Site:SS lessons/BOM lesson 2

From Feast upon the Word (http://feastupontheword.org). Copyright, Feast upon the Word.
Jump to: navigation, search

This page allows you to see all the commentary pages together for this Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine lesson. Click on the heading to go to a specific page. Click the edit links below to edit text on any pages.


First Nephi

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi

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

                                                                 Next page: Chapters 1-2


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

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.


Historical setting[edit]

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

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.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Direct address to the reader[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 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).

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

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.

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."

Large and small plates[edit]

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 ___.


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


Relation to other scriptures[edit]

This heading is for notes about the relationship of this book to other sections and passages. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Related scriptures[edit]

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

Parallel passages[edit]

Previous editions[edit]

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


Complete outline and page map[edit]

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


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)


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

Cited references[edit]

  • 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[edit]


Notes[edit]

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.



                                                                 Next page: Chapters 1-2


First Nephi 1-2

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2

Subpages: Chapter 1, Chapter 2

Previous page: First Nephi                      Next page: Chapter 1

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of chapters 1-2 to the rest of the book is discussed at First Nephi. These chapters can be outlined as follows:


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: First Nephi                      Next page: Chapter 1


First Nephi 1

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 1

Subpages: Verses 1:1-4, Verses 1:5-15, Verses 1:16-20

Previous page: Chapters 1-2                      Next page: Verses 1:1-4

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 1 to the rest of Chapters 1-2 is discussed at First Nephi 1-2. This chapter can be outlined as follows:

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)

Portions of this chapter are discussed on the following subpages: Verses 1:1-4, Verses 1:5-15, Verses 1:16-20


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • "His reign and ministry": Nephi's rule as king of his people may represent half of the subtitle of this book, but it receives little mention in this spiritual account. For more details, see 2 Ne 5:18, 2 Ne 6:2 and 1 Ne 10:1.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 1-2                      Next page: Verses 1:1-4

1 Ne 1:1-4

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 1 > Verses 1:1-4
Previous page: Chapter 1                      Next page: Verses 1:5-15

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of verses 1-4 to the rest of Chapter 1 is discussed at Chapter 1.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 1[edit]

  • Goodly According to Webster's 1828, goodly means "Being of a handsome form; beautiful; graceful; as a goodly person; goodly raiment; goodly houses." In this context it may mean "well-off." Goodly is used only once more in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 18:7: there were a goodly number gathered together at the place of Mormon. It is used twice in the Doctrine and Covenants: D&C 97:9 & D&C 99:7. There the meaning is beautiful or fair. It is also used with this same meaning many times in the Old and New Testaments.
  • On introducing. The "therefore" with which Nephi begins the final phrase of verse 1 marks his introductory verses (verses 1-3) as apologetic: this is why I am writing, all of what I just mentioned justifies taking up this project. The logic of Nephi's apologetic introduction is surprising because though he will later explicitly mention a divine commandment to produce the text (2 Ne 5:31), he makes no such reference here. Instead, he founds his text on the circumstances of his life. Nephi makes cites his experiences as of enough significance to justify writing scripture. Given this, Nephi's brief autobiography in verse 1--what we will see is essentially his reading of those very experiences--should be read with incredible care.

Possible Structures[edit]

  • Serial structure. If one looks at Nephi's autobiographical sketch for a textual structure, the repeating word having immediately suggests its own importance: every phrase (except the ungrammatical "therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father," which can only be dealt with after some structural clarity is achieved) begins with the term. If having is read as the structural key to the passage, most likely therefore to be read as a progressive series, then it might be rendered thus (with connectives set between phrases):
  (1) having been born of goodly parents
     and
  (2) having seen many afflictions in the course of my days
     nevertheless
  (3) having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days
     yea
  (4) having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God
  • Chiastic structure. No sooner is the structure laid out as a series of having's than some obvious parallelistic structures suggest themselves. Most visible perhaps is the parallel my days occurring in (2) and (3). Not quite so striking at first is the parallelism formed by (1) and (4) by their use of different manifestations of the word good, goodly and goodness respectively. This double parallel of first with last and second with penultimate suggests the passage be read as a chiasm (perhaps with even the and between (1) and (2) parallel to the yea between (3) and (4)). Rendered chiastically, the autobiographical sketch would look thus:
  A having been born of goodly parents
     B and
        C having seen many afflictions in the course of my days
           D nevertheless
        C' having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days
     B' yea
  A' having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God
  • Double parallel structure. The parallel drawn out above as B and B' further suggests another structural reading of the passage. Both and and yea suggest a doubling, a repetition. In other words, A and C might well be read parallelistically, as might A' and C'. The autobiographical sketch would then become a parallel set of parallelisms, mediated by the central nevertheless. In short, the passage might be schematized thus:
  A having been born of goodly parents
     B and
  A' having seen many afflictions in the course of my days
        C nevertheless
  D having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days
     B' yea
  D' having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God

The interpretive comments below follow each of the above three structural readings in turn.

Nephi's First "Having"[edit]

  • Birth and learning. Nephi's first having, taken in its full and ungrammatical rendering, ties together two vital clues to Nephi's record: his birth and his learning. He immediately qualifies his birth with mention of his "goodly parents." Goodly here is often read as though its meaning is the same as good. But if we read goodly as meaning wealthy (see lexical note above), we see Nephi recognizing that it was because of his parent's wealth that he was able to be taught "somewhat in all the learning of [his] father" (emphasis added).
  • Teaching and learning. Nephi calls upon two important if oddly balanced terms to describe his early education: taught and learning. While a sort of opposition between teaching and learning might at first be read into the text, a careful reading reveals that this opposition is far too simplistic: the learning Nephi mentions is not his own, but his father's, and even as Nephi is the one taught, the verb is used passively ("I was taught somewhat") so that the teacher is cloaked and the act of teaching is therefore uprooted when set into the text. No simplistic scheme of Lehi teaching and Nephi learning is suggested at all in the text. The tie between the two terms, moreover, is prepositional: Nephi's being taught is "in" the learning of Lehi. This emphasizes an important fact: the term, "learning," in the text is a noun, a thing. Whatever Lehi's learning consists of, it is clear from the text that it already consists, that it already stands together, that it is complete enough to be taught, named, or pointed out. And this nominal completion of Lehi's learning stands textually against the apparently incomplete studies of Nephi: "I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father." While all of this sets up some possibilities for interpreting Nephi's brief report of his education, some more detailed consideration of the terms involved is warranted.
  • Lehi's learning. While Nephi later (in verse 2) speaks of the "language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians," it is not yet clear how that should be read against the more simple "learning of my father" of verse 1. More fruitful for getting started, perhaps, is a brief consideration of the term, learning. The English word, "learning," derives from an Indo-European root, leis, meaning a track or a furrow. To learn is etymologically to follow a track, a pathway already (and not recently) cut out, already trod for some time. The pre-existence of whatever is trod, bound up in the word "to learn," is also not unfamiliar to the Hebrew root lqch, the root behind the word most commonly translated in KJV as "learning": lqch means to take, to seize, even to steal, always implying the pre-existence of whatever is taken, seized, stolen. Certainly Lehi's learning implies that he takes up a way that has been trod for a long while before him. But the English and the Hebrew both imply still more: both "to learn" and lqch emphasize a sort of solitude. While teaching implies an instructor and an instructed, the learner comes upon a pathway that has been trod, but that might now be completely empty, and most likely is without a guide. That lqch can mean to steal certainly reinforces the lonely character of Lehi's learning: it might well be suggested that Lehi's learning, in which Nephi was taught, was a very solitary project.
  • Nephi's being taught. If Lehi's learning is a work of solitude, the lonely work of following the long-since-left-behind, Nephi's being taught is imbued with the spirit of a face to face encounter, perhaps even characterized by a sort of violence as well. The English word, "teach," is etymologically related to "touch," as is "didactic" to "tactile." To teach is to point out, to put one's finger onto something. Whereas Lehi seems to come upon something abandoned, which he must attempt to bring back to life in self-disciplined learning, Nephi has a living someone who stands before him, who points out what is to be learned, who gives tasks to the student. This "being taught" on Nephi's part well reflects the broad meaning of the Hebrew term for teaching, lmd, to train, to develop skills in oneself or another. Nephi learns through another, through an actual engagement. The ambiguity of such an engagement (one engages the enemy, and one is engaged to a future spouse) is suggestive: Nephi learns through a work of desire both to submit and to overpower, wraps his arms about his teach both to embrace and to wrestle ("touching" in being "taught"). Lehi's learning is the work of an archaeologist; Nephi's being taught is the work of a disciple.
  • Toward the relation between Nephi and Lehi. The foregoing comments on Nephi's first having, besides destructuring the father-son teaching situation, work out provisional meanings for three words: "goodly", being "taught", and "learning". The meanings worked out are provisional precisely in that they remain in the above comments extratextual: they have not been read back into the text, but provide a framework for just such a (re)reading. However, before such a reading can proceed, something of the interpersonal dynamics at play in this first having must be worked out, so that there is something to read these words back into. In other words, because "goodly" qualifies "parents", because "taught" qualifies "I", because "learning" qualifies--this last in a very broad sense--"father", the interrelatedness of Nephi ("I"), his "parents" and his "father" must be worked out before the meanings of their qualifying words can be read into the text. It should be noted at the same time that a preliminary working out of the interpersonal dynamics of Nephi's first having will also be provisional: like the working out of the meaning of the qualifying words, a working out of these dynamics is an abstraction of text, drawing out the persons without the words that qualify them. Hence, the complex interpersonal dynamics of this first having (it is unique among the four having's) require a second abstraction in addition to the first one worked out above. The two must then be read against and into each other for a more complete reading of the phrase.
  • On proper names. The first and most obvious aspect of the interpersonal dynamics of Nephi's first having to be considered is the function of the proper name. Whereas Nephi's first verse opens with the overwhelming announcement of the prophet's own proper name, the remainder of the three-verse preface to Nephi's text is, from then on, void of any other proper names for any (earthly) person ("the Lord" might be a proper name, "YHWH", though it names God; "the Jews" and "the Egyptians" might also be argued to be proper names, but each apparently names a collective--they are both plural). This absence of proper names is most striking in Nephi's first having, where he makes explicit mention of both his "parents" and his "father", but without any proper names. The comments above have overlooked this, drawing the names of Lehi and Sariah, of course, from the actual body of the Nephite text. The point raises two questions, one of which cannot be fully examined until after full consideration of Nephi's autobiographical sketch. This question to be postponed is, indeed, as broad as Nephi's autobiographical sketch: what does Nephi's announcement of his proper name accomplish in the text? The other question, to be dealt with presently, concerns rather the unnamed in the text: what does the lack of proper names for Lehi and Sariah in this first having accomplish?
  • On the lack of proper names. Lehi and Sariah pass into Nephi's first having unnamed. Perhaps Lehi and Sariah, just for that reason, pass out of Nephi's first having. At any rate, the weight of this lack--the lack of the weight--of proper names in this first autobiographical reading is most significant, is a sign that marks something important at play in the text. A first consequence of the unnamedness of Nephi's "parents" and "father" is a sort of delay, a sort of suspension: Lehi and Sariah are kept out of the preface, though they are mentioned--and hence present--in the same. They are, oddly enough, both included and excluded from Nephi's autobiography. But this duplicity--presence and yet non-presence--is precisely what is in question in Nephi's first having: this first autobiographical reading is the prophet's exploration of the borders between himself and his parents, that strange no man's land where Nephi ends and his parents and father begin. As has been mentioned above, this first having is an exploration of influence, of the "in-flowing" of Sariah and Lehi. And Nephi's text reads this influence as an unnamed presence. In other words, Nephi's text embodies the complex influence of parents and father on son: thoroughly, unquestioningly, overwhelmingly, perhaps suffocatingly present, and yet unnamed, unrecognized, unrealized, perhaps entirely unthought. More: parents and father are so absolutely present, in and through all things, that they are not only unnamed but unnamable, not only unrecognized but unrecognizable, etc.
  • The theme of separation. The relation implied between Nephi and his parents/father, then, is ultimately not a question of presence and non-presence. Nephi's first having, precisely because it writes them without names, reads Sariah and Lehi as completely saturating Nephi's experience, not as perpetual presences, but rather as the element of which Nephi is made. Nephi reads himself as a (re)presentation of his parents/father: they live (continually?) in his living. Hence it would appear that there is no separation between Nephi and his parents/father in the first having. However, the very first verb this having employs is one of separation. Nephi in fact opens this first self-reading with mention of the most primordial act of separation possible: the umbilical cord is cut with his "having been born." As a result, a complex tension enters into the very first phrase of Nephi's text: Nephi is, according to the text, at once inseparable from his parents/father and entirely separated from his parents/father. The first interpersonal dynamic, the first written relation between Nephi and his parents/father, is a double separation/inseparability between them.
  • A progressive inseparability/separation. The situation is made more complex by the fact that the theme of separation is taken up again in the second half of the first having: "therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father." As mentioned above, though a teacher is implied, his or her identity is cloaked, so that the phrase draws upon an implied distance between Nephi and Lehi. As separate as they might have become through Nephi's birth, the teaching situation later in life suggests that this separation only grew. The inferential character of the connecting "therefore" seems to confirm this growing distance. However, at the same time, Nephi's teaching is precisely "in" his father's learning: even as the separation between son and parents/father grows, so does the inseparability between them. The tension introduced in the first part of Nephi's first having is doubled, strengthened, and confirmed in the second part. The relation between Nephi and his parents/father is remarkably difficult.
  • The meaning of the tension. The textual rhythm of Nephi's first having may characterize this tension, may draw out its meaning. In both the first part (before the "therefore") and the second part (after the "therefore") of this first self-reading, the theme of separation comes first, so that it is, in each instance, countered by the theme of inseparability: "having been born [separation] of goodly parents [inseparability], therefore I was taught somewhat [separation] in all the learning of my father [inseparability]." The passage "feels" as if every attempt of Nephi to draw apart from his parents is countered by their overwhelming saturation of all that he does. In other words, in every attempt to live, Nephi lives his (still unnamed) parents. Stating the issue this way does not relieve the tension, but releases it from appearing as a contradiction: Nephi is separate just in that he embodies his parents, just in that he is inseparable from them. Hence, a first reading of Nephi's first (self-)reading: Nephi's collective experience is always from the standpoint of his a son who embodies his parents/father. Nephi encounters the world as his parents.
  • The teaching situation and separation. The interpersonal dynamics of Nephi's first having might now be read preliminarily, at last, in and against the meaningful words explored above. And, in fact, the important difference examined between Nephi's "being taught" and Lehi's "learning" bears powerfully on the theme of separation. In that that difference marks a difference between Nephi and Lehi, the separation between father and son might easily be read there. However, the question of separation grounds that same difference still more profoundly: the distinction between "being taught" (always face-to-face) and "learning" (always in solitude) was precisely a question of separation. In other words, the two terms bear their meaning precisely by taking up opposite ends of the tension between separation/inseparability. As a result, Nephi's teaching situation is in and of itself a double embodiment of that vital tension. First, Nephi's being taught--in face-to-face instruction--is a work of inseparability, fundamentally frustrated by the grammatical cloaking of the instructor, which marks Nephi's being taught with an undeniable character of separation. Second, because the content of the teaching is the learning of Lehi, Nephi's instruction at once marks him inseparable from his father (studying precisely the same things) and entirely separate (if he truly learns his father's learning, what is profoundly a work of solitude, of separation). Nephi's first having wonderfully puts on display Lehi's profound influence on him: always as himself, Nephi entirely presents his father.
  • Goodliness and separation. As pointed at at the very beginning of these comments on Nephi's first having, the first self-reading of this autobiographical sketch (by employing the strong "therefore" at its center) draws upon the relation between the goodliness of Nephi's parents and his own later instruction. That broad relation now suggests that the theme of separation so powerfully embodied in the teaching situation should be read back into the goodliness of Lehi and Sariah. Or better, that goodliness should be read as the source of that eventually perfected tension of separation/inseparability. And it certainly does. If, as mentioned above, "goodly" is best read as marking the wealth or abundance of Nephi's parents, then the description the prophet's birth draws the theme of inheritance to bear powerfully on the present considerations: Nephi's first having casts him as an heir. The power of this insight emerges in the fact that inheritance is itself a perfect embodiment of the same tension of separation/inseparability. The heir is profoundly separate and absolutely inseparable from his or her benefactor. Nephi, as heir, is again marked entirely and always himself, even as he entirely and always (re-)presents his father. Perhaps most vital in all this: it is precisely the term "goodly" that draws this tension into the first half of Nephi's first having.
  • Subverted inheritance. However, as soon as Nephi's first having is read through the theme of inheritance, the same theme is called into question: Nephi's relational "therefore" does not draw eventual wealth as the fruition of inheritance, but rather instruction. In other words, Nephi's inheritance is "only" an intellectual inheritance: he is heir to his father's learning. (This first having, then, should probably be read with an eye to the later Lamanite claim to the right of inheritance.) Perhaps most important of all, this subversion of the traditional theme of inheritance further subverts the meaning of the term "goodly." The goodliness Nephi is concerned with might ultimately be the goodliness commonly read into this first verse of the Book of Mormon: Lehi and Sariah were folk of abundant faith, obedience, goodness, etc.
  • Nephi's relation, finally, to his parents. All of the above comments set up the relation between Nephi and his parents/father. In his first self-interpretation, Nephi reads himself fundamentally as heir to his father's learning, and that only through the instrumentality--the goodliness--of his parents. As heir, Nephi covers his parents over, in a sense, and yet manifests them perfectly: he manifests them in himself. Nephi reads himself not so much as drawing upon his parents' goodliness, but as re-working it, as re-presenting, as re-embodying it. Nephi himself is Lehi again, Lehi repeated, but now with the proper name of Nephi. If this first having is Nephi's attempt to read his beginnings, to interpret his origins, what he apparently finds is always only himself ("I, Nephi"), but always only his parents/father, as presented in himself.
  • The content of Lehi's learning. With this relation now established, wherein Nephi continually re-presents his father (and that especially in terms of "learning"), the way has been opened up to explore at last the actual content of Lehi's learning. However, the above comments have conclusively pointed away from such a task. It might be best to say that Nephi, precisely because he does not take the space to explicate his father's learning, sees this issue as inessential, perhaps immaterial. The point, as suggested by the above comments, of Nephi's first having is the role Lehi and Sariah play in Nephi's independent/dependent writing.

