The Book of Mormon begins with Lehi faithfully fulfilling his role as a prophet. Lehi was one of “many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent” (1 Nephi 1:4). When he prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem and testified of redemption through the Messiah, many people mocked him and wanted to kill him. Nevertheless, Lehi rejoiced in the Lord’s mercy and power of deliverance.
Write the following incomplete statement on the board: God is …
Invite students to come to the board and write words or phrases that complete the statement so that it expresses an attribute or characteristic of God. Select a few statements on the board, and ask the students who wrote them to describe how they have discovered that God possesses that attribute or characteristic.
As students study 1 Nephi 1 today, invite them to look for truths that can help us understand more about some of God’s attributes and how He desires to bless us.
Explain that Nephi wrote the record that we know as the First Book of Nephi on the small plates of Nephi about 30 years after leaving Jerusalem (see 2 Nephi 5:28–33). Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 1:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Nephi described about his life.
What can we learn about Nephi’s life from verse 1?
What did Nephi’s “knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God” lead him to do?
Direct students’ attention to the first statement in 1 Nephi 1:3. Invite them to consider marking Nephi’s testimony about the truthfulness of his record.
Point out that the remainder of 1 Nephi 1 includes Nephi’s account of experiences that his father Lehi had while dwelling at Jerusalem. These experiences took place during a time of widespread wickedness in Jerusalem. Many people worshipped idols, engaged in immorality, called “evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20), and had forsaken their covenants with the Lord (see Bible Dictionary, “Jeremiah”).
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 1:4 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord warned the people in Jerusalem.
How did the Lord warn the people in Jerusalem? (Through prophets. Point out that these included the Old Testament prophets Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and others.)
Divide students in pairs and instruct them to take turns reading verses from 1 Nephi 1:5–13, looking for what Lehi saw in vision. After sufficient time, ask one or two students to summarize what Lehi saw.
According to verse 13, what did Lehi learn about Jerusalem?
How might you have reacted if you had seen and learned what Lehi did?
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 1:14–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Lehi reacted after seeing these visions.
Why do you think Lehi rejoiced? (You might point out that in addition to learning of God’s judgments upon the wicked [see verse 13], Lehi learned of the coming of the Messiah and the redemption of the world [see verse 19].)
What truth about God can we learn from Lehi’s testimony at the end of verse 14? (Help students identify the following truth: Because God is merciful, He will not allow those who come unto Him to perish. You may want to invite students to consider marking this truth in their scriptures.)
Add merciful to the list of God’s attributes and characteristics on the board if it is not already there.
What do you think it means to come unto God?
What do you think it means that God will not allow those who come unto Him to perish? (Help students understand that although individuals who come unto God may perish or die physically, God will not allow them to permanently die spiritually—meaning they will be with God in eternity.)
Why is it important to understand this truth about God’s nature?
Invite students to think about how they would respond in the following scenario:
During general conference, the President of the Church teaches a doctrine that opposes a popular social practice. After the prophet’s talk, a friend sends you a message through social media containing a statement from the talk, along with the following question: “Why do Church leaders say things like this when they know that people are going to get upset or take offense?”
As students continue their study of 1 Nephi 1, invite them to look for a truth that can help answer this question.
Summarize 1 Nephi 1:16–17 by explaining that Nephi indicated he would write an abridgment of his father’s record, in which Lehi included more details of his visions, dreams, and prophecies. Nephi’s abridgment of Lehi’s record comprises much of 1 Nephi 1–8.
Point out that along with giving Lehi revelations, God called him to be a prophet. Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 1:18–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Lehi did after receiving revelations from God. (In verse 20, stop the student before he or she reads the statement, “But behold, I, Nephi …”)
What did Lehi do after receiving these revelations?
How did people in Jerusalem respond to Lehi’s prophecies and testimony?
What truth can we learn from these verses about what God calls prophets to do? (Help students identify the following truth: God calls prophets to denounce sin, warn of its consequences, and testify of Jesus Christ.)
Remind students of the social media message from the friend in the scenario read previously.
How can the truth we just identified help answer the friend’s question?
As part of this discussion, consider inviting a student to read aloud the following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985):
“Those prophets I have known are the most loving of men. It is because of their love and integrity that they cannot modify the Lord’s message merely to make people feel comfortable. They are too kind to be so cruel” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Listen to the Prophets,” Ensign, May 1978, 77).
To help students further understand and feel the truth and importance of the truth they identified in 1 Nephi 1:18–20, divide the class into groups of three or four. Provide each group with a copy of the following handout and instruct them to discuss the questions together.
After sufficient time, invite several students to report what they discussed in their groups. Encourage students to apply what they learned by obeying the warnings and teachings of prophets.
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 1:20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Nephi intended to show us with the experiences he recorded.
What did Nephi intend to show us with the experiences he recorded? (Help students identify the following truth: The Lord, through His tender mercies, will deliver those whom He has chosen, because of their faith.)
Invite students, as they continue to study Nephi’s writings, to look for ways the Lord delivered Lehi and his family from destruction and gave them power to overcome challenges as they exercised faith in Him.