Lehi’s family journeyed to Bountiful, where Nephi was commanded to build a ship. Nephi’s brethren murmured and refused to help him. He rebuked them for their wickedness and exhorted them to repent.
Invite several students to write on the board a few of the Lord’s commandments that some people might feel are difficult to obey. After students return to their seats, ask the class to describe why people might feel these commandments are difficult to obey.
Invite students to consider whether there is a specific commandment that they personally struggle to obey.
As students study 1 Nephi 17 today, invite them to look for truths that can help them keep God’s commandments, regardless of how hard it may seem to do so.
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 17:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for some of the difficulties Lehi’s family experienced as they traveled in the wilderness.
What were some of the difficulties Lehi’s family experienced?
What blessings did they receive? (After students respond, explain that Lehi’s family was also blessed in many other ways, including receiving guidance from the Lord [see 1 Nephi 17:12–13].)
Tell students that Nephi taught a principle that explains why his family could be blessed during this difficult time. Invite students to read 1 Nephi 17:3 silently and identify the principle that begins with the word if.
What principle did Nephi record in verse 3? (Students should state something similar to the following: If we keep the commandments, then the Lord will strengthen us and provide means for us to accomplish that which He has commanded. Write this principle on the board.)
Invite students to look for evidence of this principle as they study Nephi’s experiences recorded in 1 Nephi 17.
Summarize 1 Nephi 17:4–6 by explaining that after traveling in the wilderness for eight years, Lehi’s family arrived at a place they called Bountiful, which was near the sea.
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 17:7–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord commanded Nephi to do.
What did the Lord command Nephi to do?
Why might building a ship have been difficult for Nephi?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Nephi was not a sailor. He had been reared in Jerusalem, an inland city, rather than along the borders of the Mediterranean Sea. It seems unlikely that he knew much about or had experience with the tools and skills necessary to build a ship. He may not have ever previously seen an oceangoing vessel. In essence, then, Nephi was commanded and instructed to build something he had never built before” (David A. Bednar, “Learning to Love Learning” Ensign, Feb. 2010, 28).
Divide students into pairs. Assign one student in each pair to silently read 1 Nephi 17:9–11, 15–16 and the other student in each pair to silently read 1 Nephi 17:17–21. (You may want to write these scripture references on the board.) Ask students to look for how the people described in these verses responded to the commandment to build a ship. Invite students to share what they find with their partner.
After sufficient time, ask the class the following questions:
What impresses you about Nephi’s response?
How would you describe Laman and Lemuel’s attitude?
Summarize 1 Nephi 17:23–31 by explaining that Nephi responded to the complaints of his brethren by reminding them that the Lord had helped Moses accomplish the difficult task of freeing the children of Israel from bondage.
Point out that when the Lord gives us challenging tasks or commandments, we can choose to respond as Nephi did, or we can respond as Laman and Lemuel did.
When have you seen others respond as Nephi did to commandments that were challenging for them to obey?
Explain that Nephi later testified to his brethren of God’s ability to help him accomplish the commandment to build a ship. Invite a student to read aloud Nephi’s expression of faith in 1 Nephi 17:50. Then ask students to read 1 Nephi 17:51 silently, adding their names after the word me and replacing the phrase “build a ship” with the commandment they thought of at the beginning of class that may be difficult for them to obey.
Refer to the principle on the board, and testify of its truthfulness. Invite students to answer the following question in their class notebooks or study journals:
How can I respond like Nephi rather than like Laman and Lemuel to commandments that may be difficult to obey?
After sufficient time, consider inviting a few students to share with the class what they wrote. Remind them not to share anything that is private or too personal.
Point out that according to 1 Nephi 17:20–22, Nephi’s brethren murmured because they had had to leave Jerusalem, claiming that the Israelites who were living there were “a righteous people” (verse 22), even though they had sought to kill Lehi (see 1 Nephi 1:19–20). Nephi responded by explaining why the ancient Israelites were able to conquer the land of Canaan, where Jerusalem is located, and why Jerusalem would be destroyed.
