First Nephi 1-2
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Relationship to First Nephi. The relationship of Chapters 1-2 to the rest of First Nephi is discussed at First Nephi.
Story. Chapters 1-2 consists of two major sections that are each further divisible into subsetions:
- Lehi preaches in Jerusalem. (Chapter 1)
- 1 Ne 1:1: Nephi writes because he knows the goodness of God.
- 1 Ne 1:2-3: explaining the small plates.
- 1 Ne 1:4: prophets preach at Jerusalem.
- 1 Ne 1:5-6: short vision with images.
- 1 Ne 1:7-15: long vision with explanation: God will not suffer his followers to perish.
- 1 Ne 1:16-17: explaining the small plates.
- 1 Ne 1:18-20a: Lehi preaches at Jerusalem.
- 1 Ne 1:20b: Nephi's writing will show that the Lord delivers the faithful.
- Lehi and Nephi preach in the wilderness. (Chapter 2)
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 1-2 include:
- Deliverance. The Lord delivers those who come unto him.
- Covenant with Nephi.
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First Nephi 1-2
- Identifying constituent sections. Chapter 1 is at Jerusalem. Chapter 2 is in the wilderness.
- Chapters 1-2: Communion with God. In Genesis, Abraham often receives blessings after great sacrifice. Here blessings appear to be premised more on obedience and charity (the two great commandments). Lehi receives his first vision after praying in great energy of soul for his brethren at Jerusalem (1 Ne. 1:6). Nephi receives his blessing after praying for his brothers Laman and Lemuel. (1 Ne. 2:19).
First Nephi 1
- Outline of Chapter 1.
- Lehi receives two visions and preaches at Jerusalem (Chapter 1)
- a. Nephi writes because he knows the goodness of God (1:1)
- b. explaining the small plates (1:2-3)
- c. prophets preach at Jerusalem (1:4)
- d. short vision with images (1:5-6)
- d. long vision with explanation: God will not suffer his followers to perish (1:7-15)
- b. explaining the small plates (1:16-17)
- c. Lehi's preaching at Jerusalem is rejected (1:18-20a)
- a. Nephi's writing will show that the Lord delivers the faithful (1:20b)
- Portions of this chapter are discussed on the following subpages: Verses 1:1-4, Verses 1:5-15, Verses 1:16-20
- The relation between chapter 1 and the book of First Nephi. The outline proposed above for 1 Nephi 1 is significant in three regards.
- First, the main point of Chapter 1 can be discerned from its organization as a chiasm. In chiasmus the most important point is located at the middle, and often the next most important point is located at the extremes, or at the beginning and the end. When the beginning, middle, and end all make the same point, that point is clearly the main point of the chiastic passage.
- Here Nephi concludes chapter 1 with the statement that "But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen because of their faith to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." (1:20b). This is very similar to Lehi's exclamation in the longer of the two visions at the middle of this chapter that "because thou [God] are merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish." (1:14). With those two passages in mind, it is much easier to pick out the operative portion of the opening verse: "having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days." (1:1). According to this reading of chapter 1, Nephi writes because the Lord is good in that he delivers those who come unto him.
- Second, chapter 1 serves not only as a preface to First Nephi, but also as a model for First Nephi. In chapter 1, the opening, middle, and conclusion all contain witnesses of Nephi's main point regarding deliverance. Sandwiched between these main points, Nephi tells us in the first half something about his record (it is in the language of the Egyptians and is true) (1:2-3) and he relates a short narrative about preaching at Jerusalem by many prophets (1:4). In the second half, Nephi again tells us something about his record (it contains an abridgement of Lehi's record followed by an account of his own proceedings) (1:16-17) and a short narrative about preaching at Jerusalem by Lehi (1:18-20a).
