Talk:1 Ne 1:1-4

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  • I posted some personal reflections on 1 Ne 1:1, but I don't have the time (or energy) to put them into a neutral tone and add them to the commentary page. Of course anyone else is welcome to do so. I find it easier to write in a personal tone to get my thoughts flowing and organized in my own head--maybe with practice I'll get better at helping w/ the exegesis sections. For now, I just put a link to Elder Maxwell's talk.... --RobertC 04:38, 30 Aug 2005 (CEST)

Massive editing, especially of verse 1[edit]

  • The wiki page for 1 Ne 1:1-4 is the longest page on the website, even longer than the Old Testament chronology, mostly to present a single interpretation of a single verse. The printable version of the page, printed single space, ran to more than a dozen pages. And I personally do not even agree with the presented interpretation that verse 1 is structured around four clauses; rather, I see it as being structured as a series of three pairs of clauses. The problem, though, is not that I disagree. The problem is that a visitor to this page must get through 12 pages of single spaced text before even getting to a second competing view of how the verse is structured. Do we really want a second dozen pages before we finally reach a third perspective? Or even just before reaching, finally, verse 2? At this level of page, meaning a page on the next level down from the entire chapter that still covers several verses, this is simply too much to ask most readers to get through. It would mean that the site could only be a source for deep uninterrupted study and could not also serve as a quick reference. At this level of page, at least, I do not think it should be a requirement that readers commit at least 30 minutes to getting through the discussion of a single verse.
The problem is particularly significant because it appears on the page covering the first verse of the Book of Mormon. 1 Ne 1:1-4 is one of the five most heavily visited pages on the entire site, getting far more visits than almost any other page. My guess, therefore, is that this page sets the tone of the discussion for many first time viewers. And I think this is the wrong tone at this page level.
I have therefore moved intact the existing (prior to Dec 2015) discussion of verse 1 to a new subpage 1 Ne 1:1/Nephi's four having's, which I have characterized as an "extended discussion." That extended discussion is therefore still available to read by anyone who wants more than what still remains now on the wiki page for 1 Ne 1:1-4. If someone wants to rephrase the link on the 1 Ne 1:1-4 page to that extended discussion, they are welcome to do so. This is, after all, a wiki.
This large scale condensing of the pre-existing discussion of Nephi's four "having's" in 1 Ne 1:1 will necessarily be conducted in stages over about the last week of Dec 2015. I will try to keep the more valuable insights. I acknowledge that others may disagree with how I have condensed the discussion or with what I consider to be the more valuable insights. Again, this is a wiki, and anyone can go back and improve on what I have done.
I have made no effort to edit the extended discussion that I have moved. I frankly think that much of it is not supported by the text, and that much that is possibly correct is stated in the strong tones of academia to be certainly correct rather than being phrased in the cautious tones of weighing alternatives prior to being convinced. (Yes, I am sure that I frequently make that mistake too). That has all been significantly watered down in the condensed version on the page for 1 Ne 1:1-4. The best way to quickly summarize my evaluation of assertions about interpretation may be this: If I were to use these words, would it be fair for other people to read this much subtle nuance into them, or would I think they were seeing decisions about word choice to achieve nuances of meaning that I as the author had never even considered? My own answer to this question is influenced by Nephi's statement that, in contrast to the Jews at Jerusalem, he prefers plainness in the which it is hard to err or misunderstand; by his having to correct his own writing at 1 Ne 19:7 on a still pretty basic and unsophisticated level; and by our separation from the original authors and even from Joseph Smith's translation by time, culture, and language. How much of what anyone has written on this site, despite repeated editing, has been so deeply considered down to word choice and etymology that someone could apply this much analysis without going far beyond what was actually intended - either today, or in a few centuries by people of a different culture who were reading this site in translation? -- User:KurtElieson 29 Dec 2015

Verse 1 questions[edit]

