First Nephi

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Subpages: Chapters 1-2  •  3-7  •  8-9  •  10-15  •  16-18  •  19-22

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Relationship to Book of Mormon. The relationship of First Nephi to the Book of Mormon as a whole is discussed at Book of Mormon: Unities.

Story. First Nephi is the first book in the Book of Mormon. It tells how the founders of the Nephite and Lamanite nations left Jerusalem and traveled to America. First Nephi consists of six major sections:

  • Chapters 1-2: Lehi and Nephi as witnesses. Lehi and Nephi both stand as witnesses of the Lord, Lehi preaching to the Jews at Jerusalem, and then Lehi and Nephi both preaching to their family. Both are rejected by most of their audience. At the end of chapter 1, Nephi states his thesis that the Lord delivers those who come unto him. At the end of chapter 2, the Lord makes his covenant with Nephi that will influence much of Nephi's narrtative and much of Nephite history.
  • Chapters 3-7: Three narrative stories. (1) returning to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates; (2) Lehi and Sariah in the wilderness; and (3) returning to Jerusalem to obtain wives. These stories feature a steel sword and the brass plates. In the last story Laman and Lemuel bind Nephi to kill him, but other members of the group persuade them to relent.
  • Chapters 8-9 and Chapters 10-15: Lehi and Nephi witness of the same vision. Lehi and Nephi again stand as two witnesses, this time of the same vision of the tree of life. The portion of Lehi's vision presented in chapter 8 emphasizes its application to individuals, while the portions of Lehi's and Nephi's visions recounted in chapters 10-15 emphasize its application to large historical groups.
  • Chapters 16-18: Three more narrative stories. (1) the land journey across the wilderness; (2) building the boat; and (3) the water journey across the ocean. These stories feature a steel bow and the brass Liahona. In the last story Laman and Lemuel again bind Nephi to kill him, and now they relent only when faced with imminent destruction.
  • Chapters 19-22: Zenos and Isaiah as witnesses. Nephi quotes prophets from the brass plates as a means to persuade his audience to believe in Christ, relying principally upon the two witnesses of Zenos and Isaiah.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in First Nephi include:

  • Deliverance. Nephi's thesis statement at the conclusion of the opening chapter is that he will show in the rest the book that the Lord delivers those who come unto him.
  • The Lord's covenant with Nephi. The terms of the Lord's covenant with Nephi figure prominently not only in Nephi's record, but throughout much of the Book of Mormon.
  • Reliance upon the Lord (brass and steel). Nephi describes two objects made of hard steel (Laban's sword, Nephi's bow) whose great military strength is nevertheless unable to save their owners. He juxtaposes these two steel objects with two other objects made of much soft brass (brass plates, Liahona) that nevertheless have the power to save because through them the Lord speaks to his people.
  • Faithfulness. Nephi does not talk much in his preaching about how a nonbeliever can be persuaded to believe or to obtain a testimony of truth. Rather, Nephi's exhortations typically assume that the listener already knows what the next step is and needs only to be persuaded to be faithful in acting upon that knowledge. Nephi's exhortations could be summarized as: "Let us rely upon the Lord and be faithful in performing his commandments."
  • Law of witnesses. In accordance with the law of witnesses, Nephi repeatedly calls upon pairs of two witnesses to prove the truth of his words.
  • Large and small plates. Nephi compares and contrasts his large plates, his small plates, and the brass plates in order to explain what does and does not promote spiritual teaching.
  • Birthright succession. First Nephi explains why Nephi, who is younger than Laman and Lemuel, is nevertheless the rightful leader of the House of Lehi.
  • The Exodus. First Nephi evokes the symbolism of the Exodus by drawing several parallels with Moses.

Historical setting[edit]

This section should be brief and explain facts about the historical setting that will help a reader to understand the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

