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Nephi as a Type of the 144,000
The Book of Mormon was written for our day. Considering the small amount of space on the plates to work with, and the tremendous effort it took to engrave the writings, it makes sense that Mormon often describes that “a hundredth part” or “the smallest part” cannot be written concerning these people. Thus, what was included is of extreme importance—in fact the only people and events described are those relevant in a typological way to us.
Avraham Gileadi explained: “When Book of Mormon prophets. . . depict events from their own history…they are under constraint—based on the Jewish scriptural methodology they use—to do so only if those events typify the future” (Gileadi, Endtime Prophecy, p. 374)
Every event in the Book of Mormon is a literal type and shadow of the last days. If we are interested in learning about the calling and role of the 144,000 we need look no further than the heroes Mormon chose to include a record of, or spent time describing.
One of my favorites is Nephi whose example as a type is instructive and inspiring.
Nephi was highly favored of the Lord and had sought out the mysteries of God. He was open to these and wanted everything he possibly could receive from God. He was not okay with the mold of mediocrity, nor did he fear what men thought concerning the truth he sought. Nephi suffered many afflictions yet framed his experiences as blessings, recognizing God’s involvement through it all. (1Nephi 1:1)
Nephi willingly departed into the wilderness in a new exodus with his family without murmuring. He sustained and supported his father the patriarch of the family and he left his telestial comforts- his gold, silver, land, and all precious things. (1Nephi 2:2-4) Nephi did not harden his heart but obtained his own witness from the Lord of the truthfulness of new revelations and instructions. Instead of reviling he cried unto the Lord for himself because he trusted and believed the Lord would answer him. (1Nephi 2:16)
Nephi led a rescue mission back to the city he had left to rescue and take with them into the wilderness a record, and another person who needed to be saved. In performing the rescue mission he ultimately learned to simply rely on the Spirit rather than his own understanding or his brothers‘ ideas. As he did so he was successful in obtaining the record and rescuing Zoram, who then fled with them. What a wonderful opportunity for Zoram, who otherwise never would have had a chance to leave.
Consider the mercy of Jesus Christ to send Nephi on this mission to save Zoram, the Lord truly does number his sheep and all are known unto him. In the last days all those who would participate in the new exodus of God’s people will be given ample opportunity to do so, even if it involves a rescue mission. It is also noteworthy that Nephi has rid himself of all attachment to money and temporal things as he is willing to simply trade all his mortal goods for what the Lord sent him back to obtain. Would we do this? Would we trade our truck, our checking account, our food, our electronics, our toys, etc.? Nothing was more important to Nephi than doing the Lord’s will and fulfilling his mission.
Nephi’s central purpose in his minister and his life was to persuade men to come unto Jesus Christ which is also the purpose of translated beings and the 144,000. (1Nephi 6:4-5; 3Nephi 28:9)
Nephi accepts a second rescue mission to bring out more people—extended family members. In the process of this mission he overcomes an attack on his life during a mutiny from those who go with him (his brothers) who see the city has not yet been destroyed as prophesied and desire to stay. He then frankly forgives his assaulting brethren. Could the same thing happen to us on a rescue mission? Why is this story in the book?
Nephi believed his father had seen visions and obtained revelation from God but that was not enough for him, he wanted his own experience. He stated that he “was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost” testifying “he that diligently seeketh shall find” (1Nephi 10:17,19). Through his faith he secured his own visions rather than solely relying on the experiences and testimony of another human being. (1Nephi 11-14) Nephi also believed his father had seen the Lord (1Nephi 11:5, 1Nephi1:8) yet he still sought out and received his own second comforter experience. (2Nephi 11:3) Are we having our own experiences or trusting and relying on the witnesses of others?
