There is a key verse which passes by quickly. It establishes an important identity for Lehi. The verse confirms that Lehi saw God the Father sitting on His throne. (1 Ne. 1: 8.) In other words, Lehi beheld the face of God, the Father. This key verse identifies Lehi’s authority.
Following immediately after this view of the Father, sitting on His throne, Christ descended in His glory and ministered to him. His glory was above the brightness of the sun. (1 Ne. 1: 11-13.)
After Christ ministered to him, Lehi put the Father’s activities into perspective, declaring “unto the Lord: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty!” (1 Ne. 1: 13.)
He saw the face of the Father. He was ministered to by the Son. This cannot occur unless Lehi had the highest form of priesthood. This is required for a man to see the face of the Father and live. (D&C 84: 19-22.)
Lehi required priesthood: “without… the authority of the priesthood, and the power of godliness…no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84: 21-22.) Lehi saw Him. Therefore part of the ministry of Christ to him necessarily included conferring priesthood.
Joseph Smith explained it like this: “All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (TPJS, pp. 180–81.)
In Lehi we have an instance of an Old Testament era prophet being “ordained by God himself” in the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon.
The phrasing in verse 8 (“he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne”) is an art form, or a formula. Alma would later use the same phrasing. (Alma 36: 22.) The best way to understand this formulation is found in Paul’s writings: “whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth.” (2 Cor. 12: 2.) Similarly, Joseph Smith’s encounter in the First Vision was either in the body or not, and during the vision he became physically incapacitated. (JS-H 1: 20: “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven.”) Daniel also physically collapsed when the Lord visited with him. (Dan. 10: 5-19.)
How much that book teaches us! It is only our neglect which renders it unable to teach us the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is only the first chapter of the book (1 Ne. 1) and it has an example of a vision of God the Father sitting on His throne, and the Lord Jehovah ministering to and strengthening a prophet of God! What great promise this book holds indeed if that is only the first chapter! Perhaps we should take it more seriously. (D&C 84: 54-57.) No wonder President Packer can lament in General Conference about the absence of priesthood power in the church. (The Power of the Priesthood.)