“A Pillar of Fire”

Joseph F. McConkie, Robert L. Millet

We may say, then, that Nephi‘s introduction of his record lets us see that his father’s call, like that of many other prophets, gave him both his mission and his commission in the heavenly assembly. Lehi sought the Lord in mighty prayer and while doing so a “pillar of fire” descended before him. Of this experience we are told that he “saw and heard much.” Lehi then returned home, where he was overcome by the Spirit and carried away in a vision. Like Isaiah, he saw the heavens open and God seated upon his heavenly throne surrounded by numberless concourses of angels. Lehi was handed a book which he was instructed to read. He read of the wickedness of Jerusalem and the manner in which it would be destroyed if its citizens did not repent. He also read of the coming of a Messiah to that people and of the redemption that would come to the world through him.

“Pillar of Fire”

The pillar of fire represents the glory of God and thus the presence of divinity. God dwells in “everlasting burnings,” as will all who obtain a celestial glory (Teachings, p. 347; also see Isaiah 33:14). Joseph Smith described a similar experience as “a pillar of light ... above the brightness of the sun” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16).

Of Moses’ initial experience on Sinai we read: ”The presence of the Lord appeared unto him, in a flame of fire in the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed“ (JST Exodus 3:2). Ezekiel introduces one of his great visions with this language:

”I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire“ (Ezekiel 1:4).”

Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1