(July 24, 2014)
There is the sense, in what I know of modern times (speaking from about 35 AD onward), of seeing us in the last days. The Apostles thought, as best as we can tell, that the end of the world was just around the corner. The early Christian fathers definitely had those ideas. From what I understand, most of the early Mormons thought the Millennium was just around the corner. And there is the temptation to think that things are just about ready to end here as well.
While I doubt the end of the world comes in my lifetime, or the lifetime of my children, that sense that things are coming to a close seems pretty persistent. It makes me wonder whether that was true during Lehi’s days. Is it possible that Lehi might have thought that the prophesied Joseph (son of Joseph) might be his grandchild? That would explain why Lehi was telling Joseph all about it – to let him know what to name his son and what he might expect from him. It puts a human context on why this was included here.
Of course, in retrospect, it is clear that the Joseph being spoke of was Joseph Smith – but Lehi would not have known that and might, through confirmation bias or different thinking, have missed the indications in the text that would have clearly indicated that it was not his grandson that was being spoken of. Or he might have seen his grandson as a type of the future Joseph. In any event, that thought sheds new light on why this would have been included in the Book of Mormon.