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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Sunday, May 04, 2014

Why does Lehi disobey direct commandments of God?

All Jeremiah references are taken from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints King James Version (LDS KJV).

Lehi is the first distinct LDS prophet and Nephi is his son, who takes the spiritual lead after Lehi's death. Nephi records his father's revelations in the first chapters of 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

1 Nephi: Lehi and Nephi's Commands

The heading just prefacing 1 Nephi 1:1 reads, "[Lehi] is persecuted by the Jews."  The events of the book begin "in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah." (1 Nephi 1:4).  Nephi's father, Lehi, begins in joining other prophets (initially, just Jeremiah; Jeremiah 25) that preach repentance in the face of the destruction of Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon references Jeremiah 26:18-20 in its footnotes and there, Jeremiah, Micah, and Uriah are all despised for prophesying destruction of Jerusalem because of its evil ways (also, 1 Nephi 1: 18-20). Shortly thereafter, Lehi is given a very comprehensive revelation, one so great that his son, Nephi, is unable to make a full record thereof: "And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written, many things which he saw in visions and dreams…" (1 Nephi 1:16). Lehi later receives many words from God in visions and dreams (1 Nephi 2:1-2, 11; 3:2; 5:4). Such words include commandments such as: God's call to the wilderness then short return to Jerusalem to collect bronze plates (containing secular and Jewish history, even up to contemporaneous history and Jewish genealogy), then back to the wilderness. Later, Nephi is in charge of his fleeing people and is commanded to build a ship that will later lead him to a promised land (1 Nephi 17:8, 49, 51). Nephi loads himself and his family to the Promised Land and they arrive in 589 B.C. (1Nephi 18:8, 23)

Jeremiah and the Commands to Israel

Now continue on to Jeremiah 27. It has a small forward in the LDS KJV: "The Lord sends word to many nations that they are to serve Babylon—the vessels of the Lord's house will go into Babylon." The later verses follow in 8-10:
"And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish."
This message continues on through the rest of the chapter. The Israelites are not the only things of God commanded to go to Babylon, but the vessels of the Lord's house are also. Jeremiah prophesied that Hananiah would die because he falsely prophesied that God would break Babylon's rule and return the vessels of the Lord back to Jerusalem and Hananiah dies later that year. Further doom is given to those that prophesy against Jeremiah's words, which are to go to Babylon and take up roots there (Shemaiah in Jeremiah 29:24-32).

Promised Return

Lastly, God promises that he will return everyone that was scattered and captured by Babylon, back to the place from where they were dispersed, "And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive." (Jeremiah 29:14) So even if Nephi did receive a commandment to go to a promised land, he and the other Jews there would be gathered back from their original land.


Contrary to the previous instructions, God previously directed Lehi to take the bronze tablets out of Jerusalem and away from Babylon. This takes them out of the category of the "vessels of the Lord's house." To resolve the issue there are at least two options:
  1. Either the bronze tablets are not vessels of the Lord's house, or
  2. Lehi disobeys a direct commandment of God.
What if the event dates are all off? That presents multiple concerns.
  1. Since there is a serious degree of evidence surrounding the accuracy of the traditional dates of the captivity, that undermines the historical authority of what Joseph Smith labeled the "…most correct of any book on earth…" 
  2. Why would Nephi, "having been taught somewhat in all the learning of [his] father," have been taught a different calendar or dating system?
  3. Even still, this still does not change that both of these refer to the exact same event, exile to Babylon, with the exact same consequences for not going, judgment. Even Nephi acknowledges that it was good Lehi did not stay long in Jerusalem while getting the bronze plates, lest he face destruction (1 Nephi 3:18). This aligns with the similar warnings Jeremiah gives to anyone in Jerusalem.
  4. If Lehi and/or Nephi was/were given different instructions than Jeremiah and other contemporary prophets, then why does he never speak with any of them to verify his visions? Even Paul does this in the New Testament. He not only receives direct revelation from Christ, but also validates this message with the other apostles on at least two different occasions.

What Then?

If we are to accept any words of Lehi, the first in the line of distinctly Mormon prophets, then we need to resolve why his behaviors and the behavior of his son Nephi (who was fully taught by Lehi in all spiritual matters) acted contrary to God's directives for all members of Israel. But, if no such resolution exists for Lehi and/or Nephi, then is it unreasonable to reject their prophecy?


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