The First Book of Nephi can be broken down into six sections (below). The book was written around 600 B.C. and is an account of; “…Lehi and his wife Sariah, and his four sons, being called, (beginning at the eldest) Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi. The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem, because he prophesieth unto the people concerning their iniquity and they seek to destroy his life… The account of their sufferings… [crossing of] large waters into the promised land…” (1 Nephi Introduction)
The book begins in Jerusalem at the time of King Zedekiah (roughly 600 B.C.), where Nephi’s father, Lehi, has a vision, wherein he sees God the Father, Christ, and the twelve apostles. Lehi is told by the Lord that Jerusalem shall be destroyed and that he was to warn the people. Lehi follows this commandment of the Lord and begins to preach repentance to his people. They reject his teachings and attempt to kill him by stoning him, like other prophets of this time.
In a dream, God commands Lehi to leave Jerusalem with his family, again he follow the command of the Lord. However, almost immediately on the start of their journey, God commands him to return to Jerusalem to obtain ‘Brass Plates’ which were held in the possession of a man named Laban, who was very powerful in Jerusalem. Nephi and his brothers return and become frustrated after several failed attempts of obtaining the Brass Plates. Eventually they are successful and obtain the Brass Plates, which are later discovered by Lehi to contain a genealogy of himself, and that he is a descendant of Joseph, the son of Jacob. It also contains the five books of Moses and even some writings by the prophet Jeremiah.
Lehi, in another dream is commanded to send his sons back to Jerusalem a second time to retrieve the family of Ishmael and his daughters. Ishmael agrees to come with Nephi and his family into the wilderness. However, on the journey back to camp, Laman and Lemuel and some members of Ishmael’s family rebel. They explain to Nephi that they want to return to Jerusalem. However, Nephi explains to them harshly that the Lord has commanded them to leave, for Jerusalem shall be destroyed. This angers them, and they tie Nephi up and leave him to die in the desert. However, their hearts are softened by the daughters of Ishmael and ask for forgiveness from Nephi.
Visions of Lehi and Nephi:
Upon returning to camp, Lehi is taken away into a vision of the Tree of Life. In this vision, Lehi sees a Tree, which contains a fruit that can make one happy. Across from the tree, he sees a river and across the river a Great and Spacious Building. Later Nephi desires to see the same vision that his father had, and is granted this ability. Nephi is swept away by the spirit and sees the vision his father had described. He is also given an explanation about its symbolism: the tree and its fruit represent the love of God, a “rod of iron” represents the word of God, and a “great and spacious building” represents the pride and mocking attitude of the world.
Nephi is then shown a number of past and future events:
- The Birth, Ministry and Death of Jesus Christ (See 1 Nephi 11)
- Christopher Columbus Traveling across the Atlantic Ocean (See 1 Nephi 13:12)
- The American Revolutionary War (See 1 Nephi 13:17-19)
- The coming forth of the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 13:34-36)
- The Coming forth of ‘other books’ beyond the Book of Mormon and the Bible (1 Nephi 13:39; 1 Nephi 13:20-24)
- Nephi also sees many of the wars in the future, but is commanded to not write of these things, for John the Apostle shall write them. (See 1 Nephi 14:15-23)
Most importantly, Nephi sees the future of his generations and the generations of Laman and Lemuel. He sees that even though his seed has the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will be ultimately wiped out and destroyed for their wickedness. The see of Laman and Lemuel will eventually come to a knowledge of the gospel through the writings of the Book of Mormon and the future Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, known today as: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”.
Traveling in the Wilderness/Dessert:
After the sons of Lehi marry the daughters of Ishmael a ‘ball of curious workmanship’ appears one morning outside of Lehi’s tent. Later it is revealed to be the Liahona. Using the directions on the ball, they begin journeying eastward along the Red Sea. As they travel along the banks of the Red Sea, Nephi’s steel bow breaks while hunting. Now, tired and hungry many begin to complain against Nephi, Lehi and the Lord. Nephi builds a new bow and arrows out of wood, and then enquires of the Lord where to hunt. He is led to the top of a nearby mountain, where he obtains meat from him and his family. They learn that as long as they are faithful, the Liahona will lead them to the Promised Land.
Ishmael dies on their journey near a place called “Nahum”. This is one of the few places listed in the Book of Mormon that relates to the Old World and to the Bible. In mourning, Ishmael’s daughters complain against Lehi and Nephi, and desire to return to Jerusalem. Laman and Lemuel decide to kill Lehi and Nephi, but the voice of the Lord speaks to them and they humble themselves.
Building the Ship:
Upon arriving in a Place called Bountiful, near the borders of the Red Sea… Nephi climbs a mountain and speaks with the Lord. The Lord commands Nephi to build a ship, that would carry them across the Atlantic Ocean to the Promised Land (America). Laman and Lemuel see Nephi constructing a ship and mock him for trying to achieve an impossible task. Nephi instructs them about the strength of the Lord and how impossible things are possible when the Lord commands it. Laman and Lemuel again attempt to kill Nephi, but being filled with the Spirit, he commands Laman and Lemuel not to touch him or they would die instantly. He also commands them to assist in building the ship. In order to show Laman and Lemuel that the Lord was in control, the Lord commands Nephi to touch them. He touches them, causing a shock which causes Laman and Lemuel to repent before the Lord and begin to assist Nephi in the construction of a ship.
After completing the ship, the voice of the Lord commands Lehi to load his family and supplies on the ship. They depart on the ocean. Many days later, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael begin partying, dancing, singing, and being rude. Nephi, fearing that the Lord would be angry with them, speaks to them. They get upset with Nephi and tie him up. Because of their wickedness, the Liahona ceases to work and they are pushed back into a terrible storm. Nephi, who was at this point tied up by his brothers is finally let down at the pleading of his mother, and others on the ship. Nephi prays, and the storm stops, leaving a great calm. Many days later, they arrive in the promised land, on the American continent.
The Promised Lands:
Once in the Promised Land, Nephi and his families begin building farms, raising livestock and discovering the land. Nephi is commanded by the Lord to create the ‘small plates’ and ‘large plates’ of Nephi.
To end the Book of 1st Nephi… Nephi teaches his family and people from the Brass Plates (that were obtained in Jerusalem from Laban), which contain the Books of Moses. Nephi quotes from Isaiah 48-49 which speak of the scattering and restoration of Israel in the Last Days. He also testifies that the Churches of Satan that were raised for gain, power and popularity will be destroyed by the Lord. Nephi exclaims that all prophets have testified of Jesus Christ, and that he is no different. Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, we are only saved through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.