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Note: this page allows you to see all the commentary pages for 1 Nephi chapter 1 together. Click on the heading to go to a specific page.

1 Ne 1:1-5[edit]

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Verses 1:1-4
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Summary[edit]

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

Discussion[edit]

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

1 Ne 1:1[edit]

  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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.

1 Ne 1:1: Possible structures based on Nephi's four "having's"[edit]

  • The comments here are a condensed version of the more extended discussion of possible structures for 1 Ne 1:1 based on the four clauses in verse 1:1 that each begin with "having ..."
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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.

1 Ne 1:1: Nephi's four "having's"[edit]

  • Nephi's first "having"
  • Birth and learning. If we read goodly as meaning wealthy (see lexical note above), then Nephi tells us that it was because of his parent's wealth that he was able to be taught "somewhat in all the learning of [his] father."
  • Teaching and learning. 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."
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • The meaning of the tension. 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. 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.)
  • 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"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One's days and the course of one's days. 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.
  • Nephi's third "having."
  • 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.
  • Nephi's four "having's."
  • 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 / double parallelism interpretation.
  • 'Nevertheless. The term nevertheless 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.

1 Ne 1:1: Beyond(?) autobiography[edit]

  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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.

1 Ne 1:2[edit]

  • 1 Ne 1:2: Double parallelism. Given the comments above on verse 1, there is a double parallelism at play in this verse: Nephi is concerned in verse 1:1 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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."
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:2: "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.
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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.

1 Ne 1:3[edit]

  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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).
  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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.

1 Ne 1:1-3[edit]

  • 1 Ne 1:1-3: 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.

1 Ne 1:4[edit]

  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:4: Monarch. Zedekiah may have received less respect than his predecessors, because he was about 21 years old at this time.

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: Afflictions and blessings. How can this verse be used to deepen understanding of the themes of afflictions and blessings throughout 1 Nephi?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: having seen many afflictions. Whose afflictions might Nephi have witnessed?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?)
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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"?
  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: Process of a prophet. To what degree did Joseph Smith see these verses as a foreshadowing of his own work as a prophet?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: "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"?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: learning of the Jews. Is there a qualitative difference between saying "learning of the Jews" and "the Jews' learning"?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:2: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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"?
  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:3: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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"?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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.?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: It. Is there supposed to be an antecedent for this word? Or is Nephi just using a formulaic phrase?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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)?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:4: 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 section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Ne 1:1: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:1. Podcast of Joe Spencer exploring 1 Nephi 1:1 with a local Relief Society.
  • Incoming Cross-References Not Listed in The Footnotes for These Verses

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 (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



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1 Ne 1:6-10[edit]

Home > The Book of Mormon > First Nephi > Chapters 1-2 > Verses 1:5-15
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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 verses 5-15 to the rest of Chapter 1 is discussed at Chapter 1.

Discussion[edit]

