Posted by: isaiahsfan | November 6, 2007

2 Questions on 1 Nephi 12

I don’t have much time to research this right now, but I want to look into 2 questions this week.  If you have any insights, please help!

1.  There is some question as to the identity of Nephi’s spirit guide in these chapters.  I have heard that Bruce R. McConkie and James E. Talmage were at odds as to who Nephi was speaking to.  McConkie held that it was the premortal Christ who spoke to Nephi, and Talmage declared that it was the Holy Ghost having taken the form of a man.  (See here in the commentary under 1 Ne 11:11.)  In chapters 11 and 12 this being is referred to as “the Spirit of the Lord,” “the angel,” and “the spirit.”  A description of this personage is given in 11:11–

And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof–for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless , I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.

It seems to me that it would be odd if this personage was the premortal Christ, since Nephi is shown several visions of Christ in these chapters.  I suppose it could be possible, though, for Christ to be standing with Nephi showing him scenes of his own life.  Later, Nephi begins referring to him as “the angel.”  Do you  think it’s possible that this is simply a messenger standing in for the Lord with divine investiture of authority?

2. I’m interested in 12:8-10 where the twelve Apostles are discussed in the role of judges in Israel.  It sounds to me that these Apostles are given authority to judge at the final judgment.  The Angel tells Nephi that the Twelve who were called by Jesus in his Galilean ministry are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, including the twelve Nephite Disciples.  Then the Nephites will be judged by their own Twelve.  I have heard it taught that we will be judged by the Apostles of our day.  How does this fit with 2 Nephi 9:41  and other scriptures which say that Christ alone will be the judge?



  1. McConkie was the only one to hold that opinion and later changed his mind. See this volume.

    • McConkie never did change his mind on who the ‘spirit of the Lord,’ was in I Ne. 11:11. In his book Mormon Doctrine, p. 752, he explains why he believes it had to be the Savior and not the Holy Ghost and I agree with him.

      You can’t find any instance where the Holy Ghost appears to a mortal and converses with him in the Book of Mormon. The Holy Ghost talks to you in your very own voice as Pres. Hugh B. Brown so declared in his talk, the Current Bush. He told us that the Holy Ghost spoke to him in his own voice and he recognized his own voice.

      Kay D. Jenkins

  2. Thank you for your comment, Nitsav. Did McConkie also decide that this personage was the Holy Ghost? Do you think there is now a consensus in the Church on his identity?

  3. I believe he did decide it was the HG, but I can’t recall. It’s been a few years since I perused the book.
    I don’t think anyone has said anything about it recently. Church leadership seems to have moved away from minute doctrinal speculation to a focus on basics. Perhaps that could change, if another heavily doctrinal LDS GA appeared, but I think that time is passed.

  4. The book articles of faith (by Talmage) does teach that Nephi’s vision begins with the Holy Ghost before him. Note that the Holy Ghost doesn’t “take” the form of a man but rather, he is a personage of spirit or in other words: a man that only has a spirit body.
    1 Nephi 11:12 The Holy Ghost says look and then departs “he had gone from before my presence.”
    Then is verse 14: “…I saw the heavens open and an angel came down and stood before me…” So as I read it, the angel (not the Holy Ghost) takes Nephi the rest of the way. I don’t think Nephi would’ve made the distinction if this wasn’t the case. He probably would have said and the Spirit of the Lord returned and said… Make sense?

  5. I remember finding this conundrum while reading McConkies book – don’t recall which one. Up until then I had been taught that it was the HG that appeared to Nephi AND it was the only instance in which this has occurred. Of itself that seems odd that this would be the only instance of such a visit.

    At the time his explanation made sense to me as he reasoned that the role in which the spirit personage appeared was that of the Savior not of the HG and thus it was the Savior that was referenced in 1 Nephi 11:11. There are other such accounts where the Spirit Christ appears, Mahonri Moriancamur, Enoch, and more.

    Some times there is confusion because of the voice (first person) that is used by the messenger, but diety and angelic messengers often use first person under authority. Christ often spoke in first person for the Father.

    For me an example that I haven’t sorted out yet is found in 3 Nephi 1:13 where the voice of the unborn Christ child speaks from the womb and tells a different Nephi the “on the morrow come I into the world”. Was this the actual voice of Christ or a messenger?

    Regardless, I believe that the explanation initially put forth by McConkie made more sense than that expressed by Talmage.

  6. Ha, I had a similar question and just stumbled onto this site. But my question is regarding why one moment it is “the Spirit of the Lord” and then an angel the next minute. Why wouldn’t the same being continue as Nephi’s host for the entire experience?

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