1 Nephi 1: The Prophet Lehi Is Called to Warn the Jews

Book of Mormon Student Study Guide, (2000), 13–15


The events in 1 Nephi begin 600 years before the birth of Christ. At that time, the Jews, because of their wickedness, had fallen under the control of the powerful Babylonian empire. The prophet Jeremiah warned the Jews to submit to Babylon or be destroyed (see Jeremiah 27:12–13). The prophet Lehi was also called to warn them to repent (see 1 Nephi 1:18–19). The Jews, however, chose to listen to the counsel of false prophets who prophesied that Babylon, not Judah, would be destroyed (see Jeremiah 28:1–4). They rebelled against Babylon and about 586 B.C. the kingdom of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem, were destroyed and many Jews were taken captive into Babylon.Have you wondered how the Lord calls and prepares true prophets? We learn something about this in 1 Nephi 1 where Nephi told us how the Lord called his father, Lehi, to prophesy to the Jews. As you read it, note how the calling of Lehi was similar to how other prophets have been called. (For example, see Isaiah 6:1–8; Ezekiel 1:1–3, 26–28; 2; Revelation 10:1–2, 8–11; Joseph Smith—History 1:15–35).

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 1

Mysteries of God (v. 1)Truths that cannot be understood without revelation from God
Numberless concourses (v. 8)A large assembly
Luster (v. 9)Brightness
Bade (v. 11)Asked, commanded
Wo (v. 13)Sorrow, misery
Abominations (vv. 13, 19)Sins; thoughts and acts that are offensive in the sight of God
Suffer (v. 14)Allow
Abridgment (v. 17)Shortened version
Redemption of the world (v. 19)Deliverance of the world from sin through Christ’s sacrifice

1 Nephi 1:2—In What Language Did Nephi Write on the Plates?

Nephi referred to the “language of my father” and to the “language of the Egyptians.” Toward the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni described his and his father’s writing as “reformed Egyptian” (Mormon 9:32). “It is unknown whether Nephi, Mormon, or Moroni wrote Hebrew in modified Egyptian characters or inscribed their plates in both the Egyptian language and Egyptian characters or whether Nephi wrote in one language and Mormon and Moroni, who lived some nine hundred years later, in another” (in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 1:179).

sample characters

Sample characters from the Book of Mormon plates

1 Nephi 1:20—What Did Nephi Want to Teach Us?

In verse 20, Nephi told why he recorded the story of his family (see also “Why Did Nephi Write This Book?” on p. 13 of this manual). Watch for examples of this purpose as you read the two books he wrote.

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 1.

Activity A iconHow Is Your Life Like Nephi’s?

To begin his record, Nephi introduced himself.

  1. 1.

    Carefully read 1 Nephi 1:1–3 and find key words and phrases that reveal what Nephi’s life was like. You might want to mark these words in your scriptures. In your notebook, write a sentence or two that summarizes what Nephi told us about himself.

  2. 2.

    Explain at least one way in which your life is similar to Nephi’s life.

Activity B iconFind the Pattern

  1. 1.

    Search 1 Nephi 1:5–20 and list what happened to Lehi. The following questions will help you find the major points:

    • What did Lehi do first? (see v. 5).

    • What did he see? (see vv. 6–10).

    • What was he given? (see v. 11).

    • What did he learn? (see vv. 13–14).

    • What did he do with what he learned? (see v. 18).

    • How did the people respond to his message? (see vv. 19–20).

  2. 2.

    Read the following scripture accounts and list words and phrases that show that other prophets have had experiences similar to the prophet Lehi’s experience: Ezekiel 1:1–3, 26–28; 2; Revelation 10:1–2, 8–11; Joseph Smith—History 1:15–35.

  3. 3.

    What does this teach you about the calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

Activity C iconWrite an Abridgment

Nephi read the record of his father and then made an abridgment, or shortened version, on his own plates. To make his abridgment, Nephi selected those parts that he felt would help us better understand the Savior and His desire to help us. Writing an abridgment is challenging because the person making the abridgment has to decide what to include and what to leave out. Write an abridgment of three verses from 1 Nephi 1, abridging them to one sentence. Write it with the same purpose that Nephi had (see “Why Did Nephi Write This Book?” on p. 13 of this manual).