Reflections on Nephi’s Vision

Reflections on Nephi’s Vision in His Closing Chapters

John A. Tvedtnes

Soon after the turn of the new millennium, I wrote an article entitled “Reflections of Nephi’s Vision in His Psalm,”[1] noting how Nephi1 subtly alluded to one of the most important events in his life, the vision given him atop a high mountain (1 Nephi 11:1). It was the same experience reported by his father a short time earlier (1 Nephi 8; 10:2-15; see also 1 Nephi 15). Near the end of his life (2 Nephi chapters 31-33), as Nephi was winding down his writing on the “small plates” (Jacob 1:1), he bore testimony of Christ and reflected back on that same vision, as illustrated below.

2 Nephi 31:2I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ

2 Nephi 32:6

Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ

  The “doctrine of Christ” is not the doctrine that Christ taught, for he had not yet come to earth. Rather, it is the doctrine ABOUT Christ. In his vision, Nephi saw the future mission of the Savior (1 Nephi 11:7, 27).
2 Nephi 31:4I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.

2 Nephi 31:17

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter.

  Both Lehi (1 Nephi 10:7) and Nephi (1 Nephi 11:27) saw John the Baptist in vision, including his baptism of Christ. Others follow Christ by holding fast to his word, represented by the iron rod, and by being baptized.
2 Nephi 31:8Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.   In his vision, Nephi saw the Spirit come down on Christ when he was baptized (1 Nephi 11:27).
2 Nephi 31:9And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.

2 Nephi 31:18

And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate;

  Lehi saw in vision a “strait and narrow path” leading to the tree (1 Nephi 8:20-23) and Nephi later referred to the path (2 Nephi 4:32). “Eternal life,” a term Nephi specifically used to denote the goal of the atonement (1 Nephi 14:7), was represented by eating the fruit of the tree (1 Nephi 8:24, 30). Nephi learned that the fruit “is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (1 Nephi 15:36), an expression used elsewhere to describe eternal life (D&C 14:7; see also D&C 6:13).
2 Nephi 31:19And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ   In the vision, what leads people along the path is the iron rod, which is the “word of God” (1 Nephi 11:25; 15:23-24), here called “the word of Christ.”[2]
2 Nephi 31:15And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.

2 Nephi 31:16

unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

  Here, again, the “words” of Christ and the concept of enduring to the end, which, in the vision, refers to those who safely arrive at the tree by holding fast to the iron rod (1 Nephi 8:24, 30). Nephi uses the expression “endure to the end” in describing his vision (1 Nephi 13:37).
2 Nephi 31:13then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.

2 Nephi 32:2

I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels

  It was an angel who showed Nephi the vision. Nephi speaks of praising God while explaining the vision to his brothers (1 Nephi 15:15).
2 Nephi 31:20Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.   Here is the “pressing forward” found in Lehi’s vision (1 Nephi 8:21, 24, 30). And again, we have the word of Christ (the rod), enduring to the end, and eternal life. The “love of God” is used by Nephi to describe the tree of life in his vision (1 Nephi 11:22, 25).
2 Nephi 31:21this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.   The way is the narrow path of the vision, while being saved is arriving at the tree and partaking its fruit.
2 Nephi 32:1I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way.

2 Nephi 32:5

if ye will enter in by the way

  Again the way or path of the vision.
2 Nephi 32:3Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.   Again the words of Christ, the rod.
2 Nephi 32:4wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.   Perishing in the dark denotes being blinded by the mists of darkness in the visions of Lehi (1 Nephi 8:23-24) and Nephi (1 Nephi 12:4, 27).
2 Nephi 32:7And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance (cf. 2 Nephi 33:1)   During his vision, Nephi was told not to write certain things (1 Nephi 14:25).
2 Nephi 33:9for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.   Continuing in the path is also from the vision, where some people “press forward” and arrive at the tree, while others do not (1 Nephi 8:23, 28, 30, 32; 12:17).


The fact that Nephi had his earlier vision in mind as he concluded his remarks to his future audience testifies to the truth of that event, which left such a strong impression on his mind. The same is true of his descendant Alma2, whose experience with the angel and the vision that followed became the backdrop of many of his teachings.[3]

[1] Published as FARMS Update No. 132 in  Insights: An Ancient Window  20/2 (February 2000).

[2] For a detailed discussion, see John A. Tvedtnes, “Rod and Sword as the Word of God,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 5/2 (Fall 1996). Republished in John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne, eds., Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon (Provo: FARMS, 1999).

[3] The account of Alma’s experience is recorded in Mosiah 27:10-32, and he repeated it to his sons, using some of the same terminology,  in chapters 36-38 of Alma. I have demonstrated elsewhere that the verbage of Alma’s psalm (Alma 29), like that of Nephi, reflects the same event. See John A. Tvedtnes, “The Voice of an Angel,” in Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins (Provo: FARMS, 1997).