Lehi

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(This is an excerpt from the book Christ and the New Covenant.)

The teaching and testimony of another witness that was, for the most part, lost in that first manuscript material is that of Nephi and Jacob's father, Lehi. Indeed, the first book of that translated material had been entitled the "Book of Lehi." Fortunately, Nephi recorded significant portions of his father's teachings in his own record on the small plates, and that glimpse of Lehi's experience adds to the reader's views of the Savior of the world. The first chapter of the First Book of Nephi begins with Lehi's vision of "One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day." In this vision the premortal Christ, accompanied by "twelve others," brought forth a book in which Lehi was bidden to read. The book spoke of "many great and marvelous things," including the plain declaration "of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world." Thus in the first verses of the first chapter of the first book in the Book of Mormon, the central and undeviating theme is struck.

Even though his contemporaries in Jerusalem rejected Lehi's message, he nevertheless continued his prophecies of "a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.

"And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.

"Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer."

Included in Lehi's vision of the coming of Christ to mortality were such revelatory details as the precise time of his coming and the mission of John the Baptist, who "should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan," baptizing the Messiah at the outset of his ministry. "And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world." Lehi also saw in vision that the Messiah would be slain and "should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest . . . unto the Gentiles," providing the first of more than eighty references in the Book of Mormon to the Resurrection. As the brother of Jared had learned before him, Lehi saw what he saw and learned what he learned by power, "received by faith on the Son of God."

Whether it was one of these briefly recorded visions or some other magnificent personal manifestation of Christ we do not know, but Lehi did speak of a singular revelatory experience of the Son of God when he testified to his sons near the end of his life, "Behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love."

This introductory testimony from Lehi as to the birth, mission, death, and divinity of the Savior of the world introduces the reader to the Savior in the first twenty pages of the Book of Mormon. Inasmuch as this impressive but rather limited material is taken from Nephi's account of his father Lehi's vision, it is safe to assume there would be many more of these messianic prophecies in the first 116 pages of translated manuscript that were lost.

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