1 Nephi 1–5

Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, (2004), 24–30


Introduction

The Book of Mormon, “the keystone of our religion,” began as the record of a family, a grateful son’s account of his parents’ obedience to the call of the Lord. Not all were so obedient, however. The Jews rejected the message of the prophets, and Laman and Lemuel murmured and rebelled against their father and the Lord. Nephi, faithful to the end, recorded this uplifting and hopeful message: “I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20).

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Note: Prayerfully study each assigned scripture block and consider the principles in this section before preparing your lessons.

  • Record keeping is a divine law. Inspired records provide us with scripture and history and enlarge our memory (see 1 Nephi 1:1–3; see also 1 Nephi 6; 9; D&C 21:1).

  • Sincere and humble prayer is essential for receiving revelation (see 1 Nephi 1:4–18).

  • The Lord will inspire us, help us overcome difficulties, and deliver us from evil if we have faith in Him and keep His commandments (see 1 Nephi 1:14, 20; 2:1–2; 3:7; 4).

  • A desire to know spiritual things, combined with sincere prayer, can soften our hearts, strengthen our testimonies, and lead us to be obedient (see 1 Nephi 2:12–17; see also 1 Nephi 11:1; 15:7–11).

  • The Lord will provide a way for us to accomplish His purposes if we are faithful and obedient (see 1 Nephi 3:7; 4).

  • The scriptures are of great worth. They teach God’s commandments, they are a record of His dealings with His children, and they invite the Spirit (see 1 Nephi 4:10–17; 5).

  • If we respond with patience and love, we can help others grow in faith (see 1 Nephi 5:1–9).

Additional Resources

  • Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, pp. 4–7.

Suggestions for Teaching

Note: Choose from the ideas in this section, or use some of your own, as you prepare to teach the assigned scripture block.

weekly icon 1 Nephi 1:1–3, 16–17. Record keeping is a divine law. Inspired records provide us with scripture and history and enlarge our memory.(20–25 minutes)

Bring to class several journals, school yearbooks, and diaries to demonstrate different kinds of record keeping. Read a few selections from them (avoid anything that is confidential, embarrassing, or personal).

Tell students that there are many different ways of keeping journals, diaries, and histories. Make a list on the board of the different kinds of records they are familiar with (such as journals, yearbooks, newspapers, history books). Make a second list of different ways of keeping a personal record (such as making daily entries, writing a life history, recording personal observations, listing the dates and places of life events). Point out that the way a person keeps a diary or journal is a personal matter. Ask students what ways the information they record in their own journals might be important to them at a later date.

Explain that while Nephi’s record is scripture and not just a personal journal, we can apply the same principles Nephi did to determine what we write in our journals. Read 1 Nephi 1:1–3. Why did Nephi make this record? Have students read 1 Nephi 6:1 looking for whose record Nephi had access to. According to this verse, what was included in Lehi’s record?

Have students read the chapter heading to 1 Nephi 9. Discuss the differences between the two records Nephi kept. Reproduce on an overhead transparency or as a handout the charts on pages 156–57 of Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122. Use these charts and A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon, which is located in the Book of Mormon just before the table of contents, to aid in your discussion. Some of the following questions might be helpful:

  • What is the main difference between the large and small plates of Nephi?

  • Why don’t we have Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates of Nephi in our current copies of the Book of Mormon?

  • Was 1 Nephi on the large or small plates of Nephi?

  • What is the difference between the small plates of Nephi and the plates of Mormon?

Have students read 1 Nephi 1:16–17 looking for what Nephi planned to include in his record. Write the following chart on the board to show what Nephi actually recorded:

1 Nephi 1–8

Nephi’s abridgment of his father’s record

1 Nephi 9

Nephi’s explanation of his two records

1 Nephi 10–2 Nephi 33

Nephi’s account of his own life and teachings

Ask students what their plan is for recording their own and their family’s histories. Read the following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball:

“How happy we are as we find our grandparents’ journals and follow them through their trials and joys and gain for our own lives much from the experiences and faith and courage of our ancestors.