  • Author: Nephi. First and Second Nephi were both written by Nephi, the son of Lehi, who came out from Jerusalem about 600 BC. This Nephi is often identified as Nephi(1). Nephi wrote his account based on his own personal experience.
  • Audience. When Nephi began writing the small plates of Nephi on which First and Second Nephi are recorded, he had in mind an audience that included at least his own descendants in subsequent generations. (1 Ne. 6:6). By the end of his record, Nephi was aware that his record wouuld be preserved for his seed "as long as the earth shall stand" (2 Ne 25:21), and he was also addressing himself to "all ye ends of the earth." (2 Ne 33:10, 13). For a more complete discussion of Nephi's intended audience, and the intended audiences of the other principal Book of Mormon authors, see Book of Mormon Title Page: Audience.
  • Initial setting in Old Testament Jerusalem. Babylon invaded Judah three times over the course of about twenty years. First Nephi begins in about 597 BC soon after the second of those three invasions.
In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated the combined armies of Assyria and Egypt and then succeeded his father as king. Later that year he also invaded Judah for the first time and besieged Jerusalem. The Jewish king Jehoiakim (r. 609-598 BC) submitted. (2 Kgs. 24:1). That same year Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would serve Babylon for 70 years. (Jer. 25:1, 11-12). In February 604 BC Nebuchadnezzar returned home to Babylon with Jewish captives, probably including Daniel and his friends. (Dan. 1:1-3, 6; 2:1).[1]
Within a few years king Jehoiakim rebelled, and Babylon invaded a second time. Babylon conquered Jerusalem on 16 March 597 BC and then installed Zedekiah (r. 597-587 BC) as the new Jewish king. Following this second invasion, most Jewish elites were carried off and resettled elsewhere. (2 Kgs. 24:1-17).[2] Lehi, Ishmael, and Laban were among those who remained in or near Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon begins at Jerusalem during the first year of the new king Zedekiah's reign as many prophets warn that the city will be destroyed if the people do not repent. (1 Ne. 1:4). We do not know how long Lehi preached in Jerusalem before being warned to flee; it could have been as little as a few days but could not have exceeded eight years.
By August 594 BC king Zedekiah was plotting to rebel against Babylon (2 Kgs. 24:20), contrary to the counsel of Jeremiah (Jer. 27:12-22) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 17:13-16). So in 589 BC, eight years after Zedekiah became king, Babylon invaded Judah a third time and again laid siege to Jerusalem. (2 Kgs. 24:20). After a brutal two and a half year siege, the Babylonians again conquered Jerusalem. This time the Babylonians destroyed the Temple of Solomon on 28 August 587 BC and carried away the inhabitants of the city. (2 Kgs. 25:1-17).[3]
A broader treatment of the history of ancient Israel is found at Historical Overview of the Old Testament.
  • Chronology of Nephi's account. Lehi's group must have left Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah, which began in 597 BC, but before the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, which began in 589 BC. The year 597 BC is assumed here to be the most likely since, as the date closest to 600 BC, it minimizes chronological difficulties. This would put all of First Nephi 1-15 in about 597 BC. If the statement that Nephi was at this time very young but large of stature (1 Ne. 2:16; 4:19, 31) places his age at about 13, then he would have been born about 610 BC (about five years younger than Daniel if Daniel was carried off in 605 BC at about age ten).
The Lehites spent eight years in the wilderness. (First Nephi 16; 1 Ne. 17:4). This would put their arrival at Bountiful on the coast of the Arabian peninsula at about the same time that the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem began in 589 BC. We do not know how long it took the Lehites to build the boat and travel across the ocean to the west coast of America (First Nephi 17-18), but it seems reasonable to guess that this stage of the journey took about another year, which would bring the story to 588 BC.
After arriving in America, Nephi was commanded to make the large plates upon which he recorded his lengthy comprehensive history. (1 Ne 19:1-6). The preaching and blessings in First Nephi 19-Second Nephi 4 occurred some time between ten and thirty years after leaving Jerusalem, or during 587-567 BC. In the course of these blessings Lehi referred to the destruction of Jerusalem (which occurred in 587 BC) as an accomplished fact. (2 Ne. 1:4). In Second Nephi 5 we are told that before the passage of thirty years from the time that the Lehites left Jerusalem, the Nephites fled from the Lamanites to establish their own people, planted crops, made swords, and built a temple. (2 Ne. 5:28). These events thus also occurred during about 587-567 BC.
At some point during the next ten years (2 Ne. 5:34), or during 567-557 BC, Nephi received the commandment to make the small plates upon which he made the shorter record of his religious ministry that we now know as First and Second Nephi. (2 Ne. 5:30-31).
Nephi gave the small plates to Jacob 55 years after the Lehites left Jerusalem, or about 542 BC. (Jacob 1:1). Nephi then died. (Jacob 1:12).
A broader treatment of the history of the Nephites is found at Historical Overview of the Nephites.


