(Note: this paper reminds me of the admonition to never take anything the Prophets say at face value – we should always approach Heavenly Father with what we have heard, and ask “diligently” to know “by the power of the Holy Ghost” if the things we have heard are true. A personal testimony is always better than just hearing it from someone else. It reminds me of the Reading Rainbow series where LeVar says, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”)
After hearing of Lehi’s visions and prophecies, Nephi discussed his desire to know for himself of the things that to Lehi were revealed. Lehi told of his vision of the tree of life and later went on to prophesy of the coming of Christ. Why was it so important for Nephi to gain such a personal testimony of the words of his father, and why is there no record of his brothers showing similar faith? Instruction has been given that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5) However, it is given on one condition – “if ye shall ask with real intent, having faith in Christ.” (Moroni 10:4) This is real intent and faith that Laman and Lemuel lacked.
Lehi’s prophecies contained many things that may have seemed foolish to some of his less faithful family members. The prophesy that a Messiah or Savior would come to save the world from sin was difficult to understand. Oftentimes, the words of prophesy are not easy to understand and must be accompanied by a mind that “diligently seeketh” (1 Nephi 10:19).
In asking the Lord for a personal testimony of Lehi’s visions and prophecies, Nephi also developed greater faith in the power of the Holy Ghost and in the sameness of God. Nephi states that when he asked he knew that God would answer him because God had answered those “in times of old” (1 Nephi 10:17) and Nephi knew that God would answer all those after him.
In addition to gaining his own testimony, Nephi’s testimony was part of a “special purpose” (1 Nephi 9:3) that the Book of Mormon became in containing “more than one witness” (Alma 10:12) which has more power than the testimony of one. Nephi would add his personal testimony and revelation to the witnesses of several other prophets who had also testified of the coming of Christ – “how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah.” (1 Nephi 11:5)
Laman and Lemuel, as proven in previous experiences, lacked the faith – or even the desire – to gain a personal testimony of any of their father’s or brother’s teachings. They would not manifest even a desire to understand the prophecies of their father until shortly thereafter, after which Nephi chastises them for failing to “look unto the Lord as they ought.” (1 Nephi 14:3).
Nephi’s inquiry of the Lord not only blessed him in his own spirituality, but also blessed all future generations who would read the multiple witnesses of Christ given in the Book of Mormon. Moreover, Nephi’s testimony of the power of the Holy Ghost is assuring. Nephi testifies that all who are desirous to know can receive that knowledge through the awesome power of the Holy Ghost which is “the gift of God.”
Why do you think it was so important for Nephi to gain his own witness of the visions his father, the prophet, had seen and heard? Is it just as important for us to receive a personal witness of the words of the prophets? How do you gain that witness? Do you seek diligently, and look unto the Lord for that witness?