Evidence #331 | April 18, 2022

Lehi’s Calling (Songs of Praise)

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In vision, Lehi saw angelic beings singing and praising God, after which Lehi himself burst forth into his own exclamations of praise. These details are consistent with the prophetic call pattern found in the Bible and pseudepigrapha.

In Nephi’s summary of his father’s record, Lehi is introduced to a council of divine beings and receives a prophetic commission (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 motif in this pattern is known as the Qedussa, which can be described as “angelic songs of the heavenly council praising Yahweh as thrice holy.”2 In Lehi’s account, he “saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God” (1 Nephi 1:8).

Lehi, however, didn’t just leave the singing to the heavenly choir. It appears he joined them in their praise, exclaiming things such as “Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!” (v. 14).

According to John W. Welch, Lehi “spontaneously and eloquently joined the heavenly host in praising God. By so doing he functionally, if not constitutionally, joined the council as one of its members.”3 Similar accounts can be found in prophetic call narratives, as well as in other literary contexts, recorded both in the Bible and the pseudepigrapha.

The Bible

Concerning the creation of the world, it is recorded in the book of Job that “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). It is widely understood that the “morning stars” in this passage refer to angelic beings.4 After establishing that the “Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens,” Psalm 103 exhorts various groups (“his angels,” “his hosts,” “ministers of his,” and “all his works”) to “Bless the Lord” (vv. 19–22).

In Isaiah’s prophetic call, he heard one of the seraphim cry out to another: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).5 And in Ezekiel’s call, he declared, “Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place” (Ezekiel 3:12).

Isaiah's prophetc calling. Image via Wikimedia Commons. 

Finally, in the book of Revelation, John saw heavenly beings surrounding the throne of God who exclaimed, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). In the next chapter, these beings, as well as 24 elders, “fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song” which praised the Lord (Revelation 5:8).

The Pseudepigrapha

According to the Testament of Adam, “seraphim and cherubim … stand before the majesty of our Lord Jesus the Messiah and serve the throne of his magnificence, glorifying him hourly with their ‘holy, holy, holy’” (4:8).6

In Enoch’s prophetic call, found in 2 Enoch, he beheld the “singing of the army of the cherubim” that surrounded “the Lord’s immovable throne” (1:4–6).7 The text also mentions that heavenly armies “did obeisance to the Lord” and could be heard “singing songs with soft and gentle voices” (20:1–4).8 Another passage mentions that the “cherubim and seraphim” were singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord [Lord] Sabaoth” (21:1).9

In the opening visions of Rabbi Ishmael, recounted in 3 Enoch, he explains that at first “I had not strength enough to sing a hymn before the glorious throne of the glorious King” but then the Holy One “enlightened my eyes and my heart to utter psalm, praise, jubilation, thanksgiving, song, glory, majesty, laud, and strength. And when I opened my mouth and sang praises before the throne of glory the holy creatures below the throne of glory and above the throne responded after me saying: Holy, holy, holy and Blessed be the glory of the Lord in his dwelling place.”10 Angelic songs of praise are discussed throughout the text.11

The Heavenly Choir, by Gustave Dore.

Upon encountering a heavenly fire, Abraham’s angelic escort in the Apocalypse of Abraham told him to “worship … and recite the song which I taught you” (17:5). Abraham reports, “I recited, and he himself recited the song” (17: 6–7). Abraham also saw a “throne of fire and many-eyed ones round about, reciting the song” with him (18:3).12 In the Testament of Abraham, when “the angels escorted [Abraham’s] precious soul and ascended into heaven” they were “singing the thrice-holy hymn to God” (20:12).13

According to the Testament of Isaac, Isaac reports, “they took me by the hand and led me to the curtain before the throne of the Father. So I prostrated myself before him and worshiped him with my father and all the saints, while we uttered praises and cried aloud, saying, ‘Most holy, most holy, most holy is the Lord Sabaoth’” (6:1–5).14 As recounted in the Ladder of Jacob, angelic beings “sing unceasingly a hymn” as they surround God sitting on his “fiery throne of glory.” Jacob then joined the choir with his own song and praise, exclaiming things like “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “hear my song with which I have sung you and grant me the request I ask of you” (2:7–22).15

The theme of angelic singing and praise, as well as Isaiah’s participation in the heavenly choir, is also found throughout the Ascension of Isaiah. For instance, Isaiah declared, “I saw one standing (there) whose glory surpassed that of all.” Then all the righteous prophets and angels “praised him with one voice, and I also was singing praises with them, and my praise was like theirs” (9:28).16

The Questions of Ezra states that “guardians stand around the throne of the Divinity” and that “they cry, ‘Holy, Holy, (Holy) Lord of Hosts” (26–30).17 As reported in 4 Ezra, Ezra witnessed in vision “a great multitude” of angelic beings who were “praising the Lord with songs.” When he learned that one of the beings was the “Son of God,” Ezra himself “began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord” (2:42–48).18 The Apocalypse of Zephaniah records: “And a spirit took me and brought me up into the fifth heaven. And I saw angels … singing hymns to the ineffable most high God.”19


Lehi’s description of “numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God” is consistent with many ancient texts, both biblical and extrabiblical. Not only is the theme of angelic singing common to heavenly visions generally, but it is specifically found in other prophetic call narratives.

Interestingly, the motif of the visionary himself joining the heavenly choirs—which is found in 1 Nephi 1 and other call narratives in the pseudepigrapha—appears to be absent in the biblical call narratives. Joseph Smith, therefore, likely wouldn’t have been aware of its significance or appropriateness merely from reading his King James Bible. Only when read in light of the larger body of pseudepigraphic texts does it become clear that Lehi’s exclamations of praise signaled his induction into the divine council as an active participant, rather than passive observer.

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.

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.

BibleJob 38:7Psalm 103:19–22Isaiah 6:3Ezekiel 3:12Revelation 5:8Book of Mormon1 Nephi 1:81 Nephi 1:14


Job 38:7

Psalm 103:19–22

Isaiah 6:3

Ezekiel 3:12

Revelation 5:8

Book of Mormon

1 Nephi 1:8

1 Nephi 1:14

Literary Features
Lehi's Calling
Lehi's Calling (Songs of Praise)
Book of Mormon

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