- This same outline applies to the entire book of First Nephi (see the outline of First Nephi). Like chapter 1, First Nephi has a pair of visions at the middle, the first more visually interesting and the second about four times longer and more informative. This is matched by pairs of witnesses at the beginning (Lehi in chapter 1, and Lehi and Nephi in chapter 2) and at the end (Zenos in chapter 19b and Isaiah in chapters 20-21). Sandwiched between these main points, Nephi tells us in the first half something about the small plates (chapters 6 and 9) and recounts three narrative episodes (retrieving the brass plates, Lehi and Sariah in the wilderness, and retrieving wives in chapters 3-7). In the second half, Nephi again tells us something about the small plates (chapter 19b) and recounts three narrative episodes (the land journey, building the boat, and the water journey).
- This similarity of structure suggests that we should look for similarities between chapter 1 and First Nephi as a whole, as does Nephi's statement in the last verse of chapter 1 that he will proceed in his book to illustrate for us the main point of chapter 1. We can thus conclude that the main point of chapter 1 is also the main point of the entire book of First Nephi, namely that the Lord delivers the righteous who come unto him. (See, for example, 1 Ne. 22:19: in the last days "the righteous shall not perish; for the time surely must come that all they who fight against Zion shall be cut off").
- Third, the concluding four chapters of First Nephi that quote Isaiah are not just tacked on to the end of the book, but are also closely related to the opening and middle portions of First Nephi. The Savior explains in 3 Ne 23:__ that all things Isaiah wrote have been and will be. (See the discussion of historical parallelism at 3 Ne 23:__). Nephi explains in 2 Ne 25:1-8 that one of the reasons he can understand Isaiah is that he is familiar with the bipolar world (dominated by Egypt and Assyria) surrounding Jerusalem. Nephi receives additional education in First Nephi 11-14 when he sees a vision of the future history of the bipolar world (dominated by the Nephites and Lamanites) in which his descendants will live, and then of the last days. With the knowledge base that Nephi acquired in the middle of First Nephi, he can at the end of First Nephi quote and explain Isaiah. So one way that the outlines of chapter 1 and of First Nephi help us to understand both First Nephi and Isaiah is by identifying for us and sharing with us the knowledge one must have in order to draw the historical connections necessary to understand Isaiah. Another way that these outlines help us to understand both First Nephi and Isaiah is by teaching us that the message of both books is that the Lord delivers those who come unto him.
First Nephi 2
- Lehi and Nephi testify in the wilderness (First Nephi 2)
- • Lehi's family departs into the wilderness (2:1-5)
- • Lehi exhorts Laman and Lemuel, who do not believe him (2:6-15)
- • Sam believes Nephi's witness, but Laman and Lemuel do not (2:16-24)
- Identifying constituent sections Chapter 2 of First Nephi divides into three sections. The first section (Verses 2:1-5) tells the story of Lehi leaving Jerusalem for the wilderness. The transition at the beginning of the end of the second section (in verse 2:6) is indicated by changes in unity of time ("and it came to pass that when my father had traveled three days ..."), unity of activity (from traveling to pitching tents and staying in a single location), and unity of character (by focusing not only Lehi but also on Laman and Lemuel). The second section (Verses 6-15) tells the story of Lehi preaching to his sons Laman and Lemuel, focusing at the middle portion on the reasons why Laman and Lemuel rejected that preaching. This second section of Chapter 2 can be understood as a chiasm, again indicating the beginning and ending points of this second section. The transition to the third section (2:16-24) is indicated by another change in unity of character as the focus of action shifts from Lehi to Nephi.
- Relationship of constituent sections In 1 Ne 2:1-5 Lehi is commended for hi past faithfulness and is blessed with deliverance in the form of an instruction to leave Jerusalem before he is killed.
- In 1 Ne 2:6-15 Lehi preaches to Laman and Lemuel. The stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel causes them to reject Lehi's preaching, but through the power of God he confounds them.
- In 1 Ne 2:16-18 Nephi explains the difference that causes him to accept the same preaching that Laman and Lemuel had rejected. Nephi, like his father, also preaches to Laman and Lemuel, but they reject Nephi's preaching a they had previously rejected the preaching of Lehi. In 1 Ne 2:19-24 Nephi receives the promise of a blessing conditioned on the future faithfulness of Nephi and his descendants.
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- LDS Institute Book of Mormon Student Manual (PDF version): Chapter 2/56: 1 Nephi 1-5. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009.
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