By John A. Tvedtnes
Second Nephi 4:1635 comprises a beautiful psalm written by Nephi. Portions of the psalm suggest that he was contemplating his earlier vision of the tree of life and the future of his people, recorded in 1 Nephi 1114. Among the elements common to both the psalm and the vision are the appearance of angels in visions, mention of the condescension of God, temptations, the devil ("evil one") and hell, and the straight path.
In his psalm, Nephi wrote of "visions in the night-time," noting that "angels came down and ministered unto me" (2 Nephi 4:23, 24). Similarly, an angel appeared to Nephi during his vision of the tree of life (see 1 Nephi 11:14). Nephi clearly indicated that he had the vision in mind as he wrote the psalm: "And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains" (2 Nephi 4:25), for Nephi "was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain" (1 Nephi 11:1) when he received the vision in 1 Nephi 1114.
In the psalm, Nephi wrote that he "was bidden that [he] should not write" some of the things he had seen (2 Nephi 4:25). Similarly, he was also told not to write some of the things he saw in his vision (see 1 Nephi 14:25, 28).
Nephi further wrote in his psalm of how "the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy" (2 Nephi 4:26). Nephi also used the word "condescension" in his description of his vision (see 1 Nephi 11:16, 26). He tied the condescension, symbolized by the tree, to "the love of God" (1 Nephi 11:22), and in his psalm he noted that "He hath filled me with his love" (2 Nephi 4:21). The fact that Nephi employed the word "condescension" only in describing the vision and in his psalmand nowhere elseagain suggests that when he wrote the psalm he had the vision in mind.
In his psalm, Nephi wrote of "temptations" and of "the evil one," or devil (2 Nephi 4:18, 27). In the vision, he mentioned the "temptations of the devil" (1 Nephi 12:17, see 12:19), and when explaining the vision to his brothers he described "the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary" (1 Nephi 15:24). The only times Nephi used the phrase "temptations of the devil" were in his description of the vision and in his psalm. Similarly, he used the term "hell" only in the account of the vision (see 1 Nephi 12:16; 14:3; 15:29, 35) and in the psalm (see 2 Nephi 4:32).
In his psalm, Nephi wrote of walking "in the path of the low valley . . . in the plain road" and implored the Lord to "make my path straight before me" (2 Nephi 4:33, 34). It is likely that he had in mind the "strait and narrow path" that both he and his father saw, though he does not describe it (see 1 Nephi 8:2023; 11:1).
In the concluding words of his psalm, Nephi praised "my rock and mine everlasting God" (2 Nephi 4:35). The words remind us of part of his explanation of the vision to his brothers, in which he spoke of "their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation" (1 Nephi 15:15).
The connections between Nephi's psalm and his vision reflect the experiences of Nephi. The key words and vocabulary of the psalm draw us back to the account of the vision, confirming that Nephi truly was reporting "the things of the Lord . . . the things which I have seen and heard" (2 Nephi 4:16). Nephi used the phrase "seen and heard" only in reference to divine revelation (see 1 Nephi 1:18; 17:45).
That angels, condescension, temptation, mention of the "evil one" and hell, and the straight path are present in both Nephi's vision and his psalm adds evidence that they are the real experiences of a real person rather than the imagination of an untrained farm boy such as Joseph Smith.