Nephi was familiar with the words and prophecies of Isaiah and could liken them unto those he taught and explain them plainly. (1Nephi 15:20) Isaiah is the handbook for the latter-days; as Jesus himself testified “all things that he [Isaiah] spake have been and shall be.” (3Nephi 23:3)
Nephi secures the blessings of the Lord (food for his whole family) in a time of scarcity and want by remaining faithful and inquiring of the Lord while others murmur. (1Nephi 16) He builds a ship—something he has no previous knowledge of how to do. He was shown from time to time how to built it after the manner of the Lord. How will we reach Zion? In his preparations for travel he was unassisted by those who had already benefited from his sacrifice and obedience and who would later accompany him. The Lord fills Nephi with the power of God and compels his brothers to contribute by inviting Nephi to stretch forth his hand and shock them. Will we be in similar circumstances?
Perhaps the most striking type of the Lord’s end-time servants we see in Nephi is found during the family’s journey across the sea wherein he acts as a proxy savior securing his family’s (or his group’s) temporal salvation and deliverance through his own suffering as he takes upon himself their sins and (1Nephi 18:10) claims their iniquity as his own.
After being “driven forth before the wind for the space of many days” by the hand of the Lord Nephi’s brothers, the sons of Ishmael and their wives make themselves merry and become “lifted up in much rudeness.” This to the extent “that they did forget by what power they had been brought thither.” Their carnal indulgences lead them to forget the Lord and ultimately persecute their brother almost to the point of death.
At this point It is as if Nephi takes their iniquities upon himself, as he calls their iniquity his own:
“I, Nephi, began to fear exceedingly lest the Lord should be angry with US, and smite US because of OUR iniquity, that WE should be swallowed up in the depths of the sea…” Nephi’s brothers then take him and bind him treating him with much harshness, “nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word…”
Avraham Gileadi observes that “essential to obtaining divine protection in the endtime’s context of deliverance and destruction is the operation of proxy salvation by “fathers” on all spiritual levels concurrently. With regard to temporal salvation—God’s physical protection against a mortal threat—proxy saviors on Isaiah’s son/servant level intercede with God for the deliverance of the “sons” to whom they minister.” (Endtime Prophecy, p. 208)
The physical threat arises as the compass stops working, and a terrible storm emerges heightening the stress and tension of the scene. Nephi’s intercession occurs at least in two parts: his taking upon himself their iniquities as his own, and his suffering for the space of four days which enabled them to have an experience with the judgments of God, which finally softens their hearts and leads to repentance.
Nephi endured it well and came out praising God: “Nevertheless I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of my afflictions.” It was then through his prayer, after the repentance was genuine, that “the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm.” (Vs. 21)
What was it that enabled Nephi to remain so faithful? I submit that it was, at least in part, an understanding of his role and all that depended on him. Avraham Gileadi expounds upon this idea:
“For proxy saviors functioning as “fathers” to know that the spiritual and temporal lives of their “sons” depend on their purity and righteousness before God begets the deepest inducement to maintain perfect hearts toward God and toward those to whom they minister.” “The idea of “sanctifying oneself” for the sake of those to whom one ministers as a proxy savior is indeed the highest and noblest reason for keeping God’s law on any level. Nothing is so compelling to a person’s seeking to live righteously as knowing that others may depend on him for their spiritual and temporal wellbeing. . . Nothing is so calculated to generate charity as taking others’ burdens upon oneself as if they were one’s own.” (Endtime Prophecy, p. 209-210, 213)
In the process of proxy salvation the temporal welfare of those being saved is secured, opportunities to repent are proffered, and the servants of the Lord gain the Godly attribute of charity. What a treasure Nephi’s record, and example is for us!
Suggestions for application:
With the help of the Holy Ghost begin studying the heroes in the Book of Mormon as types of the 144,000.
Search after the mysteries of Godliness and recognize God’s hand in all aspects of your life.
Become willing to give up all worldly possessions and seek after your own sacred spiritual experiences rather than relying upon the experiences of others.
Begin using terms like “we” and “us” and “our” when referring to the iniquities of others in prayer with the Lord and even in conversation.
Praise God in the midst of your afflictions in prayer.