Every family has a story. And whether your family is large or small, what happens in it is unique and helps make you who you are.
The Book of Mormon begins with the story of a family. Lehi was not only a great prophet, he was a father worried about many of the same things facing fathers today. Sariah, his wife, carried many heavy responsibilities as she left their home, belongings, and friends to journey into an uncertain future.
Children also are an important part of a family story. Nephi was the fourth son in a family of at least eight children. In Jerusalem, young Nephi was searching to strengthen his testimony of God. He respected and honored his parents. He was often frustrated with his older brothers, but loved them. He probably wondered about how his life would turn out and whom he would marry.
As you begin your reading of the Book of Mormon, put yourself in Nephi’s place. The following chart will help you understand Lehi, Nephi, and the rest of this interesting family. Nephi does not tell us everything we might want to know, but this family story is an essential part of one of the greatest books you could ever read.
Ishmael Father and leader of a family of seven children from Jerusalem. The Lord softened his heart so he would agree to take his family and follow Lehi’s sons into the wilderness. He sided with Nephi in a dispute over returning to Jerusalem. He died during the wilderness journey and was buried in a place called Nahom. His death caused many to murmur against Lehi and Nephi (see 1 Ne. 7:4–6; 1 Ne. 16:34–35). Ishmael’s Wife Traveled with her husband into the wilderness. She did not rebel against Nephi, and she begged for Nephi’s life when Laman and Lemuel threatened to kill him. The place and time of her death are unknown (see 1 Ne. 7:6, 19).
Son [of Ishmael] Joined in the wilderness rebellion and remained unrepentant. He supported the conspiracy to murder Lehi and Nephi. Lehi treated him like a son, but he appears to have always sided with the complainers (see 1 Ne. 7:6; 1 Ne. 16:37; 2 Ne. 1:28).
Son [of Ishmael] Rebelled against Nephi at first but changed his mind and pled for Nephi’s life. He later became very angry with Lehi and Nephi. After Ishmael died, Lehi became his “father.” During the voyage to the Americas, he got caught up in rude dancing and singing. He followed Laman and Lemuel when the family separated (see 1 Ne. 7:6, 19; 1 Ne. 16:37; 1 Ne. 18:9; 2 Ne. 1:28).
Zoram A servant of Laban in Jerusalem, he held the keys of the treasury. Zoram agreed to travel into the wilderness with Nephi and his family and later married the eldest daughter of Ishmael. He was faithful to the Lord and a trusted friend to Nephi (see 1 Ne. 4:20, 30–37; 1 Ne. 16:7; 2 Ne. 1:30–32; 2 Ne. 5:6). Daughter [of Ishmael] Oldest of five daughters. She married Zoram, and they had a family. She and her husband followed Nephi when the family separated (see 1 Ne. 16:7; 2 Ne. 5:6).
Lehi Prayed to the Lord and received a heavenly vision. The Lord commanded him to depart with his family into the wilderness. He had many difficult experiences during the journey to the Americas and died not long after arriving. He feared for the well-being of his children, yet found great joy in them and the gospel of Jesus Christ (see 1 Ne. 1:5–16; 1 Ne. 2:2–4; 1 Ne. 5:1–7; 1 Ne. 8:12–18; 1 Ne. 16:18–25; 1 Ne. 17:1; 1 Ne. 18:17; 2 Ne. 1:12–13; 2 Ne. 2:2). Sariah Dutifully followed her husband into the wilderness. She gave birth to children during their journey and became seriously ill on the ship. She died in the promised land surrounded by her children and numerous grandchildren (see 1 Ne. 2:4; 1 Ne. 5:1–8; 1 Ne. 17:1–2; 1 Ne. 18:17–19; 2 Ne. 5:6).
Sam Third son and elder brother of Nephi. Sam was not bothered by his younger brother’s abilities and goodness. He married one of the daughters of Ishmael. His family sided with Nephi when Lehi’s family split into two groups (see 1 Ne. 2:17; 1 Ne. 3:28; 1 Ne. 8:14; 1 Ne. 16:7; 2 Ne. 1:28; 2 Ne. 4:11; 2 Ne. 5:6). Daughter [of Ishmael] Married Sam. She had several children and went with her husband when the family split (see 1 Ne. 16:7; 2 Ne. 4:11; 2 Ne. 5:6).
Laman Oldest son, who did not want to leave Jerusalem. He frequently opposed his father’s leadership of the family. He married one of the daughters of Ishmael in the wilderness. He was greatly offended by Nephi’s efforts to guide the family. He became the leader of all who would not follow Nephi. He conspired to kill Nephi after Lehi died. His descendants were taught to have an everlasting hatred for their cousins (see 1 Ne. 2:5, 11–12; 1 Ne. 7:6, 16; 1 Ne. 16:7, 37–38; 1 Ne. 17:17–22; 1 Ne. 18:17; 2 Ne. 5:1–2; Mosiah 10:11–17). Daughter [of Ishmael] Sided with Laman in his rebellion against Nephi in the wilderness. She later married Laman. She murmured against Lehi when her father died, and she raised several children. She and her children became part of “an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety” (see 1 Ne. 7:6; 1 Ne. 16:7; 2 Ne. 4:8; 2 Ne. 5:24).
Sisters Lehi and Sariah had six sons and at least two daughters! Nephi does not mention them in his record until after the family arrived in the Americas. These sisters righteously followed Nephi when the family separated into two groups (see 2 Ne. 5:6).
Nephi Fourth son. He prayed to know the mysteries of God for himself and was visited by Him. Because he was strong, physically and spiritually, he was able to get the plates of brass from Laban, to persuade Ishmael’s family to depart into the wilderness, to build a ship, and to establish a group of righteous people in a new land. He loved the words of Isaiah. He was so beloved by his people when he died that they named each succeeding king after him (see 1 Ne. 2:16; 1 Ne. 4:31, 38; 1 Ne. 7:4–5; 1 Ne. 18:1–3; 2 Ne. 5:9–18; 2 Ne. 25:5; Jacob 1:9–11). Daughter [of Ishmael] She married Nephi and had children. Joined by them, she tearfully begged and prayed for Laman and Lemuel to untie Nephi during the sea voyage. She faithfully remained with her husband when they separated from Laman and Lemuel (see 1 Ne. 7:6, 19; 1 Ne. 16:7; 1 Ne. 18:19; 2 Ne. 5:6).
Jacob Born in the wilderness, he made the difficult journey to the Americas as a young child. He was often treated rudely by Laman and Lemuel. In his 20s he was appointed a priest and teacher to his people. When the people became wicked, he challenged them to repent. He kept the sacred records after Nephi (see 1 Ne. 17:1; 1 Ne. 18:7, 19; 2 Ne. 2:1; 2 Ne. 5:26; Jacob 1:2, 18–19).
Joseph Born in the wilderness, he was the youngest son in the family. He received the same name as two great prophets, one past and one future: Joseph of Egypt and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Just before his father’s death, he was commanded to “hearken unto the words of thy brother, Nephi.” Like his brother Jacob, he became a priest and teacher to the people in his 20s and served the Lord (see 1 Ne. 17:1; 1 Ne. 18:7; 2 Ne. 3:1–4, 14, 25; 2 Ne. 5:26; Jacob 1:18–19).
Lemuel Second son, who sided with Laman in family disputes. He and Laman were reproved by an angel for hitting their younger brothers. They were also shocked by the power of God when they tried to kill Nephi. The Lord placed a mark upon Laman and Lemuel and their children to discourage the Nephites from marrying the Lamanites (see 1 Ne. 3:28–30; 1 Ne. 17:48–52; 2 Ne. 5:21–23).