It's interesting to note that Lehi did pray "in behalf of his people" (v. 5) and not to know if the prophets were indeed prophets or that the message they carried was true; Lehi seems to have received that confirmation already. While engaged in this intercessory prayer, Lehi was shown things that made him "quake and tremble exceedingly" (v. 6). Lying on his bed, overcome by the severity of the pending judgments, Lehi was "carried away in a vision" (v. 8).
This post will focus on one aspect of this vision.
What's up with books?
Lehi saw "One descending out of the midst of heaven" with a luster "above that of the sun at noon-day". This individual, which I believe what Jesus himself, "gave unto [Lehi] a book, and bade him that he should read." (v. 9, 11)
Why did He do it this way? He was there and could've delivered the message himself with words that cut through bot joint and marrow? Whys use a book?
We shouldn't doubt that God is able to speak to man nor that man is able to receive divine communication. I believe that this has happened and will happen. I'm trying to put myself in a position where I have faith enough, am humble and righteous enough, to be the recipient of God's revelations. But why does God use books?
Books could be seen as a telestial way of trying to capture celestial concepts, and therefore will never be able to accurately and perfectly convey the truth. That is, what's written in books by man are explanations, and we should never settle for explanations when we can have the experience. (In other words: "No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself!" - Morpheus) Books could be seen as the moon, a reflector of light which will help you navigate during the dark of night, but is nothing compared to the "sun at noon-day".
On the other hand, God employs the use of a heavenly book of life (i.e. Rev. 22:19), which implies that books possess abilities that we haven't tapped into yet.
Whatever we think about the importance of books, God seems to be fond of them.
Why was Lehi given a book?
There are several books (books other than the ones that the Book of Mormon consists of) spoken of in the Book of Mormon. We read about the book of life (alma 5:58), the book of the Lamb of God (1 Ne. 13:28) and the book of remembrance (3 Ne. 24:16). Jesus taught the Nephites many things which are not recorded in the Book of Mormon we have (3 Ne. 26:6). The parts that we do have, "which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people" were written by Nephi "to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken."
Nephi then gives the key to understand why God uses books in his dealings with man. He said:
And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. (3 Ne. 26:8-10)Lehi was given a book as a test. He could have chosen not to read it, and he could have disbelieved what he read. Lehi did believe. An accurate description of the belief that Lehi held comes from Merriam Webster 1828 Dictionary: "an assent of the mind, a yielding of the will and affections, accompanied with a humble reliance on Christ for salvation."
The Spirit of the Lord was able to touch Lehi's heart. We read:
And he read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem—that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried awaycaptive into Babylon. And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish! (v. 13-14)Lehi got to read some disturbing things about a people he truly cared about. He didn't shrink at this prospect, nor did he curse God. Instead, he believed. The turning point for Lehi was that he got to "read and see many great and marvelous things". After this, he praised the Lord for His power, goodness and mercy over all the inhabitants of the earth and for the fact that the Lord won't let those who come unto Him to perish (note that they aren't spared from suffering, only perishing!).
Nephi explained that his father praised his God and that his soul did rejoice and that "his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him." (v . 15)
The test Lehi faced and passed was the same that brought the brother of Jared into the presence of the Lord. After the brother of Jared had seen the finger of the Lord, but before the Lord showed himself to him, the Lord asked: "Believest thou the words which I shall speak?" (Ether 3:11) The response was affirmative, and thus the brother of Jared was given "all my revelations". (Ether 4:7)
These "greater things" seems to carry with them great power to console the human soul.
What, then, are "the greater things"?
Lehi seems to have been shown a vision over God's dealings with the inhabitants of the earth and how God, through his power, goodness and mercy, bless the human family. It also seems like Lehi was shown the blessed state of those who come unto Christ.
In the scriptures we read of Enoch. He's another example of a man who was consoled by God. Enoch saw God weep, and he was amazed that that was even possible. The Lord then "spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook." (Moses 7:41)
The account continues:
42 And Enoch also saw Noah, and his family; that the posterity of all the sons of Noah should be saved with a temporal salvation;What Enoch saw made his heart swell, and his bowels yearn. He even refused to be comforted. Until, until he was shown the day of the Lord and the coming of the Son of Man, that the Righteous was lifted up and that the Lamb was slain. Then, His soul rejoiced! Just like Lehi's!
43 Wherefore Enoch saw that Noah built an ark; and that the Lord smiled upon it, and held it in his own hand; but upon the residue of the wicked the floods came and swallowed them up.
44 And as Enoch saw this, he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look.
45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life?
46 And the Lord said: It shall be in the meridian of time, in the days of wickedness and vengeance.
47 And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me.
No matter the degeneration and the decadence, the wickedness and the wrongfulness, the glory and righteousness of Jesus is enough to comfort the afflicted soul and give hope for the future.
Those who have been shown the greater things have had this become a reality in their lives: "And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son." (Alma 33:23)
Just like Lehi, we are given books that test or willingness to be spiritually persuaded and to believe. If we believe, the promises are great. If we don't believe, we have no other promise than condemnation. In this scientific age, belief is hard, irrational, illogical and, as it may seem for some, impossible. But, we need to remember that "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt: 19:26)
The Book of Mormon is a test. Let's believe, and receive the greater things!