I have read the Book of Mormon many times in my life. However, each time I read it, I am in a different place in my life of seasons and so have new insights and knowledge…and hopefully a tiny bit more wisdom.
I have approached each new reading differently. In the earlier days, I would read because I knew I was supposed to. Then I started reading to learn some thing, anything. Then I read it for a Young Women’s Personal Progress Virtue Value project. Then having become very familiar with it, completely loving it and being excited to read it again to get another view, I eagerly started to read, only to slow down because I knew the ending and I was sad to read about an entire nation, two actually, destroy themselves. That was tough to finish, but I did and then took a short break, reading the New Testament again instead.
Now I am here, with a fresh outlook with the aim to not just read, nor study, but as Elder Scott ( I think, this was quoted at our Stake Conference) has said to advance my level of scripture reading by:
He said that it’s in the last 3 where revelation comes. And that:
SPIRIT + WORD = POWER
All that said, let’s delve into what I have learned from my reading, studying and searching.
The first verse of the first chapter in the Book of Mormon sets up the entire book. Nephi’s parents were righteous. They were obedient to the Lord. This sums up what the the whole book is about, namely being obedient or not, and the consequences if you aren’t.
Lehi sees a vision of both Elohim and Jehovah. There are only a handful of scriptures where both God, the Father and His Son are seem together at the same time. Lehi got to be one of those people, through his faith and obedience in praying to the Lord for his people. He then goes and prophesies to the people of what he’s seen, namely the destruction of Jerusalem, but the people don’t really like that and want to have him killed.
Lehi is then told in a dream that he needs to take his family and leave. Being the righteous, obedient and faith-filled Prophet that he is, he collects his family which consisted of his wife, Sariah, and his 4 sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi.
When I read a book, I try to imagine myself there. When I was reading this time, I made more of an effort and also tried to know more about the people themselves. Visualize the setting. So, I was thinking of Lehi and his family, a thought came across my mind about Ancient Israel’s marriage customs. Doing some searching on Google, I found that it was the custom for Jewish men to be married around 18-21 and the women around 14. Which to me, means that Lehi might have been in his late 30’s, Sariah in her early 30’s with Laman somewhere around 17 and the rest of the boys following behind, leaving Nephi to possibly be around 12-13. Which would make sense since Nephi himself states that he was “exceedingly young” (1 Nephi 2:16) and later we see that Sariah bears 2 more children. I think that we tend to skip the part where he says “exceedingly young” and jump on “being large in stature”. My own 14 year old son was 6 feet tall at 13. Being both exceedingly young and large of stature can happen, but we need to remember that he was very young and not a grown man or older teenager.
This can also explain why the behavior of Laman and Lemuel and why they were such whiney brats. They were like High School Juniors asked to move before their senior year and give up their Xbox and the new BMW they got for their birthday, well Laman anyway and Lemuel was just his puppet. And as with all families, every child is different. Laman and Lemuel were very worldly and prideful of their father’s wealth, we know practically nothing about Sam, only that he has enough faith to agree with Nephi and then we have sweet, young Nephi who was taught all the same things as Laman and Lemuel, grew up in the same house with all the same shiny things and yet had the courage and faith to pray to know for himself if his dad was crazy or not. Laman and Lemuel chose to be kept in the dark concerning the Lord and his ways. From my viewpoint, this sounds like some families I know now, or have seen. Behaviors anyway, not the getting married at 14, of course!
Moving on, the Lehi family travels near the borders of the Red Sea, which according the the Book of Mormon Student Manuel, Religion 121-122 this journey wan’t easy. The way was dangerous with unsavory people and they went far, which was probably around 12-14 days. So they travel for a couple of weeks in an arid climate, set up camp.
Though they all go and Laman and Lemuel were the most vocal about not wanting to, we also need to remember that Nephi has misgivings of his own. Yet, the main difference was that he prayed to know for himself if what his dad was saying was true. He needed his own testimony. He wasn’t content to follow blindly. Nor should any of us. This was Nephi’s first great example though, at a tender age. The Lord blesses him with the Spirit to be comforted and he believes his dad.
On this spiritual high, Nephi goes to his father and learns that the Lord told Lehi in a dream to send his sons back to Jerusalem to get the Brass plates, which was a record of the Law of Moses and their genealogy. Another 14 day trip, one way, through the desert with the possibility of coming into harm’s way via bad people. After being told that this is a commandment of the Lord, Nephi gives the clearest insight into his heart and character with”…I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)
What absolute obedience, faith and trust in the Lord! I can imagine him humbly stating this to his anxious father. I can imagine his father swelling with relief and honorable pride for his youngest son. The gratitude he felt to the Lord for blessing his son with the Spirit.
From here we have the next huge test, in fact as we learn from Elder Holland, “If Nephi cannot yield to this terribly painful command, if he cannot bring himself to obey, then it is entirely probable that he can never succeed or survive in the tasks that lie just ahead.” (“The Will of the Father” Jan 17, 1989) Which is to kill a man to obtain this essential record. This pre-teen kid, who has more than likely strictly obey the Law of Moses which plainly tells that no one should kill is being asked 3 times, not once, but 3 times by the Spirit to kill Laban, the man who is laying drunk in the street at the feet of Nephi in whose possession rests the plates. What brings it all home for Nephi is yet again obedience, but in a round about way in that he starts to think and comes to the conclusion that if he wants his family and posterity to be obedient and follow the Law of Moses, they needed the plates and this was the only way he could get them. He is obedient, so he takes Laban’s exceedingly fine sword and cut off his head. He takes Laban’s clothes (which I always wonder how bloody they must have been) and meets a servant of Laban along the way, Zoram, who just “happens” to have the keys to the treasury where the plates are. They get them and then Nephi gets out, with Zoram as a new ally and friend.
They make it safely back to their parents who have been anxiously waiting for them, for they spent considerably more time than what was thought. They thank the Lord but offering sacrifices, and then searched the records. Searched.
While reading these first few chapters, how often do we compare ourselves with Nephi? How often do we question our own willingness to be obedient to our Fathers/Leaders/Prophets/ Lord?
Or how often do we murmur like Laman and Lemuel? Almost everyone complains and murmurs at times. The biggest question is will you complain to the point where you cast aside the Spirit of the Lord or will you soften your heart and be obedient through faith? The choice is yours.