Evidence #423 | October 3, 2023

Nephite Prophetic View

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Scripture Central


Book of Mormon authors held a revealed understanding of history comprised of four distinct stages. The recurring implementation of this framework in the Nephite record is quite complex, especially the way that Isaiah’s writings are integrated into it.

In his studies of the use of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, John W. Welch noticed an interesting pattern which he designated as “the Nephite prophetic view.”1 It can be understood as a divinely revealed understanding of history comprised of four distinct stages:2

Stage 1: Christ’s Coming

  • Christ comes among men and misters to them.
  • Christ performs his atonement, dies, and is resurrected.

Stage 2: The Scattering of Israel

  • Christ is rejected by the Jews and Gentiles, signaling impending calamities.
  • Israel is scattered and dwindles in unbelief.
  • Israel is scourged for rejecting the Messiah.

Stage 3: The Day of the Gentiles

  • God blesses the Gentiles and conveys his word through them.
  • The Gentiles help bless and restore the house of Israel.
  • The Gentiles turn to wickedness.

Stage 4: The Restoration of Israel

  • God and his covenant people are victorious over the powers of evil.
  • The great and abominable kingdom of the devil falls.
  • Righteousness and peace cover the earth. 

This pattern is perhaps most clearly seen and articulated in Nephi’s panoramic vision in 1 Nephi 11–14. Yet it is also found in various other Nephite texts, especially the Small Plates (see 1 Nephi 19–22; 2 Nephi 6–10; 2 Nephi 25–30; Jacob 4–6; 3 Nephi 15–16; 3 Nephi 20–25).3

Four Stages of the Nephite Prophetic View. Compilation via Scripture Central. 

Isaiah and the Nephite Prophetic View

To help reinforce, explain, and give credibility to their prophetic understanding of history, Nephite authors regularly cited and utilized the writings of Isaiah. However, the four-part framework which they developed isn’t clearly delineated in Isaiah’s writings themselves. Rather, the formula seems to come from crucial visions experienced by Lehi and Nephi, which eventually “crystallized when Nephi wrote his seminal text now found in 1 Nephi 11–14.”4

Only after this did Nephite authors incorporate scattered statements from Isaiah’s writings into their visionary framework. As explained by Welch, “the prophetic writings of Nephi and Jacob consistently chart the main events of the future by casting world history into four distinct stages. They selected, used, and interpreted certain Isaiah texts because those texts served within a particular prophetic view.”5

Image via Scripture Central

Theological Significance

One might wonder what this prophetic framework meant to Nephite prophets and their people. As explained by Welch,

This set of four specific stages of expectation for the future was more than just a social perspective or a political outlook: it constituted a full worldview that shaped and controlled other interpretations and opinions about various scriptures, religious questions, personal and group identity, and the very purpose of life among the Nephites. To the righteous Nephites, this sequence of truths and values explained the big questions of their group’s existence: where they as a people had come from, why they had left the Old World, what they were doing in a remote corner of the world, and where their extraordinary journey would eventually take them and their posterity. Thus, this prophetic expectation constituted a richly developed and actualized worldview, not merely an abstract hypothesis.6


In and of itself, the Nephite prophetic view can be seen as an “underlying consistency” in the Book of Mormon.7 Once recognized for what it is, this recurring pattern suddenly jumps out at the reader and helps explain how certain texts fit into a larger theological framework. Recognition of the Nephite prophetic view can also strengthen one’s appreciation of the coherent use of Isaiah’s writings by Nephite authors. As concluded by Welch,

I would hope that readers might pause and realize how impressive it is that Isaiah’s words were not just quoted arbitrarily in the Book of Mormon. Chapters like Isaiah 48 and 49 are quoted purposefully and intelligently within the guiding sequence and framework of the Nephite prophetic view. … To accomplish this meaningful integration of the complex Isaiah texts into the literary context of the Book of Mormon, Nephi and Jacob needed to be thoroughly conversant with the writings of Isaiah as well as fully immersed in the Nephite worldview. Such an impressive feat of meaningful integration and extensive utilization of Isaiah required much more than a casual or random association of one text with the other.8

Based on the historical evidence, it is questionable whether Joseph Smith had the literary talent and biblical knowledge needed to fabricate this doctrinal pattern, much less to interweave Isaiah’s writings so seamlessly into it.9 This is especially the case when considering all of the unique constraints involved in Joseph Smith’s dictation of the Book of Mormon in 1829.10 At the very least, the Nephite prophetic view adds one more subtle and creative textual consistency that he would have needed to fabricate and orally dictate. Unless, of course, he produced the text as he consistently claimed—by the gift and power of God.

Steven L. Olsen, “Prophecy and History: Structuring the Abridgment of the Nephite Records,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 1 (2006): 18–29, 70–71.

John W. Welch, “Getting through Isaiah with the Help of the Nephite Prophetic View,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998), 19–45.

1 Nephi 11–141 Nephi 19–222 Nephi 6–102 Nephi 25–30Jacob 4–63 Nephi 15–163 Nephi 20–25

1 Nephi 11–14

1 Nephi 19–22

2 Nephi 6–10

2 Nephi 25–30

Jacob 4–6

3 Nephi 15–16

3 Nephi 20–25


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