Evidence #326 | April 4, 2022

Lehi’s Calling (Mysteries)

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Scripture Central


Nephi repeatedly uses the term “mysteries” in connection with his father’s prophetic knowledge, which Lehi obtained through a visionary encounter with the divine council. This connection accurately reflects ancient Hebrew language and culture.

In the very first verse of the Book of Mormon, Nephi stated that he was “taught somewhat in all the learning of my father” and that he had a “knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God” (1 Nephi 1:1).1 This statement is soon followed by Nephi’s account of his father’s heavenly vision, wherein Lehi “saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels” (v. 8) and learned that Jerusalem “should be destroyed” (v. 13). This progression of ideas invites a connection between Lehi’s visionary experience and Nephi’s knowledge of God’s “mysteries.”2

The Grand Council, by Robert Barrett.

This relationship is reinforced in the next chapter where Nephi reports that Laman and Lemuel didn’t believe “Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets” (1 Nephi 2). In other words, they didn’t believe the contents of Lehi’s vision, and even mockingly referred to him as a “visionary man” (v. 11). In contrast, Nephi said that he prayed “to know of the mysteries of God,” after which he received a divine confirmation of Lehi’s words. (v. 16).

Nephi’s third and final use of “mysteries” occurs eight chapters later in 1 Nephi 10:19: “he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them.” Prior to making this statement, Nephi again recounted prophecies from his father, which are related to and expand upon Lehi’s initial visionary experience (as seen in the following chart).

Thus, in each instance Nephi’s use of “mysteries” is given in connection to the contents of his father’s visions and prophecies, with the consistent theme being that Nephi was able to learn for himself the same mysteries revealed to Lehi. 

This is notable because Lehi’s prophetic calling matches other accounts of prophets who learned secret truths after being inducted into a council of heavenly beings.3 Nephi’s use of “mysteries” fits this context in a way that the Book of Mormon’s English translation doesn’t fully convey.4 As pointed out by John W. Welch,

Interestingly, the Hebrew word for the “council” is sod. By association, it has also come to mean “a decree of the council.” Because the council and its actions were not open to the general public but were private and intimate, these decrees were secrets, known only to the prophets. Accordingly, Raymond E. Brown has concluded that the Semitic background of the concept of the “mysteries” of God resides in the idea of prophets (like Lehi) being “introduced into the heavenly assembly and gaining a knowledge of its secret decrees” (see also Amos 3:7).

Thus, it is remarkable yet understandable that when Nephi described his desire to receive a personal confirmation of the truth of his father’s words, he said that he wanted to “know of the mysteries of God.” Those “mysteries” (sod) were apparently synonymous, in Nephi’s inquiring mind, with the decrees and knowledge that Lehi had received in the council (also sod).5


It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that Nephi’s use of “mysteries” is consistently connected to his father’s visionary experiences. This repeated association suggests that whoever wrote 1 Nephi was familiar with the Hebrew conception of the divine council and knew that “mysteries” had a special connection to that ancient motif.

Neal Rappleye, “‘With the Tongue of Angels’: Angelic Speech as a Form of Deification,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 21 (2016): 303–323.

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.

John W. Welch, “Lehi’s Council Vision and the Mysteries of God,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992), 24–25.

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.

BibleGenesis 49:6Job 15:8Psalm 25:14Psalm 89:7Psalm 111:1Proverbs 11:13Jeremiah 23:18Amos 3:7Book of Mormon1 Nephi 1:11 Nephi 2:161 Nephi 10:19


Genesis 49:6

Job 15:8

Psalm 25:14

Psalm 89:7

Psalm 111:1

Proverbs 11:13

Jeremiah 23:18

Amos 3:7

Book of Mormon

1 Nephi 1:1

1 Nephi 2:16

1 Nephi 10:19

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

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