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 17:32–40. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Nephi taught about why the ancient Israelites were able to conquer the land of Canaan after they were freed from bondage in Egypt.
According to these verses, why were the Israelites able to conquer the land of Canaan? (They were more righteous than the Canaanites, who “had rejected every word of God” and “were ripe in iniquity” [verse 35].)
According to verse 35, how does the Lord regard “all flesh,” or all people?
Explain that the phrase “the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one” (1 Nephi 17:35) means that He loves, values, and desires to bless all people. The phrase “he that is righteous is favored of God” (1 Nephi 17:35) does not mean that God treats His children unfairly. Rather, it means that those who are righteous—meaning those who choose to obey God’s commandments and make and keep covenants with Him—are able to receive certain blessings that are withheld from those who do not enter covenants with God and obey His commandments. Write the following truth on the board: Those who are righteous receive the Lord’s covenant blessings.
To provide an example of how we must obey the commandments in order to receive the Lord’s covenant blessings, point out that in order to always have God’s Spirit to be with us, we must take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments (see D&C 20:77, 79).
What are some other examples of blessings we can receive only if we keep the covenants we have made with God? (Answers might include the blessing of being married eternally [see D&C 132:19] and the blessing of receiving eternal life [see Mosiah 18:8–10].)
Summarize 1 Nephi 17:41–44 by explaining that Nephi told his brethren that the ancient Israelites had hardened their hearts against the Lord and His prophets “from time to time” (1 Nephi 17:42). The people in Jerusalem eventually became so wicked that Lehi had needed to flee with his family into the wilderness. Nephi told Laman and Lemuel that they were like those in Jerusalem who had sought to kill Lehi.
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 17:45 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the effect Laman and Lemuel’s iniquities, or sins, had on them.
What effect did Laman and Lemuel’s sins have on them? What could they not feel?
Invite students to consider marking the following phrase in verse 45: “he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.”
To help the class understand what it means to “feel [the Lord’s] words,” invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994):
“We hear the words of the Lord most often by a feeling. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Seek the Spirit of the Lord,” Ensign, Apr. 1988, 4).
According to President Benson, how do we often hear the words of the Lord?
What principle can we learn from verse 45 about what can make it difficult to feel and recognize the voice of the Lord? (Help students identify the following principle: When we choose to sin, it becomes more difficult to feel and recognize the voice of the Lord.)
Display a cell phone. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for the analogy he drew between cell phone communication and communication with the Lord:
“Occasionally … we find dead spots where the signal coming to a cell phone fails. This can happen when the cell phone user is in a tunnel or a canyon or when there is other interference.
“So it is with divine communication. … We often put ourselves in spiritual dead spots—places and situations that block out divine messages. Some of these dead spots include anger, pornography, transgression, selfishness, and other situations that offend the Spirit” (James E. Faust, “Did You Get the Right Message?” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 67).
When we have sinned, what can we do to make it easier to once again feel and recognize the voice of the Lord? (Repent of our sins.)
Invite students to consider whether they are participating in any sinful behavior that might make it difficult for them to feel and recognize the voice of the Lord. Encourage them to repent as necessary so they can feel and recognize the still, small voice of the Lord speaking to them.
Display the picture Nephi Subdues His Rebellious Brothers (Gospel Art Book , no. 70; see also lds.org/media-library). Invite students to summarize what is happening in the picture. If students do not have an answer, invite them to find the answer in 1 Nephi 17:48, 53–54.
According to 1 Nephi 17:53, why did the Lord shock Nephi’s brethren? (You may want to call students’ attention to verse 53, footnote a, to help them understand that the word shock in this context means to “cause to shake or tremble.”)
Explain that after Nephi shocked his brethren by the power of God, they humbled themselves and desired to worship Nephi. Nephi forbade them to worship him and instructed them to instead worship the Lord. (See 1 Nephi 17:55.)
Conclude by testifying of the truths students learned from 1 Nephi 17 and inviting students to act on these truths.