1 Ne 12 Nephi switches continents
Nephi's vision, thus far, has been about events which happen in Jerusalem. Chapter 12 contains a portion of the vision which deals with the history of the Nephites and Lamanites. It covers a time frame which parallels the Book of Mormon history (excluding the Jaredites).
1 Ne 12:1 behold thy seed, and also the seed of thy brethren... in number as many as the sand of the sea.
Nephi sees the history of the Lamanites and Nephites. Therefore, Nephi knew from very early on, that there would be a permanent division in the family. So far he has learned that his brothers are not going to partake of the tree of life. Now he will learn that the seed of his brothers will have many wars with his descendants. In addition, he sees the land of promise years before arriving there.
Many experts have tried to figure out how large the population was in Book of Mormon times. Nephi describes it as "in number as the sand of the sea." Expert predictions may understimate the number of people who lived on this continent. Evidence suggests that near the time of Christ, the settlements were not great in number, and the geography was confined to a relatively small area. However, latter-day attempts to shrink the geography populations of the Book of Mormon have at times gone too far. Nothing can be determined about the number of people who lived in the Jaredite era or during the many generations which passed between Nephi and king Benjamin. We must accept the fact that the Book of Mormon was not written as a census or an almanac. But the population seemed to Nephi 'as the sand of the sea' for multitude.
1 Ne 12:4-5 I saw a mist of darkness and the vapor of darkness
Nephi refers to a mist of darkness and the vapor of darkness (v. 5). He is seeing the actual vapor of darkness that covered the land of promise for 3 days after the death of the Savior (3 Ne 8:19-23). However, the mist of darkness also symbolizes the temptations of the devil which had overcome the Nephites right before their destruction. This was a time of incredible wickedness among the people, six years had not passed away since the more part of the people had turned from their righteousness like the dog to his vomit, or like the sow to his wallowing in the mire...their hearts were turned from the Lord their God, and they did stone the prophets and did cast them out from among them (3 Ne 7:8,14).
1 Ne 12:4 What were the lightnings, thunderings, earthquakes, etc. that Nephi saw?
Nephi witnessed the destructions which happened on the land of promise after the crucifixion of the Savior. These are described in 3 Ne 8:6-18.
1 Ne 12:8 What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle?
James E. Talmage
"Discipleship is general; any follower of a man or devotee to a principle may be called a disciple, The Holy Apostleship is an office and calling belonging to the Higher or Melchizedek Priesthood, at once exalted and specific, comprising as a distinguishing function that of personal and special witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ as the one and only Redeemer and Savior of mankind. The apostleship is an individual bestowal, and as such is conferred only through ordination. That the Twelve did constitute a council or 'quorum' having authority in the Church established by Jesus Christ is shown by their ministrations after the Lord's resurrection and ascension.
"....The word 'apostle' is an Anglicized form derived from the Greek apostolos, meaning literally 'one who is sent,' and connoting an envoy or official messenger, who speaks and acts by the authority of one superior to himself." (Jesus the Christ, p. 227-8)
1 Ne 12:8 Were the Nephite Twelve apostles or disciples?
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Question: 'In our class the question was asked if the twelve chosen by the Savior among the Nephites were apostles? At the same time the apostles chosen by Jesus in Palestine were on the earth the Lord chose twelve also on the American continent whom he called disciples. I have felt that there could not be more than one set of apostles on the earth at any given time, but some members of the class thought otherwise, and we have been confused.'
"Answer: The twelve men chosen by our Savior among the Nephites are called disciples in the Book of Mormon...(quotes 1 Ne. 12:8-10)
"In fulfilment of this prophecy when the Savior came to the Nephites, he chose twelve men and gave them authority to minister in his name among the Nephites on this American continent in all the ordinances essential to their salvation. These twelve went forth healing the sick and performing many miracles and administering the ordinances as they had been commanded to do. The fulness of the gospel with the power and the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood were given to the Nephites the same as they were to the Church on the Eastern Hemisphere
"While in every instance the Nephite twelve are spoken of as disciples, the fact remains that they had been endowed with divine authority to be special witnesses for Christ among their own people. Therefore, they were virtually apostles to the Nephite race, although their jurisdiction was, as revealed to Nephi, eventually to be subject to the authority and jurisdiction of Peter and the twelve chosen in Palestine. According to the definition prevailing in the world an apostle is a witness for Christ, or one who evangelizes a certain nation or people. 'A zealous advocate of a doctrine or cause.' Therefore the Nephite twelve became apostles, as special witnesses, just as did Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times." (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 1: 120-122.)
1 Ne 12:9-10 the twelve apostles....shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel...twelve ministers shall judge thy seed.
