Scriptural Giants: Nephi Confounds the Wicked Judges

(See Hel. 6–9.)

About 570 years after Lehi and his family arrived in the promised land, there lived a prophet named Nephi. This Nephi was the son of Helaman, and he lived in a land where the people were ruled by judges.

Nephi was the chief judge for a while, but when many of the people became wicked, he resigned so that he could preach the word of God to them. Cezoram, the next chief judge, was murdered, and so was his son, who had been appointed by the people to take Cezoram’s place. Then the government was taken over by Gadianton’s robbers.

When Nephi spoke out against the evil that he saw in the government, the wicked judges said that he was reviling both the people and the laws of the land. But because some of the people defended him, his enemies were afraid to do anything to him.

Consequently Nephi preached further to the people, saying, “Instead of laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven, … ye are heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment.

“Yea, … except ye repent it will come unto you soon.”

He really surprised the people when he added, “Yea, behold it is now even at your doors; yea, go ye in unto the judgment-seat, and search; and behold, your judge is murdered, and he lieth in his blood; and he hath been murdered by his brother, who seeketh to sit in the judgment-seat.

“And behold, they both belong to your secret band, whose author is Gadianton and the evil one who seeketh to destroy the souls of men.”

Five men who heard Nephi were sent to check on his words. When they reached the judgment seat, there was Seezoram, just as Nephi had predicted, lying dead in his own blood. They were so amazed that they fell to the earth, unconscious.

In the meantime, the chief judge’s servants had also discovered Seezoram’s death and spread the word among the people, who hurried to the palace. When they saw Seezoram, they also saw the other five men lying on the floor. Believing that the five men had killed Seezoram, the people told each other, “God has smitten them that they could not flee from us.” They took the five men and cast them into prison.

The judges who had heard Nephi prophesy Seezoram’s death, however, asked, “Where are the five who were sent to inquire concerning the chief judge whether he was dead?” They had the five men brought before them.

The five defended themselves, saying, “When we saw all things even as Nephi had testified, we were astonished insomuch that we fell to the earth; and when we were recovered from our astonishment, behold they cast us into prison.”

The judges, eager to involve Nephi in the murder so that they could get rid of him, claimed that Nephi had plotted with the murderer so that he, Nephi, could then “predict” the chief judge’s death and thus trick the people into thinking that he was a true prophet. The judges freed the five men and had Nephi arrested.

When Nephi was brought before the judges, they tried to trick him into saying he was guilty: “Thou art confederate; who is this man that hath done this murder? Now tell us, and acknowledge thy fault; saying, Behold here is money; and also we will grant unto thee thy life if thou wilt tell us, and acknowledge the agreement which thou hast made with him.”

But Nephi answered, “O ye fools, … do ye know how long the Lord your God will suffer you that ye shall go on in this your way of sin?

“O ye ought to … mourn, because of the great destruction which at this time doth await you, except ye shall repent.”

Then Nephi told them, “Go to the house of Seantum, who is the brother of Seezoram, and say unto him—

“Has Nephi, the pretended prophet, … agreed with thee, in the which ye have murdered Seezoram, who is your brother?

“And behold, he shall say unto you, Nay.

“And ye shall say unto him: Have ye murdered your brother?

“And he shall stand with fear, and wist not what to say. And behold … he shall make as if he were astonished; nevertheless, he shall declare unto you that he is innocent.

“But behold, ye shall examine him, and ye shall find blood upon the skirts of his cloak. …

“And then shall greater fear come upon him; and then shall he confess unto you, and deny no more that he has done this murder.

“And then shall he say unto you, that I, Nephi, know nothing concerning the matter save it were given unto me by the power of God. And then shall ye know that I am an honest man, and that I am sent unto you from God.”

The judges were shocked, but when everything happened exactly as Nephi had said, they had to let Nephi go. From that day forth, more and more people believed in Nephi’s words, and they began to repent and be more righteous.

[illustration] Illustrated by Robert T. Barrett