1 Ne 5:1-6:6
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- 1 Summary
- 2 Discussion
- 3 Unanswered questions
- 4 Prompts for life application
- 5 Prompts for further study
- 6 Resources
- 7 Notes
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Relationship to Chapters 3-7. Chapters 3-7 relate three stories in which the Lehites prepare at their base camp in the Valley of Lemuel before setting out across the wilderness. The relationship of chapters 5-6 to the rest of chapters 3-7 is addressed at First Nephi 3-7.
Story. Chapters 5-6 consist of three major sections:
- 1 Ne 5:1-9: Lehi and Sariah alone in the wilderness.
- 1 Ne 5:10-22: Lehi reads and prophesies about the brass plates. Their contents and his prophecy.
- 1 Ne 6:1-6: About the small plates of Nephi. The small plates of Nephi are explained in contrast to the brass plates.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in chapters 5-6 include:
- Scriptures. The scriptures contained on the brass plates are important because they preserve the language of the people and preserve the commandments of the Lord.
- Testimony. The trip back to Jerusalem valuable not only because it succeeded in retrieving the brass plates from Laban, but also because of the testimony building that occurred through this experience.
- Joseph. The only thing Nephi reveals about the genealogy of the Lehites is that they come to possess a land of promise as representatives of the tribe of Joseph.
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1 Ne 5-6
- 1 Ne 5-6: Importance of the brass plates and of the experience in obtaining the brass plates. In chapters 3-4 Nephi and his brothers are sent to obtain the brass plates from Laban. The experience is difficult but ultimately succeeds with the help of the Lord. Here in chapters 5-6 the importance of that experience is further explained. First, Sariah gains a testimony that Lord is guiding the group through revelation to her husband Lehi. Second, the plates themselves are valuable because they contain the commandments of the Lord.
1 Ne 5:1-9: Lehi ans Sariah alone in the wilderness
- 1 Ne 5:1-9: Outline. This passage is often outlined in either of two ways:
- The transition between verses 1-2 is indicated by the change in time and tone as the story moves from the parents' rejoicing at the return of their sons to Sariah's earlier complaints. The transition between verses 3-4 is indicated by the change of speaker from Sariah to Lehi. The transition between verses 6-7 is indicated by the change in time and tone as the story moves from Lehi's comforting while the sons are absent to the parents' rejoicing following the sons' return. A possible transition between verses 8-9 is indicated by the change in activity from speaking to the action of offering sacrifice, though both are affirmations of testimony.
- 1 Ne 5:1-9: Sariah's exchanges with Lehi. Sariah complains in verse 2 that Lehi is a visionary man, and she raises three specific complaints about the consequences of this fact:
- 1. "Thou [Lehi] hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance;"
- 2. "My sons are no more;" and
- 3. "We [Lehi and Sariah] perish in the wilderness."
- Though it is not clear from verses 1-3 whether Sariah doubts the veracity of Lehi's revelations, or whether she is simply upset or worries about the outcome, but verse 8 strongly suggests that at this point she is not fully convinced of his revelations.
- Lehi acknowledges that he is a visionary man and responds in verses 4-5 to all three of Sariah's specific complaints by bearing witness that her fears and complaints are unfounded:
- 1. "I have obtained a land of promise;"
- 2. "I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness;" and
- 3. "If I had not seen ... a vision, I ... [would have] tarried at Jerusalem and had perished with my brethren."
- Lehi's reaction is to "comfort" Sariah, especially about the safety of her children, suggesting the source of the concerns that . (verses 6).
- Upon the return of their sons with the brass plates in hand, Sariah is persuaded and says in verse 8 that "Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband," including that:
- 1, 3. "The Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; and
- 2. "The Lord hath protected my sons and delivered them out of the hands of Laban."
- 1 Ne 5:2-3: Sariah's fears. While Lehi and Sariah's sons were back at Jerusalem, Sariah mourned the loss of her sons (1 Ne 5:2), but Lehi did not. (1 Ne 5:5). The difference was not a difference in caring; both rejoiced when the sons returned. (1 Ne 5:1, 7, 9). The difference was Lehi's certainty that the Lord would protect their children (1 Ne 5:5) contrasted with Sariah's uncertainty on this point. (1 Ne 5:2, 8). This provides an insight into the nature of fear. Fear is felt when: (1) you care about the outcome; and (2) you are uncertain about the outcome. Here both Lehi and Sariah cared about the outcome, but only Sariah was uncertain about the outcome, and thus only Sariah was fearful and worried about her sons while they were at Jerusalem.
