when the Lord commanded Nephi to make metal plates to write upon
And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me,
wherefore I did make plates of ore
that I might engraven upon them the record of my people.
And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father,
and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father;
and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.
Nephi is describing the first plates he made, at the commandment of the Lord. We
might wish, for historical reasons, to have these first plates and this more complete
record, so that we can know these people better. These plates are probably the source
material Mormon used for the first part of his record, which ended up being the lost
116 pages. But the Lord knew that we had a greater need than to know more details
of an ancient civilization – we need to know Him.
We note that in the order of events, the Lord gives commandments when people are
ready for them. He didn’t command Nephi, when he first stepped off the ship, to
make the record. Nephi describes, in 1 Nephi 18:24,25, that first they planted their
seeds, then they did some exploring and found animals, then they explored differently
and found ore. After that, when they were ready because they had discovered the
needed ore, the Lord commanded Nephi to make his first historical record.
1 Nephi 19:2
I was commanded of the Lord to make these plates
The Book of Mormon explains that
the prophet Nephi was commanded to make two sets of plates for recording
And I knew not at the time when I made them
that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates;
wherefore, the record of my father, and the genealogy of his fathers,
and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness
are engraven upon those first plates of which I have spoken;
wherefore, the things which transpired before I made these plates are, of a truth,
more particularly made mention upon the first plates.
Nephi is almost, but not quite, apologetic for what is left out of this second set
of plates. He almost, but not quite, implies that the other plates are “better.”
On the other hand, in his statement of purpose verses (1 Nephi 1:1, 1 Nephi 1:20,
1 Nephi 6:4,5, 1 Nephi 13:39) Nephi seems quite content that this second set of plates
is of much more worth to his readers than a larger history would be.
Of course Nephi didn’t know before receiving direction to make the second set of
plates. We can all know that we will fulfill our purpose on earth if we keep the
Lord’s commandments. But none of us knows beforehand the twists and turns that our
lives will take, nor can we anticipate the specific guidance and direction we will
receive from our loving Father, as we continue to be faithful to Him.
For those who choose not to keep the commandments and be faithful, no one knows what
opportunities they miss out on, what divine direction they don’t receive, what paths
they are passing up. Nature abhors a vacuum, and something else will rush in to
replace their fore-ordained destiny, and they don’t recognize the switch.
1 Nephi 19:3
Plain and precious parts of the ministry and prophecies
The Book of Mormon teaches
that God directed the making of the plates for His wise purposes
And after I had made these plates by way of commandment,
I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies,
the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and
that the things which were written
should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land,
and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.
Again Nephi credits the Lord with knowing why he’s making these small plates. He
knows they will help his people, but he also knows that there’s more in store for
them, he just doesn’t know what.
Nephi tells us that in these small plates, we will find ministry and prophesy, and
not so much of the mundane in-between daily living information. Even the ministry
and prophecy are distilled to the most plain and precious parts. No wonder these
writings of Nephi are very Spirit-dense.
1 Nephi 19:4
Handed down from one generation to another
Nephi planned for his Book of Mormon plates
to be handed down from prophet to prophet
Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates,
which gives an account, or which gives a greater account
of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people.
And this have I done,
and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone;
and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another,
or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord.
Nephi is speaking of the first plates which he made, not this small set we have in
the Book of Mormon. This verse may be a clue as to why the second set were needed
(aside from the 116 pages event). Nephi intended to command his people to pass these
plates from one prophet to another. But the care was evidently shifted to the kings,
according to Jarom 1:14: “And I, Jarom, do not write more, for the plates are small.
But behold, my brethren, ye can go to the other plates of Nephi; for behold, upon
them the records of our wars are engraven, according to the writings of the kings,
or those which they caused to be written,” and Omni 1:11: “And behold, the record
of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the
generations.” Neither of these later writers recognized the value of the small plates,
because the history was being kept by the kings. Nephi preferred that even secular
history be written by men of God, not the political leaders who will always paint
themselves and their cause in the most flattering colors.
1 Nephi 19:7
Things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to body and soul
The Book of Mormon teaches that some people trample the God of Israel under their
For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth,
both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet.
Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet;
I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words--
they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.
Nephi describes the great dichotomy, the great inequality, the great divide, between
those who accept and reverence God’s authority, and those who do not. This very
sobering verse must be truer today than when it was first written. Nephi vividly
said that they trample God under their feet, but then he toned it down with his explanation.