Nephi's Second "Having"[edit]

  • On the way to "afflictions." Obviously the most important word in Nephi's second having is "afflictions." Curiously, the word does not take the grammatical position of subject in the clause; rather it functions as the direct object. As direct object, it becomes that towards which this second self-interpretation tends: the "many afflictions" of Nephi might best be understood as the horizon of this second autobiographical comment, not as the starting point. This is as much as to say that Nephi removes from himself (in the act of writing) the actual afflictions he suffered (he displaces them to his--and the reader's--horizon). He in fact does so, precisely by clothing them in a double event-ness: the afflictions comes to Nephi spatially (through his body: "having seen") and temporally (in time: "in the course of my days"). (It should be noted very clearly that only Nephi's second having has an undeniable event-ness about it: the static verbs of the other three havings set this second one forth as uniquely event-ual.) In other words, because Nephi characterizes his "many afflictions" as events (spatio-temporal happenings), they become for him and for the reader event-ual, intended but still unreached. A first interpretive point for Nephi's second having: the very key of this having ("afflictions") are the key precisely because they are what the whole phrase aims at, but does not yet reach.
  • On the way from "afflictions." Even as the grammatical structure of Nephi's second having sets the prophet's afflictions at a double remove as a spatio-temporal event-uality, another grammatical structure inherent in the same phrase cancels this distantiation. The "having" that marks the seeing (the spatial/bodily happening that is temporalized in the "course of [Nephi's] days") is a verbal that is, by the end of Nephi's first verse, caught up into the present work of writing. However absent or distant Nephi's afflictions are at the time of writing, they are one of his four self-interpretive reasons for writing at all. In other words, even as Nephi's second having marks itself as a way towards the many afflictions Nephi faced, the whole of the first verse unmistakably marks Nephi's entire introduction as a way from afflictions to writing. (As mentioned above, only this second having is explicitly event-ual. While the other three self-interpretations Nephi offers might be read as several groundings of Nephi's task of writing, this one, his second having, seems best read as a sort of path or way towards the task of writing. That this having is temporalized by a "course of... days" seems to underscore this point.) Though Nephi's afflictions appear event-ual and horizonal, they are nonetheless a sort of point of departure for Nephi.
  • On the (double) way of "afflictions." This duplicity of way, caught up into the double, tense grammatical structure of Nephi's second having, suggests a sort of parallel between Nephi's first and second havings. Even as this second having suggests a distance or a separation, the same is cancelled by a broader inseparability: the event-ual afflictions are the point of departure for Nephi's task of writing. This is not unlike the separation/inseparability theme of Nephi's first having. The absolution of afflictions accomplished by the role of direct object is cancelled in that Nephi himself takes his departure from his bodily/temporal experience of afflictions. Again--as before--Nephi reads himself as a sort of re-embodiment (perhaps particularly in the task of writing) of afflictions he has seen, has witnessed (were they never his own afflictions?). At least this much is clear: there is a parallel structure to be read into Nephi's first two havings.
  • "Seeing" afflictions. Nephi takes up his afflictions with a verb that might well be read as confirming the separation/inseparability theme already doubled with this second having. Vision opens, quite singularly, the very possibility for the distinction between separation and inseparability (it might be precisely because the two opposites arise out of a singular that the tension explored in these comments is possible). Sight at once sets before the seer a world spectacle from which he or she might retire and at the same time locates the seer immediately in the world, most explicitly through the sheer physicality of the eyes with which one sees. Sight--or rather all the senses, perhaps corporeal existence itself and hence every verb (such as "having seen") that summons the body--then plays an important role in Nephi's second having, important precisely because it--as a bodily verb--draws out this same tension of separation/inseparability. Whereas Nephi might have discussed afflictions he had once "had" or "experienced" or "gone through," his use of "having seen" suggests something more of his relation to his afflictions: Nephi's afflictions were at once something separate and remote from him ("seen") and something that might be called his very setting or vantage point (from which he sees himself autobiographically).
  • The meaning of affliction. Though "affliction" seems a simple enough word, its literal meaning is perhaps more nuanced. The verb, "to afflict", comes into English from a Latin compound: ad-fligo, literally "to strike against (towards)". Its primary meaning in usage was to dash something against another (or two things together) or (much the same) to knock down, strike down, or damage. Only metaphorically did the word come to mean to weaken, to discourage. Affliction was originally, then, bodily pain or torture. Before the word is taken in Nephi's text to mean something primarily "spiritual" or "mental," it should be considered in its physical originality. If Nephi means the word in a "spiritual" or "mental" sense, the violence implied in the literal meaning should not be missed. Moreover, the original "physical" meaning of the word always implies at least two "things," marked by the ad-, the towards or against. Too quick a reversion to the "spiritual" or "mental" reading of affliction might reduce affliction to a sort of solitary struggle rather than a literal clash of at least two things. The towards and against of affliction also point toward two parties--one who afflicts, and one who is afflicted. Affliction is more than suffering, it is a suffering caused by one towards another.
  • The corporeality of seeing and the physicality of afflictions. The corporeality of Nephi's "having seen" and the radical physicality of his mentioned "afflictions" come up against each other in an odd manner. While afflictions retreat into mental/spiritual meaning only metaphorically, sight and the eyes have a natural means of retreat (unlike the other four bodily senses) in one's ability to blink, to close off sight from bodily experience. And this means of visual escape is unique and significant. It is sight, for example, that makes sleep so bizarre a human state: the sleeper is open to the reality of the world in four ways, and what he or she hears, smells, tastes, or touches readily enters into the surreality of the dream. But the sleeper closes him- or herself off entirely from the world of sight. The eye's ability to retreat, to shut off the visual realm of the world, sets the corporeality of Nephi's principal verb in this second having against the radical physicality of the afflictions Nephi deals with: because he sees the afflictions, Nephi has some recourse to distance from them, has some means of retreat from the harsh reality of the bodily danger implicit in those afflictions. At least on the grammatical level, Nephi's second having at once presents a very real danger and an ability to flee the same.
  • The ambiguous nature of visual escape. Here an ambiguity in Nephi's language might well be considered: because the afflictions Nephi mentions in his second having are completely unqualified grammatically, it remains unclear whether the afflictions were things Nephi himself suffered, or whether the afflictions Nephi saw were afflictions others passed through to which the prophet was "merely" witness. The importance of this ambiguity arises most clearly in the light of Nephi's means of escape, because his ability as seer to shut his eyes is ultimately ambiguous as well. On the one hand, Nephi's visual escape might be read as a very real escape: if he closes his eyes to violence inflicted on himself, he holds out to some degree a sort of mastery over his enemies. His closed eyes would mark his willing martyrdom, a sort of absolute denial on his part to become involved (perhaps thereby doing damage to the meaning of afflictions as two things striking one another). On the other hand, Nephi's visual escape might be read as a sort of false escape: if he closes his eyes to violence inflicted on others, he marks himself a slave to his own weakness. His closed eyes would here mark him as one completely lacking the virtue of charity: he allows others to suffer while he closes his eyes. Two very different meanings of visual "escape", based on two very different meanings of the afflictions mentioned in the passage.
  • Nephi's apparently open eyes. The above two comments, however, work from an assumption that is unjustified based on Nephi's second having: that Nephi closed his eyes. However, the fact that Nephi saw the afflictions marks with great importance the fact that Nephi could very easily and at any time have closed them: that he didn't is what should be emphasized here. As such, Nephi's open eyes (open to the ambiguous afflictions he mentions) require interpretation. Just as Nephi's grammar invites a double reading of visual escape, a double reading of Nephi's open eyes is warranted. If, on the one hand, the afflictions in question were Nephi's own, then his meeting them with open eyes would suggest his self-transcending courage, his unwillingness to take the escape of selfish retreat that would immortalize him as an innocent martyr. Apparently unconcerned with himself, Nephi--taking the afflictions, again, to be his own--was willing to engage (to love?) even his enemies, to wrestle with them, to crash against them in a very real sense, in a radical work of opening himself--his eyes--to them. If, on the other hand, the afflictions in question were not Nephi's, but those of others to which Nephi stood witness, then his open eyes mark his unquestionable charity. Unwilling, on this reading, to turn from the difficulties others faced, Nephi presents himself as one willing to engage (again, to love?) the innocent who suffer all about him.
  • Nephi's eyes as the double figure of love. Fortunately, the reader of Nephi's text is not forced to choose between these two possible readings of Nephi's open eyes. The two are allowed to work against and through each other. In fact, the two carry a very similar meaning in the end: love. Nephi's open eyes mark his unconcernedness with himself, his willingness to engage (on the one hand) his enemies and/or (on the other hand) his friends. In both cases, his self-transcendence is marked by his open eyes, but his regard or gaze that takes up both friend and enemy by the hand (hand to hand, whether in combat or in salutation). In fact, that Nephi leaves the afflictions he mentions in this second having ambiguous suggests that he wants his readers to feel the tension between both possible readings. The charity with which Nephi marks himself in this second self-interpretation is supposed to be felt as all-embracing, as touching both friends and enemies. On that account, Nephi's "having seen" imbues the figure of Nephi with love. It might, moreover, be noted that it is precisely afflictions that open Nephi's eyes (on either reading). Love itself might here be read as affliction: love is the inevitable drama of striking two things, two people, together. Love is the site of affliction, afflictions are the sight of love: in Nephi's seeing afflictions--in his seeing to afflictions--he encounters love.
  • Nephi's love as response. But as soon as one reads love into Nephi's second having, the objection arises that Nephi never explicitly mentions love, that he only sets it forth negatively, under the figure of seeing afflictions. In other words, that Nephi here interprets himself in terms of afflictions, apparently in an attempt to interpret himself in terms of charity, is oddly ironic. It might, on the one hand, mark Nephi's humility: he only suggests his charity negatively, through afflictions. On the other hand, this detail might set a sort of limit for the reading above: Nephi's love is not an absolute virtue, but one drawn out of him by the threat of the other, by afflictions. In a sense, then, that Nephi addresses his own charity through affliction serves to proscribe Nephi's love, to render it a response rather than a call. Nephi's eyes do not intend so much as they are intended and seeingly respond. In other words and in short, Nephi's second having might be read as a figure of responsive--even responsible--charity: Nephi's open eyes figure his response to the visible world, a world, apparently, of affliction.
  • Reanalyzing the parallel between first and second "havings". Nephi's second having is now seen as the prophet's confrontation with the fallen nature of the world, as his loving response to the presence of evil--of afflictions, many afflictions--in the world. And here, perhaps, the apparent parallel between this second having and the first falls apart. Whereas in the first having, Nephi interprets himself as a reembodiment of his parents (thus being separate and inseparable from them), here it is clear that Nephi is not reading himself in terms of affliction, but in terms of his response to affliction. In other words, Nephi's entire first verse does not ultimately follow Nephi's journey from afflictions to writing, but from his response to afflictions to the task of writing. If this second having is to be read as privileged above the others for its event-ness, it is now clear that the event(s) Nephi here recounts is (are) not to be understood as experience(s) of affliction, but as response(s) to affliction. The one event Nephi cites on the way to the task of writing is his seeing, his open eyes in response to the wickedness of the world.
  • Toward the course of Nephi's days. Given all of the above, Nephi's second having might be summarized thus: the only event Nephi calls upon in interpreting his life is his loving response (his open eyes) to the wickedness of the world. All that remains to be dealt with in this second having is the "course of [Nephi's] days." It is clear that this phrase plays an important role in the text, besides confirming the event-ual character of the second having. A first, but very brief reading suggests that Nephi proscribes his charitable response within a sort of temporal enclosure (which might just be a consequence of the event-ual character of this having). The word "course" is, however, not so perfectly simple. Its many meanings in [[1]] suggest that it should be read quite carefully. Two "concepts" seem to be inevitable: the word implies at least motion and method/order. (Etymology bears this out: "course" derives from Latin cursus, which means an established track for running a race, hence motion and order.) Whatever Nephi means by the "course" of his days, it seems that it must inevitably be read through the double theme of motion and method.
  • Course and death. But perhaps this double theme of motion and method already suggests a meaning. If Nephi's days are, as a course, understood to be a methodical procession towards an already decided end, then at least one very real possible meaning is clear: the "course" of Nephi's days ends with death. That Nephi may here be thinking of death is not to be thrown out because of the reality of the resurrection: passages throughout the Old Testament--especially in Ecclesiastes--see life as a working out of days on the way to death. (To say that the race ends with death is not at all to claim that there is nothing after the race.) If Nephi is indeed concerned with death here, then Nephi's reads his loving response, his interlocuted charity as an event at once opened up and foreclosed by the reality of death. In other words, that the event-ual having is the one tied specifically to the theme of death (a theme that rings well with the theme of affliction) suggests that event-ness itself arises out of death, that the event of charity is a response to the evil of death (even death through affliction). In short, Nephi in his second having seems to characterize himself as having lived toward his own death.
  • One's days and the course of one's days. If the course Nephi describes is the procedural movement of his days toward death, it might be well to consider more exactly the word "days." That the word should not be understood here in any objective sense (e.g., to mean "twenty-four hour periods") is clear: Nephi marks the days as his, as belonging to him. In other words, Nephi does not read "days" as some objective thing he passes through, but rather understands "days" to be a sort of aspect of his experience: as his days, these days are the what through which Nephi experiences the events of affliction. Each day--lit by the light of day as opposed to night--is the light in which a certain afflicting event appeared (was seen). In fact, Nephi's seeing might well be extended to every event that came before his eyes in his "days." If this is what Nephi means by mentioning these days as his, then the meaning of the "course" of his "days" might become clearer. Nephi here reads his afflictions as punctuating an ordered procession of experiences, of events, a series of events that culminate in death--the event that anounces itself as the foreclosure of all other events, as the cessation of events. In other words, Nephi seems to read his life here as a series of witnessed events, as experiences he entered into bodily (even through his eyes), all tending toward the cessation of events and experiences, and all this punctuated often ("many") by afflictions, by--perhaps--events that suggested the reality of the coming conclusive event. It is, of course, most significant that Nephi reads his own charity as a response to those event-ual forerunners of death.
  • The overarching tension of Nephi's second having. All of the above suggests the following general reading of Nephi's second having. Whereas the first having explored the possibility of Nephi's escape, as it were, from his parents, this second having explores the possibility of Nephi's ability to rebridge the gap of interpersonal separation. Taking as its theme the gift of charity, Nephi seems to read through the ever-present reality of death (ever-present through the constant experience of affliction) a sort of call to love, to which Nephi responds.

Nephi's Third "Having"[edit]

  • Nephi's return to "days." After the peculiarities of Nephi's second having, the word "days" immediately stands out in this third having. Whereas before his days were subsumed under the figure of a course, here they are merely collected with the word "all." One immediately gets the sense that this third having breaks the course of the second, that the inevitable movement of Nephi's days toward death is canceled in the favor of the Lord. Broadly speaking, then, this third having already presents itself as something beyond even the implicit charity of the second having. Certainly the clearest initial theme of this having is the theme of God's love, God's favor, a reverse of the charity mentioned above.
  • The meaning of favor.

Nephi's Four "Having's"[edit]

  • Nephi's life and the plan. Together the clauses beginning with having form a pattern that runs through Nephi's two books: creation ("having been born"), fall ("having seen many afflictions"), atonement ("having been highly favored of the Lord"), and passing through the veil ("having had a great knowledge"). The pattern might broadly be called "the plan of salvation," but it appears to play a more fundamental textual role for Nephi as well. His first eighteen chapters (1 Nephi 1-18) tell a sort of creation story (with constant reference to his goodly parents); his following nine chapters (1 Nephi 19-2 Nephi 5) tell a sort of fall story (marked emphatically by the division between Nephites and Lamanites); his next twenty-five chapters (2 Nephi 6-31) tell a sort of atonement story (how the Lamanites might become again favored and reconnected to broader Israel); and his concluding three chapters (2 Nephi 31-33) dwell on a sort of passing-through-the-veil story (through a discussion of baptism in incredibly "veil-like" terms). Moreover, that the twenty-five chapter atonement stretch of Nephi's two-book record is presented by three messengers who collectively bring to the reader an understanding of how the "veil" of 2 Nephi 31-33 might be passed suggests that there is some connection between Nephi's broader record and the temple drama. If this connection is not unfounded, Nephi's "therefore" toward the end of this verse is powerfully significant: it is because his very life might be read as a sort of "endowment" that he is writing this text.
  • goodness and mysteries. No other prophet in our scriptures pairs these words in a single verse. Nephi is restating an earlier portion of this verse, in which he attributed his "learning" to his "goodly parents." Nephi's life experiences apparently taught him these two things go hand in hand.

Chiastic Interpretation[edit]

Double Parallelism Interpretation[edit]

  • Nevertheless. The center of the chiastic structural reading is peculiar, but textually important. D mediates the two "halves" of the passage. In other words, it is the single word nevertheless that decides how the relation between the first half (A, B, and C) and the second half (A', B', and C') should be read. The implication: this single, perhaps "intuitive" word must be read with care. An all-too-quick reading of the word might suggest that it draws the two halves of the chiasm together in a sort of antithesis: by bringing them to stand side by side, nevertheless markedly puts on display the distinction between the events of the first half and the events of the second half, precisely because nevertheless means however, or but. However, more careful thought reveals that nevertheless does not at all set up a facile anthithesis. The term rather means most literally that what is about to be said is not undone by what has been said, that the implications of the foregoing (here, the first half) do not preclude what is about to be said (here, in the second half): Y (what I am about to say) is never to be taken as anything less--is not to be read weakly--because of X (what I have just said). This more literal reading implies a great deal about the meaning of Nephi's autobiographical chiasm. The first half of it (what might be called Nephi's earthly world) does not preclude in any way, nor does it weaken at all, the second half of it (what might be called Nephi's heavenly world). In short, the first half of Nephi's chiastic autobiography at once has something to do with the second half--especially in that it parallels it!--but the relation between the two is neither one of mutual implication, nor one of frustrating contradiction. Perhaps all that can at first be said about the chiasm in question is what has snuck into this discussion through the back door: Nephi sees the earthly and heavenly aspects of his existence as parallel, not contradictory or implicatory.
  • having .., nevertheless, having... Lehi is not disappointed by his experiences. He displays an attitude of gratitude.

Beyond (?) Autobiography[edit]

  • Book of the Dead wording. If the final phrase of this verse is taken in the Egyptian idiom, it is remarkably close to the Egyptian name for what is commonly called the "Book of the Dead" (Egyptian: "The Book of Going Forth by Day"). Nephi might here be making a suggestive allusion: his two-volume record on the small plates is, as it were, his own Book of the Dead (which was, for all intents and purposes, a sort of Egyptian endowment, an Egyptian drama of resurrection). If this reading is justified, this final phrase might ground the temple connections mentioned above. A connection (however distant) to the Book of the Dead would certainly explain the autobiographical "I, Nephi" with which the verse begins: copies of the "canonical" Book of the Dead were always personalized (by name) for the individual who purchased them. This may also provide a better context in which to understand verse 2.
  • Dependent/independent clauses. The rather extended series of dependent clauses (the four "havings") that makes up the first half of this verse is interrupted along its course by the strikingly ungrammatical "therefore I was taught...." (This instance of "therefore" is the first of two in 1 Nephi 1:1, and should not here be confused with the summary "therefore" with which Nephi begins the final phrase of the verse.) The phrase, abstracted from its surroundings, is clearly an independent clause, though it is (because of the "therefore") subjected to the series of dependent clauses. The phrase therefore sets up a tension in the first half of this verse: there is an independent clause that is, so to speak, dependent on a series of dependent clauses. The tension accomplishes two things at once: on the one hand, it allows Nephi to draw the conclusion implicated by his "therefore," that his having been taught has something to do with his father's wealth, etc.; on the other hand, it frees the phrase from its confines in the first verse so that it can form a parallelism with the "language of my father" mentioned in verse 2. The tension is therefore structural: the phrase, "therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father," is drawn into tension by the first two verses, suspended, as it were, between them. The "Yea" of verse 2, discussed below, is therefore all the more significant.

Verse 2[edit]

  • Double parallelism. Given the comments above on verse 1, there is a double parallelism at play in this verse: Nephi is concerned in the first verse with his father's learning, and in the second verse with his father's language. This is doubled by Nephi's further mention of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. The full implications of this double parallelism, however, remain to be worked out.
  • Re-translating verse 1? Besides the tension that already connects the first two verses in an odd way (explained above in the comments on verse 1), Nephi further connects them by mediating their contraposition with the weighty word "Yea." Given that the Book of Mormon broadly takes up the KJV idiom (a presupposition that might well be called into question), the "Yea" here likely should be read with the weight of the Hebrew root knn, to double, to repeat, to confirm. If so, Nephi seems to be drawing his first two verses into a sort of reciprocal or perhaps dialectical relation. If this second verse might be read as a "translation" of the first, it is fascinating that the two verses are drawn together in their pairing of questions of language and learning, especially the explicit mention of Jewish and Egyptian traditions. Through these two verses (explicitly composed of "metalanguage"), Nephi presents his record as fundamentally dual: it is a crossing of Egyptian and Jewish traditions, of Lehi's and Nephi's experiences, of language and learning, of verse 1 and verse 2. It might at least be said that Nephi sees his work as working out these several tensions.
  • Making a record. A single foundational phrase underlies both verse 1 and verse 2: "I make a record." When each of these verses is stripped of dependent clauses and prepositional phrases, only this four-word sentence is left behind for each of them. The two verses would thus read: "I make a record. Yea, I make a record." This observation not only strengthens the suggestion that verse 2 is a repetition/translation of verse 1, but it also makes clear that Nephi's making a record is of foundational importance to these first few verses. Nephi uses the word "record" three times in this three-verse introduction to his text, doubly marking the importance of the term. The word generally translates the Hebrew zkrwn in the KJV, a word deriving from the root zkr, meaning to actualize, to enact, to remember, to hold in presence. Nephi's choice of this word may imply that his text is to be read as a ritual text, one to be read aloud, even acted out or presented dramatically (cf. Rev 1:3). Such a reading might well ground the endowment themes in verse 1, while at the same time both enriching and making difficult Nephi's statement in verse 3 that the record is "true."
  • Mention of the Jews. The first mention of the Jews in the whole of Nephi's record--in the whole of the Book of Mormon--is found in this verse, and it sets the tone for all subsequent discussion of the Jews. If there is any starting point for a study of who is meant by the Jews in the Book of Mormon, it is here. And this first mention is quite peculiar. From the very beginning, the national identity of the Jews is in question. "The Jews" are set here quite clearly against "the Egyptians," both emerging under plural nouns that deserve some attention: why does Nephi say "the learning of the Jews" and not "the learning of Judah" or "Jewish learning," and why does Nephi say "the language of the Egyptians" and not "the language of Egypt" or "Egyptian language"? The point is important, because Nephi from the very beginning places an emphasis on individuals who derive their identity from their political situation, rather than on nations as whole individuals (the "Israel" of the OT prophets, so profoundly understood by William Blake in his mythic prophecies). The point is, in fact, more complicated still: specific mention of "the Jews" and "the Egyptians" can only have had for Nephi profound political overtones, because of the particular situation between these nations that obtained at the time he left Jerusalem with his family. These politically defined individuals, set against each other in Nephi's first mention of the Jews, deserves some very close attention.
  • "of the Jews," "of the Egyptians." Only a decade or so before Zedekiah's enthronement, the Jews and the Egyptians found themselves at war. The political situation was intense: Assyria had crumbled, leaving a power vacuum and three nations trying to fill it. Babylon, the largest and most powerful nation, was the most likely to take its place, but this was undecided, since both Egypt and Judah were also striving for the part. Around 610 B.C., Pharaoh Necho offered to join forces with Babylon against all other powers, working towards a joint empire. While traveling to accomplish this in 609 B.C., Pharaoh was encountered by Israelite forces led by King Josiah, who was attempting to stop the alliance. Josiah had already led his armies to quite a few victories in his struggle to claim greater Judean power. At Megiddo, the armies met, and Israel suffered a terrible defeat, in which Necho himself killed Josiah. The defeat was crushing for Judah (the textual implications of this failure alone for the Bible are incredible), and led quickly to the conquest of Jerusalem within two decades. Babylon quickly asserted its power of Judah, and Judah found itself conquered with a puppet king in place over it (namely, Zedekiah, who was installed by Babylon). This set up a rather difficult situation for Judah, a people with a covenant they understood to mean that they would never be conquered: either they had to submit cheerfully to Babylon (which seemed to imply unfaithfulness to the Davidic covenant), or they had to raise up enough of a force against Babylon to throw off the yoke (which could only be done through an alliance with Egypt). The prophets at the time were advocating the former position (Jeremiah especially), but Zedekiah eventually tried to establish political ties with Egypt, and the result was the obliteration of the kingdom of Judah. All of this, oddly, shows that the Jews and the Egyptians had a rather complex relationship at the time the Book of Mormon begins: those who were in favor of Egypt were those who could forgive the death of Josiah in order to try in some way to restore the situation they believed to be according to the Davidic covenant; those who were not in favor of Egypt were following the prophets even though it seemed as if this were against the wishes of the Lord. More still: the Egyptians and the Jews had so many commercial ties--especially mercenary ties--that the cultures had to some degree or another fused into one. That Nephi writes his record in reformed Egyptian is of some significance: he finds himself in the midst of some major political struggles, all of which bear quite inevitably on the questions of covenant.
  • Jews, then, and Egyptians. For Nephi here to use "of the Jews" and "of the Egyptians" makes quite a point, then: by drawing on collective individuals, Nephi avoids questions of broader politics. He is not so much concerned in this verse with Judah and Egypt as he is with people from Judah and people from Egypt. He is more concerned with cultures and heritages, with traditions. It should be noted, then, that the very first mention of "the Jews" in the Book of Mormon marks them as a national culture that can be opposed to, set against, that of Egypt. If Egypt is the glory of antiquity, Nephi sees Judah as no less so. The Jews, from the very beginning, are a people, one with a tradition, with a unique history and culture, and with an autonomous take on the world. The Jews, it seems quite clear, are to be understood as the people who come from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, who have inherited the particularities of Judah and Benjamin, as well as the complexities of cross-cultures that came in with the collapse of the Northern Kingdom. The heritage of Judah has a mixed history, perhaps, but Nephi understands it to be unique and separate by this point.