- 1 Ne 5:5: Obtained a land of promise. Lehi said that he had "obtained" (past tense) a land of promise even though the family had not yet arrived in the land. This treats a promise from the Lord of future blessing as an accomplished fact, as being so certain that it is just as good as having already received it. In 1 Ne 7:13 the same phrase is used to clearly refer to actually making it to the land.
- 1 Ne 5:9: First mention of Israel. This verse marks the first mention of "Israel" in the Book of Mormon. Israel is mentioned here in a ritualistic setting In contrast, the first mention of "the Jews," in 1 Ne 1:2, was in a politico-cultural setting. These first mentions may be significant to our understanding of these two terms.
- The mention of Israel follows immediately upon the return of Nephi and his brothers from Jerusalem with the brass plates. In response to their safe arrival, Lehi--and Sariah, apparently--offer "sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord." Setting up a brief parallelism, this mention of "the Lord" is set against "the God of Israel." Two points become immediately obvious: first, it is clear that the introduction of the term "Israel" is poetic here, functioning, as it does, in a parallelism; second, the itnroduction of "Israel" is specifically ritual, in fact, is bound up with an act that is specifically performed without a "legitimate" priesthood. But there is more to the situation than just this: this sacrifice apparently differs from the one mentioned in 1 Ne 2:7, where the name of Israel is never mentioned. The difference seems to be that the brass plates themselves here enter into the situation.
- Without delving too early into a thorough discussion of the contents of the brass plates, it should at least be noted that the record seems to have been an odd compilation of Northern and Southern traditions. If it contains Lehi's genealogy, tying him specifically to lands in the Northern Kingdom (as part of Manasseh), then it is unquestionably a Northern document. At the same time, Nephi will describe it as containing a history of the Jews, and not of Israel. This seems to mark it as a Southern text. But then the prophets it has are often unknown to the Southern tradition: Zenos' allegory of the olive tree likely ties him to the Northern Kingdom, where the olive culture was extensive and of common knowledge. But then the text has the words of Isaiah and of Jeremiah, undeniably Southern prophets. In the end, it appears as if the brass plates were originally a Northern set of scriptures, but which was brought into the Southern Kingdom at the time of the collapse of the Northern Kingdom, and it then became a Northern text made Southern. The addition of Southern materials to the brass plates, and the regular upkeep that seems to have introduced even the contemporary words of Jeremiah into it, seem to suggest that the Northern story was being interpreted through the developments in the Southern Kingdom. The brass plates were, it seems, a Northerner's take on the Northern Kingdom from the perspective of living in the Southern Kingdom after the fall of the Northern Kingdom. This rather curious document is tied, here, to the introduction of the name "Israel."
- The significance of this introduction is, therefore, double significant. On the one hand, "Israel" enters the discussion in the context of ritual, in the context of a system of ritual that transcends national boundaries to tie the Northern and Southern Kingdoms together. The duplicit nature of the brass plates seems to confirm this introduction as well, being the reason for giving thanks. On the other hand, the introduction of the term Israel, even at the moment of performing rites that were being forbidden in the Southern Kingdom, might betray a sort of movement beyond the concerns of the Southern Kingdom. The return to "Israel" in this verse might mark a sort of joy in sloughing off the Southern yoke. This might be doubled also by the presence of the brass plates, a text that has, by Nephi's work of retrieval, been taken from the hands of Judah back into the hands of the Israelites. In short, the introduction is somewhat ambiguous.
- This ambiguity, it might be noted, seems then to run through the whole of the Book of Mormon. It is never quite clear when and where one should draw a line between "the Jews" and "Israel." The ambiguity colors the very first mention of the name. Some passages, perhaps, must be considered, however, that do suggest some sort of division between these groups.
1 Ne 5:10-22: Lehi reads and prophesies about the brass plates
- 1 Ne 5:10-16: The small plates of Nephi. Here 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).
1 Ne 6:1-6: About the small plates of Nephi
- 1 Ne 6:3-4. Nephi states his purpose for writing the plates is (to "persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham"). This elaborates on Nephi's original statement of simply making "a record of my proceedings in my days" in 1 Ne 1:1, and stated purpose in 1 Ne 1:20 to "show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith." And so when Nephi testifies that "the record which I make is true" 1 Ne 1:3, he may be referring more to the blessings of obedience and faith in God than simply the historical accuracy of his writing. Also see the discussion above relating to verses 5:10-16.
