One of the first things to understand about the Book of Mormon is that it’s a history. As Nephi explains, it’s account of the ministry of the peoples of the Book of Mormon. Because of that, most of the book is story based, but not just any stories. These are accounts specifically included to lead us to look to Christ.
In order to get at these stories, we must visualize them. This isn’t just seeing things as if they were in a movie. This is getting into the hearts and minds of the participants as well as the five senses. Visualization brings the scriptures to life.
There are three key things to do as you visualize the scriptures.
First, look for the setting and ask yourself what is happening? Who is there, when is it, where is it, etc.
Second, look for details in the scriptural text. There are many of these, and sometimes details pertaining to a passage you’re currently reading may be found elsewhere in the book. If you’ve been paying attention, you may remember as you read them and connect two happenings, or two versions of the same event, both of these illuminating the other and improving our understanding.
Third, ask questions to help fill in your mental picture.
Using visualization, I want to pick apart 1 Nephi 17.
The very first verse of this chapter is poignant. It reads:
1 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth. And we did travel and awade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our bwomen did bear children in the wilderness.
The small group had just buried Ishmael, the father of most if not all of the young adult women in the group. This was a man who, like Lehi, also willingly took up his provisions and followed the command to get out of Jerusalem. He was a great man of God. And now they’ve just buried him and started back on their long journey.
So then there is this first verse, telling us the direction they went and saying “we did…wade through much affliction in the wilderness and our women did bear children in the wilderness. “
Just what happened to make Nephi choose that wording? It must have been terrible. He mentioned the suffering of his family several other times throughout the chapter.
The word “wade” has a footnote which leads to
Psalms 69:1-2, 14
1 Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
14 Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.
How terrible it must have been for them. Digging in like this, getting into the head of the narrator, who in this case is the writer and is Nephi, helps us to understand what he was experiencing. He doesn’t say much about any of the details, but it’s clear that even decades later, when he’s making this account, the affect him.
We learn in other places that they were starving. They traveled for eight years in a desert, with the sand and the sun and always the need for water. Did children die? We can assume that Laman and Lemuel continued their murmuring.
And yet, after these mentioned things, Nephi has this to say in the third verse.
And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us whie we did sojourn in the wilderness.
What amazing faith! And what a testimony of obedience. Without its surrounding verses telling us what was happening, the third verse would not be nearly so meaningful.