1 Nephi 1:2 – Thirty Year Old Journal

“therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days”

Sometimes we assume that the book of 1 Nephi is like a journal – that Nephi kept it as he went along. Maybe that’s the case for the other plates he kept, I don’t know, but with the version we have access to, Nephi wrote his record 30 years after Lehi’s family left Jerusalem, and well after the time they arrived in the Promised Land. (see 1 Nephi 19:1-5 / 2 Nephi 5:28-31)

1 Nephi 19:1-5

4 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord.

5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.

2 Nephi 5:28-31

28 *And thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem.

29 And I, Nephi, had kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far.

30 And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.

31 Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.

32 And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates.

33 And if my people desire to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search mine other plates.

34 And it sufficeth me to say that *forty years had passed away, and we had already had wars and contentions with our brethren.

Why does that matter, you ask? Well, I suppose it doesn’t, really. I just thought that was kind of cool.

1 Nephi 1:1 Nephi’s Record

“therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days”

Sometimes we assume that the book of 1 Nephi is like a journal – that he kept it as he went along. Maybe that’s the case for the other plates he kept, I don’t know, but with the version we have access to, Nephi wrote this record 30 years after Lehi’s family left Jerusalem, and well after the time they arrived in the Promised Land.  (see 1 Nephi 19:1-5 / 2 Nephi 5:28-31)

Why does that matter, you ask? Well, it doesn’t, really. I just thought that was kind of cool.

Then again, maybe you could draw the lesson from it that keeping a journal is not enough, we should write our life history, too.

Okay, so maybe that’s not the intent, but that’s a good lesson, too!

Goodly Parents

I suppose when Nephi says, “I Nephi, having been…” it might be as if he is saying, “I am writing this because…”

I’ve heard some people suggest that goodly could have actually meant wealthy. I would disagree, since it sounds better to mean good parents, or righteous parents, but then I looked for the word throughout the scriptures:

Which goodly do they mean in each of these verses?

Matt 13:45 ¶ Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:

Well, I have to admit, I don’t think it’s talking about nice righteous pearls. Maybe it does mean wealthy – that is to say, expensive.

Deut. 6:10 …the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,

Hmm… sound like rich here

Deut. 8:12 Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;

Uh… I guess rich again.

Gen 27: 15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son:

Okay, okay. So maybe they all mean rich.

D&C 103:20 But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land…

D&C 103:24 And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, which I have consecrated…

Well, now, those two could mean either or, I suppose, so… but I guess since they could still mean rich, expensive, or abundant,  I’ll just cancel those out.

Anyway, my point in all this was just to say that though I didn’t particularly prefer that definition, it’s not up to me, is it? So assuming that the scriptures are always using the same definition for the word goodly, I suppose we can draw from that that Lehi was rich – obviously he was good, too, but he was also rich. Not that it’s news, since we find out later that they had gold and silver to leave behind, and later to buy the plates with, but still…

Oh, great, now I’ll be one of those silly people that snicker in church for hearing people say things they don’t mean to imply. Someone’s going to stand up and say, “I, like Nephi, was born of goodly parents,” and I’ll be one of those obsessive compulsive folks that mentally lashes at them by thinking, “Oh, really? Your parents were rich?”

I’ll really try not to do that. Really.

But it does make me wonder why Nephi mentioned it in the first sentence of his book. It’s helpful to know later, but why at the very very beginning? Any ideas?

First Person Nephi (AKA “I” continued)

Okay, so I flipped through the scriptures a bit, and it looks like they are actually quite consistent – when someone had a scribe do the writing, they are usually in third person. When the prophet writes his own book by hand, he uses first hand. It’s true that most of the old testament up to Jeremiah (Nephi’s time) is in third hand, but some of the books are written by the scribes that write for whoever the prophet is at the time.

Abraham, on the other hand, wrote his own book.

Nephi wrote his own book, so he says, “I.”

Silly tangent, really.

So I guess another question we might ask – if we’re reading between the lines (or in the rest of the scriptures) might be, what do we know about Nephi? Outside of what he tells us about himself, what can we learn about Nephi? Maybe from the Bible or other places in the Book of Mormon. Any thoughts?

I

1 Nephi 1:1
I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

I’m trying an experiment. I’ve found that writing is a form of pondering – a very powerful form of pondering, so I’m going to try reading the Book of Mormon slowly, writing about each verse. I would guess that this is the most widely read verse in the whole Book of Mormon, simply because it is the first verse. If I were going to explore the scriptures verse by verse, trying to get as much out of them as possible, I might start with a few questions about how this verse starts. I ask these questions, either because I don’t know the answer, or in hopes that in exploring the answers I already know, I might learn something new.
Why does Nephi write in first person? As far as I can tell, Moses, Isaiah, and most of the Old Testament prophets wrote in third person. Why then does Nephi choose 1st person for his narrative?