Verse 3[edit]

  • Chiasm. After the grammatical complexity of Nephi's first two verses, the third verse reads with a striking simplicity. It is made up of three straightforward statements, all beginning with the conjoining "and I". Despite the unbalance between these short, plain statements and the far more difficult phrases of verses 1 and 2, this verse sets up a chiastic structure that runs through the whole of Nephi's first three verses:
  A  I make a record
     B  I make a record
        C  I know (that the record is true)
     B' I make it
  A' I make it

The importance of this structure goes well beyond "proofs of ancient authorship": the whole of verse 1 is set in parallel with Nephi's rather simple "and I make it according to my knowledge"; and the whole of verse 2 is set in parallel with his (also rather simple) "and I make it with mine own hand." Further, because it marks the chiastic center and has no parallel, the independent statement "And I know that the record which I make is true," with its profound focus on knowledge instead of record-making, separates itself thematically from the rest of what Nephi writes into these first three verses. More still, the doubling already recognized in verses 1 and 2 (here called A and B) is itself doubled by a parallel doubling (B' and A' might be read as a project of translation just as A and B are above). These structural observations are perhaps a collective key to interpreting this third verse.

  • Record-making and testimony. As mentioned above, the chiastic center of Nephi's first three verses is a grammatical inversion of every other step of the chiasm. In other words, whereas verses 1 and 2 unite with the second and third statements of verse 3 in a project of subordinating (grammatically) knowledge to the record Nephi makes, this central (most important?) statement subordinates (again, grammatically) the record to Nephi's knowledge: "And I know that the record which I make is true." Again, it might be said that the great majority of Nephi's three-verse introduction to his story understands Nephi's "knowledge" (and "learning" and "language") to be sublimated (or at least spoken) in the text is writes. At the same time, however, the most central message of that same three-verse introduction is a reversal of this sublimation: the record gathers itself up in Nephi's testimonial "I know," is sublimated (or, again, at least spoken) in the knowledge he has. In short, the complex structure written into Nephi's first three verses suggests a sort of dialectic of testimony: knowledge is channeled into a text, and a text is channeled into knowledge. Record-making and knowing are undeniably--even if impossibly--interwoven in Nephi's introduction. The LDS theme of "testimony" might well be re-read through these verses, in a reading that appears to adhere carefully to the implied roots of the Hebrew term for testimony, `dwt (from a root that arguably means to carve or engrave in stone).
  • Record-keeping. It appears Nephi grew up in a culture that recorded, and then passed on, knowledge from God. He is well positioned to carry on this family tradition.
  • Another structure? If the comments above concerning the semi-independent clause near the beginning of verse 1 are taken into account, an alternate structure for Nephi's first three verses emerges, recasting the function of this third verse. If Nephi's ungrammatical "therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father" is taken as an independent clause, then six statements (rather than five) precipitate out of 1 Nephi 1:1-3. Moreover, the sixth component of the surface structure of Nephi's introduction would disassemble the chiasm and replace it with an entirely different structure:
  A  I was taught somewhat
     B  I make a record
        C  I make a record
  A' I know (that the record is true)
     B' I make it
        C' I make it

Such a reading would make verse 3 a wholesale doubling of verses 1 and 2. Further, the two parallelisms mentioned in the chiastic reading would be switched ("with mine own hand" would parallel Nephi's fourfold life experience, and "according to my knowledge" would parallel the "language of my father"). Perhaps most important, Nephi's testimony ("I know that the record which I make is true") would here be parallel to his learning ("therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father"). Both of these parallel statements work out Nephi's "knowledge," perhaps strengthening this structural reading of these three verses.

Verses 1-3[edit]

  • Teaching as an impossibility. Nephi's first three verses should be read as a single literary unit (marked separate from and yet tied inextricably to verse 4 by the latter's introductory "For"). However, the comments collected above suggest that this "single literary unit" is bound together by an undeniable tension. At the root of this tension is the ungrammatical interruption early in the first verse: "therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father." Not only does this phrase break with the grammatical structure of the first verse, thereby setting up a syntactical tension, it forces a double semantic (better: structural) tension into the whole three verse introduction, as laid out in the comments above. In other words, what might have otherwise been a very straightforward three-verse introduction on how and why Nephi wrote his record is disturbed, unbalanced, perhaps even frustrated, and precisely in Nephi's having been "taught." It is not too much to say that Nephi's introductory text puts on display how the "simple" dialectical process of record-making is grounded on the violent, aporetic, and yet necessary work of "being taught." The implications of Nephi's "ungrammar" are rich, but remain to be worked out at length.

Verse 4[edit]

  • Zedekiah's reign. Zedekiah's reign marks the historical beginning of the story, but it probably should not be assumed that Nephi's text therefore "legitimizes" him. In fact, the text draws an important parallel that, to some degree, de-legitimizes him: whereas this verse portrays the enthroned Zedekiah as surrounded with prophets speaking disparaging messages, verse 8 will portray a parallel God upon His throne, surrounded with angels who sing and shout praises to Him. The comparison might well betray Nephi's attitude towards the king.
  • monarch. Zedekiah may have received less respect than his predecessors, because he was about 21 years old at this time.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 1[edit]

  • Colophon. Was Hugh Nibley right about these introductory verses being a colophon? Is this literary structure or formula unique to Nephi in the Book of Mormon or did other authors use colophons throughout the Book of Mormon also? Do you agree with John A. Tvedtnes or Brant Gardner on this point?
  • "born of goodly parents." How many people are included in the Nephi's use of the word parents? How many of these parents gave birth to him? Can parents mean more than just mother and father? Does the use of parents in Alma 30:25 provide a possible answer?
  • "in all the learning of my father." How does Nephi's phrase compare with this description of the sons of Mosiah: "And he caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers" (Mosiah 1:2)? Does this mean the sons of Mosiah received most of their lessons from someone other than their father? If the phrasing of these two passages is so similar, does that suggest that Nephi also received some of his religious training from a teacher who was not his father?
  • Nature of Nephi's learning. Did anyone in Lehi's family have access to scriptures before Nephi and his brothers obtained the brass plates from Laban? If they did not have access to sacred texts, what was Nephi studying in his youth? How likely is it that Lehi and Nephi were part of an oral tradition? Does 2 Ne 33:1 contain any clues about Nephi's feelings about spoken texts versus written texts?
  • Afflictions and blessings. How can this verse be used to deepen understanding of the themes of afflictions and blessings throughout 1 Nephi?
  • "having seen many afflictions." Whose afflictions might Nephi have witnessed?
  • Learning equals language? What is the relationship between the learning of Nephi's father in 1 Ne 1:1 and the language of Nephi's father in 1 Ne 1:2?
  • Intended introduction? As we know from Words of Mormon, D&C 3, and D&C 10, Mormon did not intend the Book of Mormon to begin as it does now. How does this verse, in its "usurped" position, change the way we might otherwise read the Book of Mormon? How would the Book of Mormon be different if, for example, it began with an introduction to the whole text by Mormon?
  • "therefore I make a record." How might we here understand Nephi's purpose or motivation in writing? How do Nephi's other explanations for this record (as contained in this verse) compare with the purposes listed in 1 Ne 9 and 1 Ne 19? How might we understand this statement while also considering that Nephi later wrote, "the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not" in 1 Ne 9:5?
  • Tense. Nephi uses phrases like "having been" and "make a record" in the same sentence, mixing past tense with present tense. Why might Nephi be doing this? Is this intentional? (ie. are we looking at an instance of enallage?)
  • Memory. If Nephi is writing this record several years after the fact, how does this affect his memory of past events? If Nephi is writing with the benefit of hindsight, how does that affect Nephi's explanation of how and why things happened?
  • Autobiography? What did Nephi mean in 1 Ne 1:17 when he said that "after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life?" Does that mean Nephi did not consider this verse autobiographical? Or was this brief introduction something less than an "account"?
  • Concepts of Time. Why does Nephi shift from the event of one day, to things that happened in the course of days, to things that happened every day, to mysteries that may transcend time? Is this a progression of some sort? Is Nephi making a distinction between different measures of time when he talks about "my days"? Does Jacob 7:26 offer any insights into how Nephi and his contemporaries conceptualized time?

Verse 2[edit]

  • Process of a prophet. To what degree did Joseph Smith see these verses as a foreshadowing of his own work as a prophet?
  • Double cultures. Nephi here introduces the difficulties of translation into his still untranslated text: his work is a crossing of two cultures? How does this internal theme of translation bear on questions of Joseph's work of translating the Book of Mormon? Does this double culture of Nephi's work affect how it should be read?
  • "Yea." Nephi begins this verse with "Yea," implying that this verse is a validation of the first verse. How does this verse meet up with the first?
  • "the language of my father." Is Nephi implying that his father was bi-literate? Did Lehi have experience producing written texts in reformed Egyptian? Or did Nephi primarily pick up this skill from the brass plates?
  • "which" and "consists." What is the antecedent for "which" in this verse? Is it both "language" and "record"? Is it more likely that Nephi's "record" "consists" of "learning" and "language" or that his "language" "consists" of "learning" and "language"?
  • Jews and Egyptians. What is Nephi's concept of these two groups at the time he writes this verse? Has Nephi already had the visions of 1 Ne. 13-15 by the time he puts these thoughts to paper? If so, how does his discussion of Jews in those chapters influence what he is saying here? Or is it possible that Nephi held those later understandings of Jews in abeyance while he wrote this verse, in an attempt to recreate the understanding of Jews he started out with?
  • "I make a record." Technically speaking, would it have been more accurate for Nephi to have written, "I have been making a record"? Why might Nephi have used this wording?
  • "learning of the Jews." Is there a qualitative difference between saying "learning of the Jews" and "the Jews' learning"?
  • "the language of the Egyptians." Did Nephi think the Egyptians used only one language? Should the singular word "language" be read as referring to only one language? If Nephi had been aware that the Egyptians were multi-lingual, would he have necessarily used the word "languages" to refer to their spoken abilities?
  • ""the language" and "the learning." Is Nephi saying that Lehi's "language" consists of the entirety of these languages and learning? If Nephi's learning was "somewhat" in 1 Ne 1:1, is this contrasted with the completeness of his father's learning? Was Nephi just being humble, or did he really feel that his father's knowledge dwarfed his own?

Verse 3[edit]

  • "The record . . . is true." What does Nephi mean when he calls this record true? Why does he emphasize that he made it with his own hands?
  • "I make." By this point, Nephi has used the phrase "I make" five times. Why is he repeating himself so much? Where there some that would doubt that he was the maker of the plates? Was he just claiming authorship or did the fact that he was the maker of the plates provide him with another sort of authority?
  • "I know." Did Nephi know in advance that, no matter what, his writings on the plates would always be true? Or is Nephi making this statement after having written enough of his record that he feels confident that everything on the plates will be true?
  • "my knowledge." Is Nephi saying this knowledge belongs to him or that it is in his sole possession? How did Nephi suddenly shift from deferentially talking about "the language of my father" in the previous verse to speaking confidently about his own knowledge? Why did Nephi shift from referring to "a great knowledge . . . of God" (verse 1) to laying claim on what he called "my knowledge"?
  • "make it according to my knowledge." Is Nephi saying he purposely designed the plates so they would correspond to his own knowledge? How would the meaning of this verse be different if Nephi had written "I make it with my knowledge" or "I make it as I am given knowledge"? Is Nephi implying in this verse that he takes responsibility for any mistakes, since the writing was based upon his own knowledge?
  • "make it with my own hand." Later in this chapter, Nephi referes to "plates which I have made with mine own hands" (1 Ne 1:17). Why did he use the singular word "hand," rather than "hands," in this verse?

Verse 4[edit]

  • "For it came to pass." Why did Nephi use a five-word phrase that appears only three other times in the Book of Mormon (1 Ne 11:1, Mosiah 26:6, and Ether 6:2)? Why did he not simply say "And it came to pass"?
  • "commencement of the first year." Is Nephi being needlessly repetitive? Or is he trying to point to the first day, week, or month of the king's reign, as opposed to referring to the entire year? Was this first year in 600 or 598 B.C.?
  • "commencement . . . of the reign of Zedekiah." With the exception of 1 Ne 5, which also mentions Zedekiah, why is this the only instance of the word commencement in the Book of Mormon until Alma 2:1? Did the authors of the small plates of Nephi assume that "commencement" was a concept that applied to kings in Judah and not to political leaders in the promised land? Or were words and concepts that applied to kings, like "commencement," reserved for the large plates of Nephi?
  • "it." Is there supposed to be an antecedent for this word? Or is Nephi just using a formulaic phrase?
  • "in that same year." Is Nephi saying prophets came throughout the year, even though he opened the verse by presumably referring to the beginning of the year? Does Nephi's reference to the year, once again, indicate he was beginning a new sentence?
  • "dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days." Is Nephi saying Lehi had never before left Jerusalem? Or is he saying Lehi's residence was at Jerusalem, even if he sometimes went on trips that took him away from the city. Is Nephi implying that Lehi has never called another place home? What clues does the phrase "the land of our forefathers" (Alma 7:10) hold for answering these questions?
  • "all his days." Why does Nephi use days, rather than years, to measure the age of his father? Why does the phrase "his years" never appear in the Book of Mormon? Was Nephi starting a new pattern upon the plates for measuring age? Was he borrowing the practice from an ancient source? Is the frequent use of the phrase "his days" in the Book of Ether the result of Moroni's abridgement?
  • Parentheses. Is this an example of a parenthetical expression in Nephi's writing, even though this piece of punctuation did not originate with Nephi? How does the phrase about Lehi dwelling in Jerusalem qualify or explain the clause that preceded it?
  • "king of Judah." When Nephi points out that his father has dwelt at Jerusalem his entire life, while in the middle of saying that Zedekiah has been king for less than a year, is he trying to say that Lehi also lived under the previous kings? Who were the kings of Judah during Lehi's lifetime? What age was Lehi under Josiah's reign, which ended only eleven years before Zedekiah became king? How were Lehi's religious views, Laban's possession of the plates, and Nephi's religious training affected by the religious reforms of king Josiah?
  • "dwelt at Jerusalem." What other indications do we have, besides 1 Chr 9:3, that descendants of Ephraim and Manessah lived in Jerusalem? To what extent were they outnumbered by the descendants of Judah and Benjamin who also lived in Jerusalem? What were relations like between the descendants of these four tribes who all lived in Jerusalem?
  • "in that same year there came many prophets." Why is Nephi noting the presence of these prophets? Was it typical or unusal for Jerusalem to have "many" prophets in its midst? Is Nephi saying several prophets suddenly arrived on the scene when Zedekiah took office? Who else besides Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Ezekiel (who are listed on page 639 of the Bible Dictionary), was on Nephi's list of prophets at the time? Have LDS scholars often overlooked Urijah (see Jer 26:20) as one these prophets? What reasons do we have for assuming that Zenos and Zenock either were or were not among these prophets? What do we know about the lineage of these prophets? How manhy of the prophets were descendants of Ephraim and Manessah? Were prophets with ties to the north, as opposed to those descended from Judah or Benjamin, more likely to antagonize listeners in Jerusalem?
  • "prophets." What is the connection between these prophets and the religious establishment in Jerusalem? Did the "churches" in Jersualem recognize the administrative authority of these prophets? Do you agree with Brant Gardner's argument that it is "highly unlikely" that these prophets were "part of the officially recognized religions governing bodies"? Did Jerusalem have a long tradition of requiring prophets to live on the outskirts of society?
  • "the people . . . must repent." What was it that the people of Jerusalem needed to repent of? Had they abandoned the religious reforms of Josiah after only four decades? Was it their rejection of prophets that had necessitated their repentance? Had they already abandoned and forgotten the law of Moses? Had the only copies of the scriptures fallen into the hands of wicked people? Are these some of the reasons why Nephi later realizes that his descendants would be unable to follow the law of Moses unless he obtained the plates from Laban (see 1 Ne 4)?
  • "prophesying . . . they must repent, or . . . be destroyed." Where did Nephi obtain this combination of words? If the words prophesy, repent, and destroy (as well as their variants) do not appear together in any biblical verses, does that mean Nephi was the first to use them jointly? If most of the other appearances in the Book of Mormon of this combination occur in the Book of Ether (Mosiah 12:8, Ether 7:23, and Ether 11:12), does that mean Moroni borrowed Nephi's phraseology while abriding the Jaredite record or that the Jaredite authors and Nephi were both borrowing from a more ancient source?
  • "or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed." Why does Nephi (or the prophets he is paraphrasing) change the repent or be destroyed formula? Why does he/they not follow the much more common example in scripture, in which prophets tell the people they will be destroyed if they do not repent (e.g., Mosiah 12:8, Alma 37:22, and Ether 7:23)? Were the prophets in Jerusalem partially letting their listeners off the hook by telling them it was their city, and not them, that would be destroyed? Or was it the Lord who changed the formula in this instance, because he "had compassion on his people" (2 Chr 36:15)? Or is Lehi's later comment, "had we remained in Jerusalem we should also have perished" (2 Ne 1:4), an indication that it was both the land of Jerusalem and its inhabitants who faced imminent destruction? How closely does this verse in 1 Ne. 1 parallel Hel 7:28, which says "And except ye repent ye shall perish; yea, even your lands shall be taken from you, and ye shall be destroyed from off the face of the earth." At what point did it become inevitable that Jerusalem would be destroyed?
  • "the people." Who exactly was Nephi referring to when he used the phrase "the people"? Did every single inhabitant of Jerusalem have great need to repent? Was the city completely wicked? Was there no one left who followed the law of Moses? How sincere and thorough was the religious reform that happened forty years earlier if everyone was now wicked? Were there any exceptions to this apparently uniform wickedness? If Ishmael's family and Laban's servant Zoram can be considered at least partial exceptions to Nephi's characterization, does that mean there were other, scattered inhabitants of Jerusalem who were at least somewhat righteous? What evidence do we have that some of the people in Jerusalem actually repented? Should we assume that the only people in Jersualem who repented are the ones who joined Lehi in his exodus to the promised land?
  • Mulekites. Were the ancestors of the people of Zarahemla, who "came out from Jerusalem at the time" of Zedekiah's reign (Omni 1:15), converted when they heard the preaching of the "many prophets" mentioned in this verse? If so, did these prophets realize that the Mulekites were converted by their preaching?