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

  • 1 Ne 1:4-18: The Book of Mormon begins with open heavens. The Book of Mormon story begins (after three verses of introduction about the record) with an account of many prophets preaching how to avoid destruction, of Lehi receiving two visions, and of Lehi joining those other prophets in preaching. Thus, among the first messages taught by the Book of Mormon are the reality of revelation and of the need for revelation to address the circumstances of the day.
The heavens remain open throughout the Book of Mormon. Ainadom's statement that he is unaware of any revelation in his day is widely seen as an indication of widespread apostasy at a low point in Nephite history in the days before king Mosiah I flees from the land of Nephi to Zarahemla. (Omni 1:11). Moroni concludes the Book of Mormon with a strong statement that revelation will never cease so long as there is faith among mankind. (Moro 7:36-37).
  • 1 Ne 1:4-5, 18: Lehi's example in responding to prophets. Lehi's belief in the message of the prophets is shown by his reaction in praying with all his heart in behalf of his people (1 Ne 1:5) and then joining the prophets in preaching that message. (1 Ne 1:18). Nephi does not record that the prophets called upon the people of Jerusalem to join them in preaching, but only called upon them to repent. (1 Ne 1:4). Lehi, however, goes beyond a minimum requirement of personal repentance by praying to the Lord with all his heart on behalf of his people and by actively seeking to cause his people to repent by joining the prophets in preaching. This can serve as an example for how we respond today to the preaching of inspired church leaders.
  • 1 Ne 1:5-6: Lehi's prayer on behalf of his people with all his heart. Nephi makes it clear that Lehi's prayer on behalf of his people is not perfunctory, but is offered "with all his heart." This phrase is often used in the scriptures to indicate great sincerity inn following or approaching God. (See, 2 Kgs 23:25; D&C 42:25). It is while praying "with all his heart" that Lehi receives his first vision. (1 Ne 1:5-6). Nephi also records that at the conclusion of Lehi's second vision "his whole heart was filled." (1 Ne 1:15).
  • 1 Ne 1:4-6: Revelation pattern. In these verses we see the first instance of a pattern for revelation that is repeated in the Book of Mormon: (1) A prophetic message is heard (1 Ne 1:4); (2) a prayer of faith is offered (1 Ne 1:5); (3) revelation important to the individual's success and survival is given (1 Ne 1:6-15); and (4) the relevant portion of the message is delivered to others. (1 Ne 1:18).
This pattern is repeated when Nephi likewise: (1) hears the message of Lehi's vision of the tree of life (1 Ne 8:2; 1 Ne 10:17); (2) Nephi ponders the message in faith (1 Ne 11:1; also 1 Ne 15:6-8); (3) receives revelation (1 Ne 11:2-6); and (4) shares the message with others (1 Ne 15:21ff).
This pattern is also repeated when Enos likewise: (1) was taught a message by his father Jacob (Enos 1:3); (2) cried in mighty prayer (Enos 1:4); (3) received revelation about the safety of his own soul (Enos 1:5-8); and (4) then received revelation for welfare of others and delivered that revelation. (Enos 1:9-19).
  • 1 Ne 1:8: God on his throne being praised. Lehi's second vision opens with a scene familiar in the prophets: a "theophany," or a vision of "God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God." (1 Ne 1:8). See the list of theophanies collected at Revelation 4.
The discussion of councils at Amos 3:7 suggests that theophanies are to be equated with councils in heaven and that theophanies legitimize prophetic calls. The theophany at the beginning of Lehi's second vision can thus be understood not only as a personal witness of God, but also as a personal witness of the decision of the council in heaven that legitimizes his call to preach that decision. While not conclusive on this point, some passages in Nephi's writing can be read consistent with this understanding. Nephi begins with a vision of a council in heaven in which Lehi joins in praising God. (1 Ne 1:8-15). Nephi ends ends with a promise that those who receive the Holy Ghost can likewise "shout praises to the Holy One of Israel." (2 Ne 31:13). In this light Nephi's text can be understood as inviting readers to progress from a report of the heavenly council to eventual participation in it.
  • 1 Ne 1:8: God being praised by concourses of angels. In this theophany, God is surrounded by "concourses" of angels in the attitude of singing and praising. A concourse is, defined literally, a complete circle. (cite). Thus, central to Lehi's understanding of the heavens, is a sacramental act of praise, a great, celestial prayer circle.
  • 1 Ne 1:9: One descending out of heaven; luster. The description of the "One" whose luster is "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).
Definitions of "luster" include brightness or splendor. Webster's 1828 Dictionary includes the phrase "as the luster of the sun or stars" to illustrate the meaning of this word. In modern times luster can also mean "a glow of reflected light." But the numerous references to Christ being the light of the world suggest that, when referring to Christ in a glorified condition, that luster would be a light from within rather than a reflected light. (John 1:4-9; John 8:12; D&C 88:6-13).
  • 1 Ne 1:7-8, 12-15: Overcome, then filled with the Spirit. Following his first vision, Lehi is "overcome" by the Spirit and the things he saw and heard. This condition shifts dramatically in verse 12 during the second vision when Lehi reads from the book that is given to him and is "filled with the Spirit of the Lord." Do books and scrolls symbolize calls? And could that explain the difference. Or is it simply that this is the focal point of his vision?
In verses 7-8 Nephi states that Lehi is overcome by "the Spirit," while in verse 12 he is filled with "the Spirit of the Lord." This difference may be intended for literary effect, but it is likely not substantive. While overcome by "the Spirit," Lehi is carried away in a vision of God, during which Nephhi expressly states that Lehi is filled with "the Spirit of the Lord."
In the first vision, the emphasis was on what Lehi sees and hears. In the second vision the emphasis is on what he sees and reads.
  • 1 Ne 1:13-15: Destruction and mercy. Verse 13 speaks of the abominations and destruction of Jerusalem. Then in verses 14-15, Lehi rejoices in God's mercy. This juxtaposition may seem strange. But: (1) verse 14 mentions many other great and marvelous things that Lehi saw that we are not told; and (2) verses 9-12 describe (presumably) the Savior and disciples preaching the gospel and thus providing a way for the inhabitants of the earth to not perish. Whatever the motivation for Lehi's praise of God, it is clearly motivated by God's mercy. "And, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!" (1 Ne 1:14).

