First Book of Nephi

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Books of the Book of Mormon
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The First Book of Nephi (/ˈnf/) is the first book of the Book of Mormon. Its full title is The First Book of Nephi: His Reign and Ministry. The book is usually referred to as First Nephi and abbreviated as "1 Ne." It is a first-person narrative, beginning around 600 BC, of a prophet named Nephi. The Second Book of Nephi is a continuation of this narrative.

Narrative[edit]

At Jerusalem[edit]

The book begins in Jerusalem at the time of King Zedekiah, where Nephi's father, Lehi, has a vision, wherein he sees God the Father, Christ, and the twelve apostles. Lehi is also made aware of the imminent Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. As a result of this experience, Lehi begins to preach repentance to his people. They reject his teachings and attempt to kill him by stoning him as with the other prophets living at that time, such as Jeremiah.

In a dream, God commands Lehi to leave Jerusalem with his family (which include his wife, Sariah, and his four sons Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi and an untold number of sisters). Yet almost immediately upon their exile, Lehi is commanded by God to send his sons back to Jerusalem to retrieve the brass plates, a record similar to the Old Testament which was kept by Laban, a powerful leader in Jerusalem. Nephi and his brothers return and become frustrated after several failed attempts, where Laban tries to steal Lehi's property and murder his sons. Laman and Lemuel take out their frustration by beating Nephi. An angel appears, commands Laman and Lemuel to stop beating Nephi, and tells the brothers to return to retrieve the plates. Nephi returns alone, finds Laban passed out from drunkenness, and kills him with his own sword as directed by the Spirit of God. He then disguises himself as Laban and fools Zoram, a servant of Laban, into taking the plates outside the city to his brothers. Zoram, discovering Nephi's trick, tries to flee, but Nephi persuades him to travel with Lehi and his family and they return together with the plates.

After receiving the brass plates, Lehi spends time studying them. He discovers it contains a genealogy of himself, and that he is a descendant of Joseph, the son of Jacob. It also the contains the five books of Moses and even some writings by the contemporary prophet Jeremiah.

Depiction of the Tree of Life dream from the Book of Mormon
(in the LDS Conference Center).

Lehi's sons return to Jerusalem a second time, as directed by the Lord through the prophet Lehi, to retrieve the family of Ishmael. Meeting Ishmael, they convince him and his family to leave Jerusalem together with Lehi's family. On the journey back to camp, Laman and Lemuel and some members of Ishmael's family rebel. They want to return to Jerusalem. After a stern lecture by Nephi, where he reminds them of the prophecies and offers them a choice, they tie him up and leave him to die in the desert. However, Nephi is able to escape from the ropes. Laman and Lemuel try again to hurt him, but they are softened by the daughters of Ishmael and ask for forgiveness from Nephi.

Visions of Lehi and Nephi[edit]

Returning again to camp, Lehi has a dream where he sees The Vision of the Tree of Life, with fruit that is "desirable to make one happy."[1] Relating this vision to his children, he expounds on it by teaching about the Redeemer and the need to follow his counsel by keeping the commandments. Nephi desires to receive a similar vision, and asks the Lord for the vision and its interpretation. Nephi is swept away by the spirit and sees the vision his father had described. He is also given an explanation about its symbolism: the tree and its fruit represent the love of God, a "rod of iron" represents the word of God, and a "great and spacious building" represents the pride and mocking attitude of the world.[2] Nephi is shown many past and future events, including the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He also sees Christopher Columbus traveling across the Atlantic ocean,[3] the American Revolutionary war,[4] and the scattering of the "seed of my brethren",[5] the American Indians.[citation needed] Other events include the coming forth of the Book of Mormon,[6] it being a record made by the ancestors of the Indians, and also what is believed to be the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although it is not mentioned by name, yet there are described several events which imply movements and church formation.[7] Future events are also taken into account, such as the coming forth of scripture even after the Book of Mormon,[8] that would make truths known which were taken out from the New Testament, a concept discussed in the several passages of this vision.[9] Nephi begins to see wars and rumors of wars taking place in the future, and also other events. However, he is forbidden to write about such things because John the Apostle is to write about them in the Bible. Most importantly, Nephi sees the future of his generations and the generations of Laman and Lemuel. Whereas his people will have the gospel and will ultimately be destroyed for wickedness, the children of Laman and Lemuel will be raised without a knowledge of the gospel, survive the generations, and be taught by the Book of Mormon and the future church.

After Nephi's vision, he sees Laman and Lemuel, who are arguing over the meaning of Lehi's vision. Nephi chastises them for not asking the Lord for the interpretation, and explains the point they were disputing. He pleads with them to soften their hearts and submit themselves to the Lord.