“Accordingly, we urge our young people to begin today to write and keep records of all the important things in their own lives and also the lives of their antecedents in the event that their parents should fail to record all the important incidents in their own lives. Your own private journal should record the way you face up to challenges that beset you. Do not suppose life changes so much that your experiences will not be interesting to your posterity. Experiences of work, relations with people, and an awareness of the rightness and wrongness of actions will always be relevant. …

“No one is commonplace, and I doubt if you can ever read a biography from which you cannot learn something from the difficulties overcome and the struggles made to succeed. These are the measuring rods for the progress of humanity.

“As we read the stories of great men, we discover that they did not become famous overnight nor were they born professionals or skilled craftsmen. The story of how they became what they are may be helpful to us all. …

“Your journal is your autobiography, so it should be kept carefully. You are unique, and there may be incidents in your experience that are more noble and praiseworthy in their way than those recorded in any other life. There may be a flash of illumination here and a story of faithfulness there; you should truthfully record your real self and not what other people may see in you.

“Your story should be written now while it is fresh and while the true details are available. …

“What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved? …

“Get a notebook, my young folks, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity. Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball [1982], 350–51).

1 Nephi 1:4–18. Sincere and humble prayer is essential for receiving revelation. (20–25 minutes)

Have students read 1 Nephi 1:4–18 and write a brief summary of the verses on a piece of paper. Discuss their responses.

Share with students the following story told by Jeffrey R. Holland, who later became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. A father is helping his daughter Donna understand the Book of Mormon. He invites her to read the first chapter silently.

“Donna: … O.K., I’ve read it.

“Dad: Good. What do you think it says?

“Donna: Daddy, I said I read it. I didn’t say I knew what it meant.

“Dad: Well, then we have to read it again, only a little slower this time. And out loud. We’ll talk as we go.”

After some reading and discussion, the father suggests they outline the chapter.

“Dad: Let’s just put down on paper a little outline of this chapter. I think it would look something like this:

a prophet prays
has a vision
sees heavenly messengers (apparently including Jesus)
receives a book
is rejected by most of the people

“Now that’s a rough outline of the story you described in chapter 1. Does it look at all familiar to you?

“Donna: I don’t believe so.

“Dad: Think about it.

“Donna: Well, it does sort of sound like Joseph Smith’s experience. Hey! It sounds a lot like Joseph Smith’s experience. That’s neat. Why is that, Daddy?”

Ask students:

  • How does the summary in this story compare with your own summaries?

  • How would you answer Donna’s question? (Discuss their answers.)

  • Does the pattern noted by Donna and her father remind you of any other prophet? Who? (Ezekiel, John the Revelator, and others.)

Read the father’s answer in Brother Holland’s story:

“It seems to me one possible answer to your question is that all prophets usually have some very similar experiences. In any case one thing we know they have in common is receiving revelation from the Lord. Joseph Smith once said that revelation is the rock on which the Church of Jesus Christ will always be built and there would never be any salvation without it [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Deseret Book Co., 1970), p. 274]. I think we’re going to find, Donna, that this whole book will be one long revelation about revelation. And Jesus is going to be at the center of it all. These first 20 verses tell an awfully lot about what is to follow. You can’t do much better than that in an opening chapter.

“And maybe there’s another reason for having the Book of Mormon begin like this. Maybe it helps in its own way to teach that if we accept Lehi and the Book of Mormon, we surely have to accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. On the other hand, when we accept Joseph Smith as a prophet, we must accept and faithfully live by the teachings of this book which he helped bring forth.

“In a way, Donna, this record is not only the testimony of Nephi and Alma and Mormon and Moroni, but it is also the testimony of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and Harold B. Lee and Spencer W. Kimball. Maybe that’s why the Church wasn’t even organized until the Book of Mormon was completely translated and published” (“Daddy, Donna, and Nephi,” Ensign, Sept. 1976, 8–9).

Bear your testimony that just as the Book of Mormon record begins with a prayer, so also must our testimonies of the Book of Mormon. Urge students to sincerely pray for a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon throughout this year as they read and study its pages.

1 Nephi 2:1–20. The Lord will inspire us, help us overcome difficulties, and deliver us from evil if we have faith in Him and keep His commandments. (20–25 minutes)

Before class draw the accompanying continuum on the board.

