The First Book of Nephi

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What Do You Know about the Prophet Nephi?

You probably know that Nephi was one of the writers of the Book of Mormon, but what else do you know about him? As you read 1 and 2 Nephi you will find out that Nephi was also a scholar, a great hunter, a blacksmith, a shipbuilder, a navigator, a goldsmith, a record keeper, a refugee, a temple builder, a king, a warrior, a prophet, and a seer. Do you think a man with that kind of experience could teach us something about life?

Where and When Did Nephi Live?

Nephi lived near Jerusalem, in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, about 600 years before the birth of Christ. The powerful nations of Babylon and Egypt were competing for control of that part of the world, and that small kingdom of the Jews was caught in the middle.

Because of wickedness, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered and its people carried away captive by the Assyrians more than 100 years before. At the time of Nephi, wickedness was widespread, and the Jews were subject first to one foreign power and then another. Prophets such as Jeremiah and Nephi’s father, Lehi, prophesied that the kingdom of Judah would also be destroyed if the people did not repent. The prophets Ezekiel and Daniel also lived about this same time.

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Why Did Nephi Write This Book?

There are some specific truths that Nephi hoped we would learn by reading this book. His introduction gives a brief overview of his family and their travels and struggles (see the paragraph under the book title, before chapter 1). He wrote that he would show “that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20). He also explained that his purpose was to “write of the things of God” in order to “persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved” (1 Nephi 6:3–4; see also Jacob 1:1–4).

As you read 1 Nephi, therefore, be aware that he is teaching us to come unto Jesus Christ and be saved. He uses the experiences of his family to demonstrate the Lord’s power to save the faithful both in this life and in the life to come.

1 Nephi 1
The Prophet Lehi Is Called to Warn the Jews

The events in 1 Nephi begin 600 years before the birth of Christ. At that time, the Jews, because of their wickedness, had fallen under the control of the powerful Babylonian empire. The prophet Jeremiah warned the Jews to submit to Babylon or be destroyed (see Jeremiah 27:12–13). The prophet Lehi was also called to warn them to repent (see 1 Nephi 1:18–19). The Jews, however, chose to listen to the counsel of false prophets who prophesied that Babylon, not Judah, would be destroyed (see Jeremiah 28:1–4). They rebelled against Babylon and about 586 B.C. the kingdom of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem, were destroyed and many Jews were taken captive into Babylon.

Babylon conquered Assyria and then went on to conquer all of Israel.
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Have you wondered how the Lord calls and prepares true prophets? We learn something about this in 1 Nephi 1 where Nephi told us how the Lord called his father, Lehi, to prophesy to the Jews. As you read it, note how the calling of Lehi was similar to how other prophets have been called. (For example, see Isaiah 6:1–8; Ezekiel 1:1–3, 26–28; 2; Revelation 10:1–2, 8–11; Joseph Smith—History 1:15–35).

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 1

Mysteries of God (v. 1)—Truths that cannot be understood without revelation from God

Numberless concourses (v. 8)—A large assembly

Luster (v. 9)—Brightness

Bade (v. 11)—Asked, commanded

Wo (v. 13)—Sorrow, misery

Abominations (vv. 13, 19)—Sins; thoughts and acts that are offensive in the sight of God

Suffer (v. 14)—Allow

Abridgment (v. 17)—Shortened version

Redemption of the world (v. 19)—Deliverance of the world from sin through Christ’s sacrifice

1 Nephi 1:2—In What Language Did Nephi Write on the Plates?

Nephi referred to the “language of my father” and to the “language of the Egyptians.” Toward the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni described his and his father’s writing as “reformed Egyptian” (Mormon 9:32). “It is unknown whether Nephi, Mormon, or Moroni wrote Hebrew in modified Egyptian characters or inscribed their plates in both the Egyptian language and Egyptian characters or whether Nephi wrote in one language and Mormon and Moroni, who lived some nine hundred years later, in another” (in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 1:179).

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Sample characters from the Book of Mormon plates
1 Nephi 1:20—What Did Nephi Want to Teach Us?

In verse 20, Nephi told why he recorded the story of his family (see also “Why Did Nephi Write This Book?” on p. 13 of this manual). Watch for examples of this purpose as you read the two books he wrote.

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 1.

Activity A iconHow Is Your Life Like Nephi’s?

To begin his record, Nephi introduced himself.

  1. Carefully read 1 Nephi 1:1–3 and find key words and phrases that reveal what Nephi’s life was like. You might want to mark these words in your scriptures. In your notebook, write a sentence or two that summarizes what Nephi told us about himself.

  2. Explain at least one way in which your life is similar to Nephi’s life.

Activity B iconFind the Pattern

  1. Search 1 Nephi 1:5–20 and list what happened to Lehi. The following questions will help you find the major points:

  2. Read the following scripture accounts and list words and phrases that show that other prophets have had experiences similar to the prophet Lehi’s experience: Ezekiel 1:1–3, 26–28; 2; Revelation 10:1–2, 8–11; Joseph Smith—History 1:15–35.

  3. What does this teach you about the calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

Activity C iconWrite an Abridgment

Nephi read the record of his father and then made an abridgment, or shortened version, on his own plates. To make his abridgment, Nephi selected those parts that he felt would help us better understand the Savior and His desire to help us. Writing an abridgment is challenging because the person making the abridgment has to decide what to include and what to leave out. Write an abridgment of three verses from 1 Nephi 1, abridging them to one sentence. Write it with the same purpose that Nephi had (see “Why Did Nephi Write This Book?” on p. 13 of this manual).

1 Nephi 2
“I Did Cry unto the Lord; and Behold He Did Visit Me”

Lehi was not the only prophet who angered the Jews by teaching the truth. Jeremiah was also persecuted and imprisoned about this same time. In 1 Nephi 2 you will read what the Lord did to save Lehi and his family, not only from the angry Jews but also from the coming destruction of Jerusalem. What do you learn from the different ways Lehi’s children responded to what the Lord asked Lehi to do?

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 2

Stiffneckedness (v. 11)—Stubbornness, pride

Murmur (v. 12)—Complain or disagree in a low voice

Did confound them (v. 14)—Made them confused and not able to answer

Durst not utter (v. 14)—Dared not speak

Stature (v. 16)—Physical size

Scourge (v. 24)—Affliction, curse, torment

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1 Nephi 2:2–6—Where Was the Wilderness?

Lehi led his family from Jerusalem to the Red Sea near the Gulf of Aqaba. The distance is about 180 miles (290 kilometers). It was a hot and barren country, known for thieves who waited to rob unprepared travelers. After reaching the Red Sea, Lehi turned south and traveled three more days before camping in a river valley. It could have taken Lehi’s family about fourteen days to travel from the city of Jerusalem to this point. Remember the time and distances involved as you read about their trips back to Jerusalem.

1 Nephi 2:11—What Is a “Visionary Man”?

Lehi was called a visionary man because he received visions, dreams, and other revelations from God. Most people would consider that to be a good quality, but Laman and Lemuel used the term to characterize Lehi as an impractical dreamer.

Studying the Scriptures

Do either activity A or B and then do activity C as you study 1 Nephi 2.

Activity A iconWrite a News Report

The Jews mocked and were angry with Lehi’s public testimony against their wickedness. Pretend you are a newspaper reporter who went to see Lehi at his home and found that the whole family was gone. As you talked to the neighbors you learned the information in 1 Nephi 2:1–4. In your notebook, write a newspaper report describing the sudden disappearance of Lehi and his family.

Activity B iconWrite a Note

Nephi described Laman and Lemuel as “stiffnecked” because they were stubborn in their unrighteousness. They did not believe that their father was inspired by God and were angry because they left their lands and wealth in Jerusalem and were suffering in the wilderness (see 1 Nephi 2:11–13). Their brother Nephi was “grieved because of the hardness of their hearts [and] cried unto the Lord for them” (v. 18). Write a note to Laman and Lemuel about the importance of honoring their father and being humble so that they might know “the dealings of that God who had created them” (v. 12).

