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
Lehi’s sons return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates
Write the following statements on the board before class begins. Ask students to select the statement that best describes how they believe the Lord helps us when He asks us to do difficult things.
When you strive to fulfill a command or a difficult task from the Lord, He will:
Change the command so it will be simple and easy for you to accomplish.
Bless your efforts by providing a way for you to fulfill the command, even though it may still be difficult.
Intervene and do all the work for you.
Require you to do it entirely on your own without any help.
Invite a few students to share the response they selected and their reason for choosing it.
Explain that there are many ways the Lord can bless those who strive to fulfill His commandments. As students study Nephi’s account in 1 Nephi 3–4, invite them to look for examples of this principle. Also encourage students to note the how Nephi and his brothers responded differently to challenges.
Ask several students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 3:1–9. Invite the rest of the class to listen for reasons why Nephi was willing to do what his father asked.
Laman and Lemuel felt that the command to return to Jerusalem for the brass plates was “a hard thing which [Lehi] required of them” (1 Nephi 3:5). To help students understand some reasons why Laman and Lemuel may have felt this way, you may want to remind them that they had already traveled a long distance from Jerusalem.
Why do you think Nephi was willing to do what his father asked without murmuring?
Invite students to restate the principle Nephi testifies of in 1 Nephi 3:7 as an “if-then” statement. For example, students might say that if we seek to do what the Lord commands, then He will prepare a way for us to accomplish it. Point out that 1 Nephi 3:7 is a scripture mastery passage. Explain that students will focus on 25 scripture mastery passages throughout the year (for more information, see the appendix in this manual). The 25 scripture mastery references are listed on the back of the seminary bookmark. You might encourage students to mark scripture mastery passages in a distinctive way so they will be able to locate the passages easily.
When have you felt that the Lord “prepared a way” for you to keep one of His commandments?
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 3:3, 19–20 aloud. Ask the rest of the class to listen for phrases that tell why the brass plates were so valuable to Lehi’s family and their descendants. (You may want to suggest that students mark these phrases in their scriptures.) After students have shared what they have found, explain that the plates of brass were a volume of ancient scripture containing many of the same writings and information as the Old Testament.
Why do you think the contents of the brass plates were important enough for Nephi and his brothers to go back to Jerusalem to get them?
What do the scriptures contain today that is valuable to you? Why is it valuable to you?
Laban steals Lehi’s property and attempts to kill Nephi and his brothers
Invite half of the class 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 3:21–31). Have each student work independently and answer the following questions. You may want to have them complete this assignment in their scripture study journals or class notebooks. Display the questions on the board or prepare them as a handout for each student.
What did they do?
How did they respond after the attempt failed?
For those studying the first attempt: Nephi and his brothers were “exceedingly sorrowful” after they failed to obtain the brass plates (see 1 Nephi 3:14). How was Nephi’s response to this failure different from that of his brothers? (See 1 Nephi 3:15–16.)
For those studying the second attempt: Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi after their second attempt failed. They beat him and spoke to him harshly. Even after an angel promised that the Lord would deliver Laban into their hands, they continued to murmur and question their ability to succeed. How might Laman and Lemuel’s anger have affected their ability to have faith in the angel’s promise? How do anger, contention, murmuring, and unbelief prevent us from understanding God’s messages for us? (See 1 Nephi 3:28–31; 3 Nephi 11:29.)
What insights did you gain from the verses you studied?
After students have had enough time to respond to the questions, invite a few to share their answers.
Nephi obtains the brass plates
Ask students to identify the questions Laman and Lemuel asked in 1 Nephi 3:31.
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 4:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to listen for Nephi’s answers to his brothers’ questions.
How did the story of Moses relate to Laman and Lemuel’s questions?
If students need help answering this question, explain that Moses faced a similar challenge when he was asked to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. Despite repeated attempts, Moses was unable to persuade Pharaoh to release the children of Israel from slavery. However, Moses persisted in doing what the Lord commanded him, and the Lord provided a way for him to free the children of Israel. Nephi applied the example of Moses to his family’s circumstances. He had confidence that God would also prepare a way for them.
What principle do you learn from Nephi’s response to his brothers?
Although students may phrase their answers a little differently, they should express that if we faithfully persist in doing what the Lord requires, in spite of difficulty, He will prepare a way for us to accomplish what He commands. (You may want to write this principle on the board.)
Refer to the statements you displayed on the board at the beginning of the lesson.
Now that you have studied Nephi’s experience, which statement do you think best summarizes the principle you just identified?
As students study the remainder of Nephi’s account, encourage them to look for confirmation of this principle in the results of Nephi’s perseverance.
Help students understand that the Lord may inspire us to do something without immediately revealing how, when, or why we should do it. Nephi learned how, when, and why the Lord would help him only after he allowed the Holy Ghost to direct him and after he decided to go forward in faith.
Tell students that President Harold B. Lee observed that we often want to see “the end from the beginning,” or the outcome, before we will follow the Lord’s direction. He counseled:
“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” (in Lucile C. Tate, Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower , 137–38).
Invite a student to read 1 Nephi 4:7 aloud.
In 1 Nephi 4:7, what is important about the phrase “nevertheless I went forth”?
What does Nephi’s experience teach about the relationship between our willingness to “go and do” and our ability to be led by the Lord?
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from 1 Nephi 4:8–18.
What reasons did the Spirit give Nephi for the Lord’s command to slay Laban?
Summarize the rest of Nephi’s account of successfully obtaining the plates (see 1 Nephi 4:19–38), or invite a student who is familiar with the remainder of the story to do so. Ask students to identify principles they see illustrated in this final effort to obtain the plates. After they give their insights, add your testimony that when we exercise faith in God and seek to do what He asks, even when we cannot see the outcome, He will lead us by the influence of the Holy Ghost.
To help deepen students’ testimonies of this principle, invite them to share experiences of when they have acted in faith without knowing beforehand how or when God was going to help them.
Invite students to ponder a situation they are currently facing in which the Lord’s requirements are difficult for them. Ask them to record in their scripture study journals what they will do to show the Lord their willingness to “go and do” what He has commanded. When they have finished writing, express your confidence that as we demonstrate our faith, the Lord will help us accomplish whatever He asks of us.
Scripture Mastery—1 Nephi 3:7
Write on the board obedience, faith, and trust. Ask:
What evidences of Nephi’s obedience, faith, and trust do you see in 1 Nephi 3?
How might these qualities help someone who has been called to serve a mission?
Invite each student to write a letter to a missionary, asking the missionary how he or she has seen 1 Nephi 3:7 in action. Encourage students to share any replies they receive to their letters.
Note: At the end of each lesson that contains a scripture mastery passage, you will find a supplemental activity designed to help students master the passage. You may use these activities at any time (for more information, see the appendix and the Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook). Because of the nature and length of today’s lesson, you may want to use this activity on another day, when you have more time.
Commentary and Background Information
1 Nephi 4:10–12. The command to slay Laban
What justification is there for a righteous man like Nephi to take the life of another person? The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the Lord sets the standard of right and wrong:
“God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill;’ at another time He said ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire” (History of the Church, 5:135).
To better understand the Lord’s command to slay Laban, it may help to remember the following:
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).
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, they also provided some of the content of the gold 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 provides three short tests we can use to avoid being deceived and to confidently know when spiritual impressions are from the Lord:
“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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1963, 16–17).