First Nephi

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Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi

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

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Contents

[edit] Summary

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Relationship to Book of Mormon. First Nephi is the first book in the Book of Mormon. It tells how the founders of the Lamanite and Nephite nations left Jerusalem and traveled to America. The relationship of First Nephi to the Book of Mormon as a whole is discussed at Book of Mormon: Unities.

Story. First Nephi consists of five major sections:

  • Chapters 1-2: Two witnesses: Lehi and Nephi both stand as witnesses of the Lord, Lehi preaching to the Jews at Jerusalem, and Nephi preaching to his brothers. Both are rejected by most of their audience. Nephi states his thesis that the Lord delivers those who come unto him.
  • 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, Chapters 10-15: Two witnesses: Lehi and Nephi again stand as two witnesses, this time of the same vision of the tree of life. The account of Lehi's vision emphasizes its application to individuals, while Nephi's account explains 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: Two more 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 states at the end of Chapter 1 that he will show in the rest the book that the Lord delivers those who come unto him.
  • Brass and steel. Nephi juxtaposes two steel objects (Laban's sword, Nephi's bow) whose great military strength is unable to save their owners with two objects made of soft brass (brass plates, Liahona) that do have the power to save but because they convey the word of the Lord.
  • Faith and faithfulness. Nephi does not talk much in his preaching about how a nonbeliever can obtain a testimony of truth. Rather, Nephi's exhortations typically assume that the listener already has enough faith to know what the next step is and needs only to be persuaded to be faithful enough to take that next step.
  • 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 explicitly compares and contrasts his large and small plates and thus explains what promotes spiritual teaching and what does not.
  • Succession. First Nephi explains why Nephi, who is younger than Laman and Lemuel, is nevertheless the rightful leader of the House of Lehi.


[edit] Historical setting

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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, including Daniel and his friends (Dan 1:1-3, 6; 2:1).[1]

When king Jehoiakim rebelled, Babylon invaded a second time. Babylon conquered Jerusalem on 16 March 597 BC and installed Zedekiah (r. 597-587 BC) as the new Jewish king. Following this second invasion, most of the Jewish elites were carried off and resettled elsewhere (2 Kgs 24:1-17).[2] Lehi, Ishmael, and Laban were among those who did remain in or near Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon then 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).

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 Babylon invaded Judah a third time and in 589 BC again laid siege to Jerusalem.(2 Kgs 24:20). The Babylonians again conquered Jerusalem after a two and a half year siege, and this time they destroyed the Temple of Solomon on 28 August 587 BC and carried away the inhabitants of the city (2 Kgs 25:1-17).[3] At some point after Lehi and his family leave Jerusalem, spend eight years in the wilderness, and then sail to America, Lehi refers to the destruction of Jerusalem as an accomplished fact (2 Ne 1:4).

A broader treatment of the history of ancient Israel is found at Old Testament: Historical Overview.

After arriving in America, Nephi made his first set of plates, the large plates, on which he kept a political history of reigns and wars. Later he made a second set of plates, the small plates, which are what we have in First Nephi through Omni (1 Ne 19:1-6; 2 Ne ___; W of M 1:__) REFINE.


[edit] Discussion

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[edit] Direct address to the reader

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 Ether

  1. 1 Ne 1:1 -
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

[edit] Nephi's right to succeed Lehi as leader

First Nephi explains why Nephi, who is younger than Laman and Lemuel, is nevertheless the rightful leader of the House of Lehi. Laman fails to obtain the plates and flees from Laban, but Nephi does retrieve the plates and also overcomes Laban. Nephi receives a vision and instruction from God while Laman and Lemuel's hearts are hardened against the Lord. Nephi saves the group after his bow breaks in the wilderness, Nephi builds the boat that carries the group to the promised land, and Nephi saves the group again while crossing the ocean.

[edit] Brass and steel

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.

[edit] Law of witnesses

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

[edit] Faith and faithfulness

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."

[edit] Large and small plates

Difference between the large and small plates. Nephi compares and contrasts his large plates and his small plates. The two setts of plates are similar in that they both ___. They are different because the small plates do not relate lengthy genealogies or ___.


[edit] Points to ponder

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[edit] I have a question

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[edit] Relation to other scriptures

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[edit] Related scriptures

The relationship of First Nephi to the rest of the Book of Mormon is discussed at Book of Mormon: Unities.

[edit] Parallel passages

[edit] 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


[edit] Complete outline and page map

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First Nephi


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

■ Lehi receives two visions and preaches at Jerusalem (Chapter 1)
a. purpose, explanation, and preaching narrative (1:1-4)
• Nephi knows the goodness of God and therefore writes (1:1)
  ◯ explaining the small plates (1:2-3)
    • prophets preach at Jerusalem (1:4)
b. Lehi's two visions (1:5-15)
• short vision with images (1:5-6)
• long vision with explanation: God will not suffer his followers to perish (1:7-15)
a. explanation, preaching narrative, and purpose (1:16-20)
  ◯ 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, their contents (5:10-16)
• Lehi prophesies about the brass plates (5:17-22)
◯ 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 Nephite (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 (12:19-22)
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)


[edit] Resources

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[edit] Cited references

  • 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.

[edit] Other resources


[edit] Notes

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 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 appears, however, to be correct in building upon that earlier work to advocate a date one year earlier, 28 August 587 BC, discussing especially Ezek 26:1-2. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 136-38, 159-69, 174.



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