There are great doctrinal truths here, of course, but I had long been confused by the nature of 2 Nephi 3. Elderly Lehi is about to die, and he takes his youngest son aside for a moment to…talk about ancient history and prophecy about the future. That’s pretty much it. There’s really not much here that seems to relate directly to the young man himself.
Reading it again recently, I went looking for an answer. Why does Lehi spend his last words to his son lecturing about such seemingly random stuff? Here’s the answer I found:
I ended up imagining this implied context for the chapter. Read 2 Nephi 3 again after this, and see if it doesn’t open up better:
Joseph, my youngest son, you’ve already had a hard life out in the old desert wilderness, on the raging seas, and in this new jungle wilderness, and I wish I could promise that things will get easier, but honestly, they won’t. I haven’t been able to protect you much, but even that little comfort is about to be lost to you. I’m dying. After I’m gone, you will continue to face challenges in life.
But remember this:
There are three great Josephs at major turning points in history who will help advance the Lord’s work.
One was Joseph of Egypt, in the distant past. He endured serious adversity also, but founded a people who were close to the Lord. He knew of us and wrote about us.
Another Joseph will be in the distant future. He will endure serious adversity as well, but will found a people who will be close to the Lord. He will know of us and will write about us.
The third Joseph is you, my son. Just as the Joseph long before you and the Joseph long after you have their part in overcoming opposition to start new dynasties of righteousness, you have yours. Our little family here will grow to become a dispensation of a thousand years, whose story will someday go to all the world. And you’re here at the beginning, to help make sure it happens. This is your place in the story, and this is the difference you make.
The words which the ancient Joseph saw in vision and which the future Joseph will publish are the words which are being written now by our family. You’re an important part of this larger plan.
The Joseph before and the Joseph after will know you in the eternities as their brother in this work. They are counting on you. I am counting on you. Indeed, a world is counting on you. Follow Nephi and serve with him. Make Joseph of Egypt and Joseph of America proud. Make the Lord proud. Make me proud. Good bye, my son, and fare well. I believe in you.