This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Editorial comment[edit]

  • Nephi several times directly addresses the reader or expressly draws a conclusion for the reader. These are points that Nephi makes sure cannot be overlooked, and these points should therefore have a significant influence on the interpretation of the entire book of First Nephi.
  • 1 Ne 1:20 - Nephi tells us that he will show us in the remainder of his book that the Lord delivers those who come unto him.
  • 1 Ne 17:3 - At the conclusion of the land journey Nephi tells us that we can see, from their travels in the wilderness, that God always provides a way for people to accomplish his commandments (compare 1 Ne 3:7).

Nephi's reign and ministry[edit]

  • There is great significance in Nephi's choice of subtitle for the book of First Nephi as "His reign and ministry." (Nephi's Introduction to First Nephi). The Book of Mormon is heavily influenced by the Abrahamic Covenant. (discussion at Abr. 2:8-11). But in addition to the Abrahamic Covenant, or as an interpretation or application of that covenant to the specific circumstances of Lehi's family, Nephi also receives the Covenant with Nephi. (discussion at 1 Ne. 2:19-24). One of the promises in this covenant is that "inasmuch as thou [Nephi] shalt keep my [the Lord's] commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren." (1 Ne. 2:22).
The two promises that Nephi will be a "ruler" and a "teacher" correspond to Nephi's "reign" and his "ministry." Kings govern their people by defending against external invasion and by maintaining internal order through the administration of justice. (See the discussion of the religious significance of governing at Gen 3:19). Priests bring people to God by teaching (which requires revelation) and by performing rituals and ordinances (which requires authority). Being a "ruler and a teacher" is thus a large part of what it means be a "king and priest" (Rev 1:6) or a "queen and priestess" who "reigns and ministers."
Nephi makes a point of telling us that he was in fact, a ruler and a teacher. The promise that he would be a ruler and a teacher is made in 1 Ne. 2:22. In the very next episode Nephi, through divine assistance, emerges from Jerusalem with items that represent these two roles of ruler and teacher, wearing the steel sword and armor of the military commander Laban, and carrying Laban's brass plates that contain the words of the holy prophets. (1 Ne. 4:14-18, 21, 38; discussion of this symbolism). In the last narrative portion of his writing, Nephi explains how the story up to that point shows the fulfillment of the promise that Nephi would be a ruler and a teacher over his brothers. (2 Ne. 5:19).
These two roles of ruler and teacher mirror the attention given by the Book of Mormon to the two social institutions of church and state. (See the discussion of church, state, and agency at D&C 134 and the emphasis placed on church and state in the book of Mormon). Agency is one of the characteristics that distinguishes mankind from God's other creations.
Nephi's choice of subtitle "his reign and ministry" thus invokes several key ideas. It refers to the fulfillment of the Lord's Covenant with Nephi that expanded upon the Abrahamic Covenant. It casts Nephi in the religiously significant role of a "priest and king." It refers to the protection of the key gift of agency. And it supports the legitimacy of Nephi's claim to be the birthright son.

Legitimacy of Nephi's birthright claim to rule[edit]

  • The condition upon which the birthright passed to Nephi. Lehi, in his last blessings to his posterity, said "And now my son, Laman, and also Lemuel and Sam, and also my sons who are the sons of Ishmael, behold, if ye will hearken unto the voice of Nephi ye shall not perish. And if ye will hearken unto him I leave unto you a blessing, yea, even my first blessing. But if ye will not hearken unto him I take away my first blessing, yea, even my blessing, and it shall rest upon him [Nephi]." (2 Nephi 1:28–29).
But Laman and Lemuel were unwilling to accept either choice. They were unwilling to hearken to Nephi, and they were unwilling to acknowledge that this unwillingness caused the birthright to pass to Nephi. Rather, they were angry with him because "Our younger brother thinks to rule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words. For behold, we will not have him to be our ruler; for it belongs to us, who are the elder brethren, to rule over this people." (2 Nephi 5:3, also 1 Ne __).
  • The significance of the birthright dispute. This attitude did not die with the generation of Laman, Lemual, and Nephi, but continued for hundreds of years afterward.
In the days of Benjamin and Zeniff, it was recorded that: "And, again, they [Laman and Lemuel] were wroth with him [Nephi] when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands, and they sought to kill him. And they were wroth with him [Nephi] because … he took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them. And thus they taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi." (Mosiah 10:12-17).
Two generations later in the days of Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending the Nephite prince Ammon, saying "Lamoni, thou art going to deliver these Nephites, who are sons of a liar. Behold, he [Nephi] robbed our fathers; and now his children are also come amongst us that they may, by their cunnings and their lyings, deceive us, that they may again rob us." (Alma 20:13).
Another generation later in the days of Helaman I and Captain Moroni, the Lamanite king Ammoron said to Moroni: "For behold, your fathers did wrong their brethren, insomuch that they did rob them of their right to the government when it rightly belonged to them." (Alma 54:17).
Also see 2 Ne 5:18, 2 Ne 6:2 and 1 Ne 10:1. When the people of King Lamoni were converted unto the Lord, the king gathered the people together and said, “I thank my God, my beloved people, that our great God has in goodness sent these our brethren, the Nephites, unto us to preach to us, and to convince us of the traditions of our wicked fathers.” [Alma 24:7] At their conversion, they realized that their fathers were not robbed of the birthright and that Nephi and his descendants were rightfully the recipients of the birthright. And, “thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe in the traditions of the Nephites; and they were taught the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time.” [Alma 23:5]
  • Nephi contrasted with Laman. Nephi sought, primarily in First Nephi, to provide the information necessary to counter such arguments and to explain why he, as the younger brother, was nevertheless the rightful heir to the birthright and leader of the House of Lehi. This is done in part by contrasting his success and faithfulness with Laman's failure and unfaithfulness. Laman, the oldest son, had the honor of first attempt to obtain the plates. But Laman failed in contrast to Nephi's subsequent success. Nephi's success was even the product of being directed by God. (1 Ne 3-4). Laman fled from Laban, but Nephi overcame Laban and returned not only with the brass plates, but also with the steel sword. (1 Ne 3-4, also see the discussion of the symbolism of the plates and sword at 1 Ne 3-4). Nephi received visions and instructions from God. (1 Ne 2; 11-14). In contrast, the Lord made no such thing known unto Laman and Lemuel, and they were reduced to asking Nephi for instruction. (1 Ne 15, 19-22). The three narratives in the second half of First Nephi show Nephi saving the family with food (1 Ne 16), building the boat that carries the family to the new land of promise (1 Ne 17), and saving the family from destruction during their voyage across the ocean (1 Ne 18). Moreover, it is only because of Nephi's faithfulness that the Lord continues to direct the family through the wilderness (1 Ne 16), Nephi in the power of the Lord confounds and then shocks his cowed brothers (1 Ne 17), and the family is faced with destruction upon the ocean because of God's displeasure with Laman and Lemuel's mistreatment of Nephi (1 Ne 18). Thus (1) Lehi clearly favors Nephi's claim to the birthright if his older brothers did not hearken to him; (2) the Lord clearly favors Nephi; (3) Nephi was the indispensable person without whom the family never could have arrived in this new land where Nephi now claims the right to rule; and (4) Nephi consistently outperforms Laman and Lemuel by succeeding where they failed. Once Nephi flees from his brother Laman so that the two can no longer be compared, Nephi's narrative ends almost immediately.
  • Nephi compared to Lehi. Nephi tell us that Lehi receives divine revelation. (1 Ne 1, 1, 3, 5, 7, 8). So does Nephi. (1 Ne 2, 11-14, 2 Ne 2). Laman and Lemuel do not. (1 Ne 15:_). Lehi preaches righteousness. (1 Ne 1, 2, 8, 2 Ne 1-4). So does Npehi. (1 Ne 2, 3-4, 7, 15, 17, 19-22). Laman and Lemuel do not, and they are frequently the recipients of reproof. (1 Ne 3-4, 7, 8, 15, 17, 18). Lehi leads the group toward a land of promise. (1 Ne 2, 16:9). Nephi gets the group across the ocean. (1 Ne 17:17-18; 18:4; 18:__). Laman and Lemuel are recalcitrant followers in this journey. (1 Ne 2, 7, 16). Lehi blessings his posterity. (2 Ne 1-4). Nephi consecrates priests. (2 Ne 5). Nephi is silent on this point with regard to Laman and Lemuel, but he has clearly painted his oldest brothers as people who would not.
  • Nephi compared to Joseph of Egypt. In support of Nephi's claim to the birthright, he includes in his story many elements that mirror the life of Joseph of Egypt, the younger birthright son of Jacob-Israel. The only thing Nephi tells us about Lehi's genealogy is that Lehi and his family are descended from Joseph and thus belong to the Tribe of Joseph. (1 Ne 5:14-16). This makes it difficult to dispute Joseph as a model of birthright legitimacy. The stories of Joseph and Nephi both begin with revelations in which they are told that they will rule over their older brothers (Gen 37:5-11; 1 Ne 2:22). This makes them unpopular with those older brothers. (Gen 37:5, 8, 11; 1 Ne 16:37-38; 1 Ne 18:10; 2 Ne 5:3]). Joseph's older brothers plot to kill him and say that he was devoured by wild beasts before confining him in a pit. (Gen 37:20-24). Nephi's older brothers bind him with cords with the intention of leaving him to be eaten by wild beasts. (1 Ne 7:16). In Genesis, the oldest son Reuben's plans are thwarted in contrast to the successful plans of the younger brother Judah, father of the ruling House of David. (Gen 37:21-30; 42:22; 42:37-38; 43:3-14). Reuben's ineptitude is mirrored in Laman's inability to obtain the brass plates, to obtain food in the wilderness, or to sail the ship, and in each case those tasks are successfully accomplished instead by his younger brother Nephi. (1 Ne 3:11-14; 1 Ne 4:24, 38; 1 Ne 16:21, 30-32; 1 Ne 18:20-22). Both Reuben and Judah, the two older brothers who are described in Genesis as having birthright claims potentially superior to Joseph, commit sexual sin in contrast to Joseph's faithfulness in rejecting the advances of Potiphar's wife. (Gen 35:22; Gen 38:15-18; Gen 39:7-13). Laman is likewise portrayed as unfaithful to the Lord in contrast to Nephi's consistent faithfulness. Both Joseph and Nephi save their families by providing food when their brothers and even their fathers are unable to do so. (Gen __; 1 Ne 16:18-32). The birthright positions of both Joseph and Nephi are confirmed in the final blessings conferred by Jacob and Lehi upon their sons. (Gen __; 2 Ne 1-4, but note the omission of Lehi's blessing upon Nephi in the discussion of 2 Ne 1-5). Both Joseph and Nephi do in fact rule over their brothers. (Gen __; 2 Ne 5).
  • Nephi compared to Moses.

