The Lord commanded Lehi to send his sons back to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass from Laban. While Laman and Lemuel did not see how they would fulfill this command, Nephi had faith that the Lord would provide a way to accomplish what He required. Despite repeated difficulties, Nephi faithfully persisted in doing what the Lord had asked. As a result, he was led by the Holy Spirit and successfully obtained the plates. Nephi’s experience shows that persistent obedience qualifies us for the Lord’s help in difficult situations.
Have you ever faced a difficult situation and wondered how it would be resolved? Today’s lesson can help strengthen your faith and determination to be obedient as you face difficult situations. Begin by reading 1 Nephi 3:1–6, and highlight in your scriptures the command the Lord gave Lehi for his sons to fulfill. Also notice the difference in how Laman and Lemuel responded to the Lord’s command as opposed to Nephi’s response.
To understand the difficulty of what the Lord commanded, it is helpful to know that the distance from Jerusalem to the Red Sea (the Gulf of Aqaba) is about 180 miles through hot, barren country infested by many thieves. Lehi and his family had traveled three days’ journey beyond this point (see 1 Nephi 2:5–6), and now the Lord was saying his sons were to go back to Jerusalem. Read 1 Nephi 3:7–8, and identify the reason Nephi gave for his willingness to obey the Lord’s command.
Nephi testified of the principle that if we will do what the Lord commands, then He will prepare a way for us to accomplish it. As you continue to study 1 Nephi 3, think about how Nephi’s example of courage and determination can inspire you to be more obedient and show greater faith in the Lord. Pay particular attention to how Nephi responded to difficulties. Even though Nephi would face adversity as he and his brothers tried to obtain the plates of brass, he chose not to murmur (see 1 Nephi 3:6).
The plates of brass contained “the record of the Jews” (1 Nephi 3:3), which were their scriptures. They contained some of the writings and information currently found in the Old Testament as well as other prophetic writings. Read 1 Nephi 3:19–20, and underline what the plates of brass contained that made them so important to Lehi’s family and descendants.
Scripture Mastery—1 Nephi 3:7
Read 1 Nephi 3:7 three times (you may wish to vary how you read it: out loud or silently). Close your scriptures, and try to write answers to the following questions without looking at the verse:
Who was Nephi speaking to? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
What did Nephi commit to do? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
What did Nephi know the Lord would do? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Open your scriptures, and review 1 Nephi 3:7 and your answers.
God blesses us in different ways as we obey His commandments. Nephi’s experience in obtaining the brass plates supports his testimony that God does provide a way for His children to fulfill His commandments (see 1 Nephi 3:7). Use the following chart to study the first two attempts of Lehi’s sons to obtain the brass plates. Write the answer to the questions in the column for each attempt, or you may complete this assignment in your scripture study journal.
Note: In Nephi’s day, casting lots (see 1 Nephi 3:11) was a customary way of making a choice. By casting lots, Nephi and his brothers were seeking the Lord’s guidance in fulfilling the commandment to obtain the brass plates (see Proverbs 16:33; Bible Dictionary, “Lots, Casting of”).
After their first attempt to obtain the brass plates failed, Nephi and his brothers were “exceedingly sorrowful” (1 Nephi 3:14). Review 1 Nephi 3:15–16, and in your scripture study journal describe how Nephi’s response to the first failure was different from his brothers.
After pondering the second attempt (see 1 Nephi 3:21–31), answer the following question in your scripture study journal: In what ways do anger, murmuring, and unbelief prevent us from hearing God?
Identify the questions Laman and Lemuel asked in 1 Nephi 3:31. If you were Nephi, how would you respond to their questions? Read 1 Nephi 4:1–3, looking for Nephi’s answers to his brothers’ questions. Why do you suppose Nephi chose the example of Moses and the Red Sea in answering their questions? Write a phrase from Nephi’s response to his brothers that you find uplifting: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Moses had also faced a seemingly impossible task when he was told to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. Despite repeated attempts, he was unable to convince Pharaoh to release the Israelites. However, Moses persisted in doing what the Lord commanded him, and the Lord provided a way for him to free the Israelites.
Nephi applied the example of Moses to his personal circumstances and was confident that God would also prepare a way for him to somehow obtain the brass plates. As you study the remainder of the account, look for the results of Nephi’s perseverance and determination to be obedient in spite of initial setbacks.
Have you ever needed to do something or felt inspired to do something and yet not immediately known why, when, and how? President Harold B. Lee observed that often in these situations we “want to see the end from the beginning” before we will follow the Lord’s direction, and he offered the following counsel: “You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you” (quoted in Boyd K. Packer, “The Edge of the Light,” BYU Today, Mar. 1991, 23).
Read 1 Nephi 4:4–7, and identify how Nephi stepped with faith into the darkness (the unknown).
What is significant about the phrase “Nevertheless I went forth” (1 Nephi 4:7)? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
In your scripture study journal, describe a situation in which a young man or woman may be asked to do something or may be led by the Holy Spirit to do something and not know beforehand what the outcome will be. Perhaps there is a time when you went forth in faith without knowing beforehand how or when God was going to help. If so, make note of the experience in your journal. You may also want to share it in class.
Nephi learned why, when, and how the Lord would help him accomplish the commandment to obtain the plates only after he allowed the Holy Ghost to direct him and after he decided to go forth in faith. Read 1 Nephi 4:8–26, and notice how the Lord helped him obtain the brass plates.
In your scripture study journal, list the reasons the Spirit gave Nephi for slaying Laban (see 1 Nephi 4:8–13).
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What have you learned from Nephi’s final efforts to obtain the brass plates that can help you succeed in the challenges you face or will face in your life?
When you are faced with moments in your own life of not knowing the how, why, and when, remember the principle Nephi’s experience illustrates: 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.
Commentary and Background Information
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that it is the Lord who sets the standard of right and wrong: “God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill’ [Exodus 20:13]; at another time He said ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy’ [Deuteronomy 20:17]. 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. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added” (in History of the Church, 5:135).
It may help us understand why the Lord required Nephi to slay Laban when we consider the following: The Lord had given Laban at least two opportunities to willingly part with the brass plates, but Laban “would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord” (1 Nephi 4:11). Laban was a liar and a robber, and he had sought to murder Laman and have all four of the sons of Lehi killed, which, under the law of Moses, was punishable by death (see Exodus 21:14). The Lord knew it was essential for Lehi and his descendants to have the scriptural record, even if “one man should perish” (1 Nephi 4:13) for it to happen.
The brass plates not only blessed the people and nations of the Book of Mormon but also preserved and provided teachings of the ancient prophets for our day when some of the writings were copied onto the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated (such as quotations from Isaiah and the allegory of Zenos). Through the Book of Mormon, those teachings from the brass plates have blessed and continue to bless the lives of millions of people and the nations of the world. Ultimately, all this was at stake when Nephi stood over Laban and followed the voice of the Spirit.
President Ezra Taft Benson suggested “three short tests” to help us avoid being deceived during difficult situations:
“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.) …
“The President can speak on any subject he feels is needful for the Saints. …
“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).
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied 1 Nephi 3–4 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: