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God in 1 Nephi 2

This second chapter of the Book of Mormon begins and ends with the Lord speaking.  The Lord speaks to Lehi in a dream commanding him to leave Jerusalem, where his life is in danger.  He obeys, and the family thanks the Lord for delivering them.  However, two brothers, Laman and Lemuel, do not join in this thanksgiving, but rather complain about what they have lost, because they do not know the God who created them.  Their father Lehi, filled with the Spirit, chastises them.  Nephi wants to know the truth, so he prays to the Lord with faith, and  God softens his heart to believe.   He shares what he has learned from the Lord with his brothers; Sam believes, but Laman and Lemuel reject his testimony also.  Nephi then prays for them; the Lord answers Nephi's prayer with information, encouragement, and promises.

That God who had created them

the Lord  • the Lord Our God

God • Holy Spirit • the Spirit

1 Nephi 2:1

Even in a Dream

The Book of Mormon teaches that  God blesses those who obey His word

For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father,

yea, even in a dream, and said unto him:

Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done;

and because thou hast been faithful

and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee,

behold, they seek to take away thy life.

This is Lehi’s 3rd recorded vision in the Book of Mormon, but there are indications that there were others (Nephi didn’t write them all).  This is the first recorded dream vision.  God first praises Lehi’s faithfulness, and compassionately recognizes the difficulty he now faces as a result of that.  He acknowledges that He had previously given Lehi a commandment to speak to the people – it wasn’t only his own initiative.

1 Nephi 2:2

Even in a Dream Continued

The Book of Mormon teaches that

the Lord gives commandments in order to save His people

And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream,

that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.

The epic Book of Mormon story of Lehi’s family leaving Jerusalem was not his own idea, either.  He didn’t see all the problems around him and coming up and decide to bug out.  The Lord specifically told him to leave.

1 Nephi 2:3

He was Obedient

The Book of Mormon gives examples

of people who obey what the Lord tells them to do

And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord,

wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.

This is 2-way interaction:  The Lord reveals and commands, and Lehi obeys.  Lehi’s first obedience proved his loyalty and dependability, so the Lord finalized his choice of Lehi and gave the next commandment, which will prove difficult but better in the long run.

Nephi will emphasize the value of obedience throughout his Book of Mormon narrative.

1 Nephi 2:7

The Lord Our God

The Book of Mormon shows that families worship God together

And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones,

and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God.

Previously, Nephi has spoken about Lehi’s communication with “his God.”  Now he says Lehi raised an altar and gave thanks to the Lord OUR God.  This has ceased to be just Lehi’s experience.  He has gathered his family to worship God with him.

Throughout the Book of Mormon the people live the Law of Moses, while at the same time recognizing that its purpose is to point them to Christ.

1 Nephi 2:10

Firm and Steadfast

The Book of Mormon compares faithfulness to the Lord

with the firmness of a valley

And he also spake unto Lemuel:

O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, 

firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!

The Lord has commandments.  The best way to approach them is to be firm and steadfast and immovable in keeping these commandments.  If the commandments are like the river flowing, and the valley is like a person, the person will be green and fertile if he stays near the river.  If he picks up and moves away, that is as nonsensical as a valley getting up and leaving its founding river.

As ancient Israelites, these Book of Mormon people were obviously familiar with the Bedoin desert poetry form.

1 Nephi 2:12

That God Who Had Created Them

The Book of Mormon teaches that people

who do not know God are likely to murmur against Him

And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father.

And they did murmur 

because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.

Nephi implies that we would have faith and not murmur if we could see the big picture – if we thoroughly knew the dealings of God.  (I don’t know if that’s true.  Satan seems to know – at least he heard the plan in the beginning, and seems not to have lost his memory, not having received a physical body).  Nephi points out that God has been here all along in our development and our lives – “that God who had created them.”  We are most loyal to our own ideas and our own selves – we must trust God, who made us.

1 Nephi 2:14

Filled with the Spirit

And it came to pass that my father did speak unto them

in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit,

until their frames did shake before him.

And he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him;

wherefore, they did as he commanded them.

This is the second case of Book of Mormon father Lehi being filled with the Spirit.  The first time it supported him and overcame him so that he could see visions.  This time it does not specify that the Spirit touched Laman and Lemuel, but that because of the Spirit they were overwhelmed and quenched in their murmuring.

1 Nephi 2:16

Great Desires to Know

The Book of Mormon shows us the good example

of a person who had great desires to know God

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young,

nevertheless being large in stature,

and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God,

wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me,

and did soften my heart

that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father;

wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.

Nephi “cried unto the Lord.”  After listening to his father, Book of Mormon prophet Lehi, Nephi also wanted to know the mysteries of God, as his father did.  

The answer came immediately, though Nephi was not shown the mysteries yet.  Instead, the Spirit softened his heart so that he believed what his father had said.  Sometimes we get answers from the Spirit, and sometimes the Lord has already given that answer to one of his messengers, so we must listen to them.

1 Nephi 2:17

He Believed in My Words

The Book of Mormon gives an example

of a faithful person who believes the testimony of another

And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him

the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit.

And it came to pass that he believed in my words.

Amazingly, there is a ripple effect.   Apparently Sam didn’t pray about it, or necessarily believe Lehi’s words, but he believed Nephi’s second-hand account.

This Book of Mormon incident is in agreement with Doctrine & Covenants 46:13,14:  “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.  To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”

We see repeatedly throughout the scriptures how much value God places on faith.  Only He can decide when to give a revelation – by the Spirit, by vision, by dream, etc. – or when to expect the person to exercise faith and rely on the words of the witnesses.

1 Nephi 2:18

I Cried unto the Lord for Them

The Book of Mormon encourages us

to pray for unbelievers

But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words;

and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts

I cried unto the Lord for them.

Nephi “cried unto the Lord” for his brethren.  After receiving such a favorable answer himself, the peace and softening that came from the Spirit, he wanted that for his brothers.

(This is the 3rd recorded incidence of prayer in the Book of Mormon.)

1 Nephi 2:19

Thou Has Sought Me Diligently

The Book of Mormon teaches that people show faith

by humbly seeking the Lord diligently

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith,

for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.

The Lord spoke directly to Nephi, explaining that answering a prayer in behalf of his rebellious brothers wasn’t going to be so simple.  There would be continuing consequences of Nephi’s attitude, for which he was blessed, and his brothers’ attitude, which would be problematic.

The Lord reviews why Nephi was blessed:  

 a.  He had faith

 b.  He sought the Lord diligently

 c.  He was lowly in heart.  The Lord softened an already lowly heart.

Nephi can contrast these qualities with his brothers’ qualities to discern why they do not receive the same blessing.

The answer to Nephi’s prayer is contained in verses 19-24, in which the Lord is directly speaking.  So, although each verse does not necessarily contain a name of God, since it is He who is speaking, it is properly included in this Book of Mormon study.

1 Nephi 2:20

Choice Above All Other Lands

The Book of Mormon teaches that the American continent

is a land of promise, a choice land

And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments,

ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise;

yea, even a land which I have prepared for you;

yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.

The verb switches from “thou” to “ye,” the plural form.  The whole group, including the brothers, will receive this blessing (as will be narrated in the rest of the Book of Mormon).  They did, after all, spend some time keeping the commandments; they just weren’t consistent or constant, so of course in the end they degraded.

The Lord speaks so highly of the land of promise, saying that He Himself prepared it for them.  He later states that no one will come to this land except He is allowed to by God Himself.  Surely He would like us to appreciate the blessing of living in the promised land even today!

1 Nephi 2:21

They Shall Be Cut Off

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the rebellious shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord

And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee,

they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

Nephi has experienced the Spirit, so he knows that being cut off from the presence of the Lord is the worst cursing.  A new concept is introduced here in the Book of Mormon:  They must not only be faithful to the Lord, but they must not rebel against Nephi.  The Lord has announced to Nephi that he, the younger brother, is to be the leader.  The brothers aren’t expected to have much faith, or to seek diligently, but if they will at least follow Nephi, they’ll be blessed.  Now Nephi knows he has a great role to play in the family, more than just praying for his brothers.