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

Incoming Cross-References Not Listed in The Footnotes for These Verses[edit]

Verse 1[edit]

  • A great knowledge of the goodness of God. Neal A. Maxwell (GC 1999) contrasts Laman & Lemuel's lack of faith with Nephi's great faith in God's goodness.
  • Mysteries of God
    • See 1 Ne 2:16 for an explanation by Nephi of how he gained knowledge of the mysteries of God.
    • See 1 Ne 10:19 where Nephi teaches that one must diligently seek to find the mysteries of God.
    • See Mosiah 1:3 where Mosiah teaches his sons that without the scriptural record they could not know the mysteries of God.
    • See Mosiah 2:9 where Mosiah starts his talk to his people with an invitation listen to him and open their ears, hearts and minds they they may learn the mysteries of God.
    • See the entry on mysteries of God in the Guide to the Scriptures.
  • "Nephi and the Mysteries" A discussion of Nephi's interest in the Mysteries of God by the Book of Mormon Groupies.
  • Podcast of Joe Spencer exploring 1 Nephi 1:1 with a local Relief Society.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapter 1                      Next page: Verses 1:5-15

1 Ne 1:5-15

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 1 > Verses 1:5-15
Previous page: Verses 1:1-4                      Next page: Verses 1:16-20

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of verses 5-15 to the rest of Chapter 1 is discussed at Chapter 1.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • It is impressive that the Book of Mormon starts off, first thing, with a prophet receiving a visit from a heavenly being and having a vision. Perhaps the greatest message of the Book of Mormon, both when it first came out, and for our days, is that the heavens are open.

Verse 5[edit]

  • Lehi...prayed unto the Lord. It is important to note Lehi's reaction to the prophets' message. Their invitation is a call to repent or "the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed." Lehi's prayer was not to know if the prophets spoke the truth, but rather for his people. Lehi's prayer is evidence of his faith in the prophets' words and his charity for his people. We can learn from Lehi how to react to a prophet's message. Certainly Moro 10:3-5 sets a standard for someone seeking to know if a prophet is speaking God's will. But Lehi shows us how to react when we already know the prophet's words are true. We turn our hearts and minds to convincing others of the veracity of the prophet's words.
  • "with all his heart." With a phrase often used to indicate the sincerity of someone's repentance (e.g., 2 Kgs 23:25-26 and D&C 42:25), it is fitting that Lehi should offer up a prayer at this point, with similar fervor, for those who would not repent.
  • "prayed... in behalf of his people." This prayer that Lehi offers is apparently in response to the prophetic calls to repentance in verse 4. It is interesting that Lehi doesn't personally respond to this call to repentance. Or at least he doesn't if we think of repentance as simply turning away from one's own sins. Rather, he does something even more impressive: he attempts to affect the repentance of all "his people." Now, it is a bit of an open question of who "his people" are, but the most straightforward (if perhaps presumptive) interpretation would be precisely "the people" mentioned in verse 4 that need repentance. On this reading, one may actually interpret Lehi as more radically following the call of the prophets than most anybody else. The people are being called to repent, and so, taking the prophets at their word, Lehi, "as he went forth," attempted to begin such a process, for his whole community, not just himself (in fact, there is no mention of Lehi praying for himself at all). It is interesting to note the outward nature of Lehi's prayer in relation to what happens subsequently. He is caught up in a vision, at the end of which Lehi, too, is given a prophetic call to essentially engage in the same task as the prophets mentioned in verse 4 (with an added detail of prophesying about the redeemer of the world). This contrasts starkly with what may be a common understanding in the church that we must purify ourselves before we can go about purifying others. "Judge not that ye be not judged," etc. etc. But calling people to repentance and judging others are far from the same thing. In Lehi's case, we only know of one act, a prayer in behalf of other people, that apparently qualified him to be called as prophet, sent to preach repentance to the people. Perhaps a pattern we should seek to emulate.

Verse 6[edit]

  • He saw and heard much. It makes sense that Lehi's faithful response to the prophets' message results in his receiving revelation. We see between 1 Ne 1:4-6 a pattern: (1) a prophetic message is heard; (2) a prayer of faith is offered; (3) revelation important to the individual's success and survival is given, and (4) the relevant portion of the message is delivered to others. A similar pattern can be found when Nephi hears Lehi's vision of the tree of life: (1) Nephi hears the message (1 Ne 8; 10), (2) Nephi offers a prayer of faith (1 Ne 11:1), (3) revelation is given (1 Ne 11-14), and (4) a message is imparted to others (1 Ne 15). This pattern can also be seen in Enos, who (1) was taught the message (Enos 1:1 - 3), (2) cried in mighty prayer (v. 4), (3) received revelation about the safety of his own soul (v. 4 - 8), (4) received revelation for welfare of others and delivered that revelation (v. 9 - 19).
  • "luster." Definitions for this word include brightness or splendor. Webster's 1828 Dictionary includes the phrase "as the luster of the sun or stars" to illustate the meaning of this word. In modern times, one of the more commmon definitions for this word has become "a glow of reflected light." Thus, there is some ambiguity as to whether verses 8 and 9 are talking about reflected light or a light from within.
  • "he thought." This phrase sometimes conveys uncertainty or doubt. In some instances it conveys the message that a person thought in a certain way at one point but has since changed their way of thinking. Consider, for instance, the sentence, "Everything I thought I knew about _______ is wrong." See also the usage in Gen 38:15.

Verse 8[edit]

Lehi's second vision opens with a theme absolutely fundamental to the Book of Mormon (see 2 Ne 31:13, Mosiah 2:28, Alma 36:22, etc.): the council of the heavens. Such a vision might be understood to legitimize Lehi's prophetic activity, as Amos 3:7 suggests that all prophetic activity begins with a vision of the council (Hebrew sod--"secret"--would be best translated as "council"). Significantly, Lehi witnesses God at the center of a scene of worship, of praise. The scene is familiar, as in Rev 4-5. Central to Lehi's understanding of the heavens, perhaps to the understanding of the scriptural propehts, is a sacramental act of praise, a gathering together in song and dance in a sort of great, celestial prayer circle ("concourses," literally, "complete circles").

But, besides universal concerns, Nephi makes explicit mention of these details in this very particular text. It is clear that this vision plays an important role in the broader structure of the Nephi's text. While it begins here with a vision of this council from below (messengers must descend to Nephi), his text ends with a promise that those who read and follow may join that very council and "shout praises to the Holy One of Israel" (2 Ne 31:13). Nephi's text might be read as inviting readers to a sort of progression from the vision of the heavenly council to eventual participation in it. Nephi thereafter says explicitly that he is not allowed to describe what would follow (2 Ne 32:7). (This last point may imply that the Nephites were not prepared in Nephi's day to be taught of "celestial work," of what happens beyond joining the choirs of praise. Perhaps it might be suggested that what Latter-day Saints call "exaltation" comes by invitation to those who join the council of the heavens by passing through the veil, in other words, that the sealing room follows the celestial room.)

Verse 9[edit]

  • One descending out of . . . heaven. The description of luster "above that of the sun at noon-day" and the capitalization of the word One making it a title strongly suggest this is the Savior (see General Conference talk below).

Verse 12[edit]

Filled with the Spirit of the Lord. This description of the relationship between Lehi and the Spirit is a dramatic shift from verses 7-8, where he was "overcome with the Spirit." Two major changes have taken place: overcome has been replaced by filled, and Spirit has been replaced by Spirit of the Lord. Firstly, are we to read into this change that Lehi is having experiences with two types of spirits here? If so, does that mean that at this point in Lehi's vision he is both still overcome with the Spirit and simultaneously filled with the Spirit of the Lord? That seems a bit unlikely, as Lehi is "carried away" in his vision (and on his bed, so he is probably asleep), which means as likely as not he is not experiencing the normal physical sensations (and the spiritual overcoming in 7-8 appears on the whole to be a mostly physical phenomenon).

It is also interesting that the act of reading itself is what fills Lehi with the Spirit of the Lord. Perhaps not too surprising, given that the book and its message is the focal point of Lehi's entire vision, but the act of reading itself is what textually marks the point at which Lehi goes from being "overcome" with some unspecified Spirit to being "filled" with the Spirit of the Lord. Why might this be? On top of all this, both spiritual encounters are a result specifically of things that Lehi has seen. Nephi is careful to make this point clear; even though in verse 7 Lehi quakes and trembles because of what he has "seen and heard," hearing is subtracted in verse 8, and being overcome is left only as a result of sight.

Verse 13[edit]

Verse 13 speaks of the abominations and pronounced destruction of Jerusalem. Then in verses 14-15, Lehi is rejoicing in God and his mercy. At first blush, this seems a strange juxtaposition. However, verse 14 mentions many other great and marvelous things that Lehi saw which we aren't told about. Also, verses 9-12 describe (presumably) the Savior and disciples preaching the gospel, thus providing a way for the inhabitants of the earth not to perish. Whether Lehi was motivated to praise the Lord because he saw this, or whether it was due to some other marvelous thing Lehi witnessed, it is clear from the way Lehi praises the Lord that his praise is motivated by the Lord's mercy--not by the abominations and destruction of Jerusalem.

Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 5[edit]

  • "Lehi . . . prayed unto the Lord." How did Lehi react after hearing the prophets' message? What can we learn from Lehi's reaction?
  • "went forth." Where was Lehi headed? Is Nephi saying Lehi was one of the prophets, mentioned in the previous verse, who went to Jerusalem and preached repentance unto its inhabitants? Or was Lehi following their example and providing a second round of repentence preaching?
  • "prayed." Why did Lehi pray after he had "went forth"? Why didn't he pray beforehand? At what point in his travels did he stop to pray?
  • "all his heart." If Lehi was commanded to love the Lord with "all his heart" (see Deut 6:5), and love his neighbor as himself (see Lev 19:18), then why is this phrase used to describe his prayer for the people?
  • "in behalf of" What is to be made of this phrase? Was Lehi simply asking the Lord to forgive "his people"? Or was he perhaps praying as, or in the place of, as proxy for, his people?
  • "his people." Who was Lehi praying for? The Jews at Jerusalem? Or perhaps his fellow members of the Tribe of Joseph? Members of the Tribe of Joseph already scattered or carried away into captivity?
  • Number of Visions. Did Lehi have one or two visions? Did the second begin with him seeing “God sitting upon his throne” (verse 8)? Or was the second vision really just a continuation of the first vision? If the pillar of fire in the first vision is connected to Christ's second coming (see D&C 29:12), and the second vision portrays a heavenly being descending from heaven to earth, then are the two visions actually two pieces of the same thing? Do these verses provide no details about the content of the first vision, and then several details about the content of the second vision, because the two visions were really one vision and the details of the second were just a continuation of what was seen in the first?
  • Did this vision signal Lehi's call as a prophet? Or was he already serving as one? Had he left his house to pray for the people because he was a prophet? Or was he seeking the Lord's will and finding out that the Lord wanted him to serve as a prophet? Why does the verse say Lehi was "carried away" if this language is not used elsewhere in the scriptures to describe visions? Or is this usage comparable to Nephi's discussion of being "carried away in the Spirit" (see 1 Ne 11:19, 1 Ne 11:29, 1 Ne 14:30, and 1 Ne 15:1) or to descriptions of people who fell into trance-like states and were "carried away in God" (see Alma 19:6)? Is this a foreshadowing of what will happen to the inhabitants of Jerusalem if they reject the message Lehi is about to receive in his vision (see 2 Ne 25:10-11)?
  • Parallels with Moses. If the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush (Ex 3:2), then was something similar happening with Lehi as he beheld the fire upon the rock? If the Lord used the burning bush as an occasion to call Moses to a great work, then was a similar prophetic calling being extended to Lehi at this time? If Moses fel overwhelmed at the thought of battling Pharaoh for the freedom of the Israelites (see Ex 3:11), then was Lehi experiencing similar feelings when "he did quake and tremble exceedingly"?
  • In verses 9-11, Christ appears to Lehi and gives him a book to read. Is it significant that this revelation occurs by means of a revealed book rather than by Christ speaking to Lehi or in some other way? (Compare Ezek 2:9, Rev 5:1-5, and Rev 10:2, and 8-10.)

Verse 6[edit]

  • "pillar of fire." What is this thing that Lehi saw (verse 6)? Did Lehi connect it with the pillar of fire that accompanied the Israelites on their march out of Egypt? Was this the Lord's way of teaching Lehi that he is embarking on an exodus? Is the connection of a fire from heaven with a rock a hint that Lehi was in the process of offering a sacrifice upon an altar (see Judg 6:21)?
  • "quake and tremble." Was Lehi suddenly feeling this way because the vision left him with an acute awareness of his sins (compare to 1 Ne 22:23 and Isa 6:5)? Or is this what naturally happens to mortals when the Lord looks upon them (see Mosiah 27:31) and addresses them in his all-powerful voice (see Hel 12:9)? Or was Lehi experiencing, as a consequence of his mighty prayer on behalf of the people, something akin to what the sons of Mosiah felt, who "were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble" (Mosiah 28:3)?

Verse 7[edit]

  • "returned to his own house." Where was Lehi before he went back home? Why did he feel the need to leave home in order to offer a prayer?
  • "returned to his own house at Jerusalem." In verse 5 we learn Lehi prayed "as he went forth." Here we are told once again that Lehi's house is "at Jerusalem." Why tell the reader where Lehi's house is, when we were already told in verse 5 that Lehi "dwelt at Jerusalem" all of his days? did Lehi go forth to some land beyond Jerusalem? If so, did he go to some place beyond the borders of Jerusalem to pray? Also, did Lehi go forth with the intent to pray, or did he go forth and only at some point in his travels (perhaps during the normal course of his business), after reflecting on the echoes of the prophets back in Jerusalem, feel to pray? Of course, wherever he went, it was close enough to make the trip home in the same day.
  • "cast himself upon his bed." If the pillar of fire was a night-time experience for the Israelites as they escaped from captivity (see Ex 13:21), then is it likely that Lehi witnessed the pillar of fire at night and ready to retire to bed when the pillar vanished? Is the verb "cast" in this verse transitive or intransitive? If it was intransitive, then is it possible that Lehi was selecting himself to participate in the production that was about to unfold?
  • "saw and heard." If this phrase does not appear in the Old Testament, then what influenced Nephi to use it? Was there no such thing as silent visions in Old Testament times? What is this significance of this phrase, given that all but one instance of it in scriptures occur in the Book of Mormon?

Verse 8[edit]

  • Impact of the Vision upon Lehi. If Lehi was physically shaken by what he "saw and heard," (verse 6) then why was he soon after "overcome" by the things he had seen, and not by the things he had heard? Does this mean the things Lehi heard in his vision had more of a lasting impact upon him than the things he saw? Or is it possible the vision was primarily oral and the only visual component was the dazzling pillar of fire that danced upon the rock? Is Brant Gardner right that Lehi's experience was "enervating," just like Joseph Smith's early experiences with visions, or did Lehi "cast himself upon his bed" less out of exhaustion and more out of a desire to commence dreaming and continue receiving visions?
  • "he saw the heavens open." Where did Lehi learn to describe his view of the heavens as a curtain or window being opened? Had Isaiah given him the mental image of a God who "stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain" (Isa 40:22)? Was he influenced by Ezekiel who said "the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God" (Ezek 1:1)? What impact did Elisha's conversation with a nobleman about "windows in heaven" (2 Kgs 7:2) have on Lehi? Was Lehi already aware of the promise that Malachi would later record, that when a person paid their tithing the Lord would open "windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Mal 3:10)? Did Nephi use this language to describe Lehi's vision because he considered his father's wealth a blessing for paying tithing? Was Nephi also making a connection between the heavens opening and the infinite blessings of the atonement that would result from the Savior's condescension to earth?
  • "he thought he saw God." Is Nephi helping to preserve his father's humility with this choice of words? Was the question on Lehi's mind whether he saw God with his physical eyes or his spiritual eyes? Was Lehi's encounter with God similar to apostles and disciples who could not tell whether their experiences with divine beings were "in the body" or "out of the body" (see 2 Cor 12:2-3 and 3 Ne 28:15)? Alternatively, was Lehi uncertain that the being he saw was actually God?
  • "God sitting upon his throne." If John W. Welch is right that, throughout the Old Testament, indivdiuals received a vision of the heavens, including God and his council, when they were called as a prophet, then who were the audiences that needed to see Lehi portrayed within this same literary formula? Was it people living during Old Testament times that needed to hear about Lehi being called as a prophet in the same manner as other Old Testmanet prophets, or was it principally people in modern times that needed to recognize the pattern in Lehi's calling as a prophet? Why does Lehi see the Celestial Kingdom in this way, as a place of praise rather than as a place of celestial work? Did Lehi and Nephi acquire a mental image of this scene from their reading of 2 Kgs 9:5 and 2 Chr 18:18?

Verse 9[edit]

  • "One descending." Is this a reference to Ps 8:5?

Verse 10[edit]

  • Lehi sees twelve others following God. Are these the twelve apostles that were alive at the time of Jesus, or some other twelve?

Verse 11[edit]

What is the book (see verse 11) that is given to Lehi?


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

Incoming Cross-References Not Listed in The Footnotes for These Verses[edit]

Verse 9[edit]


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Verses 1:1-4                      Next page: Verses 1:16-20

1 Ne 1:16-20

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 1 > Verses 1:16-20
Previous page: Verses 1:5-15                      Next page: Chapter 2

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of verses 16-20 to the rest of Chapter 1 is discussed at Chapter 1.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 17[edit]

  • "proceedings." One way this word is used is to refer to proceedings of a meeting or conference. Nephi is likely not equating his life with a conference. Another possible definition of the word is “a series of events that happen in a planned and controlled way.” This would suggest that Nephi sees the hand of the Lord guiding him throughout his entire life. The word proceedings can also mean “a complete written record of what is said or done during a meeting.” Perhaps it is less the meeting connotation and more the sense of writing something down that Nephi is trying to suggest. In other words, Nephi is equating his life with the record it is being kept on.
  • "account." There are at least two ways of viewing the word “account.” The first definition, which is probably the most common, is “a record or narrative description of past events.” Nephi’s discussion of writing a history certainly fits this description. Another definition is “a statement that makes something comprehensible by describing the relevant structure or operation or circumstances etc.” This fits with what Nephi is doing because it suggests that he is trying to present faith-promoting stories that readers can relate to and liken to their own life.
  • Nephi tells us that this record is 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. It seems that the division between the abridgement of Lehi's record and the account of Nephi's own life is the same division between the books 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi. Under this reading 2 Nephi begins with an account of Lehi's death because Nephi is picking up his life story from the point at which Lehi's record ended--before Lehi's death. 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.

Verse 18[edit]

  • "I would that ye should." This verse contains the first instance of this phrase in the Book of Mormon. This phrase appears forty-nine times in the Book of Mormon, four times in the Doctrine and Covenants, and nowhere else in the standard works. The closest thing in the Bible is the phrase “I would ye should” in Philip. 1: 12. The word “would” most likely conveys the sense of “desire” or “wish.” The word “should” probably means something like “will have to” or “will be able to.” In other words, when Nephi says “I would that ye should know,” it seems likely he is saying “I desire and wish that you will have to and be able to know.”
  • "marvelous." At first glance, this word seems out of place. The dictionary definitions which seem to fit best are these: “causing wonder or astonishment,” “miraculous,” and “supernatural.” Lehi was probably not astonished at these things, since the Lord has a pattern of warning the wicked about their impending destruction. The people who heard Lehi may not have been completely astonished, since they presumably had already heard similar things from other prophets in Jerusalem. “Miraculous” seems to have a connotation that is too positive to fit this scenario of destruction. Maybe “supernatural” is the best fit. It suggests that the hand of the Lord was at work in determining the fate of Jerusalem--whether the people of that great city recognized it or not.
  • "yea." The definition that works best for this word is “not only so, but.” This works better than saying “yea” in this verse is simply an affirmation. The former definition also makes sense since it indicates that the “marvelous things” beheld by Lehi are not necessarily synonymous with the destruction he witnessed.

Verses 19-20a[edit]

Here Nephi divides his account of Lehi's preaching and the response of the people into two distinct sequences, arranged in a simple chiasm:

And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them;
for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations;
and he testified that the things which we he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book,
manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.
And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old.

In the first sequence, (1) Lehi testifies of the wickedness and abominations of the people, and (2) they respond with mockery. In the second, (1) Lehi testifies of the coming of a Messiah and the redemption of the world, and (2) the people respond with murderous anger. This distinction between two messages and two associated responses deserves detailed attention.

Testifying of Wickedness and Abominations[edit]

Lehi's first message, according to Nephi's way of dividing up the story, concerned the wickedness and abominations of the people in Jerusalem. The coupling of these two terms—the one singular and generic ("wickedness") and the other plural and specific ("abominations")—is quite common in the Book of Mormon (see 1 Ne 14:4, 12; 2 Ne 27:8; 28:14, 17; Jacob 2:10, 31; Mosiah 3:7; 7:26; 11:20; 29:18; Alma 4:3; 13:17; 21:3; 37:21, 23, 29; Hel 4:11; 6:24, 34; 7:27; 9:23; Hel 13:14-17; 3 Ne 2:3; 7:15; 9:7-8, 10-12; 30:2; 4 Ne 1:39; Morm 2:18, 27; 3:11; Ether 14:25; Moro 9:15; note that this pairing never occurs in the Bible, though there is a consistent equation of wickedness and abomination in the Proverbs: Prov 8:7; 15:8-9, 26; 16:12; 21:27). The pairing seems, at the very least, to suggest that a kind of generic rebellion against the Lord is punctuated by so many specifiable abominations (a word generally used in connection with idolatry). Ultimately, there is nothing terribly surprising about Lehi's testimony in this regard: he seems simply to have identified the kinds of abominable practices that were prevailing in Jerusalem, and to have been attempting to make clear that these were so many signs of rebellion. It was Lehi's second point of testimony that seems to have been so radical.

