Nephi declared, “The fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved” (1 Nephi 6:4). He kept two sets of records: the small plates of Nephi and the large plates of Nephi. The Lord commanded him to make an abridgment of Lehi’s account on the small plates, and Nephi obeyed this commandment without knowing the reason for it.
Display several appropriate books or movies that are popular with today’s youth. Ask students what they feel was the author’s or creator’s purpose for each of the books or movies. Hold up a copy of the Book of Mormon. Tell students that in 1 Nephi 6, Nephi explained his purpose for writing his record, which eventually became part of the Book of Mormon.
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 6:1–4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Nephi’s intent in making his record.
Whom do you think “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (see verse 4) refers to? (Jesus Christ. You may want to suggest that students write Jesus Christ next to 1 Nephi 6:4.)
How would you state Nephi’s intent in your own words? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: One purpose of the Book of Mormon is to persuade all people to come unto Jesus Christ and be saved.)
To help students appreciate that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, invite them to turn to the index and scan all the headings associated with Jesus Christ. Ask them to describe a few of the ways the Book of Mormon teaches about the mission of the Savior.
How might understanding Nephi’s purpose for writing influence the way you study the Book of Mormon?
Share how the Book of Mormon has helped you grow closer to Jesus Christ. Invite students who are willing to share to do the same. Encourage students as they study the Book of Mormon this year to regularly ask themselves how what they are reading can persuade and help them to come unto Jesus Christ and be saved.
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 6:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Nephi sought to write on the plates he kept. Ask students to report what they find.
According to these verses, what truth can we learn about the messages contained in the Book of Mormon? (Help students identify the following truth: The messages contained in the Book of Mormon are pleasing to God and are of great worth to His children.)
How can understanding this truth help us as we study the Book of Mormon?
To prepare students to identify truths taught in 1 Nephi 9, ask the following question:
What are some commandments or standards of the Lord that some youth may not yet understand the reason for? (Ask a student to write class members’ responses on the board.)
As students study 1 Nephi 9 today, invite them to look for a truth that can guide us in our efforts to obey any commandment from the Lord, even when we may not fully understand the reason for it.
Explain that in 1 Nephi 9:1–5, Nephi tells about his effort to keep records on two sets of plates known as the small plates of Nephi and the large plates of Nephi. (The words small and large refer to the number of plates in each set. The small plates of Nephi had fewer plates than the large plates of Nephi.) To help students differentiate between the small plates and the large plates as they read 1 Nephi 9, write the following on the board: “these plates” = small plates and “the other plates” = large plates. You may want to invite students to consider writing these words in their scriptures.
Assign students to work in pairs. Instruct them to take turns reading from 1 Nephi 9:1–4, looking for what was contained on each set of plates.
After sufficient time, invite students to report what they found. Ask a student to write classmates’ responses under the appropriate headings on the board. You may need to explain that the word “ministry” (1 Nephi 9:3) refers to religious teachings and activities.
According to verse 3, why did Nephi begin keeping a second record?
Invite students to imagine being in Nephi’s situation. Ask them to consider the effort and difficulty it would require to make a second set of plates and to maintain two records at once.
Ask a student to read 1 Nephi 9:5–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Nephi understood about the purpose of the commandment to make an additional record.
What did Nephi understand about the purpose of the commandment to make the small plates?
What are different ways someone could respond in Nephi’s situation?
What is admirable about Nephi’s faith in the Lord?
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: Trusting and obeying the Lord, even when we do not fully understand the reason for a commandment, …
Explain that nearly 1,000 years later, the prophet Mormon made an abridgment, or shortened version, of the records that had been written by his people. As he created this abridgment, he found the small plates of Nephi and was prompted by the Spirit to include them unabridged in his record “for a wise purpose” (Words of Mormon 1:7) that was unknown to him at the time.
Ask if any students can explain what part of the Lord’s “wise purpose” may have been. As needed, use the following information to add to students’ understanding.
At least part of the Lord’s “wise purpose” (1 Nephi 9:5; Words of Mormon 1:7) for having Nephi keep two sets of records became apparent when Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. Joseph began his translation with Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates of Nephi. Martin Harris, who had been helping Joseph, wanted to show the translation to his wife and family. Reluctantly, the Prophet allowed Martin to borrow the 116 pages of manuscript that had been completed up to that time. The 116 pages were stolen from Martin, and, as a consequence, the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the gift to translate were temporarily taken from Joseph Smith (see D&C 3:14).
After Joseph Smith went through a period of repentance (see D&C 3:10), the Lord told him not to retranslate the lost portion (see D&C 10:30). Instead He commanded him to translate the small plates of Nephi (see D&C 10:41), which covered the same period of time. He informed Joseph that those who had taken the 116 pages had changed them and planned to use them to discredit the work (see D&C 10:10–19). The Lord had foreseen these events many hundreds of years earlier and had provided the second record to thwart Satan’s plan. (See History of the Church, 1:20–23; D&C 10:38–46.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for the results of Nephi’s obedience.
“It strikes me that there is a wiser purpose than that [compensating for the loss of the 116 pages], or, more accurately, a wiser purpose in that. The key to such a suggestion of a wiser purpose is in verse 45 of Doctrine and Covenants section 10. As the Lord instructs Joseph on the procedure for translating and inserting the material from the small plates into what had been begun as the translation of the abridged large plates, he says, ‘Behold, there are many things engraven upon the [small] plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel’ (emphasis added).
“… We got back more than we lost. And it was known from the beginning that it would be so. It was for a wiser purpose. …
“I think it would be exciting if the 116 pages of manuscript turned up some day, but if they were delivered to my office tomorrow I would never trade them for the material in the small plates of Nephi” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Standard unto My People” [address given at the Church Educational System Symposium, Aug. 9, 1994], 7–8, 9).
Ask students how they would complete the statement on the board to form a principle we can learn from Nephi’s experience. Students should identify a principle similar to the following: Trusting and obeying the Lord, even when we do not fully understand the reason for a commandment, can lead to great blessings.
Read aloud the following statement by Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915–1994) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Sometimes when we are asked to be obedient, we do not know why, except the Lord has commanded. … Nephi followed instructions even though he didn’t fully understand the wise purpose. His obedience resulted in blessings to mankind all over the world” (Marvin J. Ashton, “Who Will Forfeit the Harvest?” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 51).
Invite students to review 1 Nephi 9:6 silently, looking for a truth that Nephi taught about the Lord.
What truth did Nephi teach about the Lord? (Students should identify a truth similar to the following: The Lord knows all things, has all power, and prepares a way to accomplish His work. You may want to invite students to consider marking statements that teach this truth.)
How does Nephi’s experience and the account of the lost 116 manuscript pages illustrate this truth?
Why is it helpful to know that “the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning” (1 Nephi 9:6)?
Refer to the commandments and standards listed on the board.
How can understanding the truths we identified help someone when they encounter a commandment that they do not fully understand the reason for?
When have you or someone you know been obedient to the Lord without completely understanding the reasons? What blessings came as a result?
Help students see that throughout their lives, they will encounter commandments that they may not fully understand at first. Testify that they can trust in the Lord’s knowledge and power and that their obedience to His commandments will bless their own lives and the lives of others.
Invite students to write in their class notebooks or study journals a goal to obey a commandment of the Lord that they may not fully understand the reason for. Encourage students to follow Nephi’s example by trusting and obeying the Lord by keeping this commandment.