I believe that the learning of Nephi's father means not only the language, but many things: philosophy, trades, religion, general education, etc... Nephi's father was a prophet of God, and Nephi knew that, so the goodness of his parents shows the great respect that he had for them, and that he knew that the things he was taught by them were true. --Travis Justin Kamper 30 Aug 2005 (CEST)

Joe, Thanks for the interesting question. I edited it a bit. In doing so I think I may have changed the meaning slightly. Feel free to re-edit to improve. --Matthew Faulconer 08:30, 7 Mar 2006 (UTC)

Verse 1 exegesis[edit]

Chiasmus in Verse 1[edit]

I am admittedly confused. Since when do "and," "yea," and "nevertheless" count as chiastic elements? This seems like a bit of a stretch.

TrailerTrash, a word concerning the community aspect of the site (stretches like these are a direct consequence, I think, of this community aspect). Most contributors do not spend time preparing material elsewhere that they then subsequently post to the site. Rather, most commentary builds through "conversations." Someone posts an insight, a thought, or simply explores a scripture of interest while typing. A conversation develops around that first post, and the result is a little peculiar sometimes. Something that becomes almost obsessive for a little while simply disappears from everyone's focus a short while later, etc. Looking back a few months to what was posted here, I think you're probably right that it is a stretch to read those three terms as chiastic elements. It might be worth resurrecting these questions and visiting them again. How would you approach the structure of the verse? I'd be very interested to see another opinion on the matter. --Joe Spencer 14:05, 7 Nov 2006 (UTC)
Just a note in passing. I think these pauses and then returns to certain subject/topic is a strength of this site. --Matthew Faulconer 06:07, 8 Nov 2006 (UTC)


Joe, I find your posts very interesting and am only sorry I haven't gotten to reading them carefully before. I'll probably be posting several questions here for you over the next few days.

First, let me play devil's advocate a bit with your analysis of "therefore I make a record". I think a more traditional reading is to interpret the dependent clauses as simply a justification for why Nephi is making the record. Presumably, not everyone went around keeping a diary on gold plates, so a word of explanation is warranted. Nephi is doing so because he has special knowledge about the goodness and mysteries of God which are valuable to share. However, if this is the case, we are left wondering why Nephi didn't just say "because God told me to". Also, this reading implies that the yea of verse 2 is simply used as sort of a punctuation (ancient Hebrew didn't have punctuation, I don't know about reformed Egyptian!), without the implications you suggest.

Generally, I really like your comments on this and tend to agree. I'll probably slip in the point of the above paragraph to deemphasize the father's wealth as the only alternate motivation for the therefore, unless anyone objects.

--RobertC 14:43, 16 Mar 2006 (UTC)

Note, Robert, that there are two "therefore's" in Nephi's first verse. I have two separate comments about them. In my first exegetical comment, on the fourfold structure of Nephi's first verse, I give my interpretation of the second "therefore." In my third exegetical comment on the first verse, I comment on the first "therefore." I may need to re-word my commentary to make sure this is very clear. I don't think that Nephi's final "therefore" in verse 1 suggests that he is writing his record because of his father's wealth. Rather, as is clear in my first comment, I think he is writing his record as a fleshing out of the fourfold endowment experience his life embodies. I do think, however, that his first "therefore" implies that his having been taught in his father's learning is tied specifically to his learning.

I will look right now at how I might adjust my commentary so that this is clearer.

--Joe Spencer 18:39, 21 Mar 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the clarification, it was probably just my fault for misreading. --RobertC 16:12, 22 Mar 2006 (UTC)

I'm going to try a different approach to the grammar and structure of this verse, in part to play devil's advocate to Joe Spencer's take, in part as an exercise to familiarize myself better with this passage, but also in part b/c I think it actually might have merit. Here's the link to where I'll be working through these ideas. If I feel like I'm making any progress, I start trying to incorporate my thoughts onto the main commentary page. --RobertC 04:17, 28 Mar 2006 (UTC)

Book of Dead connection[edit]

One question I had in looking at this again relates to the following comment.

