Lesson 8: 1 Nephi 3–4

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2017


Introduction

The Lord commanded Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass from Laban. Laman and Lemuel did not see how they could fulfill this commandment, but Nephi had faith that the Lord would provide a way for them to accomplish what He required. Despite encountering repeated difficulties, Nephi faithfully persisted in doing what the Lord asked of him. As a result, he was led by the Holy Spirit and successfully obtained the plates.

Suggestions for Teaching

1 Nephi 3:1–8

Nephi faithfully accepts the Lord’s command to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates

To prepare the class to study 1 Nephi 3–4, invite a student to read aloud the following account given by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Neil L. Andersen

“In Brazil, I met Aroldo Cavalcante. He was baptized at age 21, the first member of the Church in his family. His faith burned brightly, and he immediately began preparing to serve a mission. Sadly, Aroldo’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Three months later, only days before she died, she spoke to Aroldo of her greatest concern: There were no relatives to help. Aroldo would need to take full responsibility for his two younger sisters and his younger brother. He solemnly made this promise to his dying mother.

“By day he worked in a bank, and at night he attended the university. He continued to keep his baptismal covenants, but his hopes for a full-time mission were gone. …

“Months later … , Aroldo studied the words that Samuel reprovingly spoke to King Saul: ‘To obey,’ he read, ‘is better than [to] sacrifice’ (1 Samuel 15:22). Aroldo received the seemingly impossible impression that he needed to obey the prophet’s call to serve a mission” (Neil L. Andersen, “Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 65).

  • What thoughts or feelings do you think you would have if you were in Aroldo’s position and received the impression to serve a full-time mission?

  • What do you think would be the hardest part about acting on this impression?

As students study 1 Nephi 3–4 today, invite them to look for truths that can help them choose to obey the Lord’s commandments even when it may be difficult.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 3:1–4. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the commandment the Lord gave Lehi.

Remind students that Lehi’s family was likely about 260 miles (420 kilometers) from Jerusalem at this time. Returning would require approximately 14 days of traveling through unsafe territory. In addition, records such as the brass plates were apparently rare and extremely valuable, and the man who possessed the plates would need to be persuaded to give them up.

  • What thoughts and feelings do you think you might have had if you had been one of the sons of Lehi and had been told of the command to get the brass plates?

Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 3:5–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Nephi and his brothers responded to this command.

  • Who did Nephi’s brothers assume this command came from? Why might that have affected their response?

  • Who did Nephi believe this command came from? How did that affect his response?

  • What truths can we learn from verses 5–7? (Students may identify a number of truths, including the following: The Lord will bless us if we obey His commands without murmuring. The Lord will not give us a commandment without preparing a way for us to accomplish it.)

As students continue their study of 1 Nephi 3–4 today, invite them to look for the way the Lord prepared for Nephi and his brothers to accomplish what He commanded them to do.

1 Nephi 3:9–31

Laban steals Lehi’s property and attempts to kill Nephi and his brothers

Divide students into groups of two or three. Invite half of the groups to study Nephi and his brothers’ first attempt to obtain the brass plates (see 1 Nephi 3:10–18). Invite the other half to study the second attempt (see 1 Nephi 3:22–31). Have each group answer the following questions. Write the questions on the board or provide them for each group as a handout.

  1. 1.

    Who went?

  2. 2.

    What did they do?

  3. 3.

    How did Laban respond?

  4. 4.

    How did Nephi and his brothers respond after the attempt failed?

  5. 5a.

    For those studying the first attempt: What stands out to you in Nephi’s response to his brothers (see 1 Nephi 3:15–16)?

  6. 5b.

    For those studying the second attempt: How did Laman and Lemuel respond even after the angel promised that the Lord would deliver Laban into their hands? If you had been in Nephi’s position, how would you have responded to Laman and Lemuel’s disbelieving questions?

  7. 6.

    What insights did you gain from the verses you studied?

After students have had sufficient time to complete this activity, invite a few students to report to the class what they discussed in their groups.

1 Nephi 4:1–38

Nephi obtains the brass plates

Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 4:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Nephi’s answers to his brothers’ questions.

  • How did Nephi answer his brothers’ questions?

Have a student read 1 Nephi 4:4–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Nephi did in the third attempt to obtain the brass plates.

  • What did Nephi not know as he began this third attempt?

  • In 1 Nephi 4:7, what is important about the phrase “nevertheless I went forth”?

  • How was Nephi blessed as he went forth with faith?

  • What principle does Nephi’s experience teach about the relationship between acting in faith and our ability to be led by the Lord? (Help students identify the following principle: In times of uncertainty, we can receive guidance from the Spirit if we go forth with faith.)

Invite students to think of a situation they are currently facing, or may face in the future, in which they could benefit from receiving the Lord’s guidance.

  • In the situation you thought of, how can a person go forth with faith?

  • How can we recognize when the Spirit is guiding us?

As part of the discussion of the previous question, it may be helpful to invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“In its more familiar forms, revelation or inspiration comes by means of words or thoughts communicated to the mind (see Enos 1:10; D&C 8:2–3), by sudden enlightenment (see D&C 6:14–15), [or] by positive or negative feelings about proposed courses of action” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Eight Ways God Can Speak to You,” New Era, Sept. 2004, 4).