Unanswered questions[edit]

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

Prompts for life application[edit]

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

  • 1 Ne 1:4-5, 18: Responding to instruction from church leaders. Lehi responded to the message of prophets in his day by praying to the Lord with all his heart on behalf of his people and by joining the prophets in sharing their message. How do we respond to instruction from church leaders today?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Ne 1:5: "Lehi ... prayed unto the Lord." How did Lehi react after hearing the prophets' message? What can we learn from Lehi's reaction?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: 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)?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: 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"?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: 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.)
  • 1 Ne 1:6: "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)?
  • 1 Ne 1:6: "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)?
  • 1 Ne 1:7: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:7: "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.
  • 1 Ne 1:7: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:7: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:8: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:8: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:8: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:8: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:10: Lehi sees twelve others following God. Are these the twelve apostles that were alive at the time of Jesus, or some other twelve?
  • 1 Ne 1:11: What is the book (see verse 11) that is given to Lehi?

Resources[edit]

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Incoming Cross-References Not Listed in The Footnotes for These Verses.

External resources.

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 (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



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

1 Ne 1:11-15[edit]

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


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Summary[edit]

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

Discussion[edit]

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

  • 1 Ne 1:4-18: The Book of Mormon begins with open heavens. The Book of Mormon story begins (after three verses of introduction about the record) with an account of many prophets preaching how to avoid destruction, of Lehi receiving two visions, and of Lehi joining those other prophets in preaching. Thus, among the first messages taught by the Book of Mormon are the reality of revelation and of the need for revelation to address the circumstances of the day.
The heavens remain open throughout the Book of Mormon. Ainadom's statement that he is unaware of any revelation in his day is widely seen as an indication of widespread apostasy at a low point in Nephite history in the days before king Mosiah I flees from the land of Nephi to Zarahemla. (Omni 1:11). Moroni concludes the Book of Mormon with a strong statement that revelation will never cease so long as there is faith among mankind. (Moro 7:36-37).
  • 1 Ne 1:4-5, 18: Lehi's example in responding to prophets. Lehi's belief in the message of the prophets is shown by his reaction in praying with all his heart in behalf of his people (1 Ne 1:5) and then joining the prophets in preaching that message. (1 Ne 1:18). Nephi does not record that the prophets called upon the people of Jerusalem to join them in preaching, but only called upon them to repent. (1 Ne 1:4). Lehi, however, goes beyond a minimum requirement of personal repentance by praying to the Lord with all his heart on behalf of his people and by actively seeking to cause his people to repent by joining the prophets in preaching. This can serve as an example for how we respond today to the preaching of inspired church leaders.
  • 1 Ne 1:5-6: Lehi's prayer on behalf of his people with all his heart. Nephi makes it clear that Lehi's prayer on behalf of his people is not perfunctory, but is offered "with all his heart." This phrase is often used in the scriptures to indicate great sincerity inn following or approaching God. (See, 2 Kgs 23:25; D&C 42:25). It is while praying "with all his heart" that Lehi receives his first vision. (1 Ne 1:5-6). Nephi also records that at the conclusion of Lehi's second vision "his whole heart was filled." (1 Ne 1:15).