We often imagine that Jesus Christ will be our judge. In John 5:22 we learn that the Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. The Son, however, has committed judgment unto others. The Father delegated the responsibility to the Son, and the Son delegated the responsibility to the twelve apostles and twelve disciples. These 24 men, and others, will judge mankind under the direction of the Savior. This was made clear when the Lord spoke to Peter in Matt 19:28, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
In Revelation we learn that the books were opened....and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works (Rev 20:12). The Father is responsible for writing the books, the Savior is responsible for establishing the pattern by which men should be judged, and the Savior's apostles/disciples are the actual judges. This pattern is shown in 3 Ne 27:25-27. This prompted the counsel to the twelve disciples, Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am. The scriptures are replete with confirmations that this judgment will be just, But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth (Rom 2:2), Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments (Rev 16:7).
Who else will be a judge? 1) Bishops, stake presidencies, and higher church councils act as judges on matters under their administration (DC 107:69-80). 2) When missionaries are rejected and perform the ordinance of dusting off their feet, they will act as judges for the people who rejected their message (DC 75:19-22). 3) The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment against the people who rejected Christ during his ministry because they [the men of Ninevah] repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here (Matt 12:41). 4) Paul says that the saints will also judge the world, Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? (1 Cor 6:2)
Bruce R. McConkie
"Under Christ a great hierarchy of judges will operate, each functioning in his assigned sphere. John saw many judges sitting upon thrones. (Rev. 20:4.) Paul said the saints would judge both the world and angels. (1 Cor. 6:2-3.) The elders are to sit in judgment on those who reject them. (D. & C. 75:21-22; Matt. 10:14-15.) Daniel saw that judgment would be given to the saints. (Dan. 7:22.) The Nephite Twelve will be judged by the Twelve from Jerusalem and then in turn will judge the Nephite nation. (1 Nephi 12:9-10; 3 Nephi 27:27; Morm. 3:19.) And the Twelve who served with our Lord in his ministry shall judge the whole house of Israel. (D. & C. 29:12.) No doubt there will be many others of many dispensations who will sit in judgment upon the peoples of their days and generations-all judging according to the judgment which Christ shall give them, 'which shall be just.' (3 Nephi 27:27.)" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:558.)
1 Ne 12:10 garments are made white in his blood
Bruce R. McConkie
"We clean our garments by washing them in water. Filth, dirt, germs, odors, and whatever is unclean and offensive is thus removed; our wearing apparel becomes clean and spotless. A saved person is one whose soul is clean and spotless, one who is free from the filth and corruption of sin; and the prophetic way of describing such a person is to say that his garments are clean. Since the only way a human soul can be cleansed and perfected is through the atonement of Christ, it follows that the symbolic way of describing this process is to say that such a one has washed his garments in the blood of the Lamb, as we have here learned Nephi and Alma did." (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, p. 251.)
1 Ne 12:16-19 Behold the fountain of filthy water....the mists of darkness....the large and spacious building
Nephi now returns to the imagery of Lehi's dream. The depths of the filthy water represent the depths of hell, the mists of darkness represent the temptations of the devil, the large and spacious building represents the vain imaginations and pride of the world, and the great and terrible gulf represents the word of the justice of the Eternal God. The relationship between these symbols and the history of the Nephites becomes clear in the next few verses. Nephi sees the destruction of the Nephites. How did this destruction come? It came because the Nephites had fallen prey to the temptations of the devil, they had become proud members of that great and spacious building, and they were about to fall headlong into the depths of hell.
1 Ne 12:18 a great and terrible gulf divideth them; yea even the word of the justice of the Eternal God
The justice of God cannot allow the wicked and righteous to receive the same reward. This seems simple enough, however Alma's son Corianton had trouble with this concept, 'I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand-which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery' (Alma 42:1). Alma goes on to show his son that it is injustice if the sinner is not punished, 'What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice?...whosoever will come [unto God] may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds. If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God' (Alma 42:25-28).
The DC teaches that the individual must be able to abide the law of the kingdom he/she enters, 'For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory' (DC 88:22). A corollary to this principle is taught by Moroni, 'Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws? Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell' (Mormon 9:3-4).
Therefore, the justice of God is actually merciful in requiring that the righteous and wicked be separated. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, this same gulf is described separating those in Spirit Prison from those in Spirit Paradise, 'between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence' (Lu 16:26).
"...'a great and terrible gulf divideth them.' There it is again. It is a figure of speech, an image. Nothing could better describe it; there is a great and terrible gulf between two different ways of living. There is nothing in common between them at all. You can't breach it...." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon--Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988-1990, p. 195)