1 Ne 19:1 I did make plates of ore
Nephi's experience making tools to build a ship helped him learn to work with raw metals. Not long after arriving in the promised land he used this skill to make the Large Plates of Nephi. This verse makes it clear that Nephi did not begin to record his history until after arriving in the promised land. The first thing he did was make the Large Plates of Nephi. These contained more of the secular history of the people, including, the record of my father, and the genealogy of his fathers, and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness...and the wars and contentions and destructions of my people (v. 2,4).
He did not begin to make the Small Plates until about 20 years later, see 2 Ne 5:28-30. Therefore, 1st and 2nd Nephi which came from the Small Plates were written not as a daily journal but as a retrospective history (written 30 years after Lehi left Jerusalem), including only those details which are pertinent to the story and the doctrine. Nephi explains that at the time he made the Large Plates, he did not know that the Lord would command him to write another record, the Small Plates, I knew not at the time when I made them that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates (v. 2).
1 Ne 19:3 What were these wise purposes?
The Lord in his infinite wisdom, knew the events that would transpire in the last days. In anticipation of the lost 116 pages, the Lord commanded Nephi to write a record which covered the same time period as the lost history. DC 3:19 reads, And for this very purpose are these plates preserved, which contain these records-that the promises of the Lord might be fulfilled, which he made to his people.
1 Ne 19:7 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.
King Benjamin explained that the natural man is an enemy to God (Mosiah 3:19). Since all things with God are spiritual, a man who knows nothing of the Spirit cannot correctly judge the things of God. The things of God knoweth no man, but [by] the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:11). Many scientists and scholars have examined the Book of Mormon, criticizing this or that, looking for supposed anachronisms, and trying to explain how Joseph Smith created such a work. The Book of Mormon holds up well to such scrutiny. The irony is that the Book of Mormon should not be judged by the natural man. It is a spiritual work and should be judged by the Spirit. How ridiculous it is to give credence to the scientist who analyzes the Book of Mormon by the wisdom of man! His expertise is in completely the wrong field to make an accurate judgment. Rather, we should find the person most familiar with the workings of God and the things of the Spirit and request their opinion. Better yet, we should find out for ourselves.
Remember, the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. The common attitude of "the world" regarding religion is that it is just that-"foolishness," the "opium of the masses," etc. Such is the judgment of the natural man.
1 Ne 19:10 the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself...to be lifted up
Because of the things Nephi had seen in vision, he emphasizes the point that Jesus of Nazareth was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that the Jews were crucifying none other than their Lord and God. The conflict between who Jesus really was and who he was perceived to be runs through the entire New Testament. The Jews were upset everytime Jesus referred to his Father, Moses, or Abraham. When He did, He hinted at His role in the pre-mortal realm, his divine sonship, and his supremacy over any Old Testament prophet.
- Moses: I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not...Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
...Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven...I am the bread of life...From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (Jn 5:43, 45-7, Jn 6:32,35,66)
- Abraham: Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? And the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? ....Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him (Jn 8:53-9).
- The Father: For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man....I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. (Jn 5:26-7, Jn 10:30-1)
1 Ne 19:10 a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea
Nephi is prophesying about the three days of darkness which covers the land of promise after Christ is crucified. The term, "isles of the sea," is a term which Nephi uses to refer to the land of promise. We think of the Americas as two great continents. However, it is completely natural that Nephi, having sailed to the promised land, should refer to it as an isle of the sea, we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea. But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this (2 Ne 10:20-1). Every time Nephi refers in a prophesy to the "isles of the sea," he is thinking about the land of promise.
1 Ne 19:11 The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness
Remember that the Nephites and Lamanites that survived the destructions upon the land of promise heard the voice of the Lord prior to his appearance in the flesh, it being a small voice...it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn (3 Ne 11:3, see also 3 Ne 9:1).
1 Ne 19:12 The God of nature suffers
This was evident even to the Roman centurion standing guard at the crucifixion of Jesus, for he said, Truly this was the Son of God (Matt 27:54).
1 Ne 19:13 those who are at Jerusalem...shall be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel
It is politically incorrect to blame the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is doctrinally incorrect to blame anyone else. When Pilate made a feeble attempt to free Jesus, the Jews answered saying, His blood be on us, and on our children (Matt 27:25). Never was a more self-condemning statement ever made.
That the Lord knew of impending destructions awaiting this wicked generation is seen in his comment to the weeping daughters of Jerusalem on the weary path to Golgotha, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children (Lu 23:28). He also taught that the temple would be destroyed, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down (Matt 24:2). Both of these prophecies had reference to the first Abomination of Desolation, or destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD. This was the beginning of a long history of scourging that the house of Israel was to suffer.
Josephus is the fundamental historian of the Roman capture of Jerusalem. He records that the Roman soldiers would capture about 500 Jews a day, then crucify them all, "So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies." (Josephus, the Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chap. XI, v. 1) He describes a terrible famine:
"Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine; and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged...many died as they were burying others...while yet robbers were still more terrible than these miseries were themselves; for they brake open those houses which were no other than graves of dead bodies and plundered them...in order to prove what mettle they were made of, they thrust some of those through that still lay alive upon the ground...
