- 1 Ne. 12:1-2 - Israel in the New World
[T]he angel said unto me: Look, and behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren. And I looked and beheld the land of promise; and I beheld multitudes of people, yea, even as it were in number as many as the sand of the sea.Some promised land. Nibley [p. 190] sees chapters 10, 12, and 13 as together giving an expanding view of the history of the Jews: "[C]hapter ten of 1 Nephi deals with the Jews. ... Chapter twelve deals with the New World version — Israel in the New World, the Book of Mormon people. Chapter thirteen deals with the Gentiles and the whole world; it takes the world view."
And ... I beheld multitudes gathered together to battle, one against the other; and I beheld wars, and rumors of wars, and great slaughters with the sword among my people.
- 1 Ne. 12:6-7 - Nephi sees the visit of Christ to the Americas
And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them.This is a brief preview of Christ's visit to the Americas, the account of which covers several chapters in the book of Third Nephi. The twelve ordained Nephites are never referred to as apostles; instead, they are called "twelve disciples" (v. 8) and "twelve ministers" (v. 9,10).
And I also saw and bear record that the Holy Ghost fell upon twelve others; and they were ordained of God, and chosen.
- 1 Ne. 12:19 - pride goeth before the fall
I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.Verse 19 states a theme that will reappear over and over throughout the Book of Mormon narrative: that pride hardens the hearts of the people, whose society then becomes vulnerable to military assault from without and social collapse from within. A critic might respond that in any age or period there will be some individuals who are proud and some who are humble, plus many who are an odd mixture of both pride and humility. Yet we don't hesitate to talk about the spirit of an age (such as the Renaissance or the Enlightenment) or characterize recent decades by simple themes: the Roaring Twenties, the Countercultural Sixties, the Greed of the Eighties.
Verse 18 notes the great and spacious building from Lehi's dream, explaining that it "is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men." This is a good example of how Nephi's visions related in chapters 11 through 14 weave the symbols of Lehi's dream in with Nephi's own visions. The reference to pride in verse 18 introduces Nephi's observation in verse 19 that his people were overpowered by their enemies in part because of pride.
- 1 Ne. 12:22-23 - a dark and filthy people
And I saw them gathered together in multitudes; and I saw wars and rumors of wars among them; and in wars and rumors of wars I saw many generations pass away.This is the dark side of the Book of Mormon view of the Indians of North and South America, some or all of which are held to be the degenerate descendants of a mixture of the Nephites and Lamanites: they are "a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations."
And the angel said unto me: Behold these shall dwindle in unbelief.
And ... I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.
The description of this transformation seems to conflate racial, environmental, and cultural categories. With the benefit of 21st-century science, we now understand that racial traits emerge in human populations that are reproductively isolated from other populations over tens of thousands of years, not the short timeframe of just hundreds of years described in 1 Nephi 12:22-23. So any real-world changes in a population corresponding to changes described by the text would be environmental (literal filthiness comes from the environment) and cultural (idleness and unspecified abominations), not racial.
There is also a causal assertion being made in these verses: the changes happened because of unbelief. This connection is expressed more clearly in 2 Nephi 5:21-24, where the physical change is described as a "skin of blackness" and is the result of a divine "curse." In the 19th century and early 20th century, race was held to be a defensible concept that explained many of the differences in various cultures. Both these views (that race is a defensible concept and that it explains cultural traits) are now rejected by most scientists.
There is also a contrasting bright side to the Book of Mormon view of these same descendants in which they will someday become a regenerate, delightsome people, as described at 2 Ne. 30:4-6:
And then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews.See also D&C 49:24: "But before the great day of the Lord shall come, Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness, and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose."
And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.
And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people.
Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Part 1 (FARMS, 1993).