  • 1 Ne 1:4-6: Revelation pattern. In these verses we see the first instance of a pattern for revelation that is repeated in the Book of Mormon: (1) A prophetic message is heard (1 Ne 1:4); (2) a prayer of faith is offered (1 Ne 1:5); (3) revelation important to the individual's success and survival is given (1 Ne 1:6-15); and (4) the relevant portion of the message is delivered to others. (1 Ne 1:18).
This pattern is repeated when Nephi likewise: (1) hears the message of Lehi's vision of the tree of life (1 Ne 8:2; 1 Ne 10:17); (2) Nephi ponders the message in faith (1 Ne 11:1; also 1 Ne 15:6-8); (3) receives revelation (1 Ne 11:2-6); and (4) shares the message with others (1 Ne 15:21ff).
This pattern is also repeated when Enos likewise: (1) was taught a message by his father Jacob (Enos 1:3); (2) cried in mighty prayer (Enos 1:4); (3) received revelation about the safety of his own soul (Enos 1:5-8); and (4) then received revelation for welfare of others and delivered that revelation. (Enos 1:9-19).
  • 1 Ne 1:8: God on his throne being praised. Lehi's second vision opens with a scene familiar in the prophets: a "theophany," or a vision of "God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God." (1 Ne 1:8). See the list of theophanies collected at Revelation 4.
The discussion of councils at Amos 3:7 suggests that theophanies are to be equated with councils in heaven and that theophanies legitimize prophetic calls. The theophany at the beginning of Lehi's second vision can thus be understood not only as a personal witness of God, but also as a personal witness of the decision of the council in heaven that legitimizes his call to preach that decision. While not conclusive on this point, some passages in Nephi's writing can be read consistent with this understanding. Nephi begins with a vision of a council in heaven in which Lehi joins in praising God. (1 Ne 1:8-15). Nephi ends ends with a promise that those who receive the Holy Ghost can likewise "shout praises to the Holy One of Israel." (2 Ne 31:13). In this light Nephi's text can be understood as inviting readers to progress from a report of the heavenly council to eventual participation in it.
  • 1 Ne 1:8: God being praised by concourses of angels. In this theophany, God is surrounded by "concourses" of angels in the attitude of singing and praising. A concourse is, defined literally, a complete circle. (cite). Thus, central to Lehi's understanding of the heavens, is a sacramental act of praise, a great, celestial prayer circle.
  • 1 Ne 1:9: One descending out of heaven; luster. The description of the "One" whose luster is "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).
Definitions of "luster" include brightness or splendor. Webster's 1828 Dictionary includes the phrase "as the luster of the sun or stars" to illustrate the meaning of this word. In modern times luster can also mean "a glow of reflected light." But the numerous references to Christ being the light of the world suggest that, when referring to Christ in a glorified condition, that luster would be a light from within rather than a reflected light. (John 1:4-9; John 8:12; D&C 88:6-13).
  • 1 Ne 1:7-8, 12-15: Overcome, then filled with the Spirit. Following his first vision, Lehi is "overcome" by the Spirit and the things he saw and heard. This condition shifts dramatically in verse 12 during the second vision when Lehi reads from the book that is given to him and is "filled with the Spirit of the Lord." Do books and scrolls symbolize calls? And could that explain the difference. Or is it simply that this is the focal point of his vision?
In verses 7-8 Nephi states that Lehi is overcome by "the Spirit," while in verse 12 he is filled with "the Spirit of the Lord." This difference may be intended for literary effect, but it is likely not substantive. While overcome by "the Spirit," Lehi is carried away in a vision of God, during which Nephhi expressly states that Lehi is filled with "the Spirit of the Lord."
In the first vision, the emphasis was on what Lehi sees and hears. In the second vision the emphasis is on what he sees and reads.
  • 1 Ne 1:13-15: Destruction and mercy. Verse 13 speaks of the abominations and destruction of Jerusalem. Then in verses 14-15, Lehi rejoices in God's mercy. This juxtaposition may seem strange. But: (1) verse 14 mentions many other great and marvelous things that Lehi saw that we are not told; and (2) verses 9-12 describe (presumably) the Savior and disciples preaching the gospel and thus providing a way for the inhabitants of the earth to not perish. Whatever the motivation for Lehi's praise of God, it is clearly motivated by God's mercy. "And, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!" (1 Ne 1:14).