A connection (however distant) to the Book of the Dead would certainly explain the autobiographical "I, Nephi" with which the verse (and the whole Book of Mormon) begins.

Why would this connection explain the autobiographical "I, Nephi" beginning? Can you elaborate. I don't follow. Thanks, --Matthew Faulconer 15:22, 16 Mar 2006 (UTC)

I will add some commentary in a moment here that ought to clear this up for future readers, but for your more direct information: while there was a (barely) canonical Book of the Dead, each copy was personalized with the name of the individual to whom it belonged. The most famous copy of the Book of the Dead, for example, is the papyrus of Ani. It is so titled because there is constant reference to Ani in the text, though any other copy of the Book of the Dead has some other name inserted. The Book of the Dead was a universal form that was de-universalized when it was written, precisely because it was tied to a specific, historical individual. --Joe Spencer 18:32, 21 Mar 2006 (UTC)

Four-fold structure[edit]

I think this is an interesting observation, I've never heard it or thought of it before. I know Avraham Gileadi makes a bit point of these kind of over-arching structures in his analysis of Isaiah. I don't think there are a lot of other scholars who view Isaiah this way (typically preferring a deutero-author), but I think his views are respected among scholars and, if this is an intentional structure in Isaiah, it seems to stengthen your case since Nephi quoted so extensively from Isaiah. --RobertC 19:28, 16 Mar 2006 (UTC)

Verse 2 Questions[edit]

Multilingual Egyptians?[edit]

"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?"

Were the Egyptians multilingual? I'm aware that they probably learned other people's languages as well as their own, but is there not a rather unified language which was theirs? I am aware that they used different writing systems, but different distinct languages is not something I'm familiar with. What are we referring to here? --Seanmcox 19:11, 20 October 2007 (CEST)

Verse 3 questions[edit]

Here are some thoughts on the question on verse 3:

  • Nephi knew that the truthfulness of the BOM would be tryed in the future
  • Nephi is stating that he made the record and is taking credit for his work, stating his believes, wether they are found to be true or false in the future. He is accepting responsability with is even more important when Joseph Smith translated the book to English. This is more proof that it is not Josephs Book.

--Travis Justin Kamper 30 Aug 2005 (CEST)

Verse 3 exegesis[edit]

According to my knowledge[edit]

I think this phrase in verse 3 supports some of the points that Joe Spencer has recently made. Reynolds and Sjodahl make the argument, in Commentary on the Book of Mormon (pp. 4-6), that Nephi, having been "taught somewhat" by his father, is very familiar with the Torah, knowing "the divine origin of the heavens and the arth, through the acts of creation; the beginning of the human race, the "fall" and its consequences and the promise of redemption" (Reynolds & Sjodahl, p. 5). I think the four themes of birth/creation, fall/estrangement, redemption/atonement, and salvation/peace are common themes in the scripture that Nephi was familiar with. Recent bible scholarship seems to be uncovering more and more evidence of literary structures related to these themes (I've found a few available on the internet, but nothing that quite seems appropriate to link to here—but I'll keep working on finding some good sources). Examples from the current Sunday school schedule include the story of Joseph where there are obviously parallel themes: birth, separation, forgiveness, and reunion, and the story of Moses— Jim F. has listed similar themes regarding the story of Moses and Israel that also relate to Jesus's life and the story of mankind in general (in his lettering B-F and F'-B' seem to relate to Fall and Redemption respectively). With what seems to be more and more evidence regarding over-arching literary structures in the Bible, I think Nephi's phrase, "according to my knowledge", takes on additional meaning that supports Joe's points. --RobertC 18:06, 22 Mar 2006 (UTC)

Verse 4 questions[edit]

As pertaining to the last question in this section, what makes us think that Nephi sees Zedekiah as a legitimate king?Rob Fergus 21:31, 4 Aug 2005 (CEST)

Random Questions--April 8th[edit]

Hi Joe (and all)

First of all, I am really feeling like I am getting a lot out of reading through this tonight. So thanks for all the work. I really appreciate it.

Also, I made a few changes. (Of course, feel free to change back, re-revise if you think I made things worse.) it I considered more but for some of them I wanted to first ask your thoughts on a few items.

  • likely Hebrew words I feel like I'd like to give the reader more of an idea why we think we are in a position to suggest likely Hebrew words for the Book of Mormon. Maybe this is a topic that deserves a sub-page of its own. On a related note, to me (and possibly other readers) exactly what the phrase "learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians" means is unclear. We might wonder why likely Egyptian words aren't suggested instead. This isn't my main point though. Even if we assume that the likely words behind the translation are similar to what we know of Hebrew, I think we should explain something about what the process is for arriving at the likely Hebrew word. Again maybe this should be a sub-page.
  • "Both of these implications suggest that Nephi's brief autobiography in verse 1 should be read with incredible care." --I think I am missing the connection between the previous sentences and this one. Not that I disagree with the conclusion, I just am not seeing the tie in.
  • I don't understand the following: "autobiographical sketch would then because a parallel set of parallelisms, mediated by the central nevertheless." Is it possible that there is a word missing somewhere?
  • goodly as wealthy. I found it interesting to read the verse interpretting goodly to mean mainly wealthy especially in its relation to the phrase "therefore I was taught somewhat..." It works well. However, I think we may want to add the alternative (and I think more common) interpretation that in connecting his parents goodliness to himself being "taught somewhat in all the learning of my father" Nephi is drawing on (and therefore re-inforcing) the idea that to teach one's children what one knows is virtuous. Thoughts?

Thanks again, --Matthew Faulconer 06:01, 9 Apr 2006 (UTC)

Random answers?[edit]

  • likely Hebrew words I have the same misgivings--perhaps stronger ones that Matthew has expressed. I think it would be more fruitful, in fact, to read into the Egyptian and the Hebrew than to do what I am here doing. I am, unfortunately, only just learning Egyptian (and what a task!). The more I have written on these first verses, the more I find myself retreating into English etymologies, rather than Hebrew connections. Perhaps I should focus on that anyway. Some brief references to possible Hebrew (and Egyptian?) words might be worked into the exegesis, in the course of writing commentary. However, I think I will remove the lexical comments that present conjecture on Hebrew originals. The more I read (not meaning in the scriptures), the more I am convinced that the English of the Book of Mormon is the starting point of study, though translation into Hebrew, Egyptian, Greek, and, for that matter, German, French, etc., should always be kept close at hand (how would, for example, a good German translation of the Book of Mormon relate to Luther's Bible?). Sometime here soon I will rework those linguistic difficulties.
  • I tried to make the connection more explicit in that paragraph. I should hope that helps.
  • Oops, "because" should be "become." I changed that.
  • goodly as wealthy. This is a very good question. I must admit that I am, to some extent at least, trying to counter the "virtuous" reading of "goodly." However, Joseph Smith's usage of the term in his journal suggests that he understood it that way. I think both meanings should be felt in the verse (as the Hebrew twb would suggest). Anyone who wants to try to work an emphasis into the already existing comment is free to do so as far as I am concerned. As occasion arises, I will try to do so if it has not been done previously.