1 Nephi 2:22

A Ruler and a Teacher

The Book of Mormon teaches

that the Lord chooses the obedient to teach others

And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments,

thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.

Nephi’s role is expanded – he will not only be their leader, but their teacher.  He must step up beside his father.  He has already tried this in verses 17-18.  Now he knows he must continue.  His further writings in the Book of Mormon will reflect this new understanding.

1 Nephi 2:23

I will curse them

The Book of Mormon teaches that the rebellious lose power

For behold, in that day that they shall rebel against me,

I will curse them even with a sore curse,

and they shall have no power over thy seed

except they shall rebel against me also.

This must have been a dizzying statement to young, single Nephi:  That his leadership extends through his seed.  It also gave him hope that his brothers would repent and follow his leadership, and the problems would not come until later generations.  But additionally it introduced the unpleasant possibility that Nephi’s own posterity would rebel.  

Nephi recorded this statement, but we do not know how much he taught his own children the things of the Lord.  Apparently they learned from him leadership, for they were the kings, but the Book of Mormon records that the prophetic role fell to his brother Jacob’s family.

What do your children see in your role that they may pick up on?  What do you see in the far future for your children’s relationship with the Lord?

1 Nephi 2:24

They shall be a scourge

The Book of Mormon teaches that

when bad things happen to good people, it may help them remember to be faithful

And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed,

to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.

The Lord’s final statement in this answer to prayer might have been satisfying to Nephi, for it indicates that his brothers’ seed will be around for many generations.  So many Latter-day Saints, when reading about the rebellions of Laman and Lemuel, think, “Why didn’t they just stay behind?  Why didn’t they just fall overboard?  Why did they have to stay around and mess up the history of the Book of Mormon? Why couldn’t they just have been obliterated?”  Neither Nephi nor Lehi felt like dismissing them for their rebellions, and the Lord didn’t, either.  He thought it would be important for the Nephites to have that constant opposition that they had to war against.  So the final answer is that even if they don’t soften their hearts, they will perform an important function in the Lord’s over-all plan for this Book of Mormon family.

This answer to prayer section, 1 Nephi 2:19-24, is a blessing and admonition from the Lord. It is reminiscent of God’s relationship with Abraham.  He first proved his faithfulness to God, and was called to leave a doomed land and travel to view his promised land. In Genesis 12:1-3, 13:14-17, and 15:4,5,13-16 God outlines for him blessings and promises, including a view of Abraham’s as-yet-unborn posterity far into the future.  Abraham had already shown loyalty to God, and these communications solidified his commitment and the direction of his life.

This section is also reminiscent of patriarchal blessings.  What does your patriarchal blessing tell you in relation to your posterity?  How is your life guided and directed by your patriarchal blessing?  How does it help you see yourself as God sees you, and see His plans for you?

This blessing to Nephi seems to have created in him a firm commitment to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord.  He has already explained that the theme of his writing in the Book of Mormon is to demonstrate the Lord’s deliverance.  (1 Nephi 1:20)  At the same time he is laying out evidences of deliverance by God, he is working on the opposite party, and will emphasize repeatedly how important it is to be obedient to the Lord’s commandments.

In 1 Nephi 2 of the Book of Mormon, Nephi has seen the amazing results of his father’s prayer, and he himself had concerns that he prayed about.  Again, God answered his prayers immediately, both times in His own way, and not necessarily as Nephi might have preferred.  We see God as intimately responsive to the faithful young Nephi.  We also see Him compassionate toward Laman and Lemuel.  They will have to suffer the consequences of their rebellion, but His mercy and patience will be extended through the generations.

God in 1 Nephi 2 By the Numbers

24 verses

God is mentioned by name:  10 verses = 42%

God speaks:  7 verses = 29%

Verses about God:  15 verses = 62%

God:  1

Holy Spirit:  1

The Lord:  9

The Lord our God:  1

The Spirit:  1

1 Nephi 3 1 Nephi 1