Ask: How would you feel if your parents told you that your family was going to abandon your home and possessions and go into the desert with just enough food and equipment to survive? (You may want to role-play this question, with yourself as a parent and four students as your children.) Invite students to look at the scale on the board and to rank in their minds how obedient they would be. Ask: How would it affect your feelings if you learned that Heavenly Father had told your parents to move to the wilderness? Invite them to rank their obedience now. Would it change? Why or why not? Read with students 1 Nephi 2:1–5 and discuss the difficulties of such a move.

Have students read 1 Nephi 2:6–10 to find the qualities Lehi desired in his sons (“continually running into the fountain of all righteousness” and “firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord”). Discuss what these phrases mean. Help students see how they apply in their own lives (for example, keeping the Word of Wisdom in spite of great peer pressure).

Have students read 1 Nephi 2:11–14 to see where Laman and Lemuel would fit on the scale. According to verse 12, what caused them to murmur? How might they have better handled the situation?

Have students read 1 Nephi 2:16–20 looking for where Nephi and Sam would fit on the scale. How does this compare to where Laman and Lemuel were on the scale?

Point out that even though all four of Lehi’s sons made the same journeys, they did so with different attitudes. As a class, compare the quality of obedience of Nephi, Sam, Laman, and Lemuel. Use the scriptures from the accompanying chart. If desired, create a handout from the chart using only the scriptures and perhaps a few hints, and have your students complete it before the discussion.

Nephi

Sam

Laman and Lemuel

Acknowledged “goodly parents” (1 Nephi 1:1).

Accompanied family into wilderness (see 1 Nephi 2:5).

Murmured against their father (see 1 Nephi 2:11–12).

Centered heart on things of the Lord (see 2:16).

Believed in Nephi’s words (see 2:17).

Centered hearts on worldly treasures (see 2:11).

Prayed for his rebellious brothers (see 2:18).

Accompanied Nephi to Jerusalem (see 3:9).

Railed and persecuted Sam and Nephi (see 3:28; 7:16, 19).

Responded with faith to the Lord’s command to obtain the plates (see 3:7).

Endured punishment from Laman and Lemuel (see 3:28–29).

Murmured against the Lord’s command, saying it was “a hard thing” (3:5).

Remained undaunted (see 3:15, 21; 7:8–15).

Returned with his brother to Jerusalem for family of Ishmael (see 7:2–5). Endured persecution (see 7:6).

Gave up easily (see 3:14; 7:6–7).

Exhorted his brothers to faithfulness and to put their trust in God alone (see 3:15–21; 4:1; 7:8–21).

Put their trust in and feared the power of man (see 3:31).

Responded readily to spiritual impulses (see 4:5–18).

Denied themselves great spiritual blessings by rebelling (see 2:9–12).

Frankly forgave abuse (see 7:21).

Were alternately humble and rebellious (see 2:9–10, 14; 7:19–20).

Read the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“Obedience is the first law of heaven. All progression, all perfection, all salvation, all godliness, all that is right and just and true, all good things come to those who live the laws of Him who is Eternal. There is nothing in all eternity more important than to keep the commandments of God” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 126).

Ask:

  • How do the lives of Nephi, Sam, Laman, and Lemuel show the truth of this statement?

  • How is this statement reflected in your life?

weekly icon scripture mastery icon 1 Nephi 3:7 (Scripture Mastery). The Lord will provide a way for us to accomplish His purposes if we are faithful and obedient. (20–25 minutes)

Ask students:

  • Are callings in the Church always convenient?

  • What are some callings that you feel would not be easy to do? that would be very time-consuming?

  • What can you say about those people who accept such calls?

  • How can you prepare yourself to accept any calling, no matter how difficult or time-consuming it may appear?

Sing or read “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” (Hymns, no. 270). Invite the students to find the theme or themes of each verse. As they discover them, write them on the board and discuss them as a class.

Verse 1:

“I’ll go where you want me to go.”

Verse 2:

“I’ll say what you want me to say.”

Verse 3:

“I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere.”

“I’ll be what you want me to be.”

Point out that the themes are summarized in the chorus after each verse.

Read 1 Nephi 3–4 as a class to find the relationship these chapters have to the hymn. Comment and give insights as you read, and encourage students to interrupt with questions or comments of their own. (For background information, see Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, pp. 5–7.)