Testifying of the Messiah and World-Redemption[edit]

Lehi's second message, according to Nephi's way of dividing up the story, concerned the "the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world." Interestingly, here Nephi ties Lehi's testimony to "the things which he saw and heard," something not done with the first message. Note that verse 18 describes Lehi as "prophesy[ing]" and "declar[ing] unto them [the people of Jerusalem] concerning the things which he had both seen and heard." But because this comes before and structurally outside of the chiastic account of Lehi's double message and the Jerusalemites' double response, it seems best to see it as describing the events of Lehi's preaching only from the outside constituted by Nephi's role as narrator. It is thus only with the second message that there is any direct connection made to Lehi's visionary experience, as if Lehi had identified abominations and general Jerusalemite wickedness without making reference to the vision and what he learned there. Moreover, Nephi not only indexes Lehi's second message onto the vision, but also onto a very specific part of the vision: "the things which [Lehi] read in the book." It seems that the vision itself—what Lehi saw and heard—"manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah," but it seems that it was what was in the book specifically that secured Lehi's understanding of what he saw and heard.

But what can be said, more specifically, about the significance here of the Messiah, and of the theme of world-redemption?

Mockery[edit]

Murderous Anger[edit]

Verse 20[edit]

  • Death vs. Deliverance. There is something incongruous about this verse. In its first half, we are told that more than one prophet suffered death at the hands of the Jews and that they sought also to take Lehi's life. "But" Nephi assures us the Lord provides “deliverance” to his “chosen” servants. In this context it seems that the deliverance spoken of is Lehi's deliverance from death. The "tender mercy" of this physical deliverance is all the more recognizable in contrast to the prophets of old who were "cast out, and stoned and slain." But at the same time this could seem to cut against Nephi's very point--that these tender mercies are given to all the Lord chooses because of their faith. To reconcile this we must recognize that the Lord's tender mercies take different forms for each person. In Lehi's case we see the Lord's tender mercies in preserving his and his families' life. The prophets who were slain received different mercies. Additionally, we can read the deliverance here as referring to the ultimate deliverance from spiritual and physical death which all can recieve.
  • Humility and "tender mercies." According to Gen 32:11, Jacob had faith the Lord would answer his prayer about being delivered from the hand of Esau. Yet Jacob declared in the previous verse that he was “not worthy of the least of all the mercies” which the Lord had shown him (Gen 32:10). Perhaps in this case, Jacob had faith, accordingly received mercy, and was trying to be humble about it.
  • Reasons for "tender mercies." D&C 46:15 explains that some people “know the differences of administration” through the Spirit. This gift comes to them, the verse concludes, “as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.” When this mercy comes, in other words, it fits the needs and desires of the Lord and is adapted to the circumstances of his children. I think I was forgetting the Lord’s half of this equation. Tender mercies are not delivered solely because the time is right and we need them. They are sent by a Heavenly Father who is looking for every chance possible to bless us.
  • Elder Bednar on "tender mercies." In a recent General Conference address, Elder Badnar emphasized that tender mercies are things the Lord does in the lives of individuals to bless them. They are never coincidences, he argued, and they always happen on the Lord’s timetable. Furthermore, Elder Bednar explained, we can be oblivious to these tender mercies if we are not spiritually in tune and if we are not being observant. One of the neat things about these tender mercies is that they are tailored to the needs and circumstances of individuals. The Lord takes into account the specific needs of individuals, which other people may not even be aware of, and sends a blessing that brings joy, comfort, peace, or some other spiritual gift that would greatly benefit that person. One amazing aspect of these tender mercies is that are usually small and simple, yet profound in the impact they can have in a person’s life or in their moment of need.
  • "those he hath chosen." One way of understanding this verse is the teaching that “many are called but few are chosen” (D&C 121:34). This tell us that faith is what helps makes someone chosen. In addition, faith must be one of the things that qualify someone for the tender mercies of the Lord.
  • “mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” How should we interpret deliverance? Is this physical deliverance or spiritual? 1 Ne 17:14 reinforces the physical dimension to deliverance. There Nephi was told, “I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.” Clearly the prophets of old mentioned in the same verse were not given this type of deliverance. 2 Ne 9:19 speaks of spiritual deliverance: the Lord “delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell.” The dual meanings behind “mighty” and “deliverance” allow for richer interpretation.


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 16[edit]

  • Lehi's writings. How much writing did Lehi do before his call as a prophet? Or did he primarily write after receiving this call? Did the subjects of Lehi's writings--visions, dreams, and prophesies--come mostly before or after Lehi's call as a prophet?

Verse 17[edit]

  • "my proceedings in my days." Is Nephi being redundant with this wording? Or is there a difference between Nephi's "proceedings" and Nephi's "days"?
  • "Behold." This is the first instance of this word in the Book of Mormon. Why did Nephi and other Book of Mormon prophets use the word “behold” so often? Is it simply because they wanted readers to visualize what they were saying? Were they using this word as device for grabbing our attention?
  • "I make an abridgment." Why was an abridgment necessary? Was Lehi’s account on perishable material? Did Nephi create this additional copy out of fear that the original might become lost? Or is the fact that Nephi said readers could find the genealogy of his fathers upon his father’s record (1 Ne 6:1) an indication that he thought his father's record was fairly permanent? Why did Nephi feel a need to consolidate his father's record into his own record if he was already planning on creating separate plates? If Nephi was including Lehi’s account on his smaller plates, does that mean Lehi’s account was primarily spiritual in nature? Or does it mean that, in the process of abridging, Nephi was selectively pulling out and recording the spiritual elements in Lehi’s account? Did Lehi's record require abridging because, like Nephi, he was writing a “full account of the history” of his people (1 Ne 9:2)? Is it reasonable to assume that Lehi was inscribing few, if any, scriptures upon his record, since he presumably did not have access to the Old Testament until after his sons took it from Laban? If so, was Lehi principally writing down his visions? Was Lehi's record more of a journal and less of a scripture? What is Nephi including and excluding, in terms of time, when he says he is making an abridgment of his father’s record? Has Lehi stopped adding to his record by this point? Was Nephi incorporating the latest visions from Lehi, such as the Tree of Life, which were too new to have appeared on the record of Lehi?
  • Tense. Is Nephi saying that, at that moment, he was in the process of abridging his father’s record? Or is he saying that, at some point in the future, he “shall” make this account? Why is Nephi shifting between a few different tenses?
  • "the record." Why did Nephi call this document “the record” of his father? Did Lehi not institute the pattern of keeping parallel records? Did Lehi put everything down on just one record?
  • "plates which I have made with mine own hands." Why is it important for Nephi to emphasize that he has made the plates “with [his] own hands”? Would they be less authentic if someone else had constructed the plates? Was Nephi trying to stamp his claim upon the plates, an assertion that they belonged to him and his descendants? Did Nephi conclude that making his own plates would provide his descendants with a tangible symbol of power and authority?
  • Brass Plates. Why does Nephi not feel compelled to abridge the brass plates that he took from Laban? He certainly quotes select passages, but why is it less important to include an abridgment of this record than it is to incorporate an abridgment of his father’s record? Was Nephi assured early on that the brass plates would be preserved? What were the cut-off dates for these two different records. Did the brass plates end in the year where Lehi’s record picked up? Was there overlap in the years covered by each of these records?
  • "I make an account of mine own life." Why does Nephi say that he is making an account “of [his] own life”? Was he intending for this to be an autobiography? Does Nephi focus primarily on his self and his dealings with the Lord? Is Nephi absent from any of the stories he writes about? How and why did Nephi have to wait until his father’s record was abridged before he started the record of his own life? Did Nephi keep notes on paper until that point? Or did Nephi truly not write anything down about his own life until after his father died? Does this mean the Lord blessed Nephi with an amazing memory? Are there things that Nephi reports, such as quotations and pieces of conversation, that make it hard for us to believe that he memorized them without the benefit of notes? What significance, if any, is there in the fact that different articles were used to refer to “the record of [Nephi’s] father” and “an account of [Nephi’s] own life”? Does the difference suggest that Nephi regarded his father’s record as definitive, whereas he thought that the way he had written his own account was just one of the various ways he could have written it? Does Nephi imply that there could be more than one version of his account because he sees that the Lamanites will contest his interpretation of history? Does Nephi assume that his father’s account will be more definitive because the Lamanites and the Nephites will have equal claim upon Lehi’s record? Is Nephi willing to grant his father’s record definitive status because it will be one of the few things that the Nephites and the Lamanites have in common? If so, why did Nephi assume the Lamanites would not contest the interpretation of history found in Lehi’s record? Were the Lamanites silent about Lehi’s record but quite vocal in their disagreements with Nephi’s account? Did the Lamanites have access to Lehi’s record? Did they have access to Nephi’s abridgment? Did the Lamanites ever suspect that Nephi had rewritten or reinterpreted their history while abridging his father's record?
  • Making Plates. When did Nephi first obtain access to the materials he needed to make “plates”? Did he wait until he obtained ore to make tools for his ship? Did Nephi had access to precious metals at his father’s house before leaving Jerusalem (as well as at the time he returned for the brass plates)? Is there any chance he melted down part of the brass plates and recycled them for his own plates? Why we are not told whether Lehi’s record was on plates? Did Lehi know whether or not the scriptures held by Laban were on plates?
  • Nephi's Imagined Audience. How conscious was Nephi of future generations of Nephites and Lamanites while he wrote his record? Did Nephi have different audiences in mind for his small and large plates? Did Nephi witness the fate of the Nephites and Lamanites in vision before finishing the majority of his writing? Was Nephi writing for both groups, but assuming his writings in the short-term would impact the Nephites and in the long-term would impact the Lamanites? Was Nephi conscious of the fact that, in terms of the future audience that would read his writings, Gentiles would vastly outnumber the Nephites and Lamanites? What evidence do we have in Nephi's writings that he thought it would be relatively easy for his readers to consult his other plates on matters such as genealogy and history? Did Nephi sometimes forgot the size of his future audience?

Verse 18[edit]

  • "therefore." Why does Nephi use this word to start the verse? Is Nephi saying that we have to understand the system of recordkeeping used by him and his father before Lehi’s prophetic warnings to the inhabitants of Jerusalem will make sense to us? Does Nephi ues the word “therefore” so that we will understand that, even though Nephi would have been too young to understand Lehi’s ministry, Nephi learned about the ministry after the fact from his father’s record?
  • "after." Did Nephi use this word to indicate that Lehi needed information from the Lord before he could go out and warn the inhabitants of Jerusalem about their impending destruction? Or could Lehi have relied on what the other prophets were saying, rather than obtaining his own revelation, when he went out to warn the people of his city? Did Lehi wait until he had obtained his knowledge firsthand, from the Lord, before he began warning other people who had previously not been under his stewardship?
  • "the Lord had shown." Why is this phrase sufficient to convey what Lehi “had both seen and heard”? Does the dictionary definition of the word “shown"--“implies no more than enabling another to see or examine"--apply in this instance? Or should we believe that Lehi learned what would happen to Jerusalem through both his eyes and ears? Would it have been more accurate for this verse to say that “the Lord had shown and told”? Are there other examples of sight, in a spiritual context, functioning in both an auditory and visual way?
  • "concerning." Why does this word appear twice within the same verse? Does the meaning of “relating to” or “regarding” fit well within the context of the sentence? Is this word really necessary? Would the sentence make just as much sense if the word were omitted? Or is this word necessary for introducing a subtle distinction? Does the second use of this word suggest that Lehi told the people about his vision, rather than exactly what the Lord had told him?
  • Destruction of Jews vs. Destruction of Jerusalem. Why does the cross-reference for footnote 18a lead readers to a verse where we are told that the Jews have been destroyed? Is this an example of the scriptures going back and forth between destroying people versus places? Is the Book of Mormon ambivalent about this when it says certain people were destined for destruction (e.g. the Nephites at the end of the book) and particular places (e.g. in 3 Nephi) were chosen for destruction before Christ arrived?
  • Details of the Destruction. Why did the Lord show Lehi the destruction of Jerusalem? Was it certain at that point? Had the inhabitants refused to repent enough times that they had passed the point of no return? Or is it possible that Lehi had to see the possible destruction in order to speak convincingly of what might happen? How much detail was Lehi able to see about this destruction? Was Lehi told when it would happen, assuming the inhabitants did not repent? Was Lehi told the means by which it would be destroyed? Did the Lord show Lehi only a general sketch of what would happen during the destruction of Jerusalem, so the the agency of the Lord's people would not be diminished?
  • "prophesy." Why is this word used to describe Lehi's message to the people about the destruction of Jerusalem? To what degree was the impending destruction conditional? Does this mean prophesies are not always a declaration of what is going to happen, no matter what? Is this verse using the word "prophesy" to suggest Lehi was telling the people their options for the future?
  • "began." Why is this word used to describe the manner in which Lehi prophesied? Did Lehi start prophesying to the people, but never finished? Did Lehi have to flee once the people became angry with him? Or did Lehi stay and deliver his entire message, so that the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be adequately warned that destruction awaited them if they did not repent? Was it critical for Lehi to deliver the full extent of his prophecies, or was he merely repeating what other prophets had already said?
  • Warnings. Do the prophets in this generation issue similar warnings of destruction? Or are the biblical prophecies of destruction in the last days sufficient warning? Does the prophet issue specific warnings for specific places? Was Jerusalem a special case, since it was the children of Israel that lived there?

Verse 19[edit]

  • "things." Was it the “things” Lehi said, rather than the manner in which he said them, that upset the inhabitants of Jerusalem? Does this mean Lehi used a Christ-like voice to convey his message? If so, was his message offensive? Does the footnote suggest that the people in Jerusalem were reacting in this way to Lehi’s message because they were already in apostasy?
  • "Jews." Why is this noun used to describe everyone who was wicked in Jerusalem? Was this is a catchall term, similar to Nephi’s usage, where anyone who lived in Jerusalem was, broadly speaking, considered a Jew? Or is this verse suggesting that members of the other tribes of Israel, besides Judah, were immune to this wickedness in Jerusalem?
  • "testified." Why does this word appear three times in this verse? Was Lehi trying to leave his listeners with no doubt about the wrongfulness of their actions? Or is this word repeated to underscore that Lehi was bearing testimony of the Savior and his atonement?
  • "truly." Why was this word used to describe the extent to which Lehi testified of his listeners’ “wickedness” and “abominations”? Does this mean Lehi’s list was comprehensive? Or does it simply imply that Lehi’s testimony was very factual, correct, and exact in the truth?
  • "their wickedness and their abominations." Why was it necessary pair these words in this verse? Are they redundant? Is there is a sufficient difference in their meaning if the first word refers to the state of being evil and sinful and the second word means an object of detestation? Does the cross reference indicate that these people were in self-denial?
  • "mock." Is this word out of place in this verse? Are “mock” and “angry” two aspects of the same emotion? As used in this verse, does the word "mock" mean to “make fun of” or to “hold up to ridicule”? Was this a natural reaction for the guilty in Jerusalem? When their self-image was shattered by that truth that cuts to the center, was mocking Lehi was one of the few defense mechanisms that these people felt they had left? What was the process by which this levity quickly turned into a murderous spirit? Does 1 Ne 7:14 teach that people who mock the prophets lose the companionship of the Spirit? Is this one of the reasons why Laman and Lemuel believed that the people in Jerusalem had kept the commandments and that their father had wrongfully judged them (see 1 Ne 17:22)? Does this mean that losing the Spirit is the first step in seeing things as the opposite of how they really are? Do the spiritual blinders, that result from mocking, distort our perception of people and the world around us? Does 2 Chr 36:16 teach that prophets are despised by those who mock them? Does Jer 25:4 teach that the people who mock prophets do not even listen to their message? Or do the people who mock prophets listen a little and then create stereotypes and caricatures of their message? Does Ezek 5:6 tell us that the people who mock prophets are consciously refusing to obey God's commandments? Did Laman and Lemuel mock their brother and father? Is this what happened when they refused to “believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets” (1 Ne 2:13)? Does this tell us that the people in Jerusalem were already well versed in the art of rejecting prophets by the time Lehi came around? Can we assume Lehi’s testimony was affront to Jews who were proud of their city?
  • "a Messiah." Why is this wording used? Why doesn't the text say Lehi was preaching about "the Messiah"? Was Lehi trying to correct false notions of there being more than one Messiah? Was Lehi acknowledging that a Messiah can be thought of as a role that is filled by an anointed one? Was Lehi trying to point the people's attention to a specific Messiah?
  • "which he saw and heard . . . and . . . read." Why does this verse apparently draw a distinction between “the things which [Lehi] saw and heard [in a vision]” and “the things which he read in the book”? Is this evidence that the vision Lehi received in verse six, which corresponds to “saw and heard,” was different from the vision he beheld in verses eight through thirteen, which include seeing and reading from a book?
  • "manifested plainly." Does this phrase imply that Lehi could tell very easily that he was seeing the Messiah in vision? If so, why do verses eight through fourteen leave us with the impression that Lehi beheld an unnamed “One” with twelve followers that “came down and went forth upon the face of the earth” (1 Ne 1:11). Did Nephi believe that the identity of the Messiah was not initially revealed to Lehi in his vision? Why did Nephi not say, in verses eight through fourteen, that Lehi beheld the Messiah and twelve followers coming down to earth? Was it plain to Lehi’s listeners that he had seen the Messiah in vision? Should their mocking attitude and then angry reaction leads us to believe that the truthfulness of Lehi’s message may not have been obvious or even believable?
  • "the redemption of the world." Does this mean the atonement was discussed in verses eight through fourteen? Does the general discussion of the Lord’s mercy in verse fourteen count? Or was the part of the vision that pertained to redemption edited out by Nephi during his abridgment of his father's record? Why did this verse refer to “the redemption of the world” rather than “the redemption of the children of men”? Did Nephi favor the former phrase since it was more encompassing than (and undoubtedly includes) the latter? How could the people could have been angry with Lehi for bringing (at least in part) such merciful and hopeful news?
  • Book(s). Why does this chapter introduce the word “book” in two different ways: “a book” (1 Ne 1:11) and “the book” (1 Ne 1:19)? Was Lehi open to the possibility of seeing “a book,” just like other prophets had witnessed in vision, when his vision started? But once the vision finished, did Lehi conclude that “the book” was the same heavenly record used by the angels and previous prophets?
  • "the coming of a Messiah." Why was it “the coming of a Messiah” rather than “the ministry of the Messiah” that Lehi witnessed in vision? Why are the only verbs used to describe the actions of the “One” are “descending” and “came down”? Did Lehi beheld more than this condescension? Did he witness the ministry of Christ? Is this omission a consequence of Nephi’s editorial decisions concerning the experiences of his father?

Verse 20[edit]

  • "him." Why does this verse say the people were angry with “him” rather than recording that they were mad at his message? Is it a human tendency to blame other people for our problems, rather than blaming impersonal forces or ideas? Did these people in Jerusalem abdicate their agency (see 2 Ne 2:13) the moment they blamed Lehi, rather than their selves, for the anger they felt? Were these people blinded by their anger when they felt like lashing out at Lehi? Is this a good example of self-betrayal?
  • "even as with the prophets of old." How was this memory of murdering past prophets kept alive? Was this a strange thing for them to have been proud of? Why did the inhabitants of Jerusalem not repress these bad memories? How consciously did they choose to remember? Were these murderous memories preserved because the people had begun neglecting the condition of their hearts? Had they slipped into a superficial level of obedience, in which they still observed the outward laws of sacrifice and their priests still made the appropriate offerings at the temple? Was it this superficiality that allowed the inhabitants of Jerusalem to rationalize their spiritual status? Did these people tell themselves, and assure each other, that they were God’s covenant people, that they were righteous and blessed, and that their great city Jerusalem could never be destroyed? Does this prideful attitude help explain their reaction to the prophets in their midst? Did the prophets use truth to cut through the lies upon which these people had built their lives? Did the Jews immediately hate the prophets who warned them of their impending downfall because the prophets saw them for who they really were and because their message of repentance exposed the wickedness that the Jews were practicing?
  • Reactions to the Prophets. Why did the people of Jerusalem never repent? Or did some repent and the Lord kept sending prophets to give others a second and third chance? Do the varying levels of righteousness in Jerusalem, both among the people and at various times, help explain why different prophets to the Jews suffered different fates? What determined whether a past prophet was “cast out,” “stoned,” or “slain”? What is the difference between being stoned and slain? Does this mean most of the prophets sent to Jerusalem lost their lives? Does this mean Lehi accepted the assignment to call the Jews to repentance with the understanding that the odds were against him? Is this likely because nothing in this chapter indicates that Lehi was told beforehand about traveling to the promised land?
  • Formulaic Phrasing? Why does Hel 13:24 present a list very similar to what is found in this verse? Why do the actions of being cast out, stoned, and slain appear in the same order in both verses? Was history was repeating itself or had this list become formulaic by the time of Helaman?
  • What is Nephi's purpose in writing? In this verse Nephi says he will show us the tender mercies of the Lord unto those who have faith. In 1 Ne 1 Nephi simply says he will "make a record of my proceedings" and in 1 Ne 6:3-4 he says he is writing to "persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham."