Reliance upon the Lord, brass and steel[edit]

  • In Nephi's day, the best military weapons were made of steel. Yet Nephi's bow proves unreliable, and Laban's own sword is turned upon him. Neither is able to save or deliver its owner. Brass is much softer than steel and would not be prized in battle. Paradoxically, both the brass plates and the brass Liahona are able to deliver people. This is because they do not rely upon the strength of man, the "arm of flesh," but are channels for the word of the Lord.

Law of witnesses[edit]

  • In accordance with the law of witnesses, Nephi repeatedly calls upon pairs of witnesses to prove the truth of his words.

Faith and faithfulness[edit]

  • Unlike Mosiah and Alma, Nephi does not talk much about how a nonbeliever can obtain a testimony of truth. Rather, Nephi's exhortations typically assume that the listener already knows what is right and merely needs to be persuaded to "just do it."


  • Records of Lehi and Nephi. Nephi writes that his record will begin as an abridgment of Lehi's record and that, when he is finished abridging Lehi's record, he will give an account of his own life. "Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life." (1 Ne 1:17). Nephi clearly identified the dividing point between these two parts of his record when he wrote, midway through his record: "And now I, Nephi, proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings, and my reign and ministry; wherefore, to proceed with mine account …" (1 Ne 10:1). A couple of significant things happen to the story at about this point.
First, it is near the central climax of First Nephi. One could argue whether that climax occurs at the beginning or the end of chapter 10, but the outline shows it is at least close to this point.
Second, Lehi receives six revelations prior to this point. (1. first vision at Jerusalem (1 Ne 1:5-6; 2. Second vision at Jerusalem (1 Ne 1:7-15); 3. Dream instruction to obtain the brass plates (1 Ne 3:2); 4. Lehi is filled with the Spirit and prophesies concerning his seed (1 Ne 5:17); 5. Instruction to bring Ishmael to the wilderness (1 Ne 7:1); 6. Dream vision of the tree of life (1 Ne 8:2). Nephi receives three: heart softened to believe, Covenant with Nephi, led by the Spirit to kill Laban. But in the second half of First Nephi, it is Nephi who receives visions and explains them to his brothers.
It isn't clear exactly what Nephi means by abridgment. It would be possible to interpret this as a strict abridgement where Nephi summarized points from his father's record without adding any thing himself. (At a minimum though Nephi must have rewritten the story as he records it using the 1st person. Or, Nephi may have added details along the way--since Nephi also was a witness to most of the events discussed. Finally, it could be that by abridgment Nephi simply means that his own account, on the same subject as his father's, is shorter.
  • Large and small plates of Nephi. Nephi compares and contrasts the brass plates, his own large plates, and his small plates, in four places: 1 Ne. 5:10-16; 6:1-6; 9:2-6; 19:1-6. In chapter 5 Nephi tells us that the Brass Plates contain two types of information: more secular matters such as histories (1 Ne. 5:11-12) and genealogies (1 Ne. 5:14-16), and matters relating to a more spiritual ministry such as prophecies (1 Ne. 5:13) and commandments (1 Ne. 5:21-22). Throughout the course of First Nephi he then tells us that his large plates also contain histories and genealogies (1 Ne. 19:2, 4), while his small plates do not (1 Ne. 6:1-2; 9:2, 4), because the small plates are limited to matters of his ministry (1 Ne. 6:3-5; 9:3-4; 19:3) specifically including prophecies (1 Ne. 19:3).

Outline and page map[edit]

This section contains an outline for the entire book. Items in blue or purple text indicate hyperlinked pages that address specific portions of the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

I. Two witnesses: Lehi and Nephi (First Nephi 1-2)

● Lehi receives two visions and preaches at Jerusalem (Chapter 1)
( Verses 1:1-4 Verses 1:5-15 Verses 1:16-20)
• Nephi knows the goodness of God and therefore writes (1:1)
  • explaining the small plates (1:2-3)
    • prophets preach at Jerusalem (1:4)
• short vision with images (1:5-6)
• long vision with explanation: God will not suffer his followers to perish (1:7-15)
  • explaining the small plates (1:16-17)
    • Lehi's preaching at Jerusalem is rejected (1:18-20a)
• Nephi's writing will show that the Lord delivers the faithful (1:20b)
● 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)

II. Three narrative episodes (First Nephi 3-7)

A. Returning to Jerusalem for the brass plates (Chapter 3-4)
a. Lehi instructs his sons to return to Jerusalem and obtain the plates (3:1-8)
c. Laman fails to obtain the plates from Laban (3:9-14)
a. Nephi persuades his brothers to purchase the plates (3:15-21)
c. the brothers fail to obtain the plates from Laban (3.22-27)
a. an angel instructs the brothers to make a third attempt (3:28-4:3)
b. Nephi slays Laban (4:4-19)
c. Nephi obtains the plates (4:20-29)
b. Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem (4:30-38)
B. The value of the brass plates (Chapter 5-6)
• Lehi and Saria discuss retrieving the brass plates (5:1-9)
■ Lehi reads the brass plates and prophesies about them (5:10-22)
■ the small plates explained in contrast to the brass plates (6:1-6)
A. Returning to Jerusalem for wives (Chapter 7)
• the instruction, journey, and Ishmael persuaded (7:1-5)
• Laman & co want to return to Jerusalem, Nephi preaches to them (7:6-15)
• Laman & co bind Nephi, hearts softened (7:16-8:1)

III. Lehi's dream (First Nephi 8-9)

• the dark and dreary wilderness (8:2-9)
• the tree with desirable fruit (8:10-18)
• the iron rod, mist of darkness, and spacious building (8:19-28)
• two groups who seek after the tree and the building (8:29-35)
• Lehi exhorts Laman and Lemuel (8:36-9:1)
■ the small plates explained in contrast to the brass plates (9:2-6)

"And now I, Nephi, proceed to give an account upon these plates of my proceedings and my reign and ministry" (10:1)

