1 Ne 16:9-17:6

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Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 16-18 > Chapter 16 / Verses 16:9-17:6
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Relationship to Chapters 16-18. The relationship of Chapter 16 to the rest of Chapters 16-18 is discussed at First Nephi 16-18.

Story. Chapter 16, the story of the land journey, consists of four major sections:

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 16 include:

  • Brass and steel. Nephi juxtaposes a steel object (Nephi's bow) whose great military strength is unable to save them with another object made of soft brass (the Liahona) that does have the power to save but because it conveys the word of the Lord.


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1 Ne 16: The land journey[edit]

  • Chapter breaks. The natural breaks do not follow the chapter breaks chosen by Orson Pratt.
  • Outline as a chiasm.
• the Liahona, leaving the Valley of Lemuel (16:9-16)
• Nephi's bow breaks (16:17-32)
• Ishmael dies (16:33-39)
• blessings in the wilderness and arrival in Bountiful (17:1-6)

1 Ne 16:9-16: Liahona and travel[edit]

  • 1 Ne 16:10: Liahona and travel pattern. The Liahona could have been intended for Ishmael, his sons and daughters, and Zoram. They had not had visions or seen angels. The Liahona was an unexplainable physical God sent object that they could believe in. It proved Lehi was a prophet much like the Book of Mormon proves Joseph Smith Jr. was a prophet.
  • 1 Ne 16:15. No plan. No itinerary. Each day unsure where they would be, what would happen, who would be injured, who they would encounter, whether they would be successful in getting food or finding water. Talk about depending on the Lord.

1 Ne 16:17-32: Nephi's bow breaks[edit]

  • Nephi acts rather than than complaining and murmuring. Miracles often make up what we cannot do for ourselves rather than what we do not feel like doing for ourselves. Here Nephi showed faith that he would get food.
  • Here even Lehi murmurs, and Nephi shows his qualification to lead by being the one who brings the group back to reliance and faith upon the Lord. But still, Nephi does not usurp his father's place. He defers to his father's role as leader of the group by asking his father where he should go to find meat (16:23).

1 Ne 16:33-39: Death of Ishmael[edit]

  • 1 Ne 16:35. Daughters of Ishmael had Nephi, Sam, Zoram, Laman and Lemuel to marry. So at least 3 of them were married to nonbelievers. Daughters of Lehi could have married Zoram or sons of Ishmael. When one doesn't believe in life after death one can be inconsolable. The sting of death would be ever present. Once started then they drawed upon every other thing that was making them miserable. Obviously they were adults. I do not see how they could be forced to follow the parents into wilderness. L&L could have stayed home and enjoyed their fathers riches he left behind. Well maybe not since Nephi killed Laban and his servants would attest to L&L's involvement. The fact they thought to go back to Jerusalem shows they didn't think it through very well.

1 Ne 17:1-6: Summary of eight years of travel[edit]

  • 1 Ne 17:3: The Lord prepares a way. One of the most famous scriptures in the entire Book of Mormon is 1 Ne 3:7 where Nephi tells his father that "I will go and do what the Lord commands ..." Here in 1 Ne 17:3 Nephi as narrator directly addresses his audience "and thus wee see..." to again make that point that God "provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them." Significantly, this statement is made once in the first set of three stories in chapters 3-7 and once here in the second set of three stories in chapters 16-18, reinforcing the idea that the two sets of stories should be read as two halves of a single story, and that both halves illustrate this point.

