The First Book of Nephi

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(This is an excerpt from the chapter "The First Book of Nephi" in the book Verse by Verse: The Book of Mormon.)

These verses give us insights into the character of Lehi’s four sons. Laman and Lemuel are portrayed as stubborn, hard-hearted, lovers of money, faithless, and spiritually weak. Nephi and Sam, on the other hand, are humble seekers of knowledge and of God, faithful, and obedient to parents. The latter two sons are exemplary, deserving of being emulated, which, since we all need role models, is one of the main purposes for the painstaking engraving of the metal plates—to preserve for us in modern times some examples or patterns for our lives. President Heber J. Grant wrote: “I read the Book of Mormon as a young man and fell in love with Nephi more than with any other character in [secular] or sacred history that I have ever read of, except the Savior of the world. No other individual has made such a strong impression upon me as did Nephi. He has been one of the guiding stars of my life.”

Consider the four brothers. The marvel is not that some complained about the hardships in leaving all and journeying into the wilderness but that others did not! Conditions were such that anyone could have murmured. Murmuring may be defined as half-suppressed or muttered complaint, grumbling behind the scenes rather than being openly critical, or disloyal.

What was the reason for Nephi’s amazing ability to press forward positively and not join in the grumbling and rebellion? Nephi wanted to know the things of God; he prayed, and the Lord visited him and softened his heart—which suggests the possibility that his heart was somewhat hard before.

God raises up the young, those malleable and teachable, not set in their ways, to accomplish tasks that will confound the wise—allowing the “weak things of the world” to “break down the mighty and strong ones” (D&C 1:19).

Faith and faithfulness are always rewarded. Nephi and all the others were called upon to make a great sacrifice, to leave behind practically all they had known; but the Lord promised that they would eventually possess more and greater blessings. We of modern times struggle with that principle also. One of the most dangerous problems we face is wanting immediate gratification. Few people, it seems, believe in postponement—if we want something, we want it now. Adam and Eve sacrificed a pleasant existence in the Garden of Eden for something ultimately and infinitely better, though immediately harder. Moses sacrificed prestige in a kingly court for the noble task of suffering the sands and complaints of Sinai. Elijah, Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the other prophets sacrificed comfort and security to fulfill a difficult duty with eternal rewards.

In the Lord’s economy, whenever we give up something or go without, we find ourselves in eventual possession of more and greater. During the tests of his faithfulness, Job lost almost everything he had; his story concludes, however, with a simple note that he was blessed in the end with more than he had in the beginning. Lehi’s family sacrificed their possessions, their riches, to follow the old patriarch into the great Arabian desert and over the sea; but after their journey, they possessed a land of amazingly abundant wealth. The promises of the Lord to Lehi and to Nephi, as with our own patriarchal blessings, must have encouraged and sustained them through the sometimes bitter trials they had to endure along the way.

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