The religious study for 2020 for Primary, Sunday School, Seminary and families and individuals for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Each week as families and individuals we strive to study this information and then in Sunday School (held every other week for those 12 and older) we discuss together in detail.
This week we read 1 Nephi chapters 1 – 7. These opening pages of The Book of Mormon tells of a family living in Jerusalem about 600 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament teaches us that during this time period Nebuchadnezzar defeats the king of Judah (Jehoiakim) due to his wickedness. Nebuchadnezzar also ransacked the temple, and Jehoiakim’s 8-year old son (Jehoiachin) became king. Sadly this 8-year old didn’t learn from the mistakes of his father and during his 3-month and 10-day rein he continued in the wickedness of his father. Nebuchadnezzar has Jehoiachin taken into Babylon and another son of Jehoiakim, 21-year old Zedekiah became king of Judah. (2 Chronicles 36:5-11)
During this period of wickedness the Lord continued to send various prophets warning the people to repent or Jerusalem would be destroyed and many people would be killed and many would be carried into Babylon. (1 Nephi 1:4, 13, 18, compare 2 Chronicles 36:16-16, Jeremiah 25:4). The Old Testament names 9 prophets active during this general time period, including Zephaniah, Nahum, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Huldah, Urijah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Obadiah.
With this quick history in mind, Lehi, a man who has lived in Jerusalem his whole life is introduced in 1 Nephi in The Book of Mormon. He went to his home and had a vision of our Father in Heaven and the premortal messiah Jesus (1 Nephi 1:8-9). They teach him and then Lehi goes and preaches in Jerusalem. The people grow angry with him (although Nephi doesn’t tell us why I believe the people thought Lehi was being blasphemous) and decide they want to kill Lehi. (1 Nephi 1:20, Leviticus 24:16). As a result the Lord directs Lehi and his family (wife Sariah, 4 sons – Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi and at least 2 unnamed daughters) to travel into the wilderness to a land of promise. The two older sons don’t believe that Jerusalem will be destroyed while the two younger do. As a result there is family conflict as to the prophetic mission of their father. These 4 sons end up having to head back to Jerusalem twice – first to get a genealogical and scripture record known as “the brass plates” and later to get another family that has daughters these sons end up marrying.
There are many fascinating things in these chapters.
First, a most remarkable parallel that I have read hundreds of times but didn’t really sink in until this week. Most of the readers of this post likely know later this year will be the 200th anniversary of the First Vision of Joseph Smith where God the Father and the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to him, setting into motion the restoration of the gospel. In like manner God the Father and premortal Jesus Christ appeared to Lehi, setting into motion everything else in the Book of Mormon.
Second, Nephi fought his own Goliath. The brothers Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi return to Jerusalem and attempt to get the brass plates from a man named Laban who is a “might man [that] can command fifty” (1 Nephi 3:31). The oldest Laman first tried to get from Laban, who false accuses Laman of being a robber and threatening to kill him. Fearful of Laban (and his 50 solders) Laman runs. He and Lemuel want to give up but Nephi has them take all the gold and silver they had left at their house when the family left and attempt to buy the brass plates from Laban. Laban again falsely accuses the brothers of being robbers, threatens to kill them, and the brothers escape, leaving all their gold and silver behind. Now angry the older brothers start hitting their younger brothers with a rod until an angel comes to all of them and tells them again to get the plates. This time just the youngest, Nephi, goes out in the city and finds the drunked Laban passed out on the ground. The spirit tells Nephi to kill him. After some internal struggle Nephi obeys the Lord, takes Laban clothes, and meets one of the servants of Laban, who believing Nephi to be Laban gets him the brass plates. This has a strong parallel with the story of David & Goliath. Compare 1 Nephi 4:7-18 with 1 Samuel 17:48-51. Especially note how in both cases the young man drew the might and powerful man’s sword out of the sheath and cut the other’s head off, using nearly identical language (1 Nephi 4:9,18 and 1 Samuel 17:51). In both of these cases this was the youngest brother and, in both of these cases, they are to become the king, instead of one of their older brothers.
When was 1st Nephi written?
I believe most readers of The Book of Mormon believe that 1 Nephi was written basically as a daily journal or soon after it happened. However, that is not what the scriptures indicate. The small plates of Nephi, which 1 Nephi is the first part, were not created until 30-40 years later! The Lehites will spend 8-years traveling to the promised land, Lehi will die, the brothers will divide into seperate nations (“Nephites” and “Lamanites”), and they will have fought wars together, before Nephi will be instructed by the Lord in 2 Nephi 5:30-31.
I believe The Book of Mormon is scripture and hope to better understand it this year as we study it.
- The Lost 116 Pages: Reconstructing the Book of Mormon’s Missing Stories by Don Bradley