Like Father, Like Son: Aspects of Lehi’s Vision Repeated in Nephi’s Vision

John W. Welch

One of the most interesting things about Nephi’s vision in 1 Nephi 11–14 is how subtly and how fully it relates to other prophecies given a few years earlier by his father Lehi. Nephi’s vision closely builds on his father’s visions in 1 Nephi 1 and also his father’s dream of the Tree of Life in 1 Nephi 8, as one should expect it to. And why? Nephi’s vision occurred because he wanted to know the meaning of all the things that his father had seen and taught. And consequently, Nephi’s vision unfolds precisely that. Nephi saw, learned, and explained what his father had seen, revealed, and boldly testified. An attentive reader will see how aspects of Lehi’s vision are repeated and amplified in Nephi’s vision.

Indeed, in 1 Nephi 10:17, Nephi tells us that when he heard his father Lehi speaking about the things he had seen in his visions in 1 Nephi 1 and 8, Nephi wanted to "see, and hear, and know of these things" for himself. As he pondered these things, he was "caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain" (1 Nephi 11:1). Nephi later bore record that he indeed "saw the things which [his] father saw" (1 Nephi 14:29).

Astute readers can draw these connections. For example, in 1 Nephi 1:9, Lehi saw "One descending out of the midst of heaven," and in 1 Nephi 11:15–28 Nephi learns about the "condescension of [the Son of] God" (1 Nephi 11:16, 26). In 1 Nephi 8:10, Lehi sees a tree whose fruit is "desirable." Nephi similarly describes the Tree of Life as a representation of the "love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things" (1 Nephi 11:22).

At least twenty-five elements in Lehi’s vision will show up in Nephi’s vision. They are fun to find. For example, there is a great and spacious building in Lehi’s vision (1 Nephi 8:26, 31); this relates to the "great and abominable church" repeatedly mentioned in Nephi’s vision (see 1 Nephi 13–14). There is a man dressed in a white robe leading Lehi (1 Nephi 8:5); for Nephi, this is the Spirit of the Lord who guides him (1 Nephi 11:11). Lehi is taken to a "dark and dreary waste" (1 Nephi 8:7); Nephi first sees Jerusalem, and he knows that it is a dark and dreary place.

Lehi goes on to see the head of a river. Nephi will see a fountain of living waters—that fountain being Jesus Christ. Lehi will call out with a loud voice. At that point in Nephi’s vision, Nephi sees Christ with John, the apostle, crying out with a loud voice proclaiming the gospel. Later, Lehi sees that Laman and Lemuel will not come to partake of the fruit. Nephi similarly sees that people reject Christ. Lehi then sees numberless concourses of people, while Nephi sees multitudes like the sands of the sea (See Figure).

While reading the Book of Mormon, one is always looking for ways to know that it is true. One of the ways that we can know that this text is true is by noticing and appreciating the overall complexity of Nephi’s account. His vision works beautifully as an interpretive, deeper understanding of what Lehi saw, giving us confidence that there are two witnesses of this great story, justifying that we should be commandment keepers who hold steadfastly to the iron rod.

Figure Welch, John W., and Greg Welch. "A Comparison of Lehi’s Dream and Nephi’s Vision." In Charting the Book of Mormon. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1999.

John W. Welch Notes