In the 3rd chapter of Second Nephi, Lehi is quoting a prophecy from Joseph of Egypt. The quotation is nearly verbatim to the original given in the Genesis 50 JST. I’ve created a simple study document called: Joseph of Egypt Prophecy to easily see the differences side by side. There is a lot to this chapter, but I will focus on the spokesman.
The real deviation begins in verse 17 of chapter 3. Lehi shifts from the prophesy of Joseph to personal promises delivered to Lehi directly from the Lord. Verse 18 makes this distinction clear, “And the Lord said unto me also.” This promise is for Lehi. The subject in Joseph of Egypt’s prophecy is Moses. The subject in Lehi’s (v.17) is “a Moses.” By the time Lehi records this prophecy, Moses had already come and gone. Lehi is foreseeing a future seer who will be “like unto Moses” (2 Nephi 3:9).
This choice seer will be assisted with several things:
- [The Lord] will give power unto him in a rod.
- [The Lord] will give judgement unto him in writing.
- [The Lord] will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for [the Lord] will not make him mighty in speaking.
- [The Lord] will write unto him [His] law, by the finger of [His] own hand.
- [The Lord] will make a spokesman for him.
Notice the common thread between each of the items. Power in a rod can have multiple meanings, but the obvious one is the word of God. Earlier Nephi explains the iron rod to his brothers as being the word of God (1 Nephi 15:23–24). A rod also has reference to a staff, much like Moses wielded to part the red sea.
Judgement in writing, again a possible reference to the word of God. I will not loose his tongue, in this case the choice seer will only represent the role of the prophet, but not the spokesman. The Lord will write unto him His law, once again another potential reference to the word of God. Finally, the Lord will make a spokesman for this choice seer.
After explaining the assistance given to this seer, the Lord begins to expound where this word and spokesman will come from. “I will raise up unto the fruit of thy [Lehi’s] loins; and I will make him a spokesman. (2 Nephi 3:18)” This tells us the Lord intends to “raise up” posterity from Lehi, a righteous branch, and lineage of Joseph of Egypt (Jacob 2:25). From this statement we also know that the spokesman will come from Lehi’s posterity.
The seer will “write the writing of the fruit of [Lehi’s] loins.” and it will be written to the seed of Lehi. Whoever the spokesman is, will declare that the writing is directed to the seed of Lehi. The title page of the Book of Mormon, written by Moroni, declares that the book is, “written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel.” The writing of Lehi’s seed was indeed translated by Joseph Smith by the gift and power of God.
The word will then “go forth” unto the “fruit of [Lehi’s] loins.” Nephi, later in chapter 11, tells his children that he will “send forth” Isaiah’s, Jacob’s, and Nephi’s words as the first three witnesses of the truthfulness of the book. (2 Nephi 11:2–3) The Lord states in verse 21, of chapter 3, that the Nephite words “shall proceed forth out of my mouth” unto the Lamanite remnant. Later on Nephi receives the same promise from the Lord, “And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel;” (2 Nephi 29:2) Once again the Lord declares His words will “proceed forth out of [his] mouth.” See also (Moro 10:28) (2 Ne 33:14).
Back to verse 19, the Lord informs Lehi that the words which are written will act as though his posterity were to “cry from the dust.” They will cry repentance to the remnant of the Lamanites. “Their cry shall go, even according to the simpleness of their words.” The Nephite authors know their fate (1 Nephi 15:5). They know their words will “go forth” as messengers, as a voice from the dust, as a spokesman for the choice seer.
For those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit; for the Lord God will give unto him power, that he may whisper concerning them, even as it were out of the ground; and their speech shall whisper out of the dust. (2 Ne. 26:16)
And there is none other which shall view it, save it be a few according to the will of God, to bear testimony of his word unto the children of men; for the Lord God hath said that the words of the faithful should speak as if it were from the dead. (2 Ne. 27:13)
And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come. (2 Ne. 33:13)
Search the prophecies of Isaiah. Behold, I cannot write them. Yea, behold I say unto you, that those saints who have gone before me, who have possessed this land, shall cry, yea, even from the dust will they cry unto the Lord; and as the Lord liveth he will remember the covenant which he hath made with them. (Morm. 8:23)
And no one need say they shall not come, for they surely shall, for the Lord hath spoken it; for out of the earth shall they come, by the hand of the Lord, and none can stay it; and it shall come in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away; and it shall come even as if one should speak from the dead. (Morm. 8:26)
Behold, I speak unto you as though I spake from the dead; for I know that ye shall have my words. (Morm. 9:30)
And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust? (Moro 10:27)
Because of the faith of Lehi, Nephi and other righteous fathers (Enos 1:15–18) (Morm. 8:24–26) (Mormon 9:36–37), the Lord promises to make their weak words strong (Ether 12:23–29).
Because of these connections I believe that the Book of Mormon authors are the spokesman prophesied in chapter 3 of 2 Nephi. They cry with their voice and speak as if from the dust, out of the earth.
And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem. (Moses 7:62)