III. Nephi's vision (First Nephi 10-15)

A. Lehi's explanation prompts Nephi to seek his own revelation (Chapter 10)
• Jews will return from Babylon, Christ's ministry at Jerusalem (10:1-10)
• Jews will then be scattered and in last days be gathered (10:11-16)
• Nephi desires to know for himself, those who seek shall find, the wicked shall suffer judgment (10:17-22)
B. Vision: Christ's ministry at Jerusalem (Chapter 11)
• Nephi receives a vision, sees the tree of life (11:1-11)
• Christ's birth at Jerusalem (11:12-23)
• Christ's ministry and apostles (11:24-36)
B. Vision: Nephite history (Chapter 12)
• Christ visits Nephites (12:1-12)
a. Nephites and Lamanites gathered to battle (12:1-3)
b. physical destructions at time of Christ's death (12:4-5)
c. three generations pass away in righteousness (12:6-12)
• final Nephite destruction (12:13-23)
a. Nephites and Lamanites gathered to battle (12:13-15)
b. spiritual apostasy (12:16-18)
c. Nephites destroyed and Lamanites dwindle in unbelief (12:19-23)
B. Vision: Gentile history (Chapter 13-14)
• the great and abominable church (13:1-9)
• gentile colonists scatter Lamanites and prosper (13:10-19)
• Bible circulates among gentiles after parts of gospel and covenants removed (13:20-29)
• Book of Mormon, restoration of the gospel, House of Israel in last days (13:30-14:17)
• John will write the remainder of the vision (14:18-30)
A. Nephi's explanation prompts brothers to repent (Chapter 15)
• brothers do not understand prophecy because they do not ask in prayer or obey commandments (15:1-11)
• olive tree: scattering and gathering (15:12-20)
• tree of life: individual salvation and judgment (15:21-36)
• brothers repent, marriages, blessing (16:1-8)

II. Three narrative episodes (First Nephi 16-18)

A. The land journey (Chapter 16)
• 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)
B. Building the boat (Chapter 17)
• Nephi instructed to build a boat (17:7-16)
• brothers complain (17:17-22)
• Nephi's speech (17:23-47)
• brothers confounded (17:48-55)
• the boat is built (18:1-4)
A. The water journey (Chapter 18)
• departing in the boat (18:5-8)
• brothers bind Nephi until threatened by storm (18:9-16)
• brothers ignore parents until threatened by storm (18:17-21)
• arriving at the promised land (18:22-25)

I. Two witnesses: Zenos and Isaiah (First Nephi 19-22)

■ The small plates explained in contrast to the brass plates (19:1-6)
• Nephi quotes prophets, mostly Zenos (19:7-24)
• Nephi quotes Isaiah (20:1-21:26)
• Nephi explains the prophecies (22:1-31)

Unanswered questions[edit]

This section is for questions along the lines of "I still don't understand ..." Please do not be shy. The point of these questions is to identify things that still need to be addressed on this page. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Prompts for life application[edit]

This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

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 "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →


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 "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

Previous editions.

  • The original 1830 edition of First Nephi was divided into only seven chapters (I-VII). For the 1879 edition Parley Pratt further divided those seven into the twenty two chapters (1-22) still used today. • I: 1-5 • II: 6-9 • III: 10-14 • IV: 15 • V: ch.16-19:21 • VI: 19:22-ch.21 • VII: 22

Historical references cited on this page.

  • Finegan, Jack. Handbook of Biblical Chronology: Principles of Time Reckoning in the Ancient World and and Problems of Chronology in the Bible, revised ed. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Pub., 1998. (ISBN 1565631439). BS637.2 .F5 1998. One of the two standard references for assigning specific dates to Old Testament events.
  • Steinmann. Andrew E. From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. (ISBN 0758627998). BS637.3 .S74 2011.

Other resources.

  • Welch, John W., David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann Seely, eds. Glimpses of Lehi's Jerusalem. Provo: Neil A. Maxwell Institute, 2004. (ISBN 978-0934893749). A collection of articles on Jerusalem at the time of Lehi's departure, providing insights into the culture out of which Lehi and Nephi came, and explaining possible grounds for sincere conflict between Lehi and Nephi on the one hand and Laman and Lemuel on the other hand.


Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

  1. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, 158-59.
  2. Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 257-58, 264; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, 162, 167.
  3. The consensus date for the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple has been 17 August 586 BC. Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 258-59. Steinmann builds upon that earlier work to propose a date one year earlier, 28 August 587 BC, relying especially Ezek. 26:1-2. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 136-38, 159-69, 174.

Subpages: Chapters 1-2  •  3-7  •  8-9  •  10-15  •  16-18  •  19-22

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