There you go. I’m already stuck on the word, “I.” I’ve just been doing a bit of searching, and so far I can’t find a reason. Any Ideas?

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Abram Rescues Lot

A funny thing about a lot of the forgotten stories in the bible is that while they are often interesting stories, they contain no particular lesson. Perhaps that’s why they are forgotten.

One such story involves a little mess that Lot, Abram’s (Abraham’s) brother got into. You probably remember that when Abram and Lot first arrived in the land of Canaan, they divided the land in half, and each took a half. Well, there were still people and cities in those lands, and Lot picked a land that was more fruitful, but it was also in the middle of a pretty nasty war.

Lot built a home on the outskirts of Sodom. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were apparently losing the battle, because the armies of those cities fled to an area that was full of “slime-pits,” or bitumen pits – a sticky, petroleum-based goop. The few who were left back at home fled into the mountains, and when the opposing armies collected spoils of Sodom, they took Lot and the people of his household prisoner.

Among the group taken, one escaped and ran to tell Abram about it. Abram, not involved in the war, but having a decent size household of his own, sent his men to rescue Lot.
After having success, two kings came to Abram – the king of Sodom and the king of Salem, who’s name was Melchizedek. Melchizedek blessed Abram, even offering Abram some sort of sacrament.

Sodom, on the other hand, tried to cut a strange deal with Abram. Having retrieved much of the spoils that the captor army had stolen from Sodom, Abram had returned the stuff where it belonged, but the king of Sodom was more interested in having people than stuff. He offered Abram the recovered stuff in exchange for the recovered people.

I don’t know exactly what Sodom wanted with the people, but remember that the city of Sodom was deeply entrenched in homosexual practices – so much so that Lot later had to flee with his family for their lives while being chased by overanxious Sodomites.

Of course Abram flatly refused any kind of deal with the king of Sodom.

Here’s the account:

Genesis 14:8-24

8 And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;
9 With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.
10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.
11 And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
12 And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
13 ¶ And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.
14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.
15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.
17 ¶ And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: The Rainbow

After the Lord destroyed every living thing on the earth except what was preserved on the ark – and I suppose some sea life, too, the scriptures say, “And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.” (Genesis 9:16-17) The rainbow was to be a sign of a covenant that God made between Himself and all flesh. But what covenant is it a token of? Part of the covenant was that God would no longer destroy the earth by flood. Genesis 9:11-15

11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:

15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

But the rainbow was also to help us look forward as well. It was to remind us that if we keep the commandments, Zion will return to the earth. Enoch’s people became so righteous that they were taken up into heaven. And when God’s people embrace the truth and look upward, Zion would look downward, and there would be great joy. The rainbow reminds us that not only is God in control, but someday the Savior will return as the rightful heir to the government of earth.

The Joseph Smith Translation of the verses (JST) gives the account:

21 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that, when men shall keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself.

22 And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy;

23 And the general assembly of the church of the first-born shall come down out of heaven, and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come. And this is mine everlasting covenant, which I made with thy father Enoch.

24 And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will establish my covenant unto thee, which I have made between me and thee, for every living creature of all flesh that shall be upon the earth.

25 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and thee; for all flesh that shall be upon the earth. (JST GENESIS 9: 21-25 )

Forgotten Stories from the Old Testament: Lamech

The story of Lamech is hardly an inspirational one, but it carries a very important warning. The Lord has no toleration for secret combinations, and Lamech was what you might call the heir to Cain’s secret society. We know little about what happened to Cain after he was cursed, except that he was a fugitive and a vagabond, and had to constantly watch his back for fear someone would kill him.

Anyone who was leader of this secret combination was called Mahan, master of the great secret, and from the Pearl of Great Price, we learn that this combination didn’t end when Cain was “discovered” and cursed. Lamech, one of Cain’s descendents, became Master Mahan.

Lamech murdered a man for the sake of the oath, and as is common for evil leaders, Lamech became prideful in his position. He thought that as Master Mahan, he could boast to his wives about the murder he had committed. He was sure that in his position, and as devoted to his secret society as he was, he was more dangerous than Cain ever was. He thought that the combination would take vengeance on anyone who tried to stand in Lamech’s way. Big mistake. He forgot that satan has no concern for his own, and hates his own followers just as much as he hates the Lord’s people.

When Lamech’s wives made the secret of Lamech’s crime known to the people, he was in big trouble, because it meant that Lamech had exposed the secret. In fear of his own band, Lamech had to flee. He became a fugitive and a vagabond like Cain.

Often it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished.

The secret combination grew, and became like a deadly cancer to the world, destroying souls. I guess the point of the story is that satan will not take care of the wicked, and he will destroy anyone he can, whether they are helping his cause or not. There can be nothing gained by alliance with evil. So stick with the Lord and His prophets!

Here’s the scriptural account:

Continue reading