 BC, Jehoiakim, king of Judah, had died. His son Jehoiachin, who was probably only an adolescent, was made king. Three months and ten days later, on 16 March (2 Adar), 597 BC, Jerusalem fell, having been besieged by the Babylonians (2 Kings 24:10–16). They deposed King Jehoiachin and deported him to Babylon, along with many of the leading citizens, soldiers, and craftsmen of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 24:1), leaving Jehoiachin’s uncle, the mere twenty-one-year-old Zedekiah, on the throne as a puppet king. Therefore, at the time when Lehi became concerned about the welfare of his people, the still-insurgent Jews at Jerusalem already knew well the indomitable military power of the Babylonians and were in a weakened political position with an inexperienced, twenty-one-year-old king at their helm. The situation in Jerusalem was grave and volatile, if not already desperate.2

Similar introductions, sometimes referred to as colophons,3 preface the books of many Old Testament prophets.4 Here are a few examples:

Nehemiah 1:1Jeremiah 1:1–4Amos 1:1
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace …The words of Jeremiah … To whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

In addition, Lehi’s opening words parallel the type of brief introduction found in prophetic call narratives in biblical and pseudepigraphic literature, as seen in the following examples:

Isaiah 6:1Ezekiel 1:1–32 Enoch 1:24 Ezra 3:1
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.In the first month, on the assigned day of the first month, I was in my house alone.In the thirtieth year after the destruction of our city, I … was in Babylon. I was troubled as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts welled up in my heart …

Blake Ostler explains,

The historical introduction fills the double function of establishing the time and place setting and giving certain biographical information about the prophet. … What N. Habel said of Isaiah’s historical prologue is equally true of Lehi’s: “Despite the overwhelming glory of the sacred locale [the temple], the historical moment is just as important to the prophet’s proclamation. The year was a year of transition, crisis and import; it was the year of the king’s death.” The historical prologue underscores the significance of the experience’s historical orientation.5

The Flight of the Prisoners (1896), by James Tissot. Image via Wikimedia Commons. 


Nephi’s introduction to Lehi’s writings—placed, as it is, at the beginning of Lehi’s prophetic call narrative and featuring a brief description of time, location, sitting ruler, and historical context—corresponds well with introductions found in prophetic books and prophetic-call narratives surrounding Lehi’s time.6 These parallels add to the historical plausibility of Nephi’s account and the believability of Lehi’s prophetic calling.

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.

Stephen D. Ricks, “Heavenly Visions and Prophetic Calls in Isaiah 6 (2 Nephi 16), the Book of Mormon, and the Revelation of John,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch; (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998), 171–190.

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; an earlier version was published as “The Calling of a Prophet,” in First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr., Book of Mormon Symposium Series, Volume 2 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1988), 35–54.

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.

BibleNehemiah 1:1Isaiah 6:1Jeremiah 1:1–4Ezekiel 1:1–3Daniel 1:1Hosea 1:1Amos 1:1Micah 1:1Zephaniah 1:1Haggai 1:1Zechariah 1:1Book of Mormon1 Nephi 1:4


Nehemiah 1:1

Isaiah 6:1

Jeremiah 1:1–4

Ezekiel 1:1–3

Daniel 1:1

Hosea 1:1

Amos 1:1

Micah 1:1

Zephaniah 1:1

Haggai 1:1

Zechariah 1:1

Book of Mormon

1 Nephi 1:4

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

© 2024 Scripture Central: A Non-Profit Organization. All rights reserved. Registered 501(c)(3). EIN: 20-5294264