Note: Give special emphasis to the scripture mastery verse, 1 Nephi 3:7. This can be done as it comes up in the reading or, if you prefer, after you finish the chapters. Refer to the list on the board and ask students how many of these themes apply to Nephi. Write on the board obedience, faith, and trust. Ask:

  • How did Nephi show that he had the qualities of obedience, faith, and trust?

  • Which of these qualities did Laman and Lemuel lack?

  • Which of these qualities does it take to serve a mission?

  • Which is the most difficult for you to demonstrate right now?

  • How can you develop these qualities to the extent that Nephi did?

Read the following statement by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“I recall sitting in this Tabernacle when I was fourteen or fifteen—up in the balcony right behind the clock—and hearing President Heber J. Grant tell of his experience in reading the Book of Mormon when he was a boy. He spoke of Nephi and of the great influence he had upon his life. And then, with a voice ringing with a conviction that I shall never forget, he quoted those great words of Nephi: ‘I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.’ (1 Ne. 3:7.)

“There came into my young heart on that occasion a resolution to try to do what the Lord has commanded” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1971, 158; or Ensign, Dec. 1971, 123).

Have students write a letter to a missionary asking how he or she has seen 1 Nephi 3:7 in action while doing missionary work.

1 Nephi 4:1–18. Nephi was “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things” he should do. (20–25 minutes)

Read the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 256).

Ask students to read 1 Nephi 4:1–18 looking for how the Prophet’s statement applies to the account of Nephi slaying Laban. Ask how Nephi knew he should slay Laban. (He was commanded by the Spirit; see vv. 10, 12–14, 18.) Ask: What other sources of knowledge was Nephi acting on? List responses on the board. These might include:

  • Nephi had already received revelation from the Lord, so there was no doubt in his mind that it was God’s will (see 1 Nephi 2:15–16, 18–24).

  • The Lord had commanded Nephi and his brothers through their father Lehi, the prophet, to obtain the plates (see 1 Nephi 3:1–4).

  • Nephi was acting within the bounds of his calling (see 1 Nephi 4:17).

  • His knowledge of the scriptures led him to know of their necessity for keeping his family true to the commandments (see 1 Nephi 4:15–16).

  • He had been following the Spirit when he found Laban (see 1 Nephi 4:5–8).

Write on the board Living Prophets—Divine Calling—Scriptures—Holy Ghost. Explain that these are ways Heavenly Father has given us to know His will. Have students read Jacob 7:10–12 looking for the sources of knowledge Jacob used to convince Sherem, an anti-Christ, of the truth. (He used all of them; see also Jacob 1:18–19.) These same sources of truth can help us avoid being deceived if we are obedient to the commandments of God and if we are acting within the bounds of our calling. Ask: How do we know that Nephi was an obedient servant of God? (One answer is his response to his father in 1 Nephi 3:7.)

Read the following statement by Elder Ezra Taft Benson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“May I suggest three short tests to avoid being deceived. …

“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).

Ask: How can we know the will of God in our lives?

1 Nephi 4:5–18. The scriptures are of great worth to the children of men. (10–15 minutes)

Ask students to imagine that they have been shipwrecked on an island in the South Pacific. The storm is still raging and it looks as though they will only be able to save one of the following items. Ask: Which one would you save and why?

  • Clothes

  • Weapons

  • Tools

  • Novels

  • Table and chairs

  • Blankets

  • Scriptures

Have students read 1 Nephi 4:5–18 to find how important the scriptures are to a nation. Have a student read Omni 1:17 and compare the people of Nephi to the people Mosiah discovered who had no record. Ask: How did the death of one person, Laban, save a nation?

Have students share examples of how important the scriptures are to the life of their family.

1 Nephi 5:1–9. If we respond with patience and love, we can help others grow in faith. (15–20 minutes)

Relate the following situation (or have some students present it as a role play). A family struggles financially to keep two sons on their missions. The whole family loves the Lord and the gospel with all their hearts, but they deeply miss their sons and brothers. One night, during a stressful discussion about money matters, one of the parents begins to complain that the Lord requires too much from them. The parent murmurs about missing the two boys and says they cannot afford to pay for both missions.