Activity C iconCompare the Actions and the Results

Laman and Lemuel’s reactions to their father’s decision to leave Jerusalem were quite different than Nephi’s.

  1. Review 1 Nephi 2:11–14 and list at least three reasons why Laman and Lemuel rebelled.

  2. Review verses 16–17 and describe what Nephi did that helped him not to rebel.

  3. From what you have learned in these verses, what should a person do to keep from rebelling against God’s commandments?

1 Nephi 3–4
Having Faith the Lord Will Help

If you tried to perform a difficult task your father had given you and you failed, would you try again? If you were nearly killed in a second attempt and you still failed, would you quit then? Would it make a difference in how you approached the task if you knew the assignment came from your Heavenly Father instead of your earthly father? In 1 Nephi 3–4, Lehi’s sons were given an assignment like that. Notice who had faith the task could be completed and why he had that faith. Notice also that having faith did not make the task easy, just possible to accomplish.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 3

Genealogy of my forefathers, genealogy of my father (vv. 3, 12)—The names and history of my father and other ancestors

Engraven (vv. 3, 12)—Cut or scratched into metal

Lust after (v. 25)—Uncontrolled desire, want

Were obliged (v. 26)—Were forced

Iniquities (v. 29)—Sins

1 Nephi 3:11—What Does It Mean to “Cast Lots”?

Casting lots was used as a way of making a choice. The exact method is not known, but the modern practice of drawing straws or flipping coins are examples of the same idea. Anciently, however, it was believed the Lord determined the outcome (see Proverbs 16:33; Bible Dictionary, “lots, casting of,” p. 726).

1 Nephi 3:3, 12–13, 23–27; 4:7–9, 12–13, 19–22—What Do We Know about Laban?

One Latter-day Saint writer pointed out a few things we can learn about Laban from these chapters: “We learn in passing that he commanded a garrison of fifty, that he met in full ceremonial armor with ‘the elders of the Jews’ (1 Nephi 4:22) for secret consultations by night, that he had control of a treasury, that he was of the old aristocracy, being a distant relative to Lehi himself, that he probably held his job because of his ancestors, since he hardly received it by merit, that his house was the storing place of very old records, that he was a large man, short-tempered, crafty, and dangerous, and to the bargain cruel, greedy, unscrupulous, weak, and given to drink” (Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, and the World of the Jaredites [1988], 97).

1 Nephi 4

Hither and thither (v. 2)—Here and there

Wroth (v. 4)—Very angry

Constrained (v. 10)—Commanded, compelled, forced

Dwindle (v. 13)—Fall gradually away, become weak

Every whit (v. 19)—Every part of it

Gird on (v. 19)—Put on

Tarry (v. 35)—Stay

1 Nephi 4:10–18—Why Did Nephi Kill Laban?

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.

“God said, ‘thou shalt not kill’ [Exodus 20:13]; at another time He said, ‘thou shalt utterly destroy’ [Deuteronomy 20:17]. This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 256).

Nephi and Laban
© 1966 Ronald K. Crosby
1 Nephi 4:30–38—The Power of an Oath in Nephi’s Day

“As the Lord liveth, and as I live” (1 Nephi 4:32) is an example of a solemn oath and was considered most sacred in the ancient Middle East. “To be most binding and solemn an oath should be by the life of something, even if it be but a blade of grass. The only oath more awful than that ‘by my life’ or (less commonly) ‘by the life of my head,’ is . . . ‘by the life of God,’ or ‘as the Lord Liveth’” (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 2nd ed. [1964], 104).

Notice how quickly Zoram calmed down at Nephi’s words (see 1 Nephi 4:35) and how quickly the brothers trusted Zoram after he made an oath to go with them (see v. 37). In our day, when promises often seem to be considered less sacred, what happened between Nephi and Zoram is remarkable. See also 1 Nephi 3:15, where Nephi made an oath that they would get the brass plates.

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 3–4.

Activity A Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—1 Nephi 3:7

  1. Read 1 Nephi 3:1–8, and then in your notebook write: I will __________ and __________ for I __________. Review verse 7 and write one word in each blank. Explain how this sentence summarizes why Nephi did not murmur like his brothers did.

  2. Rewrite verse 7, substituting your own name in the place of the word Nephi. Then write about at least one time when you, like Nephi, had the faith and courage to do something difficult that the Lord asked you to do.

  3. Summarize the meaning of 1 Nephi 3:7, writing it as a short, easily remembered statement, such as “Lengthen your stride” or “Every member a missionary.”

Activity B iconWhat Can We Learn from That Mission?

  1. Nephi and his brothers tried three times to get the brass plates from Laban. The first two attempts are described in 1 Nephi 3:11–27. Draw a chart in your notebook like the one following. From your reading, fill in the boxes to tell what happened in the first two attempts and explain why you think those attempts failed.

      First Attempt Second Attempt Third Attempt
    Who went?      
    What did they, or he, do?      
    What happened?      
    Why do you think it failed or succeeded?      
  2. Review 1 Nephi 4, fill in the boxes for the third attempt, and answer the following questions to help you think about what you studied:

    1. What differences do you notice between what Nephi’s brothers trusted in to get the plates the first two times and what Nephi trusted in on the third try? (see 1 Nephi 3:11–13, 24; 1 Nephi 4:5–12).

    2. How can what you learned about the success of the third attempt help you succeed in the challenges you face?

    3. From the Lord’s command for Nephi to kill Laban, what can you learn about the value He places on the scriptures?

  3. Apply Nephi’s experience to your own life. Describe at least one challenge you face where following Nephi’s example could help you make the right choice.

Activity C iconDo Miracles Create Faith?

After two failed attempts, Laman and Lemuel blamed Nephi for what happened and began to beat him and Sam with a rod.

  1. Review 1 Nephi 3:28–31 and describe in your notebook what happened to stop them.

  2. Even after what happened, the older brothers still did not have faith that God was more powerful than Laban (see v. 31). Write a short paragraph explaining why you think Laman and Lemuel refused to believe.

  3. Review 1 Nephi 4:1–3 and write another paragraph explaining why you think Nephi had such strong faith.

1 Nephi 5–6
The Importance of Sacred Records

How valuable are the scriptures? In 1 Nephi 4, Nephi learned that “it is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” (v. 13). In 1 Nephi 5 is an account of the emotional price it cost Lehi and Sariah to send their sons back for the scripture plates, as well as what Lehi found on those plates that showed their efforts and sacrifices were worthwhile. In 1 Nephi 6 you will read how Nephi felt about the scriptures he was writing. As you read these chapters, think about how valuable the scriptures are to you.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 5

Mourned (v. 1)—Been very sad

Commencement (vv. 12–13)—Beginning

Preserved (vv. 14–15)—Saved

1 Nephi 6

Sufficeth (v. 2)—Is enough

Persuade (v. 4)—Convince

1 Nephi 6:3–6—Why Did Nephi Keep a Record?

Most books are written to inform, persuade, or entertain, but their ultimate goal is to gain and please an audience. Nephi explained that his record was not written to please the world but to please God (see 1 Nephi 6:5). For more information on Nephi’s purpose for writing, see 1 Nephi 9.

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 5–6.

Activity A iconWrite a Diary Entry

  1. After reading 1 Nephi 5, write a diary entry as if you were Sariah and explain how you think Sariah felt in verses 1–9. Include the following points:

    1. What she complained about

    2. What Lehi said to her

    3. What happened that strengthened her testimony

  2. Write a paragraph explaining some experiences you have had that helped you know that God keeps His promises and blesses those who love and serve Him.