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

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  • 1 Ne 16:14. Lehi and his family were wealthy city dwellers. They had servants to get and prepare food. Now they are in a situation where that have to hunt for necessity not recreation. Our lives can likewise change in a one moment. We could be in a tent scrounging for food. Would I be ready?
  • 1 Ne 16:32: Spiritual food. Are we as excited to receive spiritual food as these people were to receive physical food?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Ne 16:9: Why does the Lord wait until only the night before to tell Lehi when they will leave?
  • 1 Ne 16:10: Why does he deliver the Liahona is such an unusual way?
    • Do Latter-day Saints have anything comparable to Liahona today?
  • 1 Ne 16:11: Why might Laman and Lemuel not complain at this departure, especially given its suddenness?
  • 1 Ne 16:12: How did they cross the river if there was no wood available at this point in the journey for making rafts or boats?
  • 1 Ne 16:13: Where did Nephi learn to become this precise with his navigating and directions? No tents, slept under stars, no fires to cook, why the urgency? Try to remember a time when Lord had you be so uncomfortable and for what purpose. Why the need to name the place?
  • 1 Ne 16:14: Was it the food or the families that was located in the wilderness? Will we always find food along the path or will we sometimes have to follow paths whose fruit is only found at the end?
  • 1 Ne 16:16: Were they blazing new trails or following the paths of their predecessors? The Lord does not want them seen by anyone that could take the news back to Jerusalem. So I think blazing new trails or less traveled trails to avoid other travelers or marauders.
  • 1 Ne 16:17: If the food had been plentiful on the trail, so that they could obtain what they needed each day, was this an attempt to store up food for a journey of several days or had the food suddenly become more scarce? I doubt they would hunt each day. If so when would they travel? Probably had been many days since last hunted.
  • 1 Ne 16:18: Could Nephi have done anything to prevent the breaking of his bow? If Nephi had said "my bow broke" that would indicate it wasn't his fault. But "I broke my bow" indicates he caused it to break. My bow today would be my employment which is what helps me get food for my family. We can lose our jobs from external actions or our own actions. Bad things happen to good people. Interesting that Laman and Lemuel not mad at themselves for keeping their bows strung all that time to lose their tension.
  • 1 Ne 16:19: Why couldn't they set traps to catch the game that their broken bows were unable to reach?
    • Suggested answer: This is no small group. There are a lot of people. I don't think traps for small game would be sufficient to feed them all.
  • 1 Ne 16:19: Nephi uses "they did suffer" meaning he did not suffer for lack of food. Did God bless him to not be hungry?
    • Suggested Answer: This may an example of reading the text too closely and thus finding things that are not really there. It is probably not fair to rely on Nephi's failure to say that he suffered as evidence that in fact he did not. Here Nephi uses "we" to mean he and his "brethren," and "they" to refer to "our families." At this point Nephi only has three brothers over the age of eight, so the brothers who went hunting with him likely included at least two out of Laman, Lemuel, and Sam. So if this choice of words really did mean that Nephi did not suffer, then it would also mean that neither did the brothers who went hunting with him, probably including at least either Laman or Lemuel. But in verse 20 Nephi tells us positively that Laman and Lemuel did both complain at this time about their sufferings and afflictions. And in verse 21 Nephi says that he was afflicted just like his brothers. In the end it is probably best not to read too much into an author's choice of a particular word, but instead to just look for the fair sense of the main points that appear to have been important to the author. As a further example, see 1 Ne 19:7 where Nephi chooses his words so poorly that he feels a need to correct himself. We all use imprecise language that usually does manage to accurately convey our main points, but that rarely holds up to such close reading. Nephi was an exemplary person and was often blessed, but we do not have a very strong basis for concluding that those blessings included not feeling hunger on this occasion, especially not when he then tells us that he was afflicted on this occasion, and not when this passage is compared to the many occasions on which Nephi does positively tell us that he was blessed in a particular manner.
  • 1 Ne 16:20: Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael didn’t murmur when they departed quickly (v. 10-11), but they do murmur now. What does that difference tell us? What does Lehi’s murmuring suggest?
  • 1 Ne 16:20: Seems like L&L and sons of Ishmael 1st just complaining in general. This verse suggests Lehi was first to murmur against God. Is it okay to complain about what happens in life as long as don't blame God? I think Job complained.
  • 1 Ne 16:21: Was there something in the climate that caused all of the bows to break down at the same time?
  • 1 Ne 16:22: Did Nephi have encouraging or reprimanding words for his brothers?
  • 1 Ne 16:23: For what kinds of reasons might Nephi have asked his father where he should go to hunt? Why just one arrow? Time? Faith it would only take one arrow? His bow was broken not his arrows, why not use those? When bows didn't work why didn't they proceed with sling and stone if they used them also to hunt big game? Nephi has received a lot of revelation on his own, why ask his Father to ask Lord? Why not ask himself? Probably same reason we ask new or recently activated members to pray, give talks, or give blessings. They need the spiritual experiences to develop greater faith.
  • 1 Ne 16:24: Did Nephi lecture and humble his father as much as he did with his brothers? How did Nephi know what to say that would humble them? The soul is = Spirit + body. What is "energy of my soul." ? Testimony? Faith?