Unanswered questions[edit]

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

Prompts for life application[edit]

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

  • 1 Ne 1:4-5, 18: Responding to instruction from church leaders. Lehi responded to the message of prophets in his day by praying to the Lord with all his heart on behalf of his people and by joining the prophets in sharing their message. How do we respond to instruction from church leaders today?

Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Ne 1:5: "Lehi ... prayed unto the Lord." How did Lehi react after hearing the prophets' message? What can we learn from Lehi's reaction?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: 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)?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: 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"?
  • 1 Ne 1:5: 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.)
  • 1 Ne 1:6: "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)?
  • 1 Ne 1:6: "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)?
  • 1 Ne 1:7: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:7: "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.
  • 1 Ne 1:7: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:7: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:8: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:8: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:8: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:8: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:10: Lehi sees twelve others following God. Are these the twelve apostles that were alive at the time of Jesus, or some other twelve?
  • 1 Ne 1:11: What is the book (see verse 11) that is given to Lehi?

Resources[edit]

This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the 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.

External resources.

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 (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.



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

1 Ne 1:16-20[edit]

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


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 verses 16-20 to the rest of Chapters 1-2 is discussed at Chapters 1-2.

Discussion[edit]

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

  • 1 Ne 1:17: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:17: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:18: 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.”
  • 1 Ne 1:18: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:18: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:19-20: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:18-19: Secret combination. On January 23, 1829, six months after Martin Harris lost the 116 page manuscript, but three months before Oliver Cowdery began assisting with the translation, Joseph Smith's mother Lucy Mack Smith wrote a letter, p. 9 or p. 463,[1] stating that the Nephites had among them "that same secret society which had brought Jerusalem and the whole nation of the Jews to destruction," suggesting that a cause of the impending destruction prophesied by Lehi was the activity of one or more secret combinations at Jerusalem.
  • 1 Ne 1:19-20: Testifying of wickedness and abominations. 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:19-20: Testifying of the Messiah and world-redemption. 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:20: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:20: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:20: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:20: 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.
  • 1 Ne 1:20: 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.

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • 1 Ne 1:16: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: "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"?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:17: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:18: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:18: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:18: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:18: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:18: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:18: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:18: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:18: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:18: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:19: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:20: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:20: "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?
  • 1 Ne 1:20: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:20: 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?
  • 1 Ne 1:20: 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 section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

  • Smith, Lucy Mack. Letter to Mary Smith Pierce, 23 January 1829. Reprinted in Jessee, Dean C., ed. "Lucy Mack Smith's 1829 Letter to Mary Smith Pierce," p. 463. In Brigham Young University Studies (Autumn 1982) 22/4:455-65. Provo, Utah: 1959-present.
  • Verse 1:20. 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 (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

  1. Smith, Lucy Mack. Letter to Mary Smith Pierce, 23 January 1829. Reprinted in Jessee, Dean C., ed. "Lucy Mack Smith's 1829 Letter to Mary Smith Pierce," p. 463. In Brigham Young University Studies (Autumn 1982) 22/4:455-65. Provo, Utah: 1959-present.

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