Activity B iconMake a List

  1. Make a list of what Lehi found on the plates of brass by completing the following sentences in your notebook (see 1 Nephi 5:10–16):

    1. The plates contained the five _________________________.

    2. And also a record of  __________ from __________ down to the reign of __________.

    3. And also the prophecies __________, including many from __________.

    4. Also a genealogy of __________, which told him he was a descendant of __________.

  2. Review 1 Nephi 5:17–22 and tell what effect reading the scriptures had on Lehi. What effect does the Spirit have on you when you read the scriptures?

Activity C iconFollow Nephi’s Example

  1. From what you read in 1 Nephi 6, what did Nephi want to include in his record? What did he want to leave out? Why?

  2. Following Nephi’s example, list five things you might say as part of a testimony that would be “pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world” (v. 5).

1 Nephi 7
Ishmael Joins Lehi in the Wilderness

Nephi and his brothers were directed to make another trip to Jerusalem. This time they were sent to bring Ishmael and his family to join them in the wilderness. Why did the Lord choose Ishmael’s family? Why would Ishmael choose to join Lehi? How did Laman and Lemuel react to this assignment? As you read 1 Nephi 7, look for possible answers to these questions.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 7

Meet (v. 1)—Proper or wise

Ceaseth (v. 14)—Stops

Strive (v. 14)—Work hard

Constraineth (v. 15)—Commands

1 Nephi 7:2—Why Did the Lord Choose Ishmael’s Family?

The Lord commanded Lehi to send his sons to Jerusalem and bring Ishmael and his family into the wilderness. Ishmael must have been chosen, at least in part, because he was willing to follow the Lord. Nephi wrote that they “did speak unto him the words of the Lord” (1 Nephi 7:4) and the “Lord did soften the heart of Ishmael” (v. 5).

Ishmael's family

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A or B as you study 1 Nephi 7.

Activity A iconList What Happened

List the major events in 1 Nephi 7. Especially consider verses 1, 4–6, 8, 16, 18–19, and 22.

Activity B iconAnalyze and Apply What Happened

  1. Review 1 Nephi 7:1–5 and explain why you think the Lord chose Ishmael and his family to join Lehi in the wilderness (see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for additional help).

  2. In verses 10–12, Nephi repeated the same phrase three times. What is the phrase? How could forgetting be a reason for Laman and Lemuel’s rebellion? List at least three ideas or experiences from your life that could help you be more obedient if you always remembered them.

  3. Write a short paragraph describing how 1 Nephi 7:16–19 gives an example of the “tender mercies” Nephi promised to show us when he began his book (see 1 Nephi 1:20).

1 Nephi 8
Lehi’s Dream

Lehi’s inspired dream symbolically represents our life in mortality. We can find ourselves represented in it and can see where our lives are headed if we remain on our present path. Notice what brought Lehi joy and sorrow. Watch also for what Lehi’s children did in the dream. Why were some of them in danger? Think about how Lehi might have felt as he pondered what the Lord revealed to him in this dream.

Lehi's dream

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 8

Bade (v. 6)—Asked

Beckoned (v. 15)—Signaled to come

Strait (v. 20)—Narrow and direct (using two words that have similar meanings, strait and narrow, is a poetic form)

Commence (v. 22)—Begin

Scoffing (v. 28)—Making fun of, mocking

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 8.

Activity A iconFind the Key

In his dream, Lehi found himself in a dark wasteland for many hours (see 1 Nephi 8:4–9). What did Lehi do to get out of the darkness? How is the darkness Lehi experienced like the world in which we live? How can what Lehi did to get out of darkness also help you?

Activity B iconMatch the Scripture to a Phrase

Lehi’s dream helps us understand important principles about life and our efforts to live the gospel. The images in the dream are symbolic, and they represent real challenges that we face every day. Write out what Lehi saw, as listed below, and then, from your reading of 1 Nephi 8, choose the phrase that best describes the image.

What Lehi Saw Which Statement Best Describes It?
1. “Dark and dreary wilderness” (v. 4) a. A pleasant place
b. A fearful place
2. “Man . . . dressed in a white robe” (v. 5) a. Helped Lehi feel at ease
b. Increased Lehi’s fear
3. “Large and spacious field” (v. 9) a. Also a dark and dreary place
b. A neutral place
4. A tree with wonderful fruit (see v. 10) a. The center of the dream
b. The source of Lehi’s concern
5. “River of water” (v. 13) a. A danger
b. A blessing
6. “Rod of iron” (v. 19) a. marked the path to the tree
b. Protected travelers from the river
7. Narrow path beside the river (see v. 20) a. Easy to follow
b. Difficult to follow
8. “Mist of darkness” (v. 23) a. Made travel difficult
b. Caused by the many people
9. “Great and spacious building” (v. 26) a. Stood by the tree of life
b. Stood across the river

Activity C iconWrite a News Interview

Lehi told us that the fruit of the tree in his dream “was desirable to make one happy” (1 Nephi 8:10) and tasting the fruit filled him with “exceedingly great joy” (v. 12). In his dream, Lehi saw four groups of people that represent people in this life:

  1. Imagine you are a news reporter and you interviewed a person from each of the four groups. From what you read about each group, write how you think each person would answer the following questions:

    1. Where were you trying to go? Why?

    2. Did you get to where you were going? Why, or why not?

    3. Do you like the place where you finished? Why, or why not?

  2. Suppose you could interview those same people in the next life. Write how you think they would answer the last question from that point of view.

1 Nephi 9
Two Sets of Plates

Nephi kept two sets of records. One was the secular history of his people (the large plates of Nephi); the second was a sacred record (the small plates of Nephi). As you read 1 Nephi 9, look for the reasons Nephi gave for keeping those two records. In the “Understanding the Scriptures” section you will learn what we know today about the reasons for his keeping two sets of plates. This event teaches us that the Lord has a plan that takes into account our failings as well as our successes.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 9

Reign (v. 4)—Rule

Contentions (v. 4)—Disagreements, arguing

1 Nephi 9:3–6—For a Wise Purpose

In 1828 the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon and had finished 116 handwritten pages. Martin Harris pled with Joseph several times to let him show the translation to his family. The Lord at first said no, but finally gave permission if Martin would promise to show them only to a chosen few. Martin Harris broke his promise and the 116 pages were lost. Joseph was heartsick, but through this experience he learned a valuable lesson about obedience and how impossible it is for the wicked to prevent Heavenly Father from accomplishing His work (see D&C 3:1–10).

Joseph with plates Nephi with plates
© Robert T. Barrett  

The Lord knew what Martin Harris would do and planned for it more than 2,000 years in advance. The Lord told Nephi to make two sets of records covering the same time period. One, the large plates, contained the secular history of the Nephites. The other, the small plates, was reserved for their sacred history. Joseph Smith began translating from Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates, so the 116 pages that Martin lost contained information on the secular history.

The Lord also knew that the Prophet’s enemies would change the stolen pages so that if Joseph translated the same material again they would say that he was not a prophet because he could not translate it the same way twice (see D&C 10:10–19). The Lord told Joseph not to translate that part again, but to translate the small plates of Nephi, which covered the same time period but contained the more important sacred record (see D&C 10:30–45; see also “The Main Sources for the Book of Mormon,” p. 12).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A and B as you study 1 Nephi 9.

Activity A iconMake a Marginal Note

In 1 Nephi 9, Nephi used the phrases “these plates” and “other plates” to refer to the two sets of plates the Lord commanded him to make. In the margin of your scriptures, write a note like the following to help you remember which set of plates he was referring to: these plates = small plates and other plates = large plates.

Activity B iconApply It to Your Life

Nephi obeyed the Lord and made two sets of plates even though he was not told why. How can Nephi’s example of faith and obedience inspire you to live the commandments you may not fully understand?