Traveling the desert[edit]

After the sons of Lehi marry the daughters of Ishmael, a "ball of curious workmanship" is discovered at Lehi's tent door. Using the directions on the ball, they begin journeying eastward along the Red Sea. As they travel along the banks of the Red Sea, Nephi's steel bow breaks while hunting. Upon hearing the news, the entire camp begins to complain and speak against the Lord for their misfortune, including Lehi. Nephi builds a new bow and arrows out of wood, and then enquires of Lehi where to hunt. Humbled, Lehi repents and turns to the Lord, and Nephi is able to find food for the camp. Looking on the ball, they discover a message that caused them to "fear and tremble exceedingly". The ball works by their faith. As long as they are faithful, it will lead them through the most fertile parts of the land. If they are not, it will not function properly and they will be left to their own devices.

Ishmael dies on their journey near a place called "Nahum". This is one of the few places listed in the Book of Mormon that relates to the Old World. In mourning, Ishmael's daughters complain against Lehi and Nephi, and desire to return to Jerusalem. Laman and Lemuel decide to kill Lehi and Nephi, but the voice of the Lord speaks many words to them and chastises them severely, causing them to change their minds and repent.

Building the ship[edit]

Arriving in a place they call Bountiful, on the borders of the sea, they set up a camp. After many days, the voice of the Lord comes to Nephi and commands him to go up the mountain. Once on the mountain, the Lord instructs Nephi to build a ship, and describes how to build a ship and how to make the tools needed. Nephi returns to camp and begins working to build the ship. Laman and Lemuel see Nephi and mock him for trying to achieve an impossible task. Nephi lectures them about the strength of the Lord and how impossible things are possible when the Lord commands it. Being filled with the Spirit, he commands Laman and Lemuel not to touch him or they would die instantly. He also commands them to assist in building the ship. The Lord commands Nephi to touch them, saying it will not kill them. He touches them, causing a shock, whereafter Laman and Lemuel proclaim to Nephi, "We know of a surety that the Lord is with thee". Laman and Lemuel repent again, and begin helping Nephi build the ship.

After completing the ship, the voice of the Lord commands Lehi to load his family and supplies on the ship. They depart on the ocean. Many days later, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael begin partying, dancing, singing, and being rude. Nephi, fearing that the Lord would be angry with them, speaks to them. They get upset with Nephi and tie him up. The compass—the ball of curious workmanship—ceases to function, and they get caught in a terrible storm. At the pleading of their wives, and for fear of sinking, Laman and Lemuel release Nephi. Nephi prays, and the storm stops, leaving a great calm. Many days later, they arrive in the promised land, on the American continent.[10]

Promised land[edit]

Upon arriving in America, they begin building farms and raising livestock that they find native to the land. Nephi is commanded by the Lord to make the small and large plates of Nephi. On the small plates, he is to write the spiritual record of the people, and the more plain and precious parts. On the large plates, he writes the history of the people, including their genealogy.

The last parts of First Nephi contain some teachings from Nephi to his people concerning Jesus Christ. He quotes Isaiah chapters 48 and 49 from the Old Testament. He ends the first book showing how all the ancient prophets have testified of Christ, and how it is only through Christ that one can be redeemed from the fall of Adam and their sins.

Internal prophecies[edit]

Many prophecies are made that are fulfilled within the pages of the Book of Mormon. Nephi sees the land of America, and so many cities built there by his seed that he could not count them. Nephi also sees in his vision that the descendants of his brothers will become unbelievers, and transform into a "dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations."

External prophecies[edit]

There are several prophecies that are made that can only be fulfilled outside of the Book of Mormon. Key among these are the prophecies concerning the birth, life, and death of the Savior. Nephi records that Jesus would be born to a virgin, conceived by the Spirit; that Jesus would be baptized; that there would be twelve disciples; that he would heal the sick and bedeviled; that he would be judged by the world; and that he would be crucified.

Although in the book of First Nephi Jesus is never identified by name, he is identified as the son of God, a great prophet, the messiah, and the savior of the world.

In First Nephi, Nephi's father Lehi prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Babylonians.

Nephi also prophesies concerning the future of the American continent. He sees people flee from Europe to settle in America; that the Bible (a record from the Jews) would travel among the people; that the people settling in America would drive the indigenous people out of the land; that the settlers would overpower Europe; the discovery and translation of the Book of Mormon; and that the apostle John the Revelator would write concerning the final days.

Interpretations of Nephi's vision[edit]

Perhaps the most potentially controversial part of the First Book of Nephi is the misunderstanding that has resulted from descriptions trying to define the "great and abominable church" that Nephi sees among the "nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles"(I Nephi 13:3-8). It may be of interest to note how this particular vision has had an impact on the way of Mormonism's view toward the rest of Christianity.

