This lesson includes 2 Nephi 3 and 5, which are both very important in terms of understanding Book of Mormon geography issues.
The manual summarizes the chapters this way:
2 Nephi 3: Lehi teaches his son Joseph about the ancient prophet Joseph, who prophesied of Joseph Smith. Lehi teaches Joseph that their descendants will be blessed through the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.
2 Nephi 5: The anger of Laman and Lemuel increases against Nephi. The followers of Nephi obey the Lord’s command to separate from the followers of Laman. The Nephites live “after the manner of happiness,” and the Lamanites are cursed for their wickedness.
Consider carefully what Chapter 3 says.
6 For Joseph truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins. Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins...unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins."
The seer, of course, is Joseph Smith. The fruit of Lehi's loins, of course, are the Lamanites. One could interpret this to mean that, long after his death, Joseph's teachings would make their way to the Lamanites thousands of miles away and they would esteem him highly. However, the text does not say that. If the promise Lehi explains here was equally applicable to everyone on earth--that the choice seer's words would be sent to Lehi's descendants like everyone else--then what is the significance of the promise? What is different about the promise that Joseph of old thought was so important that he recorded it, and that Lehi would teach it to his sons?
The key points are that the seer, to be named Joseph, would be "raised up unto" and "esteemed highly among" the Lamanites, and "that unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins." Joseph received a specific promise that his descendants would know this seer, and that the seer would bring the word directly to his descendants.
What indigenous people did Joseph Smith personally teach? If you don't know, look up the Sac and Fox Indians, who came to Nauvoo specifically to meet Joseph. That's what these paintings depict. Joseph Smith taught the American Indians who lived in the same country where Joseph did. Surely this is what Joseph of old saw, which was why it was so significant to him.
In addition, Lehi taught his children that the seer would have a spokesman.
Think about how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. He had a seer stone, and he read the words that appeared on it, and who wrote them down? Oliver Cowdery. Here's how Lehi explained it to his children, quoting the Lord.
v. 17. "But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand [the writing on the seer stone that Joseph read out loud] and I will make a spokesman for him [Oliver Cowdery]... And I, behold, I will give unto him [Cowdery] that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins [Oliver wrote the words of the Nephites as Joseph read them off the stone], unto the fruit of thy loins [the Lamanites]; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it. And the words which he shall write [the Book of Mormon] shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins [the Lamanites]."
Oliver Cowdery was the first missionary called by revelation, recorded in D&C 28:8. "And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them.
That's exactly what Oliver did. He, along with Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer, left New York in October 1830 to walk 1500 miles to the Indian tribes in the Midwest.
It was a difficult journey that required tremendous faith. It's yet another evidence of the power of Oliver Cowdery's testimony and knowledge regarding the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the Priesthood, and other events.
And it was all in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joseph of old that Lehi taught his children, as recorded in 2 Nephi 5.
For more information, read the lesson in the Church history manual here.
Looks like I'll have to discuss chapter 5 next week. It's a very important chapter in understanding what Nephi encountered in the New World and where he went when he left his brothers. I can't wait.