Nephi’s Temple Experience on the Mountain

Nephi was caught away in the Spirit to "an exceedingly high mountain"

Nephi was caught away in the Spirit to “an exceedingly high mountain,” where he conversed with the Spirit of the Lord. Artist: Clark Kelley Price.

If you have not had the opportunity to read David Bokovoy’s inaugural article in the new Interpreter journal, I recommend it. It discusses Nephi’s experience in 1 Nephi 11 when he was caught away to “an exceedingly high mountain” where he had a question and answer exchange with the Spirit of the Lord, and thereafter was given higher spiritual knowledge.

High mountains have always been traditionally associated with temples, and as sacred spaces.  Indeed, their physical height and altitude alone contribute to this symbolism; ascending the mount gets one closer to God on high. Many times throughout the scriptures, the prophets ascend high mountains to seek spiritual refuge and converse with God. Such is the case with Moses ascending Mount Sinai, for example. Whenever a prophet or other individual in the scriptures goes to, or is taken to, a high mountain, it is well to pay careful attention to what is taking place, as it is almost always a sacred temple-type experience.

The question and answer exchange format that precedes an endowment of further light and knowledge is also a pattern often found within these scriptural accounts. Bokovoy explains that these exchanges were often to consider the worthiness and faith of the individual who had approached God, and so that there could be a divine witness, or seal by the Holy Spirit of Promise, of such righteousness before higher mysteries were given by God to that individual. At the ancient Israelite temple, such question and answer exchanges also preceded even entering a temple, when those ascending to the temple would encounter the priests at the gate, and be interrogated as to their worthiness to enter there.

I’ve been impressed for some time by the many prophets we read about in the scriptures who have apocalyptic visions of the history of the earth, the creation story, it’s purpose, the reason for our mortal lives, and concluding with visions of the heavenly temple and God’s throne. I’ve often wondered if these prophets were, in fact, witnessing the same heavenly ascent vision, as it almost always includes the same or similar elements.  It would be interesting to compare further these accounts.

What were some of your impressions of Bokovoy’s article? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

8 Comments

  1. Alece
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    This is a wonderful article. It gave me much to ponder about theophanies and even about how we qualify during our own earthly Temple experiences to receive revealed knowledge of the mysteries of God.

    A tangent thought which came to me as I read this paper was about the words “exceedingly high mountain”. Because of recent books and papers which I have read concerning the location of the real Mt. Sinai (i.e., east of Midian in Saudi Arabia instead of in the Sinai Deseret of Egypt) and thus, not far from the location many LDS scholars now believe to be the Valley of Lemuel where Nephi experienced this theopany — which is also located in Saudi Arabia), I have wondered if the “exceedingly high mountain” which Nephi was taken to was the same “exceedingly high mountain” on which Moses received his first theopany (Mt. Horeb) or upon which he received his second theopany (Mt. Sinai) as the Children of Israel waited for him below. (Of course, I know that we can’t know for certain about this, but it is a tantalizing thought!)

  2. Posted August 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    It’s an interesting thought. I haven’t read too much regarding the geographies to know whether it is plausible. The Lord did say to Moses to “put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5). Nephi also calls attention to setting his foot upon that place, “upon which I never had before set my foot” (1 Nephi 11:1).

  3. Alece
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    The non-LDS books (The God of the Mountain by Penny Cox Caldwell; The Exodus Case by Dr. Lennart Moller; The Miracles of the Exodus by Colin Humphreys) which I have read on the subject are pretty conclusive in their assessment that both mountains are in Saudi Arabia. The conclusion given by these “amateur archeologists” is that Jebel Al Lawz is Mt. Sinai/Mt. Horeb. The evidence they have provided is actually pretty striking.

    Also interesting is that the Saudi’s have cordoned off all of these areas with fencing and guards. You can’t take photos of them, etc.; and non-locals have been thrown in jail for trying. However, an expat family working in Saudi Arabia for ARAMCO (Penny and Jim Caldwell) were able to covertly take many photos and some video of the sites. Others have as well; and even George Potter and Richard Wellington of the Nephite Project — were looking for the real Mt. Sinai when they “fell upon” their candidate for the Valley of Lemuel.

    My husband and I have been to the Salalah/Dhofar coast of Oman –looking for Bountiful — with Warren Aston and Scot and Maurine Proctor on a couple of occasions since 2008, so this is very interesting to me.