The Great and Abominable Church

Nephi sees the persecution of the apostles and their followers by the "house of Israel",[11] then later sees a "great church" that is, according to the description of the angel, "...most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron...".[12] The description almost immediately appears to be describing the persecution of Reformers and Protestant or pre-Protestant groups of people who suffered persecution and execution before, during, and after the Middle Ages, and this view seems to have been held by Bruce R. McConkie in his first edition of Mormon Doctrine. While Mormons do not believe such groups had the fullness of the gospel (often meaning priesthood authority of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods), and neither considering themselves Protestant, they do however believe that such groups had many righteous leaders and members who could be considered saints because they followed the light of Christ and sought to follow Him. Such people would include Wycliffe and Tyndale, who have been brought up most recently in an LDS General Conference.[13] The majority of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that this great and abominable church includes any organized group of people who fight against God and His divine purposes by means of persecution, false teachings and belief systems, and oppression. Bruce R. McConkie, who was later ordained an apostle of the LDS Church, originally wrote his opinion that the Catholic Church was the great and abominable church, but very few in the LDS Church share his view today. But we must note that his meaning of the Catholic Church was the church in its original state when it was executing and plundering and hiding its crimes as a government and a church.[citation needed] Scriptures indicate organizations and nations during periods of times, but not necessarily throughout the span of history in its entirety.[citation needed]

The idea that the great and abominable church includes all evil institutions may appear completely accurate to some, since there were also immoral institutions even before the death of the Apostles. However, when Christ was crucified and his apostles and the saints were killed, the proper leadership of his church was lost.[14] There was no longer authority directed from Christ on the earth and therefore man began to lead the church based on their own beliefs. This eventually led to changes away from true doctrine and the formation of many churches holding different viewpoints.[14] Other churches had existed during the time of the apostles, but from the church Christ set up, after the corruption and mystification of doctrine in the Bible, the Catholic Church began to rise. Precisely what "The Great and Abomninable Church" is, however, remains vague.[citation needed]

The Taking Away of Truth from the Bible

Besides the persecution of the saints, Nephi sees that people who comprise the great and abominable church among the Gentiles would also be involved with taking "away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away."[15] They would do this by taking the record of the Jews that would go forth "in purity" "by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" to the Gentiles, and taking away "plain and precious things" from the "book of the Lamb of God."[16] Latter-day Saints believe that the Bible lost some of its originally intended meaning and doctrine as spoken by the ancient prophets and apostles because of this taking away of plain and precious truths by some Gentile teachers and compilers soon after the death of the apostles, though the Bible remained an important source of truth as attested by Nephi. This could be looked upon when the council of Nicaea voted on which parts of the Bible were "true doctrine."[citation needed]

Future Events and Books of Scripture

Nephi sees in his vision that the record and testimony of his people in the Book of Mormon is brought forth "unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb."[17] He sees this book taken to the descendants of the Lamanites to teach them the fullness of the gospel, and that other books are also brought by the Gentiles to them and to all the house of Israel to convince them "that the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true."[8] He sees that these books have the important role of making known the "plain and precious things" that had been lost from the Bible, but also "establish the truth of the first" (the Bible).[18]

Nephi teaches of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant when scattered Israel will be gathered through believing in Jesus Christ and his divine mission and atonement. He sees that there will be "wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds of the earth," but that "the covenant people of the Lord, ...scattered upon all the face of the earth," ... "were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory."[19] He foresees the eventual destruction of the great and abominable church, and the triumph of Christ's reign on earth during the Millennium.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 1 Nephi 8:10
  2. ^ 1 Nephi 11
  3. ^ 1 Nephi 13:12
  4. ^ 1 Nephi 13:17-19
  5. ^ 1 Nephi 13:14
  6. ^ 1 Nephi 13:34-36
  7. ^ 1 Nephi 13:35-37, 42
  8. ^ a b 1 Nephi 13:39
  9. ^ 1 Nephi 13:20-27, 40
  10. ^ 1 Nephi 18:21
  11. ^ 1 Nephi 11:35
  12. ^ 1 Nephi 13:5
  13. ^ Packer, Boyd K, October Conference 2005 (Ensign, November 2005,p.70).
  14. ^ a b "Gospel Principles". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2009. pp. 91–92. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  15. ^ 1 Nephi 13:26
  16. ^ 1 Nephi 13:24-29
  17. ^ 1 Nephi 13:35
  18. ^ 1 Nephi 13:40
  19. ^ 1 Nephi 14:14,15

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]