- 1 Ne 6:5-6. The world would find the scriptures pleasing if they endorsed the philosophies of men. When people start preaching things like relativism, materialism, hedonism, or individualism, we should think carefully about how their message is designed to please the world. The scriptures provide us a with guide for evaluating every secular ideology we encounter. In particular, we should pay attention to the story of Korihor, an antichrist who admitted that the things he taught "were pleasing unto the carnal mind" (Alma 30:53). When we attune ourselves to the principles and doctrines taught by the scriptures and the Spirit, we will be better prepared to discern between the elements of truth and untruth in these worldly philosophies. We should ever remain on guard, however, since the philosophies of men have successfully infiltrated the scriptures before. Just consider the debates and confusion throughout Christendom today over the nature of God.
- 1 Ne 6:5-6. Nephi's brother Jacob taught us about selecting things that are "pleasing unto God" for inclusion in the scriptures. He wrote that "the pleasing word of God . . . healeth the wounded soul" (Jacob 2:8). We can assume that Nephi's intentions were similar, since he was the one who instructed Jacob on the arts of scriptural writing. In fact, healing (Jacob's words) and saving (Nephi's words) are just two aspects of the same atoning process.
- 1 Ne 6:5-6. In this passage Nephi echoes a phrase, "not of the world," that is found only in the writings of the apostle John (see John 15:19, John 17:14, and John 17:16). John reveals something that Nephi did not mention but that likely applies in both cases: the world will love its own and hate those who have been chosen out of the world and who follow God. This helps explain why the writings of Nephi and other Book of Mormon prophets remain so divisive. People who do not find divinity and inspiration in the Book of Mormon will ultimately side with the world and learn to hate this book of scripture.
- 1 Ne 6:5-6. We can place a lot of faith in the writings handed down to us by the Book of Mormon prophets. Not only were they preserved in purity, after being sealed and translated only once, but Nephi set the pattern for his successors of only including things that are "of worth unto the children of men." This does not mean that all verse or passages in the Book of Mormon are equally valuable. Rather, it likely means the Book of Mormon has a higher concentration of doctrines and principles than can be found in the Bible. It is our job to uncover these valuable teachings and apply them to our lives.
- 1 Ne 6:6. Nephi admonishes subsequent record keepers not to write "things which are not of worth unto the children of men." A similar phrase is used in 2 Ne 9:51 when Jacob is quoting from Isaiah: "do not spend money for that which is of no worth." This is different than the KJV of Isa 55:2 which says "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?" These phrases may all come from the same original writing of Isaiah morphing through different translations. Or perhaps Nephi and Jacob are making a point in using slightly different phraseology. Regardless, Isaiah's phrase "that which satisfieth not" suggests particular meaning for the the Book of Mormon phrase "that which is of no worth."
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- 1 Ne 5:1: What is the difference between being "filled with joy" and being "exceedingly glad"?
- 1 Ne 5:2: Did Sariah have any female company on this long trip?
- 1 Ne 5:3: Who told Nephi that this was what she said?
- 1 Ne 5:4: Why is the phrase "it had come to pass" used so infrequently in the scriptures?
- 1 Ne 5:5: Does Lehi consider the valley of Lemuel the promised land?
- 1 Ne 5:6: Where did Nephi learn to use the phrase "after this manner of language"?
- 1 Ne 5:7: Why doesn't Nephi say that "our father, Lehi, comfort[ed] our mother, Sariah, concerning us"?
- 1 Ne 5:8: Was Sariah's use of the phrase "know of a surety" influenced by the wording and events recorded in Gen 15:13?
- 1 Ne 5:10: Why didn't Nephi say that Lehi searched "the writings which were engraven upon the plates of brass"?
- 1 Ne 5:11: Why were the writings of Moses the only things on the plates considered books?
- 1 Ne 5:11: Moses is only rarely mentioned in the Old Testament outside of the first five books (and the Book of Joshua), leading some scholars to believe that many of the Moses stories and much of the Mosaic Law are later additions, perhaps compiled and popularized during the reforms of King Josiah when Lehi was a young man. What do the inclusion of the "five books of Moses" in the Brass Plates tell us about how the Moses was understood by Lehi's generation ca. 600 BC?
