First Nephi chapter 3 is the first half of an adventure story: what happens when
Nephi tries to obey the commandments of the Lord, but it's not as easy as they had
hoped. He experiences trouble from Laban, and also trouble from his brothers, as
they have a hard time accepting failure. Nephi repeatedly urges everyone to obey
the commandment of the Lord, and grows in his own commitment to get the job done
for God, no matter what it takes. God delivers him by the hand of an angel from
his angry brothers.
the Lord • God • the Spirit
1 Nephi 3:1
I returned from speaking with the Lord
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord,
to the tent of my father.
This was a 2-way conversation. Nephi spoke with the Lord, not to the Lord.
1 Nephi 3:2
The Lord hath commanded me
In the Book of Mormon, the Lord gives grown children a commandment
through their father.
And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying:
Behold I have dreamed a dream,
in the which the Lord hath commanded me
that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
Lehi Vision #4 in the Book of Mormon is a commandment to return to Jerusalem. The
Lord seems to have been speaking to Lehi at the same time he was speaking with Nephi.
1 Nephi 3:4
The Lord hath commanded me (2)
The Book of Mormon repeatedly emphasizes
the importance of obeying the Lord’s commandments.
Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me
that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records,
and bring them down hither into the wilderness.
Lehi reiterates that it’s a commandment from the Lord that they “seek and bring hither”
the brass plates. This theme – that their journey is a commandment of the Lord –
is repeated an impressive number of times in the short Book of Mormon story of the
Brass Plates retrieval project.
1 Nephi 3:5
It is a commandment of the Lord
And now, behold thy brothers murmur,
saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them;
but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.
THIRD time – Lehi emphasizes that the Lord has commanded them to go back for the
Plates of Brass. Lehi has three times emphasized obedience to what God has commanded.
That’s just an introduction. Nephi will pick up this theme and run with it in his
Book of Mormon writings.
Some people criticize the “Mormon Church” because it has too many commandments. This
is the same situation: The Lord gives commandments, and we can choose to obey or
not, to recognize His hand in these commandments or not, to trust that they are for
our own good or not.
1 Nephi 3:6
Favored of the Lord
The Book of Mormon teaches one key to being favored of the Lord:
don’t murmur when He commands.
Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord,
because thou hast not murmured.
Nephi will be favored of the Lord because he has not murmured.
1 Nephi 3:7
I will go and do
This tremendous attitude scripture of commitment
from the Book of Mormon is worth taking time to memorize.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father:
I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded,
for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men,
save he shall prepare a way for them
that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
One reason not to murmur when the Lord commands something – He always provides a
way to accomplish it. Our attitude should be “I will go and do,” not “I will sit
and stew” (John Bytheway). As the Book of Mormon story unfolds, we know that Nephi
didn’t see the end in the beginning, but just took it one step at a time.
1 Nephi 3:8
Blessed of the Lord
The Book of Mormon shows that faithful people will be blessed.
And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words
he was exceedingly glad, for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord.
When Lehi receives the new command from the Lord to return to Jerusalem for the brass
plates, Laman and Lemuel respond with predictable murmurs. Lehi tells Nephi he will
be favored of the Lord because he has not murmured.
Lehi and Nephi repeat no less than eight times in this and the next chapter that
the excursion to Jerusalem to bring the brass plates is a commandment of the Lord.
This is reason enough to do anything. When a person knows a commandment of God,
they’re pretty much obligated to follow through and obey.
After Nephi’s response to his father, the story becomes circular. Lehi had said
Nephi WOULD BE blessed of the Lord for not murmuring. Then, when he heard Nephi’s
faith-filled reply, he said that Nephi HAD BEEN blessed of the Lord, and therefore
did not murmur. Faith has a positive energy, and it grows as it is exercised.
This is a second key to receiving the Lord’s favor and blessing: don’t murmur.
The first was in 1 Nephi 1:20, namely, have faith.
1 Nephi 3:9-14
The Lord is not in these Book of Mormon verses of Laman’s ignominious retreat from
Laban’s house. Would it even have helped if Laman had invoked the commandment of
the Lord to Laban? It wouldn’t have changed Laban’s response, probably, but it would
have strengthened Laman to go in the name of the Lord and be rejected.