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

Verse 20[edit]

  • Elder Bednar's conference address in April 2005 focuses on the tender mercies of the Lord (1 Nephi 1:20); he discusses how we might understand the word chosen in this context.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Verses 1:5-15                      Next page: Chapter 2


First Nephi 2

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 2

Subpages: Verses 2:1-5, Verses 2:6-15, Verses 2:16-24

Previous page: Verses 1:16-20                      Next page: Verse 2:1-5

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 2 to the rest of Chapters 1-2 is discussed at First Nephi 1-2. This chapter can be outlined as follows:

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)

These sections of Chapter 2 are each discussed on the following subpages: Verses 2:1-5, Verses 2:6-15, Verses 2:16-24


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Verses 1:16-20                      Next page: Verse 2:1-5

1 Ne 2:1-5

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 2 > Verses 2:1-5
Previous page: Chapter 2                      Next page: Verses 2:6-15

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of verses 1-5 to the rest of Chapter 2 is discussed at Chapter 2.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 1[edit]

  • Blessed art thou ... they seek to take away they life The Lord tells Lehi that he is “blessed” for the things which he has done. And, the Lord tells him, because of what he has done “they seek to take away thy life.” The construction of the verse doesn't imply that the fact that people seek to take away his life is his blessing. Still the proximity in the verse reminds us of the Lord's words in the New Testament "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" Matt 5:10.
  • "which thou hast done." Lehi is told in this verse that he is being blessed for the “thing which [he] hast done.” Notice that it is for what he has done, not for what he thought or said.
  • "behold, they seek to take away they life." It may be that Lehi already knew they wanted to take away his life. Either way, this phrase places in context the need for Lehi and his family to leave the city.
  • Compare 1 Ne 7:14: the Jews “have sought to take away the life of my father, insomuch that they have driven him out of the land.”

Verse 2[edit]

  • "even in a dream." This phrase appears in both this verse and the prior one. The word “even” adds extra emphasis, perhaps to persuade us that there was something special about this heavenly communication. Maybe Nephi thought some readers would doubt his father had dreams with divinity.
  • Who Received the Command to Leave? Readers find out from Nephi that “the Lord commanded my father” to “take his family and depart into the wilderness.” One way of reading this verse is that Lehi alone received this commandment. In other words, it sounds like the rest of the family was obligated, but not commanded, to leave Jerusalem. On the other hand, as Lehi received additional commandments concerning his family, Nephi declared: “Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing; and shall we not be diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord?” (1 Ne 4:34). One of the footnotes to this verse complicates the question of who was commanded somewhat more. When her sons arrived home from Jerusalem, Sariah exclaimed: “Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons . . . and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them” (1 Ne 5:8). Readers could interpret this verse as saying that there were specific commands that Lehi received, which were different from the commands his sons received. The verses listed in footnote 2a seem to agree that Lehi received from the Lord the commandment to leave Jerusalem. The evidence is not as clear cut, however, as to who received the commandment to return to Jerusalem, unless it ends up being that both Lehi and his sons received the command. There may also be a pattern in these verses, regarding who received the commandments from the Lord. Perhaps the revelation came through whoever was presiding at that particular time and place. It would make sense, then, that Lehi received most of the commandments from the Lord for his family. In those instances where Lehi was absent and the sons were on their own, such as when they were in Jerusalem retrieving the plates, then it makes sense that the commandments had to come through Nephi and his brothers.
  • "that." Some might wonder why this verse had to say “came to pass that the Lord commanded” rather than “came to pass the Lord commanded.” Some might think that "that" was a needless word that unnecessarily uses space. Others may find it natural that the phrase “it came to pass” was always immediately followed by the word “that.” The Book of Mormon contains only one or two exceptions to this pattern. It may be that in the Hebrew language the only way to express this thought is with the complete phrase, “it came to pass that.” Perhaps the rare exceptions to this pattern, which omit the word “that,” resulted from corrections that Joseph Smith tried to impose on the text, many years after the translation.
  • "take" and "depart." Readers might find it odd that both the verbs “take” and “depart” were used in this verse. It seems the first one would have sufficed. Instead of reading “that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness,” this verse could have stated “that he should take his family into the wilderness.” Maybe the word “depart” makes their exit from the city seem more permanent.
  • "The Circumstances of Their Departure." In one of the verses cross-referenced to this one, the prophet Jacob makes an interesting observation: “we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance” (2 Ne 10:20). This expands Nephi’s comment about his father being driven out of Jerusalem (see 1 Ne 7:14) and applies it to the whole family. Readers might wonder if Jacob's statement is a misrepresentation of what really happened, since our usual interpretation is that Lehi and company slipped out of Jerusalem when not a soul was looking. Maybe Jacob's statement is partly true because of what happened when Nephi and his brothers tried to obtain the plates from Laban. At one point, Laban “sent his servants to slay” Nephi and his brethren, which caused them to “flee before the servants” (1 Ne 3:25-26). This event also fits with Jacob’s statement, because it started when Nephi and his brethren “went down to the land of our inheritance,” gathered together their gold and silver, presented it to Laban, ran away from his servants, sent Nephi to try out a new plan for obtaining the plates, convinced Zoram to accompany them, and presumably never returned to the land of their inheritance (notice that this is confirmed in 1 Ne 7:2-5). Perhaps this sequence of events is what Nephi and Jacob had in mind when they later made their above-cited statements. Still, Jacob seems a little presumptuous in using the pronoun “we,” since he was born several years after his family had left Jerusalem.
  • "Comparisons with Other Relocations Required by the Lord." The footnotes tell us that this is not the first time the Lord has commanded a branch of his people to uproot and move to a new place. “NOW the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen 12:1). Like Abraham, Lehi was told to leave his relatives and friends behind. The parallel continued since the Lord kept both Abraham and Lehi in suspense as to where he was leading them. Another verse in Genesis appears in the footnotes for the verse under consideration: “And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place” (Gen 19:12). According to the JST, it was “holy men” who told Lot to bring his extended family “out of this place.” One difference between the stories of Lehi and Lot is that in the latter case it was messengers of the Lord, rather than the Lord himself, who told an Old Testament patriarch to leave the city where he was living. Another dissimilarity between the two accounts is the number of people each was supposed to take: Lot took his in-laws while Lehi took his immediate family. Then again, it could just be that Lot had less time to prepare for his relocation and thus had to take everyone all at once, while Lehi was allowed to send his sons back to Jerusalem to obtain prospective in-laws, since the destruction of Jerusalem was not immediately imminent. Another cross-reference to this verse presents further details for comparison: “And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth” (Ether 1:42). This verse from Ether contains additional details not found at this point in Lehi’s communication with the Lord. It promises the Lord’s presence to the brother of Jared and speaks at the outset of the destination being a promised land. After comparing Lehi’s experience with those of all these other men, the unique aspects for Lehi's relocation are the fact that his command from the Lord came through a dream and that he was told to go into the wilderness. This latter aspect may not be completely unique, since Moses may have been commanded to take the children of Israel into the wilderness.

I think it is interesting that the Lord just told Lehi to depart into the wilderness--didn't mention the "promised land" until later.--J. Lisonbee 10/18/09

Verse 3[edit]

  • "he was obedient unto the word of the Lord.” This might be a peculiar phrase. It is certainly in keeping with a common phrase in LDS circles—“obey the commandments”—but what does the phrase mean? Readers may have the impression that we can only obey people or divine beings. Maybe this is a faulty assumption. Furthermore, readers may feel that obedience is an act of devotion and righteousness that could only be offered to a person whom they love —- and not in behalf of some abstract thing or concept. Perhaps this is a false dichotomy. It may be possible that every law was enacted by someone, that every law we obey is an act of loyalty and devotion to some person or community. If this is the case, then obeying the words of the Lord can be equated with obeying the Lord.
  • There is something miraculous about transforming a few words on a page of scriptures into a Christlike way of living. Add to that the multitude of cultures who have different life ways and values, and yet the scriptures can speak the same thing to each. Or maybe the magic comes from the fact that scripture and Spirit combined create a situation where the words on the page call forth deep meanings that lie within the souls of men. The Holy Ghost touches their heart and, almost instinctively, people from any place know what they must do to change their lives and become more like God. This harmony between intent and outcome is hinted at in this verse. Nephi received the Lord's words, did what he knew they required of him, and, in the end, there was no question but that he had done what the Lord wanted. Thus there was a perfect fit between between cause and effect.

Verses 1-4 & Lehi's Exodus (1 Ne 1-18)[edit]

The Book of Mormon begins with the exodus of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem. The first four elements of this exodus are captured in summary here: Lehi’s life is threatened (1) because he has performed his duty as a prophet (2). He is commanded to depart into the wilderness (3) before Jerusalem is destroyed (4). This exodus strongly parallels Israel's exodus chronicled in the Book of Exodus.

The Exodus Pattern[edit]

  1. Oppression (Ex 2:23-25; 1 Ne 1-2)
  2. A Prophet Leader is Called (Ex 3; 1 Ne 1)
  3. A Flight into the Wilderness (Ex 12-14; 1 Ne 2:1-4)
  4. Destruction of Enemies (Ex 12:29-30, Ex 14:27-28; 1 Ne 4:10-18)
  5. Wandering in the Wilderness (Ex 13-17; 1 Ne 16-18)
  6. Divine Guidance in the Wilderness (Ex 13:21; 1 Ne 16:9-10, 1 Ne 17:13)
  7. Crossing Water (Ex 14; 1 Ne 18)
  8. Murmurings (Ex 15:24, Ex 16:2, Ex 17:2; 1 Ne 2:12, 1 Ne 3:29-31, 1 Ne 17:17)
  9. Manna Provided (Ex 16; 1 Ne 17:2-3)
  10. Entrance into the Promised Land (Josh 3; 1 Ne 18:23)

Other Parallels[edit]

Besides this basic pattern, there is an extended list of parallels between the experiences of the Israelites and those of Lehi’s family. Moses’ and Lehi’s prophetic calls were both accompanied by fire (Ex 3:2–4; 1 Ne 1:6); aid was requested from both oppressors Pharoah and Laban (Ex 10:3; 1 Ne 3:12-13); signs and wonders were manifest (Ex 7-10; 1 Ne 4:20); the despoiling of the Egyptians and the taking of Laban’s possessions (Ex 12:35–36; 1 Ne 4:38; 2 Ne 5:12, 14); a new law that was to govern the Lord’s people (Ex 20:2–17; 1 Ne 2:20–24); transfiguration (Ex 34:30; 1 Ne 17:52); burial in the desert (Josh 24:32; 1 Ne 16:34); and others.

Nephites’ Awareness of the Reenactment[edit]

Lehi and Nephi probably understood Israelite history well enough to recognize the parallels between their exodus and the Israelite exodus from Egypt. For example it seems Nephi would have recognized that this promise to Nephi (in verse 19) echoes promises given to Moses:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands. (1 Ne 2:19-20)

Given how parallel the experiences are as Nephi writes them, it seems that even if Nephi didn't recognize the parallels during this exodus, he clearly understood them as he was writing his history in First and Second Nephi.

Continuing Exodus in the Book of Mormon[edit]

There is a continuing pattern of Exodus throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon. In fact, there are six accounts of a Lehi-type exodus during the following thousand-year history. In each, the Lord directs prophets to take their people and depart into the wilderness. Nephi’s exodus is found quite soon after the arrival in the Promised Land. (2 Ne 5:1-5). The other exodus accounts are found in Omni 1:13, Mosiah 18:34, Mosiah 22:11, and Alma 27:11-14. Another took place in 2,200 BC (Ether 1:39-42).

A Metaphor for Journey Through Mortality to Eternal Life[edit]

Because of their Israelite heritage and the records they brought with them (Brass Plates), the Nephites understood the biblical exodus. They knew that it was a type and shadow of their own wanderings as well as the spiritual condition of humanity. We are all wanderers seeking for an inheritance in an eternal Land of Promise. Applying our spiritual situation to this same pattern of exodus can be instructive as we read through this second chapter of First Nephi.


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 1[edit]

  • "the Lord spake unto my father." Is it significant that Nephi uses the word unto rather than with in this case?

Verse 2[edit]

  • Of all the prophets and others warning that Jerusalem was to be destroyed (cf 1 Ne 1:3), why was Lehi alone commanded to take his family and flee? Or were others perhaps also warned, but didn't heed the call? Or did they leave Jerusalem without leaving a record which we have?

Verse 3[edit]

  • Are obeying the word and doing what the commandments say two separate and distinct things?

Verse 4[edit]

  • Why doesn't Nephi say "we departed into the wilderness"?
  • Did Lehi have neighbors? Did he have relatives that visited his home frequently? How long did Lehi expect it would take before people discovered that his house had been abandoned? What did the laws of Jerusalem say about inheriting a home and land that was abandoned by its owner?

Verse 5[edit]

  • Were Nephi's sisters born before or after this point in time?
  • Did Lehi and his family take trails that followed the borders of the land or did they intentionally avoid trails and stay close to the shoreline?


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Concerning other groups leaving Jerusalem by mandate, as they claim, from the Lord, see Margaret Barker's article "What Did Josiah Reform" (a speech she, a Methodist scholar, gave at a BYU forum) in Glimpses of Lehi's Jerusalem, 2004. (For a response to this view, see Terrence L. Szink's review published by FARMS; some LDS scholars, notably Kevin Christensen, favor Barker's view.)
  • On Lehi's departure into the wilderness related to the Biblical Exodus, see the following:


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapter 2                      Next page: Verses 2:6-15

1 Ne 2:6-10

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 2 > Verses 2:6-15
Previous page: Verses 2:1-5                      Next page: Verses 2:16-24

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of verses 6-15 to the rest of Chapter 2 is discussed at Chapter 2.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 7[edit]

  • Lehi is again quick to give thanks to God. In this context, it seems relatively natural for Lehi to give thanks to God for being given the chance to escape destruction in Jerusalem with his family. This may be part of the motivation for his giving thanks in 1 Ne 1:14-15 also.

Verse 14[edit]

Notice that the pattern of speaking with such power that the murmurring listeners quake is repeated several times in 1 Nephi, however, in the rest of the stories it is Nephi who will speak and cause his brother's to quake. In a sense, in this verse Nephi provides a kind of ur-narrative into which he will insert himself, so that he in effect re-enacts his father's actions and the actions of other prophets, especially Moses.

Verse 15[edit]

Students of the Book of Mormon have wondered why Nephi so often repeats that “my father dwelt in a tent.” The exact phrase is found four times in 1 Nephi: 1 Ne 2:15, 1 Ne 9:1, 1 Ne 10:16, and 1 Ne 16:6. Several theories have been advanced for why Nephi might find this fact so significant.

1. The phrase is a literary ending point. The words are used to signal a culmination of one thought or story and the beginning of another.

2. Since Lehi was a well-to-do man of some importance in the land of Jerusalem, Nephi was impressed by the fact that he would leave his riches and take nothing into the desert except his family, provisions, and tents. Living in a tent was a singular thing for a rich man to do.

3. It is a note to indicate that they have adopted a nomadic style of life. This was not simply a temporary situation, but a commitment to leave their permanent home and travel into the unknown.

4. It is an expression of the father’s tent as the hub of everything. It is the official center of all administration and authority, the center of their universe. 1 Ne 3:1; 1 Ne 4:38; 1 Ne 5:7; 1 Ne 7:5; 1 Ne 7:21-22; 1 Ne 15:1 and 1 Ne 16:10 speak of the tent as the headquarters for all activities, discussions, and decisions.

5. Another possibility is that Lehi’s tent might be symbolic of the temple. (See also the link below to the BOM groupies post.) Lehi’s departure from the land of Jerusalem is a reenactment of the Exodus under Moses and symbolic of our journey through life and into the “promised land,” or the presence of God. When Lehi left the things of the world behind, he took with him three things: his family, provisions, and tents. In our own journey to eternal life, family associations are essential. In fact, we are told that we may not progress to the farthest level possible without them. Next, the necessity of fulfilling our basic needs is acknowledged. We cannot spiritually progress unless our vital physical needs are met. Lastly, there is the tent, which symbolizes the spiritual protection which is found in the temple.

As we discuss this tent as symbolic of the temple, we should keep in mind the purposes of the Old Testament temple. The temple at the time of Moses’ exodus was the portable tabernacle. The tabernacle was the center place of Israel’s worship activities during the wanderings and until the building of the temple in Solomon’s day (see point #4 above). The LDS Bible Dictionary describes the tabernacle as following:

“Over the tabernacle the tent was spread. Its length was 40 cubits, or 10 cubits longer than the tabernacle. The entrance toward the east was closed by a screen of blue, purple, and scarlet and fine twined linen. Over the tent came the covering of the tent, which consisted of two parts: an inner covering of ramskins dyed red; a covering of badger skins over all (Ex. 26: 14).”

Nephi mentions specifically that his father (Lehi) dwelt in a tent. The only person who was designated to go into the most sacred places of the Old Testament temple was the High Priest. Since Lehi and his people had committed to leave the Old World, they would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the priesthood at the Temple in Jerusalem. As a group of the covenant people being led away by the Lord, they would need a Prophet and High Priest to guide them. We will see that after their arrival in the Promised Land they set about building a temple. Perhaps Lehi’s call as prophet in 1 Nephi 1 included an ordination as High Priest and even an endowment of sorts.

The passages in which we find the phrase “my father dwelt in a tent” lend themselves to temple symbolism. 1 Nephi 16 is especially interesting. Verse 6 reads, “Now all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel.” Following this verse are four significant things which are reminiscent of temple imagery. First in verse 8, Lehi fulfills with exactness and honor all the commandments of the Lord which are given unto him. Next, in verse 10, the Liahona is found, a ball which points out the course that they should go into the wilderness. Following this in verses 14-21, we are reminded of their need for constant nourishment as we read the story of obtaining food in the wilderness with bows and arrows, stones and slings. Finally, those who murmur are chastened and humbled in verse 24 and Lehi bows his knee before the Lord and inquires of him once more. At this time, there appears in the Liahona “a new writing…which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord.”

In addition, see comments on Abraham dwelling in his tent in Abr 2:16. This comparison likewise links tent and temple, and may also relate Lehi to Abraham as a founding patriarch of a covenant lineage.

However, in 1 Ne 2:7, Lehi builds an altar and offers a sacrifice. Generally sacrifices are associated with the temple, but in 1 & 2 Nephi they tend to be associated with stone altars rather than with Lehi's tent per se.


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 6[edit]

  • Why were three days sufficient? Is this symbolic of the three days Christ spent without his body?

Verse 7[edit]

  • Did Lehi ever participate in animal sacrifice? Or was he spared from that responsibility because he held the Melchizedek priesthood? Did his descendants likewise not practice this aspect of the law of Moses, because none of them were descendants of Aaron?

Verse 8[edit]

  • Why did the river and valley not already have names? Or did Lehi ignore these names, because it was more important to give them new names? How permanent were these new names if none of the permanent residents in the area ever heard or remembered them?

Verse 9[edit]

  • What does it mean to continually run into the fountain or source of righteousness? Does it mean seeking after that which is good without ceasing, or something more? Does running into something convey a violent image of collision?

Verse 11[edit]

  • How long did Laman and Lemuel feel this way? Did they formulate this theory as soon as they heard from their father that it was time to leave? If so, why did they go with Lehi if they doubted from the beginning?

Verse 12[edit]

  • What does "being the eldest" have to do with Laman and Lemuel's murmuring? Is Nephi saying his older brethren were more likely to murmur because they stood to lose the most from their father's inheritance when the family left Jerusalem?

Verse 13[edit]

  • What is Nephi's basis for claiming that Laman and Lemuel "were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem"? Was Nephi overlooking the fact that Laman and Lemuel left Jerusalem, as the prophet requested, while the Jews at Jerusalem stayed behind?

Verse 14[edit]

  • Is this an example of someone fulfilling the Lord's command to "confound your enemies" (D&C 71:7)?

Verse 15[edit]

  • Why does Nephi repeatedly mention that his father "dwelt in a tent"? (See also 1 Nephi 9:1;1 Nephi 10:16; 1 Nephi 16:6) Is it significant that each mention seems to come after some preaching or teaching by Lehi or Nephi?


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

Verse 7[edit]

  • Joseph Smith taught that "all the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 180-81." Cited in Robert Millet, “The Holy Order of God”, in “Alma, the Testimony of the Word", ed. by Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate.

Verse 12[edit]

Verse 13[edit]

  • "The Jews who were at Jerusalem." See this thread at the Feast blog for discussion of who the Jews were. Note in particular Joe's comment #13 where the wording of this verse is taken as an indication of multiple types of Jews (that is, the qualification "who were at Jerusalem" seems to suggest that there are other types of Jews too).

