Just prior to the Savior’s coming to the Americas, the wicked were destroyed and the more righteous part of the people were spared (see 3 Nephi 9:13). The Lord taught the people the gospel, established His Church, and laid the foundation for an unusually stable society in which several generations of righteous people lived and died. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote:
“To our knowledge there has never been a historical sequence like it, before or since. …
“So remarkable was their success that in two short years all the people throughout the land were converted. … It was a heavenly time. … ‘And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor …’ [4 Nephi 1:3].
“… With no contention among any of the people, there were mighty miracles at every turn. …
“… Such righteous lives brought blessed peace and the greatest characterization of it all: ‘Surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God’ [4 Nephi 1:16]” (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon , 313–14).
In about A.D. 194 “a small part of the people” broke away from the Church and called themselves Lamanites (4 Nephi 1:20). By A.D. 244 the wicked outnumbered the righteous (see v. 40). The people fell into such wickedness that “there were none that were righteous save it were the disciples of Jesus” (v. 46). The Lord eventually took the disciples from among the people, and “the work of miracles and of healing did cease” (Mormon 1:13).
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, pp. 128–29.
Suggestions for Teaching
Book of Mormon Video presentation 19, “O Ye Fair Ones” (5:18), can be used in teaching 4 Nephi–Mormon 6 (see Book of Mormon Video Guide for teaching suggestions).
4 Nephi 1:7–49. Righteousness leads to prosperity and happiness. Wickedness leads to misery and sorrow. (45–50 minutes)
Invite students to think about how often they face difficult or important decisions. Discuss the following questions:
What was the last important decision you made?
How did you make up your mind?
Did you consider the consequences before deciding? Why or why not?
Why is it important to think about consequences when making decisions?
Place in a bowl several cards with various good and bad decisions written on them (for example smoke cigarettes, study the scriptures daily, break the law of chastity, pay a full tithing). Take cards out of the bowl one at a time and read them to the class. After each card, ask:
Why do you think some people make the choice on this card?
What are some consequences of this choice?
If the consequence is bad, ask: Why do some people still make this choice? If the consequence is good, ask: Why don’t all people choose to do this?
“Our Eternal Father defined truth and established what is right and wrong before the creation of this earth. He also fixed the consequences of obedience and disobedience to those truths. He defined our right to choose our path in life so that we would grow, develop, and be happy, but we do not have the right to choose the consequences of our acts. Those who willfully, consistently disobey His commandments will inevitably learn that truth. Joseph Smith was inspired to record, ‘When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated’ (D&C 130:21)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 82; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 61).
Explain that today you will study the choices made by the people in 4 Nephi and the consequences of their choices. Write the headings Righteous Choices and Consequences on the board. Divide the class into two groups. Invite the first group to read 4 Nephi 1:1–3, 12, 14–17 to find righteous choices made by the people. Have the second group read verses 2–11, 14–17 looking for the blessings that came from making righteous choices. Have them write their findings under the appropriate headings on the board. The lists might include the following:
•The twelve disciples established the Church in all the land (see v. 1).
•The people repented, were baptized, and received the Holy Ghost (see v. 1).
They avoided contention (see v. 2).
•They treated one another fairly (see v. 2).
•They lived the law of consecration (see v. 3).
•They kept the commandments (see v. 12).
•They fasted and prayed (see v. 12).
•They met together often to pray and study the word of the Lord (see v. 12).
•New disciples were ordained to replace those who had died (see v. 14).
•The people had the love of God in their hearts (see v. 15).
•They did not envy, contend, break the law of chastity, lie, or commit murder (see v. 16).
•They did not rob (see v. 17).
•They set aside national and tribal divisions (see v. 17).
•All the people were united in the true Church (see v. 2).
•There was no contention (see v. 2).
•There were no rich or poor (see v. 3).
•Everyone was free; no one was in bondage (see v. 3).
•There was peace in the land (see v. 4).
•The disciples performed miracles such as healing the sick, lame, blind, and deaf and even raising the dead (see v. 5).
•The Lord prospered them (see v. 7).
•They increased in numbers and became strong (see v. 10).
•They became a “fair [beautiful] and delightsome people” (v. 10).
•The disciples, after they died, went to live with God (see v. 14).
•There couldn’t be a happier people (see v. 16).
•They were united and made heirs to God’s kingdom (see v. 17).
What do you think gave these people the power to make such righteous decisions?
Which of the blessings listed came during mortality? Which came in the next life?
What does this teach you about righteous living?
Ask them to consider in their minds the following question: How does the way the Nephites and Lamanites lived at this time compare with the way you live? the way your family lives? people in your school? your nation? Ask: How might the way of life described in 4 Nephi compare with the way we will live after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?
Have students read verses 18, 21–22 looking for how many years had passed since the Savior came. Ask:
How many people who witnessed the Savior’s visit were still alive?
How do you think the second and third generations learned of His teachings?
Write two more headings on the board: Wicked Choices and Consequences. Have all the students quickly read verses 20–42 looking for the wicked choices of the people and the consequences of these choices. Invite students to write their findings under the appropriate headings on the board. The lists might include the following:
•Some left the Church (see v. 20).
•They divided into social classes (see vv. 20, 26).
•They became proud and wore expensive clothing (see vv. 24, 43).
•They built up churches to get gain (see v. 26).
•They accepted wickedness as normal (see v. 27).
•They denied Christ (see v. 29).
•They persecuted the righteous (see vv. 29–30, 34).
•They rejected and tried to kill the disciples (see vv. 30–33).
•They hardened their hearts (see v. 34).
•They willfully rebelled against the gospel (see v. 38).
•They taught their children not to believe the truth and to hate believers (see vv. 38–39).
•Priestcraft was established again among the people (see v. 26).
•Satan got a hold on the hearts of the people (see v. 28).
•The righteous suffered persecutions (see vv. 29–30, 34).
•Secret combinations returned (see v. 42).
Discuss the following questions:
What differences are there between the way the righteous and the wicked lived?
What does this indicate about the consequences of wicked living?
Why are the consequences for righteous or wicked living not always immediate?
Explain that many of the consequences of the Nephites’ and Lamanites’ wickedness are described in Mormon 1–6. Encourage students to compare those consequences to the consequences of righteousness in 4 Nephi when they study those chapters in Mormon. Point out that the ultimate consequences of both righteousness and wickedness do not come until the Final Judgment. Share your testimony that righteousness leads to happiness and wickedness leads to unhappiness.