1 Nephi 10
The Prophecies of Lehi

Chapters 1–8 of 1 Nephi are largely Nephi’s summary of the record of his father, Lehi, and chapter 9 is Nephi’s explanation for keeping two sets of plates. In 1 Nephi 10, Nephi began a record of his own life and ministry (see 1 Nephi 10:1). He included a prophecy by his father concerning the future. As you read this prophecy, notice how much detail Lehi received by revelation concerning future events. Notice also the effect Lehi’s words had on Nephi.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 10

Make himself manifest (v. 11)—Reveal Himself

With one accord (v. 13)—Together in unity

Remnants (v. 14)—Remaining parts

Grafted in (v. 14)—Joined


Expedient (v. 15)—Appropriate, desirable

Probation (v. 21)—Trial or testing (meaning our life on earth)

1 Nephi 10:14—The Scattering and Gathering of Israel


Lehi compared the house of Israel to an olive tree whose branches would be scattered all over the world because of their unbelief. He saw his own family as a part of that scattering. (See 1 Nephi 10:11–13.)

He also prophesied that after the gospel had been taken to the Gentiles, the scattered branches of the house of Israel would be gathered again. Lehi then explained that to be “grafted in” to the tree, which represents the house of Israel, means to “come to the knowledge of the true Messiah” (v. 14). In other words, the way a person truly becomes a member of the house of Israel is to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A or B as you study 1 Nephi 10.

Activity A iconRead for the Answer


In 1 Nephi 10:4–11 Nephi recorded Lehi’s description of an event that would take place 600 years in their future. Read those verses to help you answer the following questions about the Holy One of Israel:

  1. Why is there a need for a Redeemer?

  2. What would happen to the Messiah?

  3. How would the Gentiles learn of Christ?

Activity B iconFill in the Blanks

In 1 Nephi 10:17–22, Nephi shared his testimony of the power of the Spirit to help us understand the things of God. Summarize Nephi’s testimony of the power of the Spirit and tell how it can apply to your life.

1 Nephi 11–12
Nephi Learns of Christ and His Mission

What do you do when you read a passage of scripture or receive counsel from Church leaders that you know is important but you do not understand? In 1 Nephi 10:17–19, Nephi testified that we can understand the things of God through the power of the Holy Ghost, and he helped us understand what we must do. Nephi desired to “see, and hear, and know” (v. 17) what his father had been shown in an inspired dream.

In 1 Nephi 11–14 is a record of how the Lord granted Nephi’s desire and showed him not only what Lehi saw, but also gave him the meaning of many of the symbols. As you read chapter 11, notice what Nephi did to be ready to receive such a wonderful revelation. In chapter 12, look for ways that Nephi applied this revelation to his own people.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 11

Abide upon (v. 27)—Rested upon

Ministering unto, minister unto (vv. 28, 30)—Serving, giving what is needed

Tongues (v. 36)—Languages

1 Nephi 11:16–36—What Is the “Condescension of God”?

Nephi sees Mary

“To condescend is literally to ‘go down among.’ The ‘condescension of God’ is to be understood . . . in two ways. The first aspect is the condescension of God the Father, meaning Elohim [see 1 Nephi 11:16–23]. ‘the condescension of God lies in the fact that he, an exalted Being, steps down from his eternal throne to become the Father of a mortal Son, a Son born “after the manner of the flesh”‘ ([Bruce R. McConkie,] The Mortal Messiah, 1:314). . . .

“The second aspect of the condescension of God was that of the Son, meaning Christ [see 1 Nephi 11:24–32]. Jehovah—the father of heaven and of earth, the creator of all things from the beginning, the great I AM and God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—would come to earth, leave his divine throne, take a body of flesh and bones, submit himself to the frailties of the flesh and the vile and vicious dispositions of humanity, and work out his own salvation as a mortal man; such is the doctrine of ‘the condescension of God’” (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4 vols. [1987–92], 1:78, 82).

1 Nephi 12

Tumultuous (v. 4)—Loud

Rent (v. 4)—Tore apart

Vapor (v. 5)—Fog or mist

Gulf (v. 18)—Wide gap, deep place in the earth

Dwindle in unbelief (v. 22)—Fall gradually away or become weak because of lack of faith

1 Nephi 11–12—What Did Nephi Learn about Lehi’s Dream?

The following chart summarizes some of what Nephi learned about his father’s dream:

Symbol from Lehi’s Dream The Interpretation Nephi Was Given
The tree with white fruit (see 1 Nephi 8:10–11) The love of God, which He showed by giving His Son to be our Savior (see 1 Nephi 11:21–25; called the “tree of life” in 15:22)
The river of (filthy) water (see 8:13) The depths of hell into which the wicked fall (see 12:16; called “filthiness” in 15:27)
The rod of iron (see 8:19) The word of God, which can lead us safely to the tree (see 11:25)
The mist of darkness (see 8:23) The “temptations of the devil,” which blind people so they lose their way and cannot find the tree (see 12:17)
The great and spacious building in the air (see 8:26) The pride and vain imaginations of the world (see 11:36; 12:18)
People who start on the path to the tree but are lost in the mist (see 8:21–23) Nephi did not identify specific people with all of the multitudes in the dream, but he saw the following kinds of people:
  • People who heard Jesus but “cast him out” (see 11:28)

  • People who crucified Jesus even after He healed the sick and cast out devils (see vv. 31–33)

  • People who gathered together “in a large and spacious building” to fight against the Twelve Apostles (see vv. 34–36)

  • Nephites and Lamanites who were “gathered together to battle” (see 12:1–4, 13–15)

  • Nephites who, because of pride, were destroyed by the Lamanites (see vv. 19–23)

People who make it to the tree by holding on to the rod but fall away when they are mocked (see 8:24–25, 28)
People who desire the great and spacious building more than the tree (see 8:26–27, 31–33)
People who held on to the rod, fell down at the tree, and partook of the fruit; they ignored the mockers and did not fall away (see 8:30, 33). Those who partake of the greatest of all of God’s gifts—eternal life (see 15:36)

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A and one of the other two activities (B or C) as you study 1 Nephi 11–12.

Activity A iconDiscover the Meaning of the Dream

From your reading of 1 Nephi 11 and 12, answer the following questions to describe what Nephi learned about his father’s dream. Use the “Understanding the Scriptures” section if needed. (You may want to write in your notebook the meaning of the symbols next to the matching verses in 1 Nephi 8.)

  1. What characteristics or qualities does the tree with the delicious fruit have that make it an effective symbol for God’s love for His children and the Atonement of Jesus Christ?

  2. How is the word of God (the scriptures and the words of the prophets) like the iron rod that Lehi saw?

  3. How has the word of God helped you “taste” the joy that comes from God’s love?

  4. How is temptation like “mists of darkness,” and what is the key to not getting blinded and lost?

  5. What is the difference between the people who made it to the tree and then fell away and those who made it to the tree and remained?

Activity B iconFind What Nephi Learned about Jesus

Jesus healing

When Nephi was shown the meaning of his father’s dream, he learned many things about what Jesus would do when He came to earth nearly 600 years later.

  1. Review 1 Nephi 11–12 and list at least eight events Nephi was shown about the life of the Savior.

  2. What does this prophecy teach you about the accuracy of God’s knowledge of the future?

Activity C iconMake a Warning Sign

Make a diagram or a sign that shows the large and spacious building, the tree, and the gulf that separated them (see 1 Nephi 12:18). Label each symbol, and then write a slogan or warning message on the poster that would help convince others to avoid the building. Be creative and try to to use a new idea or approach with your poster.

