For eight years Nephi and his people journeyed in the wilderness, where the Lord made them strong in their struggle to survive.
Traveling nearly eastward, the group finally came to a great sea that they called Irreantum, meaning many waters. Here near the shores they found much fruit and also wild honey. When their tents were pitched they feasted and, rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness, called the place Bountiful.
Later the Lord called Nephi up into the mountains and said to him, “Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters.”
But Nephi was not a ship builder and was concerned about how this was to be done. So he asked the Lord: “Whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou has shown unto me?”
Then the Lord told Nephi where to find the needed metal. Afterward, he hit two stones together to make a fire, then he used a bellows he had made out of the skins of beasts to blow the fire hotter.
Nephi and his people had not been able to build many fires on their journey, for the smoke would have shown their camping place to raiders. They had eaten their meat raw after the Lord had promised that it would taste good to them without cooking it. “And I will also be your light in the wilderness;” the Lord continued, “and I will prepare the way before you, if … ye shall keep my commandments.”
Now that he had fire, Nephi melted ore out of the rock and shaped it into the tools he would need to build a ship.
Nephi’s brothers ridiculed his efforts. “Our brother is a fool,” they murmured, “for he thinketh he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters.”
Nephi was saddened at their lack of faith, and felt even worse when they said, “Thou art like unto our father [Lehi], led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years.”
Then Nephi was filled with the Spirit of the Lord and he spoke with great power to his brothers. He reminded them that Moses had saved the children of Israel and led them out of Egypt, and the Lord had lighted their way to the Promised Land. He also told them that the Lord loves all people but that He is especially pleased to help the righteous. Then he called to their remembrance how quick the Lord was to bless them and how slow they were to keep His commandments.
When Nephi admonished his brothers this way, they became angry and wanted to throw him into the depths of the sea. But as they reached for him, Nephi said, “In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God, … and whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed.”
Then Nephi spoke kindly to his brothers and asked them to help him. He said he knew he could build the ship because the Lord had told him to do so.
Nephi declared, “If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.”
“… how is it [then] that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?”
So great was the Spirit of God with Nephi that for many days the brothers dared not touch him.
Then to insure that Nephi’s brothers would know that their younger brother meant what he said and that he needed their cooperation and help, the Lord said to Nephi, “Stretch forth thine hand again unto thy brethren, and they shall not wither before thee, but I will shock them, … and this will I do, that they may know that I am the Lord their God.”
Nephi did as the Lord directed. Then the brothers began to worship the Lord and help Nephi. He obtained trees from the mountains and made timbers of curious workmanship, and the Lord showed Nephi from time to time how he should construct the ship.
Nephi went up into the mountains often to pray, and the Lord showed him “great things.” And Nephi built the ship as the Lord directed, which was not after the manner of men. When it was completed his brothers saw that it was good and the workmanship was exceeding fine.
Then the Lord spoke to Lehi, the father of Nephi, instructing him that they should go down into the ship. So on the next day they took all their provisions and seeds, and each one, according to his age, went down into the ship.
When Nephi and all his people were safely on board, they put out to sea and were driven before the wind toward the promised land.