  4. Troy
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    According to spiritual leaders of indigenous cultures, these “mountains” can be in a completely different realm of spirit. I’m reminded of the scriptural phrase, “whether in the body or out, I cannot tell.” It seems to be a mode of spirit travel. During these spiritual experiences, teachings are given to help the community. The vision might show them a way to make medicine or they might receive a song that can be used for healing dances. This can happen in a dream or a waking vision. The bushmen of the Kalahari speak of “the lost city of the Kalahari” where they visit with deceased ancestors. Sometimes they are get a special visit by the “big god” or the “son of the big god” and are so filled with the love of God they “shake and quake exceedingly” just like the prophet Lehi did after his vision (1 Nephi 1:6). Interestingly, the bushmen see “ropes to God” or ladders (like Jacobs ladder) or links to God made up of ancestors. The “big love” they have for God and their ancestors “pull” them up the ropes. I once told an expert on the bushmen culture about our temple work and sealing of families and he got very excited and told me about the ropes to God. God does work in mysterious ways and loves all his children. Thank you for your essay.

  5. Posted August 14, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    @Alece,

    I watched a DVD recently while recovering from a car accident, called, “Search for Mt. Sinai: Mountain of Fire.” I think it included some of the experiences of the Caldwell family. I had heard stories about two men who happened upon a mountain in Jordan and who claimed to have some astonishing evidence disproving the traditional location of Mt. Sinai. It took me a while to track down their story (they’ve written a book in addition to the DVD), but I finally found it. I was intrigued, but something about the stories felt “off.”

    I did some initial research into the possibility Jebel al-Lawz. I found quite a bit of literature on the subject strongly suggesting Jebel al-Lawz doesn’t fit the profile of Mt. Sinai. The most strongly worded information I came across suggested there was fraud involved in the claims of Bob Cornuke and Larry Williams, whereas other more professional works suggested other sites have more evidence working in their favor.

    I’ve included a few links below if you’re interested. Also, I’m finished with the DVD that I purchased and have done enough digging into the new theory of the location of Mt. Sinai to satisfy my initial curiosity and my subsequent questions. If you’d be interested in watching the video, feel free to email me and I’d be happy to give you the DVD. There are some really fascinating shots.

    * http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/10/Mount-Sinai-is-NOT-Jebel-al-Lawz-in-Saudi-Arabia.aspx#Article

    * http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/jebel-al-

    * http://www.ldolphin.org/franz-ellawz.html

  6. Alece
    Posted August 16, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Kurt,
    Thanks for the links. Interesting reading. It will be helpful when we finally have the archeological reports from the Saudis about the antiquities in the Jebel Al Lawz area — if we ever do.

    Have you read Colin Humphrey’s book entitled The Miracles of the Exodus. He posits a very plausible route for the Exodus which also ends up bringing Moses and the Israelites back to Midian in Arabia and not to the traditional site in the Sinai.; and thus, he agrees that Mt. Sinai/Horeb is probably in the Midian area rather than in the Sinai Penninsula.

    The idea that Moses would bring the Israelites back to the area in which he first encountered God as a shepherd for his Father-in-Law, Jethro, makes more sense to me than that he would take his Father-in-Law’s flocks much further into the Sinai, and there encounter the burning bush; however, we really don’t have enough rock solid evidence for either the traditional site for Mt. Sinai or the non-traditional ones to make a definitive argument for any of the sites. It is fun to speculate, however!

    I would be interested in the DVD, but don’t know how to get my e-mail address to you privately. Maybe Bryce can help with that.

    I also found Troy’s comments — especially about the bushmen of the Kalahari — fascinating. Where did you read about their experiences?

    I do feel, however, that even if Moses’ encounter with the burning bush was a dream or vision — although I don’t really see a need for that, since he was in the mountains with his flock in the first place; his encounter with God on Sinai was not — or at least was a vision that occurred while he was standing on the top of an actual, physical, mountain — one he stayed on for 40 days.

  7. Troy
    Posted August 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    The book I referenced is called The Bushman Way of Tracking God by Bradford Keeney, PhD. In it, he describes his experiences over decades spent with this oldest living culture. I served a mission to south africa and got to do some humanitarian work with the bushmen years later in Namimbia. Yes, they are fascinating.

  8. Alece
    Posted August 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Troy,

    I just ordered the book. Thanks for the title. It should be a great read.

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