1 Nephi 13
A Vision of the Latter Days

The vision Nephi received in answer to his “pondering” about his father’s dream is recorded in 1 Nephi 11–14. Chapters 11–12 contain a prophecy about Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry, His Atonement, and His visit to the Nephites on the American continent. Nephi’s vision continues in chapter 13 with a prophecy about what will happen on the American continent after Nephi’s seed is destroyed. Notice how detailed and accurate this prophecy is. Notice also how much Nephi knew about the future of his people on the promised land before they even left the area around the Red Sea.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 13

Abominable (vv. 5–6)—Wicked, hateful

Harlots (vv. 7–8)—Immoral persons or prostitutes

Wrought upon (v. 12)—Influenced, inspired

Smitten (vv. 14, 34)—Punished, afflicted

Their mother Gentiles (v. 17)—The people in the countries they came from

A book (v. 20)—The Bible

Pervert (v. 27)—Change to evil

Utterly (v. 30)—Completely

Remnant (v. 34)—Remaining part

Tidings (v. 37)—News, messages

Other books (v. 39)—The Book of Mormon and other scripture

Tongues (v. 40)—Languages

1 Nephi 13:3—What Are the “Kingdoms of the Gentiles”?

Nephi used the word gentiles here to refer to all nations outside the land of Israel. For a more complete definition see the Bible Dictionary, “Gentile,” 679.

1 Nephi 13:5–9—What Is Meant by the “Church Which Is Most Abominable”?
great and spacious building
© Greg K. Olsen

It is incorrect to think that any particular church or denomination is the “great and abominable church” mentioned by Nephi. Any group of people that follows Satan’s ways are part of the kingdom of the devil and are enemies of Christ and His Church (see 2 Nephi 10:16). They are like those who live in the great and spacious building seen in Lehi’s dream.

1 Nephi 13:12—Who Was the “Man among the Gentiles”?

Nephi saw “a man among the Gentiles” whom the “Spirit of God” inspired to sail to where the descendants of Lehi would be in the promised land. Christopher Columbus is a remarkable match for the man Nephi described. Columbus wrote: “From my first youth onward, I was a seaman and have so continued until this day. . . . The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and He bestowed upon me courage and understanding; knowledge of seafaring He gave me in abundance. . . . Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my [enterprise] called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?” (from Jacob Wassermann, Columbus, Don Quixote of the Seas, 19–20, 46; italics added; cited in McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 1:91).

Studying the Scriptures

Do any two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 13.

Activity A iconMake a Comparison

In 1 Nephi 13:1–9 Nephi described an “abominable church” whose goal was to destroy the Saints of God (see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section above).

  1. As you read these verses, list what Nephi said are the desires of those under the influence of Satan. Then make another list of some of the blessings that are most important to members of the Church.

  2. Write a short paragraph explaining why the blessings on the faithful member’s list will bring greater happiness than what is written on the other list.

great and spacious building temple
  © 1977 Dan Thornton

Activity B iconMatch a Headline to a Verse

In 1 Nephi 13:10–19 is a record of Nephi’s vision of the discovery of the American continents by European explorers. He also saw the conflicts the European settlers would have with the descendants of Lehi over their homelands.

  1. Copy the following headlines into your notebook. Then, after each one, write a verse number from 1 Nephi 13:10–19 that could go along with the headline:

  2. ship General George Washington
    Columbus U.S. Founding Fathers
    discovery map Native Americans
  3. What do you know about the history of your country that shows the hand of the Lord in preparing it to receive the gospel?

Activity C iconSummarize the Prophecies

Nephi was shown how the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and other scripture would come forth in the latter days. Summarize what Nephi saw by answering the following questions:

  1. What did he see would happen to the Bible, after it was written by the prophets and apostles, that would cause the Gentiles to “stumble”? (see 1 Nephi 13:20–29).

  2. What would the Lord do for Nephi’s seed, or descendants, when the Gentiles came to the Americas? (see 1 Nephi 13:30–31).

  3. What would the Lord do to help the Gentiles, the Jews, the descendants of Lehi, and members of His Church today learn the true gospel? (see 1 Nephi 13:32–41).

  4. How does the message of verse 37 apply to you and your future decisions?

1 Nephi 14
Nephi’s Vision of the Gentiles in the Latter Days

Nephi’s vision concludes in 1 Nephi 14. In it he was shown the struggle that would take place between the Church of the Lamb of God and the great and abominable church of the devil. Notice the promises the Lord makes to the Gentiles who accept the gospel in the latter days. Even though you may be of Israel, unless you are Jewish or a descendant of Lehi, you would be numbered with the Gentiles Nephi wrote about. As you read this chapter, look for what your role is in the latter-day work of the Lord.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 14

Confounded (v. 2)—Mixed with other people so that their identity can no longer be distinguished

Abominable (v. 3)—Wicked, hateful

Utter (v. 3)—Complete, total

Great and marvelous work (v. 7)—This refers to the Restoration of the gospel and the Church

Temporally (v. 7)—Physically

Whore (v. 10)—The church of the devil is a whore in the sense that its people have forsaken God and followed after Satan.

Dominion (v. 11)—Area of influence, stronghold

1 Nephi 14:7–10—Why Are There “Two Churches Only”?

The “church of the devil” does not refer to a specific church but to any person, group, organization, or philosophy that works against the Church of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the children of God. Truth and goodness can certainly be found outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the fulness of the gospel, which is only found in the restored Church, is essential for the salvation our Heavenly Father desires for His children. The Restoration of the gospel, that “great and . . . marvelous work” (1 Nephi 14:7), as the angel told Nephi, would divide people, “either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction” (v. 7).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught: “There is only light and darkness; there is no dusky twilight zone. Either men walk in the light or they cannot be saved. Anything less than salvation is not salvation. It may be better to walk in the twilight or to glimpse the first few rays of a distant dawn than to be enveloped in total darkness, but salvation itself is only for those who step forth into the blazing light of the noonday sun (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [1982], 54).

Studying the Scriptures

Do any two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 14.

Activity A iconFind the “If-Then” Promises

In 1 Nephi 14:1–3, the angel told Nephi of conditional blessings available to the Gentiles, which includes us. These blessings are stated in “if-then” promises—if you do this, then God will do that. Find the promises and complete the following statements in your notebook.



Activity B iconFind Evidence in a Newspaper

In 1 Nephi 14:7–10, the angel told Nephi that people decide between two choices.

  1. Review those verses and summarize what those two choices are (see also the “Understanding the Scriptures” section).

  2. Look through the articles and advertisements in a newspaper and find at least two examples of people, groups, or philosophies that Satan wants us to trust in instead of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Explain why those things cannot bring us “peace and life eternal” (v. 7).

Activity C iconWrite Your Own Test Questions

At the end of his vision, Nephi saw the struggle that would take place between the “church of the Lamb of God” and the church of the devil. He also learned that another prophet would be given a similar revelation many years later.

  1. Search 1 Nephi 14:11–30 and write from six to eight test questions that you think are important questions to answer from these verses. Be sure to also give the answers.

  2. What did you learn in these verses about what your own future might be like?

1 Nephi 15
Nephi Teaches His Brothers

In 1 Nephi 11–14 is an account of a marvelous vision Nephi received in answer to his desire to “behold the things which [his] father saw” (see 1 Nephi 11:3). Notice in 1 Nephi 15 what Nephi discovered about Laman and Lemuel when he returned from being instructed by angels. As you read this chapter, look for the reasons Nephi was able to walk by the light of divine revelation and his brothers stumbled in darkness. Notice also the additional explanations Nephi gave that help us understand the revelations he and his father, Lehi, received.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 15

Disputing, disputations (vv. 2, 6)—Arguing, arguments

Manifested (v. 13)—Shown

Confounded (v. 20)—Mixed with other people so that their identity can no longer be distinguished

Pacified (v. 20)—Calmed

Fiery darts of the adversary (v. 24)—Fierce attacks of Satan

Faculty (v. 25)—Ability, power

Ascendeth (v. 30)—Rises

Days of probation (v. 31)—Time of testing and proving (meaning this earth life, mortality)

Temporal (v. 31)—Physical

Pertaining to (v. 33)—Having to do with, relating to

1 Nephi 15:13, 16—What Is Grafting?

For an explanation of how the house of Israel is like a tree and an illustration of grafting see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for 1 Nephi 10:14 (p. 21).

