1 Nephi 3-4: Having Faith the Lord Will Help

Book of Mormon Student Study Guide, (2000), 16–17


If you tried to perform a difficult task your father had given you and you failed, would you try again? If you were nearly killed in a second attempt and you still failed, would you quit then? Would it make a difference in how you approached the task if you knew the assignment came from your Heavenly Father instead of your earthly father? In 1 Nephi 3–4, Lehi’s sons were given an assignment like that. Notice who had faith the task could be completed and why he had that faith. Notice also that having faith did not make the task easy, just possible to accomplish.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 3

Genealogy of my forefathers, genealogy of my father (vv. 3, 12)The names and history of my father and other ancestors
Engraven (vv. 3, 12)Cut or scratched into metal
Lust after (v. 25)Uncontrolled desire, want
Were obliged (v. 26)Were forced
Iniquities (v. 29)Sins

1 Nephi 3:11—What Does It Mean to “Cast Lots”?

Casting lots was used as a way of making a choice. The exact method is not known, but the modern practice of drawing straws or flipping coins are examples of the same idea. Anciently, however, it was believed the Lord determined the outcome (see Proverbs 16:33; Bible Dictionary, "lots, casting of," p. 726).

1 Nephi 3:3, 12–13, 23–27; 4:7–9, 12–13, 19–22—What Do We Know about Laban?

One Latter-day Saint writer pointed out a few things we can learn about Laban from these chapters: “We learn in passing that he commanded a garrison of fifty, that he met in full ceremonial armor with ‘the elders of the Jews’ (1 Nephi 4:22) for secret consultations by night, that he had control of a treasury, that he was of the old aristocracy, being a distant relative to Lehi himself, that he probably held his job because of his ancestors, since he hardly received it by merit, that his house was the storing place of very old records, that he was a large man, short-tempered, crafty, and dangerous, and to the bargain cruel, greedy, unscrupulous, weak, and given to drink” (Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, and the World of the Jaredites [1988], 97).

1 Nephi 4

Hither and thither (v. 2)Here and there
Wroth (v. 4)Very angry
Constrained (v. 10)Commanded, compelled, forced
Dwindle (v. 13)Fall gradually away, become weak
Every whit (v. 19)Every part of it
Gird on (v. 19)Put on
Tarry (v. 35)Stay

1 Nephi 4:10–18—Why Did Nephi Kill Laban?

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.

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

Nephi and Laban

© 1966 Ronald K. Crosby

1 Nephi 4:30–38—The Power of an Oath in Nephi’s Day

“As the Lord liveth, and as I live” (1 Nephi 4:32) is an example of a solemn oath and was considered most sacred in the ancient Middle East. “To be most binding and solemn an oath should be by the life of something, even if it be but a blade of grass. The only oath more awful than that ‘by my life’ or (less commonly) ‘by the life of my head,’ is … ‘by the life of God,’ or ‘as the Lord Liveth’” (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 2nd ed. [1964], 104).

Notice how quickly Zoram calmed down at Nephi’s words (see 1 Nephi 4:35) and how quickly the brothers trusted Zoram after he made an oath to go with them (see v. 37). In our day, when promises often seem to be considered less sacred, what happened between Nephi and Zoram is remarkable. See also 1 Nephi 3:15, where Nephi made an oath that they would get the brass plates.

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–C) as you study 1 Nephi 3–4.

Activity A Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—1 Nephi 3:7

  1. 1.

    Read 1 Nephi 3:1–8, and then in your notebook write: I will

    ____________________
    and
    ____________________
    for I . Review verse 7 and write one word in each blank. Explain how this sentence summarizes why Nephi did not murmur like his brothers did.

  2. 2.

    Rewrite verse 7, substituting your own name in the place of the word Nephi. Then write about at least one time when you, like Nephi, had the faith and courage to do something difficult that the Lord asked you to do.

  3. 3.

    Summarize the meaning of 1 Nephi 3:7, writing it as a short, easily remembered statement, such as “Lengthen your stride” or “Every member a missionary.”

Activity B iconWhat Can We Learn from That Mission?

  1. 1.

    Nephi and his brothers tried three times to get the brass plates from Laban. The first two attempts are described in 1 Nephi 3:11–27. Draw a chart in your notebook like the one following. From your reading, fill in the boxes to tell what happened in the first two attempts and explain why you think those attempts failed.

First Attempt

Second Attempt

Third Attempt

Who went?

What did they, or he, do?

What happened?

Why do you think it failed or succeeded?

  1. 2.

    Review 1 Nephi 4, fill in the boxes for the third attempt, and answer the following questions to help you think about what you studied:

    1. a.

      What differences do you notice between what Nephi’s brothers trusted in to get the plates the first two times and what Nephi trusted in on the third try? (see 1 Nephi 3:11–13, 24; 1 Nephi 4:5–12).

    2. b.

      How can what you learned about the success of the third attempt help you succeed in the challenges you face?

    3. c.

      From the Lord’s command for Nephi to kill Laban, what can you learn about the value He places on the scriptures?

  2. 3.

    Apply Nephi’s experience to your own life. Describe at least one challenge you face where following Nephi’s example could help you make the right choice.

Activity C iconDo Miracles Create Faith?

After two failed attempts, Laman and Lemuel blamed Nephi for what happened and began to beat him and Sam with a rod.

  1. 1.

    Review 1 Nephi 3:28–31 and describe in your notebook what happened to stop them.

  2. 2.

    Even after what happened, the older brothers still did not have faith that God was more powerful than Laban (see v. 31). Write a short paragraph explaining why you think Laman and Lemuel refused to believe.

  3. 3.

    Review 1 Nephi 4:1–3 and write another paragraph explaining why you think Nephi had such strong faith.