Certainly many people through the ages have ignored God’s counsel, while trying
to maintain a semblance of respect for Him. King Zedekiah questioned Jeremiah secretly,
and Jeremiah told him, according to a revelation from the Lord, how to save his city
and himself. (Jeremiah 38:14-24) Zedekiah did not follow this counsel, and the results
are sad history. Jesus himself said, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the
things that I say?” (Luke 6:46)
In today’s world we see quite a bit of trampling. Websites are dedicated to mocking
the scriptures, the doctrine, and the lifestyle of those who follow Christ. As scientific
evidence for creation mounts, a few vocal critics have conceded that there may indeed
have been a creator, but it was an “advanced civilization,” basically a long time
ago, in a galaxy far, far away. They are willing to acknowledge an alien creator,
but adamant that it is not the God of Israel, not the God of the Old Testament and
the New Testament, the God of the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints. It is some creature that has done his work, and to whom we have
no responsibility. They are most repulsed by a God who has expectations and sets
1 Nephi 19:8
He cometh, according to the words of the angel
The Book of Mormon teaches that
Christ would come into the world 600 years after its history began
And behold he cometh, according to the words of the angel,
in six hundred years from the time my father left Jerusalem.
This date is previously mentioned in 1 Nephi 10:4, where Nephi recounts the revelations
of his father Lehi.
Nephi is warming up to his subject – the rejection and trampling underfoot of God.
Before His mortal advent the worst people did was refuse to believe and follow,
and persecute His messengers. Nephi has seen in vision and will again describe and
testify of Christ’s sufferings at the hands of wicked men.
1 Nephi 19:9
His loving-kindness and His long-suffering
The Book of Mormon teaches
that the world judges Jesus Christ to be a thing of naught
And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught;
wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it;
and they smite him, and he suffereth it.
Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it,
because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.
Nephi has previously told us that he saw the world’s judgement of the Lamb of God:
“I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son
of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.” 1 Nephi
11:32. This was an important part of his Tree of Life vision. Nephi now reveals
how much he saw of the judgement of Christ: he saw the scourging, the smiting, and
the spitting. In his first telling, he presents the Lord as a passive victim, as
do the New Testament writers. Now, in the retelling, although he is emphasizing
the wickedness of the world in their cruel treatment of Him, Nephi is presenting
the scene with two major actors: the worldly judgers, and the Son of God – they
and Him. As Nephi lists the events during Christ’s grueling judgement, he sees that
in each case, the Lord made a conscious and sustained decision to suffer it. At
any point He might have used His power in self-defense to stop the pain and indignity
Nephi credits the Son of God with loving-kindness and long-suffering. In His loving-kindness
He did not want to give His tormenters their just desserts, He knowing so much better
than they how severe their retribution should be. In his long-suffering He believed
in His own atonement, and held to hope that they would, at some point, repent, and
He would receive them. So he suffered at the hands of the Romans, and He specifically
His loving-kindness and long-suffering also extended to the rest of humanity. They
were not physically present, but “all have sinned.” The “Passion of Christ,” as
it is called, was intermingled with the act of the atonement. Interrupting the passion
would have disrupted the atonement, the reason that He came into the world. Whether
or not any person would have participated with the Romans in inflicting pain on the
Savior may have as much to do with their cultural background as their own propensities.
But each person, in all the world and throughout all history, participated in inflicting
the pain that He had to endure, when He took upon Him our pains and our sins and
iniquities. Each person has during their life set God “at naught,” and decided not
to heed some particular piece of counsel from God, whether large or small.
1 Nephi 19:10
The God of our fathers yieldeth Himself
The Book of Mormon records that many prophets spoke plainly
of the suffering and death of Christ before He came
And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage,
and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea,
the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man,
into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock,
and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum,
and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos,
which he spake concerning the three days of darkness,
which should be a sign given of his death
unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea,
more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.
When Nephi recorded his great vision of the Lamb of God (1 Nephi chapter 11), he
tells us that he saw the judgement passed upon Him, and he saw Him crucified. Curiously,
Nephi does not tell us that he saw the glorious resurrection.
In this verse we can see that Nephi has searched the scriptures and gleaned more
information about the life and death of Jesus. Even though he was a visionary person
and had learned much by that direct revelation, he found it crucial to study all
the prophetic words that were available to him, so that he could piece together what
we, at a later date, can know from the historical prophetic record.
The central point that Nephi wants us to take from the wealth of details in this
verse is how revolting and ungrateful it is of the children of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob to crucify the very One who had given them their home and their freedom.
1 Nephi 19:11
Some He will visit with His voice
The Book of Mormon teaches that the resurrected Savior visited many peoples
For thus spake the prophet:
The Lord Godsurely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day,
some with his voice, because of their righteousness,
unto their great joy and salvation,
and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power,
by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness,
and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.
This prophecy of Zenos is clearly fulfilled in every detail in 3 Nephi. But it says
He will visit all the House of Israel. Not only in North and South America, but
in Asia and Africa are legends of the visit of a great white God. I don’t know that
these legends include the idea of a pre-appearance destructions.