When the first chapter of Nephi opens, Lehi is among those who listened to “many prophets prophesying” about the coming judgments against Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1: 4.) Their message was not Lehi’s. Their message was apparently upsetting to him because he responded by praying on behalf of Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1: 5.) His prayer is interesting. He offers it on behalf of what he regarded as “his people.” (Id.)
The result of his compassionate prayer for others was a calling by God the Father, delivered by His Son, Jehovah. (1 Ne. 1: 8-13.) God takes note of those who have compassion for others and whose charity seeks the best interests of their fellow-man. Such people possess love, and it is “unfeigned.” (D&C 121: 41.) It is precisely because of their love of their fellow man that they are called to render priestly service. (Id.)
Lehi was a man like Christ. Just like Christ, Lehi would intercede on behalf of “his people” and did so “with all his heart.” (1 Ne. 1: 5.)
In response to this, Lehi’s vision endowed him with knowledge about the Lord’s great plan of mercy. He knew that the Lord would overrule everything for the good. Even the suffering that would be inflicted on the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be merciful, and would be predicated on the “goodness” of God. (1 Ne. 1: 14.) Lehi understood. Because he had this knowledge, he was able to see how God’s plans were always done for the benefit and ultimate salvation of man.
Before this encounter with God, Lehi was in the audience listening to the prophets cry repentance. After this encounter with God, he joined the prophets and also “began to prophesy and to declare” a message to Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1: 18.) He could not “begin” to prophesy if he had been among the prophets previously. If that were the case, he would have “resumed” or “continued” to prophesy. He “began” only after encountering God. Therefore, we can know Lehi’s ministry to call others to repent did not start before encountering God and receiving his commission from the Lord.
This is what true prophets do. They do not advance their own agenda. They do not volunteer. They do not deliver a message of their own. They don’t look for witty quotes, or clever stories to retell. They receive a commission from God, and the result of their work is to offer those who will listen a chance to repent and return to God.
These individuals do not take the Lord’s name in vain. They cannot. They have been authorized to speak in the Lord’s name, and therefore their words are His. (D&C 1: 38.) He will vindicate the words of His servants because they do not speak an idle thing in their own behalf. They speak with His authority, and deliver His message.
So with the first chapter of the Book of Mormon we also get an example of how prophets are called: alone, in God’s presence, with an endowment of knowledge of God’s ways sufficient to enable them to deliver a message of repentance.
And this is only the first chapter! Imagine if we took the entire book to heart what we might find!