Verse 15[edit]


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Verses 2:1-5                      Next page: Verses 2:16-24

1 Ne 2:11-15

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 2 > Verses 2:6-15
Previous page: Verses 2:1-5                      Next page: Verses 2:16-24

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of verses 6-15 to the rest of Chapter 2 is discussed at Chapter 2.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 7[edit]

  • Lehi is again quick to give thanks to God. In this context, it seems relatively natural for Lehi to give thanks to God for being given the chance to escape destruction in Jerusalem with his family. This may be part of the motivation for his giving thanks in 1 Ne 1:14-15 also.

Verse 14[edit]

Notice that the pattern of speaking with such power that the murmurring listeners quake is repeated several times in 1 Nephi, however, in the rest of the stories it is Nephi who will speak and cause his brother's to quake. In a sense, in this verse Nephi provides a kind of ur-narrative into which he will insert himself, so that he in effect re-enacts his father's actions and the actions of other prophets, especially Moses.

Verse 15[edit]

Students of the Book of Mormon have wondered why Nephi so often repeats that “my father dwelt in a tent.” The exact phrase is found four times in 1 Nephi: 1 Ne 2:15, 1 Ne 9:1, 1 Ne 10:16, and 1 Ne 16:6. Several theories have been advanced for why Nephi might find this fact so significant.

1. The phrase is a literary ending point. The words are used to signal a culmination of one thought or story and the beginning of another.

2. Since Lehi was a well-to-do man of some importance in the land of Jerusalem, Nephi was impressed by the fact that he would leave his riches and take nothing into the desert except his family, provisions, and tents. Living in a tent was a singular thing for a rich man to do.

3. It is a note to indicate that they have adopted a nomadic style of life. This was not simply a temporary situation, but a commitment to leave their permanent home and travel into the unknown.

4. It is an expression of the father’s tent as the hub of everything. It is the official center of all administration and authority, the center of their universe. 1 Ne 3:1; 1 Ne 4:38; 1 Ne 5:7; 1 Ne 7:5; 1 Ne 7:21-22; 1 Ne 15:1 and 1 Ne 16:10 speak of the tent as the headquarters for all activities, discussions, and decisions.

5. Another possibility is that Lehi’s tent might be symbolic of the temple. (See also the link below to the BOM groupies post.) Lehi’s departure from the land of Jerusalem is a reenactment of the Exodus under Moses and symbolic of our journey through life and into the “promised land,” or the presence of God. When Lehi left the things of the world behind, he took with him three things: his family, provisions, and tents. In our own journey to eternal life, family associations are essential. In fact, we are told that we may not progress to the farthest level possible without them. Next, the necessity of fulfilling our basic needs is acknowledged. We cannot spiritually progress unless our vital physical needs are met. Lastly, there is the tent, which symbolizes the spiritual protection which is found in the temple.

As we discuss this tent as symbolic of the temple, we should keep in mind the purposes of the Old Testament temple. The temple at the time of Moses’ exodus was the portable tabernacle. The tabernacle was the center place of Israel’s worship activities during the wanderings and until the building of the temple in Solomon’s day (see point #4 above). The LDS Bible Dictionary describes the tabernacle as following:

“Over the tabernacle the tent was spread. Its length was 40 cubits, or 10 cubits longer than the tabernacle. The entrance toward the east was closed by a screen of blue, purple, and scarlet and fine twined linen. Over the tent came the covering of the tent, which consisted of two parts: an inner covering of ramskins dyed red; a covering of badger skins over all (Ex. 26: 14).”

Nephi mentions specifically that his father (Lehi) dwelt in a tent. The only person who was designated to go into the most sacred places of the Old Testament temple was the High Priest. Since Lehi and his people had committed to leave the Old World, they would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the priesthood at the Temple in Jerusalem. As a group of the covenant people being led away by the Lord, they would need a Prophet and High Priest to guide them. We will see that after their arrival in the Promised Land they set about building a temple. Perhaps Lehi’s call as prophet in 1 Nephi 1 included an ordination as High Priest and even an endowment of sorts.

The passages in which we find the phrase “my father dwelt in a tent” lend themselves to temple symbolism. 1 Nephi 16 is especially interesting. Verse 6 reads, “Now all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel.” Following this verse are four significant things which are reminiscent of temple imagery. First in verse 8, Lehi fulfills with exactness and honor all the commandments of the Lord which are given unto him. Next, in verse 10, the Liahona is found, a ball which points out the course that they should go into the wilderness. Following this in verses 14-21, we are reminded of their need for constant nourishment as we read the story of obtaining food in the wilderness with bows and arrows, stones and slings. Finally, those who murmur are chastened and humbled in verse 24 and Lehi bows his knee before the Lord and inquires of him once more. At this time, there appears in the Liahona “a new writing…which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord.”

In addition, see comments on Abraham dwelling in his tent in Abr 2:16. This comparison likewise links tent and temple, and may also relate Lehi to Abraham as a founding patriarch of a covenant lineage.

However, in 1 Ne 2:7, Lehi builds an altar and offers a sacrifice. Generally sacrifices are associated with the temple, but in 1 & 2 Nephi they tend to be associated with stone altars rather than with Lehi's tent per se.


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 6[edit]

  • Why were three days sufficient? Is this symbolic of the three days Christ spent without his body?

Verse 7[edit]

  • Did Lehi ever participate in animal sacrifice? Or was he spared from that responsibility because he held the Melchizedek priesthood? Did his descendants likewise not practice this aspect of the law of Moses, because none of them were descendants of Aaron?

Verse 8[edit]

  • Why did the river and valley not already have names? Or did Lehi ignore these names, because it was more important to give them new names? How permanent were these new names if none of the permanent residents in the area ever heard or remembered them?

Verse 9[edit]

  • What does it mean to continually run into the fountain or source of righteousness? Does it mean seeking after that which is good without ceasing, or something more? Does running into something convey a violent image of collision?

Verse 11[edit]

  • How long did Laman and Lemuel feel this way? Did they formulate this theory as soon as they heard from their father that it was time to leave? If so, why did they go with Lehi if they doubted from the beginning?

Verse 12[edit]

  • What does "being the eldest" have to do with Laman and Lemuel's murmuring? Is Nephi saying his older brethren were more likely to murmur because they stood to lose the most from their father's inheritance when the family left Jerusalem?

Verse 13[edit]

  • What is Nephi's basis for claiming that Laman and Lemuel "were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem"? Was Nephi overlooking the fact that Laman and Lemuel left Jerusalem, as the prophet requested, while the Jews at Jerusalem stayed behind?

Verse 14[edit]

  • Is this an example of someone fulfilling the Lord's command to "confound your enemies" (D&C 71:7)?

Verse 15[edit]

  • Why does Nephi repeatedly mention that his father "dwelt in a tent"? (See also 1 Nephi 9:1;1 Nephi 10:16; 1 Nephi 16:6) Is it significant that each mention seems to come after some preaching or teaching by Lehi or Nephi?


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

Verse 7[edit]

  • Joseph Smith taught that "all the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 180-81." Cited in Robert Millet, “The Holy Order of God”, in “Alma, the Testimony of the Word", ed. by Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate.

Verse 12[edit]

Verse 13[edit]

  • "The Jews who were at Jerusalem." See this thread at the Feast blog for discussion of who the Jews were. Note in particular Joe's comment #13 where the wording of this verse is taken as an indication of multiple types of Jews (that is, the qualification "who were at Jerusalem" seems to suggest that there are other types of Jews too).

Verse 15[edit]


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Verses 2:1-5                      Next page: Verses 2:16-24

1 Ne 2:16-20

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 2 > Verses 2:16-24
Previous page: Verses 2:6-15                      Next page: Chapters 3-7

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of verses 16-24 to the rest of Chapter 2 is discussed at Chapter 2.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 16[edit]

  • In this verse Nephi tells us about the first steps he takes to know the mysteries of God. He tells us that he had a great desire to know the mysteries of God and cried unto the Lord. As a result of his prayer the Lord did soften his heart that he believed all the words of his father. See also 1 Ne 10:19 where Nephi teaches us that one must diligently seek to find the mysteries of God.

Verses 16-17[edit]

  • Nephi was probably wise beyond his years. He grasped the futility of finding fault in others. He saw the power in what his father had preached. He yearned for a sure knowledge but did not resort to secular standards of reason. The rebellion and indifference common to so many youth were absent from Nephi. He had made up his mind at an early age. We should believe him when he says he had "great desires." Another amazing thing in this episode is Nephi's attitude. He did not feign humility or hurry to be humble. He approach the Lord in prayer, well aware of his weaknesses. He must have freely admitted to the Lord that he did not yet have a testimony of his father's teachings. The Lord rewarded Nephi's sincerity and desire. Nephi never had the desire to rebel. After passing through the vulnerable years of youth, he was smart enough to realize what would happen, if he never sought out and received confirmation from the Lord. In turn, Nephi took the same spirit that had touched his heart and spoke by its power to Sam, teaching him the same truths that he had received. Nephi must have sensed that he needed to become a missionary if he wanted to stay in tune with the Spirit. The softness of Nephi's heart, in contrast to the hardened hearts of Laman and Lemuel, must have played a part in Sam's willingness to believe.

Verse 20[edit]

  • There is an interesting tension in this verse. Individuals can be blessed for their righteous efforts. But the only way they can prosper is if they are bound in economic relationships with other individuals. So the Lord's promise of prospering might seem to be individualistic, and it is to a point, but in its fullness it can only be communal. This is one of the reasons why the covenant upon the promised land makes this place uniquely qualified for the establishment of Zion. This same vision and promise sustained the Mormon pioneers as they came to this land. They knew the freedom was in place for them to prosper in their pursuits. They brought with them individual initiative and found it transformed by the communal spirit of Mormon communities. We remain under the same obligation to make the land prosper and can only do so as we follow the example of our predecessors. We will falter as give in to the temptations of excessive individualism and worldly disobedience. The droughts and disasters of recent years should give us pause as we evaluate how well we have kept the covenant upon this land.

Verses 21-22[edit]

Considering the verses before and after these, the overall logic flows much more smoothly if the order of these two verses is switched.

Verses 23-24[edit]

The use of "they" and "them" in verses 23 & 24 can be a bit confusing. Below these ambiguous pronouns are replaced with the referent that seems to make the most sense given the context.

23 For behold, in that day that [thy brethren] shall rebel against me, I will curse [thy brethren] even with a sore curse, and [thy brethren] shall have no power over thy seed except [thy seed] shall rebel against me also.
24 And if it so be that [thy seed] rebel against me, [thy brethren's seed] shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir [thy seed] up in the ways of remembrance.

Note that whether the Lamanites do good or bad, the Lord has a plan to use their works for his own righteous purposes. In this case if they do evil, the Lord uses them to be a scourge on Nephi's seed--to bring Nephi's seed to remember the Lord.


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 16[edit]

  • Did Nephi initially believe his father’s visions? If so, then why did his heart require softening? Why was he “crying unto the Lord"?
  • What is missing from Nephi’s explanation of why he didn’t rebel against his father like his older brothers? Were their other factors, perhaps experienced by Zoram and some members of Ishmael's family, that led people to eventually believe Lehi, even if they didn't respond to his initial preaching in Jerusalem?

Verse 17[edit]

  • What is the difference between Nephi’s belief and Sam’s? Compare D&C 46:14. Does that difference necessarily say anything about the faith of either of them?

Verse 18[edit]

  • A few chapters later, Nephi uses a similar phrase: "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts" (1 Ne 7:8).

Verse 19[edit]

  • What is involved in seeking the Lord diligently? What is lowliness of heart?

Verse 20[edit]

  • How did the Lord prepare the promised land for the family of Lehi? What else did the Lord do, besides keeping other nations from overunning the land (see 2 Ne 1:8)?

Verse 21[edit]

  • Why doesn't the Lord say "rebel against me" in this verse, like he does in the below verses? And why does the Lord refer to himself in the third person in this verse when he uses the first person in the below verses?

Verse 22[edit]

  • Why was Nephi presumably told that he would be "a ruler" only over his own brethren? Does this mean he would not rule over his own family? What about ruling over non-Lehites in the vicinity or who would be adopted in?

Verse 23[edit]

  • Was this a delayed curse? If we take this literally, shouldn't the Lord have cursed Laman and Lemuel the moment they left Jerusalem and started murmuring?

Verse 24[edit]

  • Why does the Lord use the word "if" to describe the likelihood of Laman and Lemuel's rebellion? Is this a subtle way of saying that Laman and Lemuel's descendants might stop rebelling at certain points in time, or at least be partially obedient and partially rebellious?


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Verses 2:6-15                      Next page: Chapters 3-7

1 Ne 2:21-24

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Chapter 2 > Verses 2:16-24
Previous page: Verses 2:6-15                      Next page: Chapters 3-7

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of verses 16-24 to the rest of Chapter 2 is discussed at Chapter 2.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 16[edit]

  • In this verse Nephi tells us about the first steps he takes to know the mysteries of God. He tells us that he had a great desire to know the mysteries of God and cried unto the Lord. As a result of his prayer the Lord did soften his heart that he believed all the words of his father. See also 1 Ne 10:19 where Nephi teaches us that one must diligently seek to find the mysteries of God.

Verses 16-17[edit]

  • Nephi was probably wise beyond his years. He grasped the futility of finding fault in others. He saw the power in what his father had preached. He yearned for a sure knowledge but did not resort to secular standards of reason. The rebellion and indifference common to so many youth were absent from Nephi. He had made up his mind at an early age. We should believe him when he says he had "great desires." Another amazing thing in this episode is Nephi's attitude. He did not feign humility or hurry to be humble. He approach the Lord in prayer, well aware of his weaknesses. He must have freely admitted to the Lord that he did not yet have a testimony of his father's teachings. The Lord rewarded Nephi's sincerity and desire. Nephi never had the desire to rebel. After passing through the vulnerable years of youth, he was smart enough to realize what would happen, if he never sought out and received confirmation from the Lord. In turn, Nephi took the same spirit that had touched his heart and spoke by its power to Sam, teaching him the same truths that he had received. Nephi must have sensed that he needed to become a missionary if he wanted to stay in tune with the Spirit. The softness of Nephi's heart, in contrast to the hardened hearts of Laman and Lemuel, must have played a part in Sam's willingness to believe.

Verse 20[edit]

  • There is an interesting tension in this verse. Individuals can be blessed for their righteous efforts. But the only way they can prosper is if they are bound in economic relationships with other individuals. So the Lord's promise of prospering might seem to be individualistic, and it is to a point, but in its fullness it can only be communal. This is one of the reasons why the covenant upon the promised land makes this place uniquely qualified for the establishment of Zion. This same vision and promise sustained the Mormon pioneers as they came to this land. They knew the freedom was in place for them to prosper in their pursuits. They brought with them individual initiative and found it transformed by the communal spirit of Mormon communities. We remain under the same obligation to make the land prosper and can only do so as we follow the example of our predecessors. We will falter as give in to the temptations of excessive individualism and worldly disobedience. The droughts and disasters of recent years should give us pause as we evaluate how well we have kept the covenant upon this land.

Verses 21-22[edit]

Considering the verses before and after these, the overall logic flows much more smoothly if the order of these two verses is switched.

Verses 23-24[edit]

The use of "they" and "them" in verses 23 & 24 can be a bit confusing. Below these ambiguous pronouns are replaced with the referent that seems to make the most sense given the context.

23 For behold, in that day that [thy brethren] shall rebel against me, I will curse [thy brethren] even with a sore curse, and [thy brethren] shall have no power over thy seed except [thy seed] shall rebel against me also.
24 And if it so be that [thy seed] rebel against me, [thy brethren's seed] shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir [thy seed] up in the ways of remembrance.

Note that whether the Lamanites do good or bad, the Lord has a plan to use their works for his own righteous purposes. In this case if they do evil, the Lord uses them to be a scourge on Nephi's seed--to bring Nephi's seed to remember the Lord.


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Verse 16[edit]

  • Did Nephi initially believe his father’s visions? If so, then why did his heart require softening? Why was he “crying unto the Lord"?
  • What is missing from Nephi’s explanation of why he didn’t rebel against his father like his older brothers? Were their other factors, perhaps experienced by Zoram and some members of Ishmael's family, that led people to eventually believe Lehi, even if they didn't respond to his initial preaching in Jerusalem?

Verse 17[edit]

  • What is the difference between Nephi’s belief and Sam’s? Compare D&C 46:14. Does that difference necessarily say anything about the faith of either of them?

Verse 18[edit]

  • A few chapters later, Nephi uses a similar phrase: "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts" (1 Ne 7:8).

Verse 19[edit]

  • What is involved in seeking the Lord diligently? What is lowliness of heart?

Verse 20[edit]

  • How did the Lord prepare the promised land for the family of Lehi? What else did the Lord do, besides keeping other nations from overunning the land (see 2 Ne 1:8)?

Verse 21[edit]

  • Why doesn't the Lord say "rebel against me" in this verse, like he does in the below verses? And why does the Lord refer to himself in the third person in this verse when he uses the first person in the below verses?

Verse 22[edit]

  • Why was Nephi presumably told that he would be "a ruler" only over his own brethren? Does this mean he would not rule over his own family? What about ruling over non-Lehites in the vicinity or who would be adopted in?

Verse 23[edit]

  • Was this a delayed curse? If we take this literally, shouldn't the Lord have cursed Laman and Lemuel the moment they left Jerusalem and started murmuring?

Verse 24[edit]

  • Why does the Lord use the word "if" to describe the likelihood of Laman and Lemuel's rebellion? Is this a subtle way of saying that Laman and Lemuel's descendants might stop rebelling at certain points in time, or at least be partially obedient and partially rebellious?


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Verses 2:6-15                      Next page: Chapters 3-7


First Nephi 3-7

The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7

Subpages: Chapter 3-4, Chapter 5-6, Chapter 7

Previous page: Verses 2:16-24                      Next page: Chapter 3-4

This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be brief and may include an outline of the passage. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of chapters 3-7 to the rest of the book is discussed at First Nephi. These chapters can be outlined as follows:

II. Three narrative episodes (First Nephi 3-7)
A. Returning to Jerusalem for the brass plates (Chapter 3-4)
B. The value of the brass plates (Chapter 5-6)
A. Returning to Jerusalem for wives (Chapter 7)


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Verses 2:16-24                      Next page: Chapter 3-4


First Nephi 3-4

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 3:1-5

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 3:6-10

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 3:11-15

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 3:16-20

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 3:21-25

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 3:26-31

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 4:1-5

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 4:6-10

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 4:11-15

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 4:16-20

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 4:21-25

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 4:26-30

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 4:31-35

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's promise and commandment more understandable to his brethren?
  • Verse 4:2. In verse 1, Nephi again exhorts his brothers to be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Then, in verse 2, he appeals to the experience of Moses, asking them to remember what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea. Book of Mormon sermons often begin in this way, by calling on the listeners to remember something from scriptural history or their own history and then preaching the Gospel based on that remembrance. Nephi is using a version of that pattern here. Why is remembering the Lord’s deeds in the past so important to keeping the commandments faithfully? How does the Book of Mormon call us to remember? What does it call us to remember?
  • Verse 4:3. When Nephi exhorts his brothers that the Lord is able "to destroy Laban," does he already have it in mind that this is what the Lord is going to do? Or might this foreshadowing have been added 30 years later when Nephi finally recorded the event in his record on the plates?
  • Verse 4:4. Were Laman and Lemuel mollified because Nephi gave them the impression that the Lord would fight their battles for them, rather than requiring them to physically participate in the combat against Laban?
  • Verse 4:5. What were they doing during all the previous attempts if they were not already hiding? Did Nephi move them to a new hiding spot? Was this done to ensure a quick getaway?
  • Verse 4:6. Why was this not immobilizing for Nephi? How much of a delay was there between each time that Nephi needed revelation, the arrival of the prompting, and Nephi's response to the Spirit's message?
  • Verse 4:7. Does Nephi use the word "nevertheless" to signal that even he, the recipient of the revelations, was somewhat baffled by its timing and method of operation? See Jeremiah 25:27 and discussion page about this incident.
  • Verse 4:8. Did Nephi immediately recognize that this was the method by which the Lord had just delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:9. Is it significant that Nephi pulled out the sword before he says he felt constrained to kill Laban?
  • Verse 4:10. How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalizations?
  • Verse 4:11. How did Nephi know for certain that Laban "would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord"? At what point did Nephi and his brethren explain to Laban that they were on the Lord's errand?
  • Verse 4:12. Was this the first or the second time that the Spirit had confirmed to Nephi that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands?
  • Verse 4:13. Why was there no other way that Nephi and his brethren could have acquired the plates? Why was Laban's death necessary?
  • Verse 4:14. Is Nephi here expanding the Lord's personal covenant with him in 1 Ne 2:20 and apply it to all of his future descendants, or is Nephi referring to a separate promise given to him in the wilderness?
  • Verse 4:15. Were the Jaredites exempt from this provision? Were some of the Jaredites able to keep the commandments, even though they did not bring scriptures with them to the promised land? Were the Jaredites able to get by without the Old Testament because their prophets were inspired to create new scriptures?
  • Verse 4:16. Would the plates have really been that useful if they had only contained the law of Moses? Weren't they primarily valuable to Lehites because they contained teachings about Christ that would soon be stripped from the Hebrew Bible?
  • Verse 4:17. To what extent did Nephi persuade himself, out of repetition, to do this thing?
  • Verse 4:18. Why were the followers of Laban less likely to kill Nephi and his brethren if their leader was killed and more likely to hunt them down if their leader lived but the plates were stolen? Why wasn't it the other way around? Wasn't Laban's life worth avenging?
  • Verse 4:20. Does this mean Nephi had the same amount of facial hair as Laban?
  • Verse 4:21. Does this mean that, because of the darkness, Zoram could see Nephi's clothing but not his face?
  • Verse 4:22. Did the elders usually get drunk at these meetings or was Laban the exception?
  • Verse 4:23. Did Nephi receive some help from the Holy Ghost or was he just really good at imitating other people's voices?
  • Verse 4:24. How truthful did the Lord want Nephi to be during this conversation with Zoram?
  • Verse 4:25. What was Nephi more afraid of: having the guards discover that Laban was dead or having Zoram realize that the plates had been stolen when Nephi did not return with them?
  • Verse 4:26. Is there any parallel with Zoram's experience in this verse and the New Testament verse about Christ's appearance to two disciples on the Emmaus road, which says "their eyes were holden that they should not know him" (Luke 24:16).
  • Verse 4:27. Why was Zoram apparently not at all concerned about going beyond the security of the city walls?
  • Verse 4:28. Why was Sam just as frightened as Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 4:29. Was it the things Nephi said, the manner in which he said them, or both, that caused his brethren to stop fleeing?
  • Verse 4:30. What was Zoram more afraid of: his sudden realization that he was betraying his master or the fact that he was now outnumbered by 4 to 1?
  • Verse 4:31. Why is this the first point in the chapter that Nephi says he has received strength, as opposed to promptings, from the Lord?
  • Verse 4:32. Was Nephi really prepared to kill Zoram if he didn't go along with their plans?
  • Verse 4:34. How presumptive is it for Nephi to invite Zoram to his father's camp and essentially promise him that he will be entitled to part of his father's inheritance?

"Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing..." Nephi just killed and impersonated a man, and tricked his servant into leading him to his property to steal it. Does Zoram really believe that surely the Lord had a part in all of it?

  • Verse 4:35. How was Zoram so quickly converted to the side of his former enemies?
  • Verse 4:36. Given that Nephi and his brethren wanted the plates, Laban showed up dead, the plates went missing, and Nephi and his brethren were no longer coming by Laban's house, why wasn't it already obvious to Laban's guards that Nephi and his brethren were their number one suspects?
  • Verse 4:37. Had Zoram not already made an oath unto Laban to protect the plates?
  • Verse 4:38. Why is Zoram referred to as "the servant of Laban" even after he has sworn an oath and granted his freedom?
  • Verse 4:38. Did they attempt to cover up their tracks as they passed through the desert sands?

Resources[edit]

This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. 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. →

  • Verse 3:11. See the BOM groupies blog entry on casting lots.


Notes[edit]

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.




Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6

1 Ne 4:36-38

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 3-7 > Chapter 3-4
Previous page: Chapters 3-7                      Next page: Chapters 5-6


This page would ideally always be under construction. You are invited to contribute.


Summary[edit]

This heading should be very brief. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

The relationship of Chapter 3-4 to the rest of Chapters 3-7 is discussed at First Nephi 3-7.


Discussion[edit]

This heading is for more detailed discussions of all or part of a passage. Discussion may include the meaning of a particular word, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout the passage, insights to be developed in the future, and other items. 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 link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Chapter 3-4[edit]

  • Outline
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)

Verses 3:1-8: The command to get the plates[edit]

  • The theme of these verses, that the Lord paves the way for his people to fulfill his commandments, is consistent with the Old Testament traditions that Nephi would have been very familiar with in which the Lord intervened in miraculous ways to aid his prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, to fulfill their missions. But contrast Nephi’s complete confidence that the Lord will help him fulfill the commandment to go and get the plates with 2 Ne 4:27 where Nephi laments his imperfections and seeming inability to finally conquer sin and temptation.
  • There is an apparent inconsistency in the fact that Nephi in one circumstance has complete trust that the Lord will “prepare a way” to keep commandments and yet in another laments the fact that he does not seem able to overcome sin--which in one sense is simply the failure to keep the commandments. This inconsistency is likely resolved by looking more closely at the context of the two verses. In 1 Nephi 3, the commandment is a special mission, while in 2 Nephi 4 the theme relates to personal righteousness in the general sense. Accordingly, the conclusion could be drawn that while the Lord prepares the way for us to fulfill our personal callings, sin is something we cannot completely escape other than through later redemption.

Verses 3:9-14: First attempt by Laman[edit]

  • Verse 3:11: Casting lots.

Why cast lots? In ancient times people believed (as we still do!) that the Lord could make his will known through such a seemingly random process (see related link below). Note though that lots are not always cast to find out the will of the Lord at this time. For example in 1 Ne 16:24 Lehi could have cast lots to determine in what direction Nephi should look for food; but instead, he asked the Lord.

Why use lots in this case? If we imagine Nephi encouraging his brothers to pray (versus casting lots) the advantages of casting lots become clear. First as a group the four were not all equally faithful. Laman and Lemuel show us a few chapters later how doubtful they are that they can receive direction from the Lord (see 1 Ne 15:8-9). They wouldn't want to pray for direction here. They may have believed that Nephi could receive direction from the Lord, but they show repeatedly that they do not want to look to him for direction. And even if Nephi prayed and received direction that Laman should go, and even if Laman agreed to this, when things went badly Laman would likely have blamed Nephi for having sent him.

Verses 3:15-21: Nephi's exhortation to buy the plates[edit]

  • Verse 3:15. In often-quoted verse 7 Nephi declares his faith that the Lord will help them accomplish what he has commanded them. But here, after the first setback, Nephi's faith shows its true strength when he continues to believe that God will help them. Oftentimes faith turns to questioning and doubting when the first real adversity sets in. Nephi's example of faith is a faith that endures setbacks.

Verses 3:22-27: Second attempt by all brothers[edit]

  • Verse 3:23. This verse suggests they had pack animals since they had come up with their tents and supplies.

Verses 3:28-4:3: Angel instructs the brothers to try again[edit]

  • Verse 3:28. Compare the explanation of Nephi's rule with the Lord's explanation to Nephi himself in 2:22. The Lord explains Nephi's rulership as being a result of Nephi's righteousness, whereas the angel explains his rulership to his brothers as a result specifically of their wickedness. Also, the Lord's promises are given conditionally, on Nephi's righteousness, but the angel puts Nephi's rulership in the past tense (i.e. it has already been granted, with no hint of a possible change). What is to be made of these differences? Also, the angel asks Laman and Lemuel "know ye not," which is a bit surprising, since it implies that Nephi has told them at some point between his revelation at the end of chapter two and their journey to obtain the plates about his revelation (it could make for an interesting conversation piece for the trip back to Jerusalem).


  • Verse 4:1. Nephi had a lot of faith and courage. His example can inspire us to trust in the Lord, even when the forces arrayed against us seem overwhelming. Nephi's example also offers us a glimpse of what it is like to prepare for a group effort but ultimately have to accomplish the task without the help of the group. We need to understand that there is a time and a season in the Lord's kingdom for both collective work and individual work, and the Lord is powerful enough to help us in either case. We need to reach the point where we have no fear about doing our callings because it is the Lord we are relying upon.

Verses 4:4-19: Third attempt by Nephi, Nephi slays Laban[edit]

  • Verses 4:4-19.

Right in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we have the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates from Laban. Because Nephi was commanded of the Spirit to slay Laban, this story has been troublesome for many. Nephi, however, goes into great lengths to explain how he and his brothers had tried to reason with Laban and offered to buy them from him. He also explained how Laban stole their property and tried to have them killed. Later, when Nephi had found Laban drunk on the ground, he had to be commanded three times by an angel to do the deed. With great reluctance, he complied.

There must have been a reason that Nephi included this story when writing his record. He could have easily said they obtained the brass plates without going into any detail and thus sparing any controversy of how he obtained the plates. By looking further into the account, we may ascertain his reasons for including this incident.

First of all, who was Laban? There is not much in the Book of Mormon that describes who he was, but there are some significant clues. We know that when Lehi commanded his sons to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, Laman and Lemuel were fearful, saying, “it is a hard thing which I have required of them” [1 Nephi 3:5] and “how is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, and he can slay fifty…” [1 Nephi 4:31] Later Nephi said that the Lord was mighter than “Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands.” [1 Nephi 4:1]

In light of their response, Laban must have been some sort of ruler or one in authority in Jerusalem. It seems that Laban had a guard of fifty at his immediate command and possibly he was the “commander in chief” over all the army. He wore, as part of his regalia, an expensive and rare sword of steel with a gold hilt. He also had a treasury with an overseer.

Additionally, he may have been an ecclesiastical leader because he was in possession of the brass plates, not just a copy written on a scroll. If the Book of Mormon is any pattern of the tradition of the Jews, it was only the church leaders who possessed the spiritual record that was written upon plates or the “hard copy.” On the evening of his demise, he had been with the elders of the Jews, the “brethren of the church.” [1 Nephi 4:22, 26] In essence, it seems that Laban was a “king and a priest” over his people.

Laban was a relative of Lehi, for they shared the same genealogy. [1 Nephi 3:3, 5:14]. We also know that Lehi’s family was familiar enough with Laban that Nephi could imitate Laban’s voice and mannerisms. [1 Nephi 4:20, 23] It also seems from the account that they had no trouble in obtaining appointments to meet with Laban, which probably would have been difficult for the average citizen. It is even possible that Laban could have been Lehi’s older brother or he could have been an older cousin to Nephi.

Laban, by the Jewish standards, could have been the birthright son. We know that the rights of leadership, both temporal and spiritual, rests upon the firstborn son. The birthright can be nullified or transferred to another in line to receive it, if the firstborn dishonors his birthright through wickedness.

Laban was a wicked man. [1 Nephi 4:13] This story can be viewed as the loss of Laban’s birthright because of his wickedness, and given to Nephi, possibly the next heir, by virtue of his righteousness, since Laman or Lemuel were not worthy to receive it. Previous to the command to go back to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, the Lord had told Nephi that, as long as he kept the commandments, he would be a “ruler and a teacher” [king and a priest] over his older brethren. [1 Nephi 2:22] After losing their property to Laban, Laman and Lemuel were pretty upset with Nephi and began beating him up. An angel intervened and informed them that the Lord had chosen Nephi to be a ruler over them because of their iniquities. [1 Nephi 3:29]

Nephi doesn’t simply writes that he kills Laban and obtains the plates, but details how he puts on the garments of Laban, “…I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.” [1 Nephi 4:19]

In essence, Nephi has put on the authority of Laban, and becomes the rightful “king and priest” as he obtains the brass plates. Nephi exercised his role as a “king” as he ruled over his people in the promised land and “wielded the sword of Laban in their defense” [Jacob 1:10] and as a “priest” as he taught his people from the brass plates.

This story also is a fulfillment of prophecy. We know that Jeremiah was a contemporary prophet of Lehi. [1 Nephi 7:14] In Jeremiah chapter 25, the Lord tells Jeremiah to “take the wine cup” of His fury and “cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.” [vs. 15] Jeremiah recorded, “Then I took the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me: To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof and the princes thereof.” [vs.18] Jeremiah prophesied to the unrepentant rulers,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue [vomit], and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I shall send among you.” [vs. 27]

Perhaps Jeremiah directed this prophecy to Laban, since Laban was clearly a leader of the Jews. The prophecy was fulfilled literally in his case. Nephi described his encounter with Laban,

"As I came near to the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he was fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban” [1 Nephi 4:7-8]
And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments. Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.” [1 Nephi 4:17 –18]

Jeremiah’s prophecy was literally fulfilled in Laban’s case. Laban was drunk and drunk people vomit. He had fallen and he did not rise again because he was killed with the sword.

After arriving in the promised land, and prior to his death, Lehi gathered his posterity around him and 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.” --2 Nephi 1:28 – 29

Laman and Lemuel did not hearken unto Nephi, so it is obvious that Lehi intended for Nephi to receive the rights and responsibilities of the firstborn. Laman and Lemuel, however, were not willing to relinquish the birthright. Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi 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]

It is for this reason, I believe, Nephi included the detailed account with Laban: to show unto the posterity of Laman and Lemuel that he was the birthright son with the responsibility given to him of the Lord to be the ruler and teacher [king and priest] over the people and that right would continue with the Nephites. The Lamanites had for many generations felt that the Nephites had robbed them of their birthright, including the possession of the brass plates. In Mosiah 10:12 - 17, we read what Laman and Lemuel taught their posterity including:

“And, again, they 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.”

Several years later, the King of the Lamanites was angry with his son, Lamoni, for befriending Ammon, who was a Nephite. He said, “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]

Likewise, many years later, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, 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]

Nephi’s record was used to teach the Nephites and receptive Lamanites. King Benjamin testified that they used the written record of Nephi for he said unto his sons, “And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contains the records and sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true.” [Mosiah 1:5] It is likely that they were taught the story of how Nephi obtained the brass plates, along with the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ

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]

In conclusion, I believe that Nephi left the detailed account of how he obtained the brass plates not only to show how the Lord directed him, but also to show the descendants of Lehi how he became the “birthright son”, and therefore had the right and responsibility to rule the people and possess the brass plates and that right continued with the Nephites. It also serves as a testimony of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophesy.

  • Verses 4:4-19. Nephi's experience is a pattern for our own lives. We cannot expect the Spirit to explain everything in advance. The path we are to follow is revealed step by step so that we must continually exercise our faith. If it were not this way, we might be become too confident in our own abilities. Or else knowing the end from the beginning might make us more accountable than we can handle.
  • Verse 4:13. The Lord has gone to great lengths to preserve these records in their purity. They helped an ancient nation to keep the faith and they can do the same for us.
  • Verse 4:13. In our day, the scriptures are not in need of physical protection. However, we are still under sacred obligation to see that they are not forgotten or ignored. We will be under condemnation if we do not take seriously these records for which others lost or gave up their lives so that we could have them today.
  • Verse 4:13. In our own lives, we should never assume that the means justify the ends. Only the Lord is qualified to make that judgment call. In the meantime, we should follow the commandments he had laid down for us. Only if and when a divinely-authorized exception to this pattern comes along will we be justified in deviating from our established course.
  • Verse 4:13: Who is speaking? Though we could read verse 13 as either a continuation of what the Spirit says starting in verse 12 or the beginning of Nephi's reaction to those words, several things suggest it is the former. First the the words "behold the Lord" which begin the verse remind of us of the same beginning words the Spirit uses in verse 11. Further, verse 14 starts "And now when I Nephi had heard these words." This suggests that the words just prior were words he heard from the Spirit. Also, the memory in verse 14 which the Spirit's words bring to mind, Nephi ties (in verse 15-17) back to the idea of verse 13 (that a nation could dwindle in unbelief). The logic wouldn't work as well, if verse 13 were his own idea. These reasons suggest that verse 13 was spoken by the Spirit.
  • Verse 4:13: It is better that one man... The calculus here seems confusing when we compare it to Gen 18:23-32 where Abraham and the Lord discuss how many righteous people does it take to save a wicked city. In that case we are comparing killing the righteous (a bad thing) with killing the wicked (a good thing). But here we have killing a wicked person (presumably, a good thing) with saving a nation (a good thing). We might wonder then, what the dilemma is. The dilemma cannot be of the same type of calculus found in Abraham's and the Lord's discussion in Genesis. Instead the dilemma arises out of Nephi's reluctance to kill--a thing he has never done before and doesn't want to do (see v 10).

Verses 4:20-29: Nephi retrieves the brass plates[edit]

Verses 4:30-38: Nephi persuades Zoram to leave Jerusalem[edit]


Points to ponder[edit]

This heading is for prompts that suggest ways in which all or part of this passage can influence a person's life. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →


I have a question[edit]

This heading is for unanswered questions and is an important part of the continual effort to improve this wiki. Please do not be shy, as even a basic or "stupid" question can identify things that need to be improved on this page. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Verse 3:1. Why is it an event, rather than a place, that Nephi is returning from?
  • Verse 3:2. Is it a coincidence that Lehi and Nephi are talking about their revelation from the Lord at about the same time? Or did Lehi wait to share what he had received until after Nephi had his revelatory experience?
  • Verse 3:3. Why didn't Lehi say "Laban hath a record of the Jews"? To what extent was Lehi saying that Laban possessed the only record of the Jews? Is it possible that Lehi was not aware of any other records being kept by the Jews at that time?
  • Verse 3:4. With this vague explanation, did Lehi leave open the possibility that Nephi and his brothers could take the records without obtaining Laban's permission?
  • Verse 3:5. Why did Lehi tell Nephi's brothers about the trip back to Jerusalem before he told Nephi? Was it because Nephi was preoccupied with speaking with the Lord?
  • Verse 3:5. Was Lehi implying that Sam was one of the brothers who murmured?
  • Verse 3:6. Why was this blessing upon Nephi predicated upon his faithfulness over the course of this five-minute conversation with his father? Would it have been more accurate for Lehi to have said that Nephi would be favored as long as he did not murmur before and during the trip?
  • Verse 3:7. Compare verse 7 to D&C 124:49. Why does one say that the Lord will always prepare a way, while the other says the Lord will release his servants from certain commandments if their enemies make it impossible for them to fulfill those commandments?
  • Verse 3:8. This verse tells us that Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed. The suggestion is that he knew because of what Nephi said in verse 7. How is Nephi’s statement in verse 7 evidence of having been blessed? How is what we see in these verses connected to 1 Ne 2:16?
  • Verse 3:9. If Nephi and his brethren were not yet married, why did they need separate tents?
  • Verse 3:10. Did the consulting happen while they were traveling, or only after they had arrived?
  • Verse 3:11. Why did they think it would be best to talk to Laban individually? Wouldn't they have felt safer going as a group?
  • Verse 3:12. Why did Lehi and his family think that they had a right to take the plates of brass from Laban?
  • Verse 3:13. Why didn't Laban just deny that he had them? How hard was Laban trying to tell the truth?
  • Verse 3:14. Why do Laman and Laban's names sound so similar? Was Laban named after Laman, at least in part?
  • Verse 3:14. Why were Laman and Lemuel sad at this point, rather than mad?
  • Verse 3:15. To what extent was it useful or dangerous for Laban to know that Lehi's family was alive but no longer living in their house?
  • Verse 3:16. What does it mean to be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord"? What does the word faithful or faithfully add that is important? Why not just say “keeping the commandments"? How is keeping the commandments faithfully connected to being chosen for deliverance because of faith (1 Ne 1:20)?
  • Verse 3:17. Was that the only reason why the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem, or was it actually just the primary reason?
  • Verse 3:18. If it was dangerous for Lehi to step foot back in the city, then was it or was it not dangerous for his sons to reenter the city they had fled?
  • Verse 3:19. Is Nephi primarily talking about literacy?
  • Verse 3:19. Why does Nephi not have faith that the Lord could reveal scriptures anew for his people in the promised land?
  • Verse 3:20. If Joseph Smith could receive missing biblical scripture through revelation and without translating original texts, then why wasn't the same power available to Lehi and Nephi?
  • Verse 3:21. Why were Laman and Lemuel amenable to logic and reason in this situation, but only swayed by physical force and emotional intensity in other situations?
  • Verse 3:22. How did they plan to carry this treasure that was undoubtedly very heavy?
  • Verse 3:23. Given that they were able to carry these heavy items from their house to Laban's house, does that mean it is likely they were neighbors or at least lived in close proximity?
  • Verse 3:24. Did they actually ask Laban for the plates or did they only get to the point where they desired to ask? Did Laban assume this time that they were after the plates, which made it unnecessary for them to formally ask him for the plates?
  • Verse 3:25.Did Laban feel threated by Nephi and his brothers? Why did he think it was necessary to kill them? Was he worried that they would somehow retaliate against him?
  • Verse 3:25. Why does Laban thrust them out then send servants out to kill them? Why not kill them while he has them right there in front of him?
  • Verse 3:26. Why doesn't Nephi say they were forced, or had little choice but, "to leave behind our property"?
  • Verse 3:27. Why did the servants of Laban not pursue them all the way to the rock? Did the servants only run to the boundary of the city and no further? Did Nephi and his brethren run faster than the servants?
  • Verse 3:28. What had Sam done up to this point to merit the wrath of Laman and Lemuel?
  • Verse 3:29. How were Laman and Lemuel supposed to know that Nephi had been set apart to be their ruler? Were Laman and Lemuel privy to the revelation that Nephi received about becoming a ruler (see 1 Ne 2:22)?
  • Verse 3:30. To whom exactly did the angel speak? Did he speak "unto them" (1 Ne 3:29) or "unto us" (1 Ne 3:30)?
  • Verse 3:31. Why did Laman and Lemuel automatically assume that Laban would resist them? Was there room to interpret the angel's words as saying that Laban would not resist the efforts of Lehi's sons to obtain the brass plates?
  • Verse 4:1. Was Nephi assuming at this point that there would be a showdown of some sort between the Lord's forces and Laban's forces? Or did he strategically adopt that language to make the Lord's pro