Studying the Scriptures

Do one of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 15.

Activity A iconFind the “If-Then” Pattern

Nephi heard his brothers say they did not understand their father’s dream.

  1. Review 1 Nephi 15:1–9 and explain what Nephi did, that the brothers did not do, to understand what their father had said.

  2. In your notebook, finish the following statements to show the “If-Then” pattern for receiving revelation that Nephi gave in verse 11:

  3. If:


  4. Think about the “If” statements and what you could do to increase your readiness to receive answers from Heavenly Father.

Activity B iconPlace the Statements in Order

In response to his brothers, Nephi likened the house of Israel to an olive tree. Use 1 Nephi 15:12–20 to help you place the following statements in their proper order:

Activity C iconApply a Quotation

Neal A. Maxwell

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “Real disciples absorb the fiery darts of the adversary by holding aloft the quenching shield of faith with one hand, while holding to the iron rod with the other. . . . There should be no mistaking; it will take both hands!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 87; or Ensign, May 1987, 70).

Carefully read 1 Nephi 15:21–36, and then write a paragraph telling how faith and holding on to the word of God can help you resist the temptations you face.

1 Nephi 16
A Miraculous Ball and a Broken Bow

Have you ever noticed that when you are in tune with the Spirit it is much easier to deal patiently with the things that go wrong in your life? On the other hand, most people find that as the distance between them and the Lord grows, their control of their temper shrinks. In 1 Nephi 16 you will read about both kinds of experiences. Discover how the Lord sometimes uses adversity to teach important lessons.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 16

Hard things (vv. 1–2)—Truths difficult to accept

Cutteth them to the very center (v. 2)—Exposes their guilt

Exhort (v. 4)—Urge, encourage

Provisions (v. 11)—Food and supplies

Slings (v. 15)—Weapons used for hurling stones

Slings are still used in some places today.

Much fatigued (v. 19)—Worn out, exhausted

Chastened (v. 25)—Scolded, corrected

Lehi finds Liahona

1 Nephi 16:10—What Was the “Round Ball of Curious Workmanship”?

Curious in this verse means carefully made, detailed, and intricate. The Lord prepared the ball to guide Lehi and his little colony in the wilderness. We learn from Alma that this ball, which served as a director or compass, was called Liahona (see Alma 37:38).

Lehi and his family discovered that the Liahona had two spindles, or pointers, that showed them which direction to travel (see 1 Nephi 16:10). There was also a place on the ball where writing appeared and was miraculously “changed from time to time” (v. 29; see vv. 26–30). This director would only work according to their faith (see vv. 28–29).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity C (activities A and B are optional) as you study 1 Nephi 16.

Activity A iconWrite a Definition

Nephi’s brothers complained because Nephi spoke unto them “hard things” (1 Nephi 16:1).

  1. Study verses 1–3 and explain what you think they meant by “hard things.”

  2. Explain why those same truths were not “hard things” to Nephi.

Activity B iconDraw a Picture

Study 1 Nephi 16:10–30 and draw a picture of how you think the Liahona might have looked. Include a description of its features.

Activity C iconSummarize What Happened

Lehi’s family suffered in the wilderness when Nephi’s bow broke.

  1. Summarize what happened in each of the following passages from 1 Nephi 16, and then explain what you think Lehi’s family might have learned from each experience:

    1. Verses 17–19

    2. Verses 20–21

    3. Verses 22–23

    4. Verses 24–29

    5. Verses 30–31

  2. How could the experience of Nephi’s broken bow help you if you suddenly lost a job that provided the necessary money to feed and clothe your family?

  3. Even though Lehi murmured, why do you think Nephi went to him for counsel on where to hunt for food?

1 Nephi 17
“Thou Shalt Construct a Ship”

Lehi’s little colony finally ended their wilderness journey when the Lord guided them to a fertile place on the seashore, which they called Bountiful. In 1 Nephi 17, Nephi gave some details of their experience in the wilderness that he had not mentioned before. Look for how long they traveled in the wilderness, what they ate, and how they were able to survive on such a diet. Notice also why Laman and Lemuel started murmuring again.

Photo: Warren Aston, courtesy Foundation for
Ancient Research and Mormon Studies.

Possible route of Lehi’s travels in the wilderness
[click for scalable version]

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 17

Sojourn (vv. 3–4)—Stay for awhile

Notwithstanding (v. 6)—Even though

Molten (vv. 9, 16)—Melt

Bellows (v. 11)—A device for blowing air on a fire to make it hotter


Statutes (v. 22)—Laws, rules

Bondage (vv. 24–25)—Slavery

Laden (v. 25)—Loaded, burdened

Reviled against (vv. 30, 42)—Spoke evil of, insulted

Esteemeth all flesh in one (v. 35)—Considers all of His children equally

Straitened (v. 41)—Disciplined, corrected

Asunder (v. 45)—Apart

Rent with anguish (v. 47)—Torn with great sorrow

Consuming (v. 48)—Destroying

Wither (v. 48)—Shrink, dry up

Naught (v. 48)—Nothing

Studying the Scriptures

Do any two of the following activities (A–E) as you study 1 Nephi 17.

Activity A iconWhat Did Nephi Teach about the Wilderness Journey?

  1. Review 1 Nephi 17:1–6, 12 and answer the following questions about the wilderness journey:

    1. How long did it take them to travel from Jerusalem to Bountiful?

    2. What did they mainly eat in the wilderness?

    3. Why do you think Nephi said, “Great were the blessings of the Lord upon us” (v. 2)?

  2. Find the “thus we see” lesson by identifying the “If-Then” pattern in verse 3:

  3. If “the children of men ______________________________

    Then “He doth _____________ and _____________ and __________ provide _________________________________.

  4. You may not be wandering through a desert, but your life still has difficult challenges. Explain how you could apply that “thus we see” lesson in your life.

Activity B iconDescribe a Modern Example

The Lord told Nephi to build a ship—a task that was beyond his natural ability. Study 1 Nephi 17:7–11 and notice what the Lord did and what He required Nephi to do. Then write an account of a person today who is asked to do something difficult and must rely on the Lord to know how to accomplish it.

Activity C iconCompare the Brothers

  1. Study 1 Nephi 16:1–3, 18–20, 37–38; 17:17–21, 48 and list reasons why Laman and Lemuel murmured, or were angry, and why they “did rejoice.”

  2. Study 1 Nephi 16:4–5; 17:19, 47 and list reasons why Nephi was joyful and why he was sorrowful.

  3. What do you learn about the character of these men from the differences in the two lists?

  4. Compare what Laman and Lemuel said they knew in 1 Nephi 16:38; 17:19, 22 with what they said they knew in 1 Nephi 17:55. What changed their understanding?

  5. What have you learned from 1 Nephi 17 that can help you be more like Nephi and less like Laman and Lemuel?

Activity D iconWrite It in Your Own Words

Nephi reminded his brethren of the story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and compared it to Lehi leading his family out of Jerusalem (see 1 Nephi 17:23–45).

  1. Review those verses and list at least four similarities between what happened to Moses’s people and what happened to Lehi’s colony.

  2. Read carefully 1 Nephi 17:45 and explain what you think it means to “feel” the words of the Lord, or tell of a time when you felt the scriptures speak to you.

Activity E iconExplain the Picture

Nephi and brothers

Nephi’s brethren were not happy and only the power of the Lord could keep them from taking his life. Above is a depiction of a scene from 1 Nephi 17:48–55. Explain what is happening in the picture and tell which verses it represents.