- 1 Ne 5:12: What distinction was Nephi trying to make between "the records" in verse 10 and "a record" in this verse?
- 1 Ne 5:12: Even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, If Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban during Zedekiah's first year as king, does this mean the record upon the plates contained the whole sweep of history from Adam and Eve to the commencement of Zedekiah's reign? If so, who was continually updating this record? If the most recent prophets were being rejected by the people of Jerusalem, and the northern kingdom had ended more than a century earlier, then whose writings appeared after the Isaiah sections upon the plates?
- 1 Ne 5:13: Why was it necessary for both "a record" and "the prophecies" to cover the entire time period of biblical history up to that point?
- 1 Ne 5:14: How is it possible that Lehi had never known, up to this point, that his ancestry was in the tribe of Manasseh? Does this verse really imply that he didn't know his genealogy, or just that he didn't know that his genealogy was inscribed on these plates?
- 1 Ne 5:14: How might this discovery influence his self-understanding and his role in preserving the seed of Joseph?
- 1 Ne 5:15: Why is Lehi surprised to learn that his ancestors, like all the rest of Israel, were delivered from Pharaoh and slavery?
- 1 Ne 5:16: What can we know about Laban and his fathers, descendants of Joseph, keeping sacred records in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish kingdom?
- 1 Ne 5:16: Why and how were they keeping these records? Why were they kept on metal plates?
- 1 Ne 5:16: Were these plates created before or after the fall of the Kingdom of Israel?
- 1 Ne 5:17: Was Lehi's access to the spirit of prophesy strengthened by his time spent studying the scriptures?
- 1 Ne 5:18: When will the Brass Plates be revealed to all nations? How might the Brass Plates, written before 600 BC, change our view of Biblical history and teachings?
- 1 Ne 5:18: Who are all the "nations, kindreds, tongues, and people" who are Lehi's seed?
- 1 Ne 5:18: Why should reading about Joseph's seed lead Lehi to prophesy about his own seed?
- 1 Ne 5:19: How do we reconcile this prophecy that the plates of brass "should never perish" with their apparent loss now to history?
- 1 Ne 5:20: Lehi and Nephi have been faithful in keeping the commandments and that has resulted in them getting the brass plates. How is that an example of what Nephi said he would show, namely “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 Ne 1:20?
- 1 Ne 5:21: They have found that the plates “were desirable; yea, even of great worth” because the plates will allow them to “preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children” (verse 21). If we were to change unto to for, would that change the meaning of that statement? In other words, is unto just an archaic usage, or does it mean something other than what we might expect?
- 1 Ne 5:21: The plates contain the five books of Moses, a chronicle of the history of Judah, and a collection of prophecies, including those of Jeremiah. How will those preserve the commandments for Lehi’s descendants?
- 1 Ne 5:21: How might the loss of the plates of brass be related to the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem? did the loss of the inscribed Word of God help seal the fate of those left in Jerusalem?
- 1 Ne 5:22: Did the plates require any sort of purification after having been in Laban's possession, or were these the kinds of plates that would never be dimmed or tarnished, regardless of who carried them?
- 1 Ne 6:1: Did Nephi assume that his descendants would have access to the brass plates whenever they wanted?
- 1 Ne 6:2: How does the "we" in this verse compare and contrast with Nephi's use of "we" in the previous chapters?
- 1 Ne 6:3: What does Nephi mean by the "things of God"? How does this differ from the types of things in the record kept by his father (verse 1)?
- 1 Ne 6:4: Is the phrase "mine intent" an example of early modern English in the Book of Mormon? Isn't this the kind of language that people used in the 1500s and 1600s?
- 1 Ne 6:5: Then why is there so much wickedness in the Book of Mormon?
- 1 Ne 6:6: Why did Nephi assume that each record keeper would be a direct descendant?
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- LDS Institute Book of Mormon Student Manual (PDF version): Chapter 2/56: 1 Nephi 1-5 • Chapter 3/56: 1 Nephi 6-11. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2009.
- 1 Ne 5:1. Robert D. Hales, "Holy Scriptures: The Power of God unto Our Salvation," Ensign, Nov 2006, pp. 24–27. Speaking of the plates of brass, Elder Hales said: "Both [Lehi] and [Nephi] learned that holding to this strong, unbending, utterly reliable guide is the only way to stay on that strait and narrow path that leads to our Savior."
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