1 Nephi 3:15
As the Lord liveth
This is a further Book of Mormon example
of total commitment to obeying the Lord.
But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live,
we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness
until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.
Nephi’s original personal “I will go and do” is now augmented with an oath, in the
name of the Lord, on behalf of the whole group to accomplish what the Lord had commanded
1 Nephi 3:16
Let Us Be Faithful
The Book of Mormon indicates that we might need to be creative
as we endeavor to follow the commands of the Lord.
Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord;
therefore let us go down to the land of our father's inheritance,
for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches.
And all this he hath done because of the commandments of the Lord.
To Nephi, writing the Book of Mormon, being faithful to the commandments of the Lord
means finding creative solutions. He thinks their father has already sacrificed
their material possessions in keeping the first commandment (depart), and knowing
how important the commandments of the Lord are, even compared to all their wealth,
he is ready to trade their riches for the Brass Plates, to fulfill the second commandment.
1 Nephi 3:19
It is wisdom in God
The Book of Mormon indicates that it may be helpful, in keeping God’s commandments,
to understand why He gave those commandments.
And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records,
that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers;
Nephi can say that it is wisdom in God to get the records for the sake of their posterity,
because the Lord has already put into his consciousness the idea of his brothers’
and his seed enduring through the ages in another land. Apparently Nephi, as a young
man in the commercial crossroads city of Jerusalem, knew enough about people from
foreign lands to know that they spoke foreign languages. That seems to be his first
1 Nephi 3:20
Preserve the words of God
The Book of Mormon teaches how vital are the words of God,
as given by His Spirit and power to prophets, and recorded in scriptures.
And also that we may preserve unto them
the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets,
which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God,
since the world began, even down unto this present time.
This Book of Mormon group has already had a few days in the wilderness, and Nephi
and his brothers have experienced the condition of having only what they took with
them. Nephi knows that to help his seed and his brothers’ families not rebel, they
need the words of the prophets, not just his words. The Lord has given lots of commandments,
not just the individual ones received by Lehi. There’s a whole heritage of knowledge
from the Lord, and Nephi knows his family needs it all. He originally went on this
mission to be obedient to his father and the commandment of the Lord. Now he is
personally convinced of how important their assignment is.
1 Nephi 3:21
Faithful in keeping the commandments of God
The Book of Mormon teaches how important it is
to be faithful in keeping the commandments of God.
And it came to pass that after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren,
that they might be faithful in keeping the commandments of God.
This is the 7th time that Nephi has emphasized in the Book of Mormon that this commandment
is from God, therefore they should do it.
1 Nephi 3:29
An Angel of the Lord Came
The Book of Mormon shows how problems may arise
when trying to obey the Lord, but He will stand by you.
And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod,
behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them,
and he spake unto them, saying:
Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod?
Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you,
and this because of your iniquities?
Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again,
and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.
An angel of the Lord delivers a message from the Lord:
1. They’re doing wrong right now by beating their brother (and they know it).
2. The Lord has chosen their younger brother to be their leader (They’d been resisting
his leadership, now they hear the word from the Lord.)
3. The Lord will deliver Laban into their hands.
Modern parenting teaches that it’s ineffective to instruct a child when he’s angry,
but that’s what the angel is doing. Maybe Laman and Lemuel already knew that Nephi
was chosen to lead them, and the angel catches them in the act of uncontrolled anger,
which they acknowledge is wrong, to prove to them that they are not worthy.
It’s still hard to understand their later (and immediate) recalcitrance after this
1 Nephi 3:31
How Is It Possible?
The Book of Mormon indicates that even in the presence of miracles,
people are free to choose doubt rather than faith.
And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying:
How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands?
Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty;
then why not us?
Laman and Lemuel are still relying on themselves and their own resources, and not
giving the Lord any credit. They’ve suffered two ignominious encounters with Laban,
and they don’t have any more ideas or hope for success, even though the angel promised
it from the Lord.
In 1 Nephi 3 of the Book of Mormon, we see Nephi rapidly growing, from a boy in his
father’s home listening to an awesome story of visions, to a boy who wants to know
for himself, and prays, to a boy with growing commitment to his God, and understanding
of why God’s commandments are important.