1 Nephi 18
The Journey to the Promised Land

Have you known people who were suffering because of their sins but did not want to change? Did they eventually repent? How much suffering did they endure before they changed their behavior? Who else was affected by their behavior? Laman and Lemuel had such an experience in 1 Nephi 18. Look for what finally motivated them to repent. Notice also the effect their stubbornness had on the rest of their family.

ship in waves

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 18

Curious (v. 1)—Exceptional, unique

Had begat (v. 7)—Became the father of

Provisions (v. 8)—Food and other supplies

Breathe out (v. 17)—Speak out

Stricken in years (v. 17)—Old

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 18.

Activity A iconInterview a Character

Lehi’s family was ready to sail to an unknown land in a ship of unusual design (1 Nephi 18:1–7). If you were a reporter hired to interview the members of the family before their departure, what do you think they would say? Pick three members of Lehi’s group and suggest two questions you might ask as a reporter. Then write what you think those people would say in answer to your questions.

Activity B iconDon’t Miss the Details!

The story of Lehi’s family sailing to the promised land is interesting and contains some significant details that might easily be missed. After reading 1 Nephi 18, answer the following questions:

  1. What two new members of Lehi’s family are mentioned for the first time in this chapter?

  2. Why do you think the Lord allowed Nephi to remain tied up for so long instead of freeing him miraculously as He did in 1 Nephi 7:18; 16:39; and 17:48?

  3. What happened in this chapter that fulfills what the Lord prophesied in 1 Nephi 17:13?

Activity C iconFind the Lessons for Life

The story of the voyage to the promised land can also be seen as a metaphor (symbol) for our earth life. For example, many people, such as Nephi’s brethren in 1 Nephi 18:9, concentrate on earthly interests and forget God and their dependence on His power. Answer the following questions to explore how this story is like experiences we could have:

  1. How is what Nephi did for his brothers in verse 10 like what our conscience (the light of Christ) does for us?

  2. How are the non-working compass and the storm like what happens to us when we “bind” our conscience?

  3. What could Nephi’s being freed compare to in our lives?

  4. What happened whenever Nephi prayed? How can you apply this to your life? (see especially vv. 1–3, 21–23).

  5. How can Nephi’s description of the rude behavior of his brethren, the sons of Ishmael, and their wives (see v. 9) apply to some of today’s behavior and lack of respect for others?

1 Nephi 19
“That I Might More Fully Persuade Them to Believe in the Lord”

Why do some people love the scriptures and find a wealth of comfort, hope, and encouragement in them, while others seem to have no interest in them or think of them as meaningless? Nephi told us that what he wrote would not be pleasing to the world but would be pleasing to God and to “those who are not of the world” (1 Nephi 6:5). Why do you think people who have their hearts set on the things of this life have little interest in the things of eternity? As you study 1 Nephi 19, look for what the Lord has done and is doing to encourage His children to come home and live with Him again.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 19

Transpired (v. 2)—Happened

Err (v. 6)—Make a mistake

Sepulchre (v. 10)—Burial place (often a tomb or cave)

Rend (v. 12)—Tear apart

Scourged (v. 13)—Afflicted, punished

A hiss and a byword (v. 14)—A persecuted people

1 Nephi 19:1–6—Two Sets of Plates

Nephi and plates

In 1 Nephi 9, Nephi wrote that he had made two sets of plates. The first set, the large plates of Nephi, contained a detailed account of his people; the second set, the small plates of Nephi, was a sacred religious record. In 1 Nephi 19, the phrase “first plates” or “other plates” refers to the large plates of Nephi and the phrase “these plates” refers to the small plates (see “The Main Sources for the Book of Mormon,” p. 12).

Nephi hoped that future generations would find these writings helpful in bringing them to Christ.

1 Nephi 19:10—Who Were Zenock, Neum, and Zenos?

Nephi quoted Zenock, Neum, and Zenos as prophets of Old Testament times whose detailed prophecies of Jesus Christ were recorded on the plates of brass. Their testimonies are not found in the Old Testament we have today. Their writings are apparently some of the “plain and most precious” truths that were removed by the “great and abominable church” (1 Nephi 13:26). Without the Book of Mormon, we would know nothing about those three faithful prophets of Old Testament times or their prophecies.

Studying the Scriptures

Do any two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 19.

Activity A iconList the “Plain and Precious Parts”

The Lord commanded Nephi to include on his second set of plates (the small plates) many of the plain and precious parts that would be missing from the Bible (see 1 Nephi 19:3 and the “Understanding the Scriptures” section).

  1. Review 1 Nephi 19:8–14 and list the truths Nephi learned about the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ, and also what would happen to the house of Israel after His death.

  2. For the truths you listed, identify those which Nephi said he learned from the angel and the ones he learned from the writings of Zenock, Neum, or Zenos.

Christ on the cross  Christ's burial

Activity B iconAnalyze How Things Might Be Different

Think about the detailed prophecies about Jesus’s life that the Book of Mormon restores (see 1 Nephi 19:8–14). How do you think the beliefs of the Jews and other Christians might be different if those truths were still in our Old Testament?

Activity C Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—1 Nephi 19:23

Nephi read many things to his family from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. Read 1 Nephi 19:22–24 and explain why Nephi wanted his family (and us) to know the words of Isaiah.

1 Nephi 20–21
Messages from the Prophet Isaiah

Nephi read to his people from the prophecies of Isaiah to “more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer” (1 Nephi 19:23). In 1 Nephi 20–21 are recorded some of those important prophecies of Isaiah from the plates of brass, which are similar to those found in the Old Testament. As you read these chapters, look for what Isaiah taught about the house of Israel. Why has Israel been so afflicted over the centuries, and what is the Lord doing to bring His covenant people back to Him again? As part of the modern house of Israel, we can also apply Isaiah’s words to our lives.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 20

Swear (v. 1)—Make covenants, promise

Stay themselves upon (v. 2)—Rely on, depend on, remain faithful to

Obstinate (v. 4)—Stubborn

Treacherously (v. 8)—Dishonestly, without loyalty

Transgressor (v. 8)—One who breaks the commandments

Defer (v. 9)—Hold back, put off, postpone

Refined (v. 10)—Purified

Spanned (v. 13)—Reached across

Seed . . . offspring of thy bowels (v. 19)—Descendants (children, grandchildren, and so forth)

Clave (v. 21)—Split

1 Nephi 20:1—What Are the “Waters of Judah”?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Isaiah says that the ‘house of Jacob’ has ‘come forth out of the waters of Judah’ (Isa. 48:1), a statement of great interest to Latter-day Saints in view of the fact that his words as recorded on the brass plates added the phrase, ‘or out of the waters of baptism’ (1 Ne. 20:1), thus preserving in purity an Old Testament text about baptism” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 832). This is an excellent example of “plain and precious” truths being taken from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:29).

1 Nephi 20:1–2—“They Call Themselves of the Holy City”

As quoted in 1 Nephi 20:1–2, the prophet Isaiah chastised the house of Israel for claiming to follow the Lord without keeping His commandments. They felt that because they were His covenant people and lived in the holy city of Jerusalem, God would always protect them. Isaiah reminded them that it is not where you live but how you live that is important (see vv. 18–22). That same principle is true today.

Jerusalem, the Ancient Holy City
My Father’s House
© 1993 Al Rounds
1 Nephi 20:3–8—“I Have Declared the Former Things. . . . I Have Showed Thee New Things”

The Lord has given His children many evidences or reasons to believe His words and His prophets. In 1 Nephi 20:3–8, He cited some of those evidences and explained why those prophecies were necessary. From the beginning, God has revealed many events that would occur far into the future. One of His purposes in these long-range prophecies was to prevent wicked men from giving credit to idols or false gods for His marvelous works (see vv. 3–5). God has also revealed events that have occurred suddenly, so the wicked could not say, “I knew that” (see vv. 6–8).