Thanks for your careful reading! --Joe Spencer 17:24, 15 Apr 2006 (UTC)

Nephi's autobiography[edit]

I'm sure I'm being dense but I don't understand the following. Could someone explain to me the meaning here?
If, on the one hand, Nephi understands his experiences to justify his writing project, and if, on the other hand, the commandment to write is somehow bound up with Nephi's experiences, then Nephi's brief autobiography in verse 1--what is essentially his reading of those very experiences--should be read with incredible care.
thanks, --Matthew Faulconer 05:26, 28 Apr 2006 (UTC)
Whether this was Joe's original intent or not, I think a good point to make is that if Nephi is giving an apologetic for his writing based on his life experiences (rather than God's commandment to write), then I think this strengthens argument that there's an over-arching structure to the Nephi's writing. That is, rather than explaining here that God commanded him to write, perhaps Nephi wants instead to call our attention to the events of his life. If this was Joe's original intent, I have a couple ideas on how to improve the phraseology. --RobertC 15:11, 28 Apr 2006 (UTC)

Best after 1 year[edit]

In case you haven't heard 1 Ne 1:1-5 won the most votes for the best page for Feast's one year anniversary. If you are interested in this page please see the related discussion on Site talk:Best after 1 year --Matthew Faulconer 00:20, 29 Apr 2006 (UTC)

Joe's working notes (how awful)[edit]

I'm finding that my work on these verses is getting difficult enough that I need to keep some notes for myself on this discussion page in order to keep some of my plans, projections, etc., straight. No one need regard these, but if anyone has, of course, any thoughts, they would be gladly heard and discussed.

Possible next moves:

  • I certainly have to think the theme of living-toward-death here... too Heideggerian?
  • that might finish of the second having?

Second having[edit]

Joe, I'm not sure I understand your point about visual escapability. I'll think about this more when I have more time, but let me make a couple quick points (which are related to each other) while I'm thinking about this now:

(1) I think it's worth separately considering the afflictions Nephi experienced directly and the afflictions Nephi only observeed (afflictions others experienced directly and Nephi experienced indirectly). If we experience afflictions directly, the effort to flee such afflictions by "closing our eyes" to them seems significantly greater than the simpler task of closing our eyes to the afflictions of others. I think this is the connotation of "stick one's head in the sand"—it's easier to ignore problems affecting others than to ignore problems that directly affect us.

(2) I think the Nephi's seeing of afflictions could be emphasizing the voluntary nature of his suffering (perhaps this notion is what's confusing me in reading your notion of false escape). If we stick our head in the sand, we can ignore others' suffering. In this sense, couldn't Nephi's seeing afflictions suggest a type of voluntary empathy he has with others' suffering? A less empathetic person might be blind to such afflictions.

--RobertC 20:23, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

Robert, your comment opened my eyes. Thanks for suffering my commentary. I have twenty-nine minutes before my battery dies. I'll see what I can do. --Joe Spencer 17:58, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

Concerning the current edits[edit]

Matthew, thanks for your work on this page. It has forced me to return to what I wrote when I first came to the site and to realize how much I've figured out about the spirit and meaning of the wiki. Your edits have my wholehearted support. Thanks for making my work far more presentable, and for dislodging what might otherwise be solely my project there. Any and all that want to help work out a clearer, less wordy text here, please feel free to work at it. --Joe Spencer 14:07, 11 Sep 2006 (UTC)

Hey Joe, thanks. my pleasure. I find it tough work to edit. Feel free to re-edit. I'm not trying to have the last word. And thanks for all your great commentary here and all over the place. --Matthew Faulconer 06:27, 12 Sep 2006 (UTC)

More study question[edit]

[Below are some questions that were deleted, but which I think are nonetheless interesting to consider, and not really answered on the commentary page. --RobertC 00:14, 21 October 2007 (CEST)]