The other parent comforts the spouse with a reminder that the Lord has actually blessed them. Their sons are worthy and willing to serve the Lord. Even though missions are expensive, they have been able to make ends meet with better budgeting and sacrifices by the family. Both parents agree that the Lord has done much more for them and their family than they could ever repay.

Tell students that this scene is similar to the events in 1 Nephi 5. Invite them to watch for similarities and differences as they go through the chapter.

Have students read 1 Nephi 5:1–3 looking for why Sariah began to complain. What were Sariah’s complaints? List responses on the board. These might include:

  • Lehi was a visionary man.

  • Lehi led the family away from their inheritance.

  • Lehi’s decisions led to the loss of their sons.

  • Lehi’s choices would lead to their own deaths in the wilderness.

Ask: Which of Sariah’s complaints were justified? Ask students if they have ever complained without having all the information. Invite them to share examples of times they hastily came to conclusions that were incorrect.

Have students read 1 Nephi 5:4–6 looking for how Lehi responded to his wife’s complaints. Ask: How do you respond when you are unjustly criticized? Explain that Lehi did not respond angrily but with love and compassion. What can we learn from Lehi’s understanding response to his wife?

Have students read 1 Nephi 5:7–8. Ask:

  • What reconfirmed and strengthened Sariah’s faith and trust in the Lord and the prophetic call of her husband?

  • Why do you think the Lord allows us to face problems and difficulties?

  • What is the role of the family in helping us face problems and difficulties?

  • What other lessons can we learn from this insightful account?

Read the following statement by Sister Barbara B. Smith, who was then Relief Society general president:

“Sariah, the wife of Lehi, had the wrenching experience of leaving their home and their possessions to travel in the wilderness. We are not told of the trials she may have experienced; but going on foot, living in tents, and cooking over an open fire could have been devastating after their comfortable life in Jerusalem. We do read of her anguished waiting when she feared her beloved sons had perished in their return to obtain the plates. (See 1 Nephi 5:2.) But in spite of troubles, she did love and serve her family. With the return of her sons, she knew of a certainty that the Lord had commanded her husband to flee into the wilderness, and in their safe return she found the assurance that the Lord was with them. (See 1 Nephi 5:8.) Their circumstances did not change; they still slept in tents. But she had joy and comfort in the knowledge that the Lord was guiding them. In that light she could carry on and meet further difficulties as they came” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 123; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 85).

1 Nephi 5. The scriptures teach God’s commandments, they are a record of His dealings with His children, and they invite the Spirit. (20–25 minutes)

Ask students if there is any material possession they would consider sacrificing their lives to gain or keep. Discuss their responses.

Have a student summarize 1 Nephi 3–4 and tell of the sacrifice required to obtain the plates of brass. Ask why such sacrifice was warranted. Invite students to read 1 Nephi 4:13–15; 5:11–18 and look for what the plates of brass contained that was so valuable to Lehi and his family.

Write the following matching exercise on the board. Have students match the numbered items in the left column to the corresponding lettered items in the right column. Discuss the answers with the class.

The Valuable Contents of the Brass Plates

1. The first five books of the Old Testament (see 1 Nephi 5:11)

A. The book of Jeremiah

2. A valuable gift from the holy prophets (see 1 Nephi 5:13)

B. In order to the keep the commandments.

3. Writings of a prophet who lived in Jerusalem at the same time as Lehi (see 1 Nephi 5:13)

C. The books of Moses

4. A record of Lehi’s fathers (see 1 Nephi 5:14–16)

D. To teach every nation, kindred, tongue, and people

5. The future of the plates of brass (see 1 Nephi 5:18)

E. Family history

6. The plates of brass are necessary (see 1 Nephi 4:13–15)

F. Prophecies

(Answers: 1–C, 2–F, 3–A, 4–E, 5–D, 6–B)

Have students read 1 Nephi 5:21 looking for why the plates were “of great worth” to Lehi and his family. Ask:

  • How would the plates help them “preserve the commandments of the Lord unto [their] children”?

  • How have your parents preserved the commandments of the Lord for you?

Have a student read aloud 1 Nephi 5:22. Ask: Why would it be of value to carry our scriptures with us in our journeys today?

Ask students to share times it was helpful to have their scriptures with them.