1 Nephi 20:14–17—The Lord Sustains His Prophets

The Lord loves His prophets and “will fulfil his word which he hath declared by them” (v. 14). In a modern revelation, the Lord declared, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

1 Nephi 21

Pastors (v. 1)—Shepherds; in this case, the religious leaders of the Jews

From the womb (v. 1)—Before I was born

Quiver (v. 2)—Container for carrying arrows

For naught and in vain (v. 4)—For nothing

Abhorreth (v. 7)—Hate, detest

Desolate heritages (v. 8)—Empty or barren inheritances

Graven (v. 16)—Cut, scratched, or marked

Too strait (v. 20)—Too small or narrow; when the Lord gathers His children to Zion, they will again be very numerous.

To and fro (v. 21)—Back and forth


1 Nephi 21:1—An Important Restoration from the Plates of Brass

The entire first sentence of Isaiah’s prophecy quoted in 1 Nephi 21:1 is not found in the corresponding chapter in the book of Isaiah (see Isaiah 49:1). This material was evidently on the plates of brass that Nephi used but has been lost from our current Bible. Isaiah 49 (or 1 Nephi 21) tells about the coming of the Messiah, the gathering of Israel, and the taking of the gospel to the Gentiles. From the Book of Mormon version we learn that this message was particularly directed to those Israelites (like Lehi’s family) who were broken off like branches from the main body of Israel and scattered abroad. We also learn that the reason for their scattering was the wickedness of their leaders in Jerusalem.

1 Nephi 21:1–9—Who Was the One That God Called before He Was Born?

Verses 1–9 describe the Savior, Jesus Christ, who was called before His birth (see v. 1), whose words cut to the hearts of the wicked like a sharp sword (see v. 2), whose life is unblemished like a polished shaft (see v. 2), who is a light unto the Gentiles (see v. 6), and who is despised of men (see v. 7). Because the lives of prophets are sometimes seen as types, or examples, of the Savior, these verses could also properly be applied to Isaiah. They might also be applied to the Prophet Joseph Smith:

  • He was foreordained. He testified: “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 365; see also 2 Nephi 3:7–15).

  • His words were sharp and his life a polished shaft. He said: “I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, . . . lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, . . . backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women—all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304).

  • He was sent to be a light unto the Gentiles. The Lord declared to him, “This generation shall have my word through you” (D&C 5:7–10; see also D&C 86:11).

  • He was despised of men. The angel Moroni prophesied that both good and evil would be spoken about Joseph among all people (see Joseph Smith—History 1:33).

Isaiah Christ Joseph Smith

Studying the Scriptures

Do any two of the following activities (A–E) as you study 1 Nephi 20–21.

Activity A iconFind the Answers

Isaiah saw the failings of the children of Israel. He called on them to repent so that they might carry out the work the Lord had given them and receive His blessings. Read 1 Nephi 20:1–11, 20 and answer the following questions:

  1. What has the Lord done to prove to His people who He is? (see vv. 3–8; see also “Understanding the Scriptures” for 1 Nephi 20:3–8).

  2. Why do you think Isaiah used the image of an iron neck (see v. 4) to describe the children of Israel?

  3. Even though the people had been rebellious in the past, what did the Lord say He would do for them? Why? (see vv. 9–11).

  4. What did the Lord say the people must do? (see v. 20; see also Mosiah 26:29–30).

  5. How might these teachings of Isaiah apply to our time “for our profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23)?

Activity B iconExplain the Similes

In 1 Nephi 20:11–17 the Lord declared His role as Creator and Savior. These verses also tell of His love and support for His prophets. In verses 18–22, Isaiah described what would have happened to the children of Israel had they been consistently obedient. He then called for them to repent.

  1. Review 1 Nephi 20:18–22 and explain how the similes (comparisons using as or like) Isaiah used—a river, waves, sand, and gravel—describe the Lord’s promises to the faithful.

  2. Why do you think the wicked have no peace? (see v. 22).

Activity C iconProphecy Can Be Fulfilled in More than One Way

A characteristic of many of Isaiah’s prophecies is that they can have more than one application and fulfillment.

  1. Study 1 Nephi 21:1–10 and explain how these verses describe Jesus Christ.

  2. Explain how these verses can also describe the Prophet Joseph Smith (see also the “Understanding the Scriptures” section).

Activity D iconHow Do You Remember the Savior?

Christ's hand
“Yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel”
  1. When the Lord could not bless Israel (Zion) because of the people’s disobedience, what did the people feel had happened? (see 1 Nephi 21:14).

  2. What did the Lord say would always remind Him of His people? (see v. 16).

  3. Write a paragraph explaining what helps you remember the Savior, both at church and at other times.

Activity E iconPut the Ideas in Order

In 1 Nephi 21:22–26 is Isaiah’s promise that the Lord will save His people. Following are several important ideas from these verses. Rearrange them so they are in the order in which they appear in the passage.

1 Nephi 22
Events of the Last Days

Nephi knew that the words of Isaiah were difficult for some people to understand. In fact, Nephi’s own family asked him to explain what he had quoted in 1 Nephi 20–21 (see 1 Nephi 22:1). As you read 1 Nephi 22, note Nephi’s explanation of many of the important truths found in 1 Nephi 20–21. In particular, notice what Nephi said about the scattering of Israel and the role the Gentiles would play in Israel’s gathering in the latter days. Remember that members of His Church today, even though we are of the house of Israel by lineage and by covenant, are included among the “Gentiles” mentioned in this chapter and have a role in the gathering of Israel.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 22

Manifest (v. 2)—Shown, made known

Make bare his arm (v. 10)—Show His power

Obscurity (v. 12)—A state of being unknown

Ensnare (v. 14)—Trap, capture

Execute judgment (v. 21)—Carry out judgment

Dominion (v. 24)—Power, control, authority

1 Nephi 22:8—What Is the “Marvelous Work” the Lord Will Do in the Latter Days?


For most of their long history, the children of Israel were unfaithful to that God who made them His chosen people. In spite of His blessings, they frequently preferred the ways of the world to the ways of God. As a result, most of them were scattered throughout the world and lost their identity. Lehi’s descendants are an example of how one family was scattered and retained their identity. They knew who they were. The marvelous work of the latter days will be to gather as many of the descendants of scattered Israel as are willing to return to the Lord. Even though members of the Church today are of the house of Israel, Nephi referred to us as Gentiles because we come from gentile nations.

Studying the Scriptures

Do any two of the following activities (A–D) as you study 1 Nephi 22.

Activity A iconThe Scattering of Israel: Who, Where, When, and Why?

Isaiah’s words concerning the scattering of Israel are found in 1 Nephi 21:1. Nephi explained more about that scattering in 1 Nephi 22:3–5. Summarize the additional information we learn about the scattering from Nephi. Be sure to explain who was scattered, when and where they were scattered, and why.

Activity B iconMatch the Idea with the Verse

In 1 Nephi 21:22, Isaiah spoke of the role of the Gentiles in gathering Israel. In 1 Nephi 22, Nephi gave us more information about that gathering. Copy each of the following statements in your notebook and after each one list the verse or verses from 1 Nephi 22:6–12 that contain that idea:

Joseph Smith teaching Native Americans

Activity C iconWrite a Newspaper Headline

In 1 Nephi 22:13–18, Nephi described the judgment that would come on the wicked in the last days. For each of those verses, write a newspaper headline that summarizes the event Nephi described.

Activity D iconMake a Comparison

Nephi explained some of the differences between what will happen to the righteous and what will happen to the wicked in the last days.

  1. Study 1 Nephi 22:16–26 and list the promises to the righteous. Make another list of the punishments that will come upon the wicked.

  2. Read 1 Nephi 22:28–31 and explain what Nephi wanted us to learn from what he wrote.

Nephi with plates