“Behold the Lamb of God”

Brant Gardner

After briefly testifying to the miracle of Christ’s birth, the angel identifies the baby’s Messianic role, which is implied in the “Lamb of God.” Nephi, familiar with the Mosaic sacrificial laws, could not have missed the import of the sacrificial lamb. As the sacrificial lamb would remove sin, this child—the Lamb of God—would perform the same but grander and more efficacious function.

This part of the vision continues to establish the context for the Nephite understanding of the Messiah. This understanding of his first mission (that of the atoner) rather than the traditional combined mission (the atoning and triumphant Messiah) is an important characteristic of the Nephite religion.

The angel then immediately associates the Messiah’s birth with the vision of the tree, again by posing a question. Even in vision, Nephi must work out much of the meaning for himself.

Variant: This verse contains the same type of change in the 1837 and subsequent editions that was made in verse 18. The original manuscript and 1830 edition read: “… the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father.” See “Excursus: The Nephite Understanding of God” (following 1 Nephi 11) for information of how the Messiah can be considered the Father.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1