  • "parents." Why does Nephi use the word "parents" if it does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament? What precedent did he have for mentioning his parents rather than just his father?
  • Ancestry. Why does Nephi not provide at least a brief listing of his ancestors? Is it possible Nephi grew up without a specific knowledge of who his ancestors were? Did Nephi have to wait until he had delivered the brass plates to his father to "discover the genealogy of his fathers" 1 Ne 5:15? If so, how did this affect Nephi's identity and sense of heritage? Even though he identified with the Jews (see 2 Ne 25:6 and 2 Ne 33:8) and Israel (see 1 Ne 13:34 and 1 Ne 15:12), did Nephi tend to only trace his lineage back to this father?
  • Birthright. Why does Nephi not mention that the birthright presumably belongs to him rather than to either of his older brethren? What evidence does this verse contain that Nephi is trying to imply that the birthright is his? If Nephi did receive the birthright, would that mean he was entitled to inherit his father's wealth? Why does Nephi not list wealth among the things that his father shared with him? Was Nephi acquainted with Prov 22:1, which says "A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold"? If so, was Nephi alluding to this verse when he said he was "born of goodly parents" and "highly favored of the Lord"? Does this mean Nephi valued his father's good name more than father's riches and that being favored of the Lord was more important to Lehi than the esteem of men?
  • "goodly parents . . . many afflications . . . highly favored . . . great knowledge." Why is Nephi using so many superlatives? Is this his typical way of writing?
  • "somewhat" vs. "all." Is there a tension between these two words in Nephi's statement that he was "taught somewhat in all the learning" of his father? Is Nephi saying he learned a little bit of everything his father knew? Was Nephi wise enough to realize that not all learning can be reduced to teaching? In other words, was Nephi implying in this phrase that his father had learned certain things on his own, which could not be merely taught to Nephi, but that Nephi could learn through his own efforts?
  • Afflictions and blessings. How can this verse be used to deepen understanding of the themes of afflictions and blessings throughout 1 Nephi? What kind of over-arching structure does this suggest for the book?
  • 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 did Nephi witness? Is he referring to his own afflictions or to the afflictions experienced by others?
  • "having seen many afflictions." Whose afflictions might Nephi have witnessed?


  • "in the course of my days." Where didn't Nephi use a much more common construction, such as "in the space of . . . days" (e.g., 1 Ne 17:7, 1 Ne 18:23, and 2 Ne 5:7)? Why are there no instances of Nephi's phrase in the Old Testament and only one other in the Book of Mormon: "I saw wars between the Nephites and Lamanites in the course of my days" (Enos 1:24)?
  • "highly favored." Where did this phrase come from? If the adjective "highly" makes no appearance in the Old Testament, then what precedent did Nephi have for using it? Was Nephi influenced by the description of Joseph of Egypt, who "was a goodly person, and well favoured" (Gen 39:6)?
  • "therefore I make a record." Did Nephi mention his parents before this "therefore" because one of his reasons for making the record was to honor his father and mother? In what sense did Nephi conceive of this record as his own and to what extent did he see it as a lineage record that was an extension of his father's work and writings? How does 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? Does Nephi use the word "therefore" to assert that he has figured out the "wise purpose" for which the Lord has asked him to produce record? If he did start out thinking along these lines, did he change his mind eight chapters later when he wrote the "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?
  • "my proceedings." Why did Nephi choose this word? Doesn't it usually just refer to the words that were spoken during a meeting? Is this a subtle clue about Nephi's preference for oral presentations, rather than written ones?
  • "I make a record." Technically speaking, would it have been more accurate for Nephi to have written, "I have been making a record"? Is Nephi trying to give readers the impression that this record was composed during and shortly after the events which it describes? What reasons could Nephi possibly have for not mentioning at this point that he started his small plates some time after beginning his large plates?
  • "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"? Is it possible the latter would only refer to knowledge that is quintessentially Jewish while the latter could refer to anything, even knowledge of outside cultures, that has been learned by Jewish people? If this is the case, why would Nephi be using the expanded concept of learning obtained by the Jews?

One thing I noticed as I have been studying Hebrew is that possesives are always written as two nouns next to each other such as ben Adam, which would be translated in English as son of Adam. Maybe this is where it comes from, i.e. just following the standard Hebrew possessive form.

Nephi's foreword[edit]

Is there a page for Nephi's foreword? --Mike Berkey 06:54, 25 June 2011 (CEST)