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 4:8–18. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Spirit guided Nephi.

  • How did the Spirit guide Nephi?

  • What reasons did the Spirit give Nephi for the Lord’s command to slay Laban?

Summarize 1 Nephi 4:19–29 by explaining that Nephi dressed in Laban’s clothes and went to Laban’s treasury to obtain the brass plates. Acting as Laban, Nephi commanded Zoram, Laban’s servant, to join him in retrieving the plates and taking them to his brothers outside the walls of the city. When Nephi’s brothers saw Nephi, they thought he was Laban and began to flee. They stopped after Nephi called out to them.

Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 4:30–38. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the Lord continued to help Nephi.

  • How did the Lord continue to help Nephi?

Write the following statement on the board: As we act with faith in the Lord and diligently strive to obey Him …

  • How would you complete this principle based on what we have learned from Nephi’s experience with obtaining the brass plates? (Using students’ words, complete the statement on the board so that it conveys the following principle: As we act with faith in the Lord and diligently strive to obey Him, we can accomplish what He commands.)

To help students understand how this principle can be applied in our day, invite a student to read aloud the remainder of the account Elder Neil L. Andersen told regarding Aroldo Cavalcante:

Elder Neil L. Andersen

“Undaunted by the obstacles before him, [Aroldo] moved forward with enormous faith.

“[To pay for his mission,] Aroldo saved every Brazilian cruzeiro he could. At age 23, he received his mission call. … Aroldo still did not have enough money to pay the full cost of his mission and the living expenses for his brother and sisters, but with faith he entered the MTC. A week later he received the first of many blessings. The bank that had employed Elder Cavalcante unexpectedly doubled the money he was to receive as he concluded his work. This miracle, along with others, provided the needed income for his mission and his family during his absence” (Neil L. Andersen, “Faith Is Not by Chance,” 65–66).

  • Based on what we’ve learned from the examples of Nephi and Aroldo Cavalcante, what are some ways we can choose to act with faith in the Lord and diligently strive to obey Him even when it may seem difficult?

Write the following questions on the board or provide them to students as a handout. Invite students to write responses in their class notebooks or study journals.

  • Think of a time when you acted with faith in the Lord and diligently tried to obey Him. In what ways did you act with faith and diligence? How did the Lord help you accomplish what He commanded?

  • What will you do to improve in your efforts to act with faith and obey the Lord’s commands?

After sufficient time, invite several students to share with the class what they wrote in response to the first question. Consider sharing a personal experience as well.

Encourage students to apply what they wrote in response to the second question. Conclude with your testimony of the truths students identified in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

1 Nephi 4:6. “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do”

President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) observed that we often want to see “the end from the beginning,” or the outcome, before we will follow the Lord’s direction. He gave the following counsel:

President Harold B. Lee

“You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and perhaps a few steps into the darkness [the unknown], and you will find that the light will appear and move ahead of you” (Harold B. Lee, in Lucile C. Tate, Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower [1995], 137–38).

1 Nephi 4:10–12. The command to slay Laban

To better understand the Lord’s command to slay Laban, it may help to remember the following:

  1. 1.

    The Lord gave Laban at least two chances to part with the brass plates before requiring his life. Laban was a liar and a robber, and he had at least twice sought to murder. Under the law of Moses, stealing and attempted murder could both be punishable by death (see Exodus 21:14; 22:2; Deuteronomy 24:7).

  2. 2.

    The Lord wanted Lehi and his descendants to have the scriptural record contained in the brass plates, even if “one man should perish” (1 Nephi 4:13) for it to happen. The brass plates not only blessed the Nephite and Mulekite nations, but they also provided some of the content of the golden plates (such as the quotations from Isaiah and from Zenos’s allegory of the tame and wild olive trees). The Book of Mormon has blessed millions of people and will bless millions more. Ultimately, all of this was at stake when Nephi stood over Laban and followed the Spirit’s direction.

Some people have incorrectly felt that the Spirit of the Lord has prompted them to do something contrary to what the Lord has previously commanded. The following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) provides three short tests we can use to avoid being deceived and to confidently know when spiritual impressions are from the Lord:

President Ezra Taft Benson

“1. What do the standard works have to say about it? ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,’ said Isaiah. (Isa. 8:20.) …

“We must diligently study the scriptures. Of special importance to us are the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. …

“2. The second guide is: what do the latter-day Presidents of the Church have to say on the subject—particularly the living President? …

“There is only one man on the earth today who speaks for the Church. (See D&C 132:7; 21:4.) That man is [the] President [of the Church]. Because he gives the word of the Lord for us today, his words have an even more immediate importance than those of the dead prophets. When speaking under the influence of the Holy Ghost his words are scripture. (See D&C 68:4.) …

“3. The third and final test is the Holy Ghost—the test of the Spirit. By that Spirit we ‘… may know the truth of all things.’ (Moroni 10:5.) This test can only be fully effective if one’s channels of communication with God are clean and virtuous and uncluttered with sin” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1963, 16–17).