  • 1 Ne 16:25: Did Nephi ever chasten the members of his family, or did he usually leave that up to the Lord and angels? Did Lehi hear audible voice or just in his mind? What is chastened? Yelled at? Made to feel guilty? 2 kinds of sorrow. Sorrow for getting caught and godly sorrow that brings to repentance.
  • 1 Ne 16:26: Why was the Lord so quick to answer Lehi's prayers, given the lack of faith he had demonstrated? God not like us He doesn't hold a grudge. The moment we turn to God He turns to us. Already chastened so why have to read scary things on Liahona? The Liahona only works when one has faith. Wouldn't work until Lehi had prayed, confessed sin, had godly sorrow and been forgiven. The other purpose to look at Liahona was to get others who have not yet been humbled to be able to read words, be scared, and repent.
  • 1 Ne 16:27: What things did the Liahona communicate to Lehi and his family that caused them to "fear and tremble exceedingly?" Wish I had a "ball" to tell me how I am doing or what I should be doing. Wonder why Nephi didn't quote what the ball said?
  • 1 Ne 16:28: It is relatively simple to see the Liahona as a metaphor for other things in our spiritual lives that “work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we . . . give unto them.” What are some of those things? Why is our spiritual life like that?
  • 1 Ne 16:29: Nephi himself draws a lesson from the Liahona: “by small means the Lord can bring about great things.” Why might the Lord choose to work by small means? What are some of the small means in your own life that have brought about great ends?
  • 1 Ne 16:29: Why did they get a God made object to guide them? Why don't we have it today? Answers: The quote, "A Prophet is without honor in his own country". Well more so in own family. Lehi needed Liahona so non-members and nonbelieving family members would continue the journey. Lehi did not have church magazines and conferences to draw inspiration from. We have so many more avenues to be prompted by God than Lehi had.
  • 1 Ne 16:30: Is this the first time that Nephi has gotten into a mountain by his own effort?
  • 1 Ne 16:30: Why was Nephi directed to go “up into the top of the mountain” to slay beasts? Was that just where the animals were, or is there something else going on?
  • 1 Ne 16:30: Since mountaintops are holy places, actual natural temples, is there something else going on here related to killing beasts on mountains/temples?
  • 1 Ne 16:31: Why is there a footnote here to Gen 9:3? Is this to indicate that somehow Nephi killing beasts on the mount is related to the LORD's covenant with Noah after the flood that allowed Noah and his posterity to eat wild animals?
  • 1 Ne 16:32: Why did Laman and Lemuel allow Nephi to become the new provider for the extended family, rather than asserting their own dominance over the party?
    • Suggested answer: having Nephi do the work was dominance over him. He was doing the work of a servant.
  • 1 Ne 16:33: How was Nephi able to catch and carry enough food for everyone in the party to survive off of for "many days" of travel? Camels. Pack a lot of meat on a camel.
  • 1 Ne 16:34: Why does Nephi decline to say who did the burying?
  • 1 Ne 16:35: Do you think that when Nephi tells us that the daughters mourned exceedingly he means that they mourned excessively? What might excessive rather than “normal” mourning be? Are there any indicators in these verses that they mourned excessively?
  • 1 Ne 16:36: How did they realistically plan to reach Jerusalem if they couldn't even catch the food they needed to survive?
  • 1 Ne 16:37: Notice the strangeness of these events: Ishmael dies and his daughters mourn exceedingly (v. 34-35). Presumably that includes Nephi’s wife. In response, the husband of one of those wives, Laman, urges the husband of another, Lemuel, that they should kill Lehi, their own father. What motivates Laman’s plan?
  • 1 Ne 16:38: Of what do Laman and Lemuel accuse Nephi? What evidence do they have for their accusation?
  • 1 Ne 16:39: Was the Lord trying to make it obvious to everyone there that only the righteous members of the group would be blessed with the ability to obtain food?
  • 1 Ne 17:1: How did members of the group perceive the purposes of these afflictions?
  • 1 Ne 17:2: Compare the perspective given here with the perspective given in verses 20-21. What things are included that are the same, and which things are different? What do these differences and similarities suggest?
  • 1 Ne 17:3: If the Lord can't help them until after they keep the commandments, and yet his assistance is specifically designed to help them accomplish the commandments, then how much commandment keeping did these people do on their own and how much was possible because of divine assistance?
  • 1 Ne 17:4: How did these urban people manage to become totally self-sufficient, with the apparent exception of food delivered by the Lord, while cut off civilization for eight years?
  • 1 Ne 17:5: If they had survived eight years in the wilderness, why were they suddenly on the verge of perishing when they arrived at Bountiful?
  • 1 Ne 17:6: Did the Lord bring this group out of the wilderness and into Bountiful because over the eight years they had become more righteous, or was it because the Lord needed them to set up a new society in the promised land before they became much older?


This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Ne 17:3. Anthony D. Perkins, "‘The Great and Wonderful Love’," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 76–78. Elder Perkins counsels us to place our burdens on Jesus Christ. "When you feel overwhelmed by expectations and challenges, do not fight the battle alone."
  • 1 Ne 17:5: Irreantum. Paul Hoskisson explores a South Semitic etymology for this name, explaining why Nephi gives both the transliteration and meaning of this name. Paul Hoskisson, with Brian Hauglid and John Gee, "What's in a Name? Irreantum", Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 11 (2002), pp. 90-93.


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