"However, when Titus in going his rounds along those valleys saw them full of dead bodies and the thick putrefaction running about them, he gave a groan." (Josephus, the Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chap. XII, v.3-4)
Josephus, as an eyewitness to many of these atrocities, described them in gruesome detail. He records that many starving Jews deserted to the Syrians and Arabians for protection. However, some Jews had made a practice swallowing as much gold as possible prior to deserting. Josephus explains their terrible fate:
"Yet did another plague seize upon those that were thus preserved; for there was found among the Syrian deserters a certain person who was caught gathering pieces of gold out of the excrements of the Jews' bellies; for the deserters used to swallow such pieces of gold....when this contrivance was discovered in one instance, the fame of it filled their several camps, that the deserters came to them full of gold. So the multitude of the Arabians, with the Syrians, cut up those that came as supplicants, and searched their bellies. Nor does it seem to me that any misery befell the Jews that was more terrible than this, since in one night about two thousand of these deserters were thus dissected." (Josephus, the Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chap. XIII, v.4)
Josephus tallied the destruction suffered in this great war, "Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege, eleven hundred thousand." (Josephus, the Wars of the Jews, Book VI, Chap. IX, v.3) This great destruction brought the following conclusion from Josephus, "in reality it was God who condemned the whole nation, and turned every course that was taken for their preservation to their destruction." (Josephus, the Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chap. XIII, v.5) Such was the result of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth and the woeful statement, His blood be on us and upon our children.
Marion G. Romney
"All of this destruction and the dispersion of the Jews would have been avoided had the people accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ and had their hearts changed by it.
"Today the peoples of the earth stand at the crossing of the same roads as did the Jews in the days of Jesus. The same choice is before them. They may accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and move on to righteousness, peace, love, and happiness, or they may reject it and suffer wickedness, hate, war, and destruction." (Conference Report, Oct. 1948, p. 77)
1 Ne 19:16 the house of Israel, will I gather in...from the four quarters of the earth
The gathering of Israel is a very common Old Testament and Book of Mormon theme. Joseph Smith stated, we believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes (A of F 10). The gathering of Israel must be understood in two contexts, the literal gathering and the spiritual gathering.
The first, or literal gathering, refers to the reestablishment of state of Israel with the literal immigration of thousands of Jews from all over the world to the new sovereign. This has been going on for decades and continues at an accelerated rate. The literal gathering is also fulfilled in the immigration of Gentiles adopted into the house of Israel by accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ, accepting baptism, and them moving to a main body of saints. This was the practice in the early days of the church and will likely be reinstituted in a gathering to Zion (the New Jerusalem) prior to the Second Coming. The third component of the literal gathering will occur when the ten tribes return to Zion to receive their temple blessings at the hands of the children of Ephraim (DC 133:26-32).
The spiritual gathering of Israel represents the unity of spirit and purpose of all those who are brought into the fold of God. That these individuals do not have to be in the same geographic location is seen in the words of the Savior, other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (Jn 10:16). In this scripture, the righteous Nephites/Lamanites are brought into one fold with the early Christian saints although they were separated by an ocean of water. Thus these two groups had been spiritually gathered into one fold. In the latter-days, the spiritual gathering is just the same. Any member of the house of Israel who believes in Jesus Christ and receives saving ordinances is brought into the common fold of the kingdom of God on earth. Most scriptures about the gathering of Israel are used in this context.
1 Ne 19:20 I have workings in the spirit, which doth weary me even that all my joints are weak
Intense spiritual experiences often have the effect of draining one's physical strength. This seems to be the case with Nephi. A similar experience happened to Lehi, see 1 Ne 1:7. Three other examples of this phenomenon are as follows, 1) Daniel sees the Lord in a glorious vision, then remarks, and there remained no strength in me (Dan 10:8), 2) king Lamoni had been overcome by the spirit for two days, when he awoke he announced, I have seen my Redeemer.... Now, when he had said these words, his heart was swollen within him, and he sunk again with joy; and the queen also sunk down, being overpowered by the Spirit (Alma 19:13), and 3) Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw the vision of the three degrees of glory together while at the Johnson farm in Hiram, Ohio. There were other men in the room who witnessed their countenances as they received D&C section 76. One of these men, Philo Dibble recorded the scene as follows, "Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, 'Sidney is not as used to it as I am.'" (Juvenile Instructor, May 1892, pp. 303-4) See also 1 Ne 17:47.
1 Ne 19:23 I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning
Nephi imagined that the words of Isaiah were speaking directly to him and his people. This same principle is practiced by latter-day saints all the time. We generalize D&C scriptures that were given unto certain individuals because of their universal applicability. It would be tragic to assume that the instructions to Joseph Smith, Sr. found in DC 4 applied only to him. Nevertheless, with Isaiah, it is sometimes harder for us to find as much personal meaning. Nephi helps us to do this by giving us many spiritual insights into the meanings of Isaiah's writings.
The spirit of God often speaks to us through the scriptures. If we are reading them with a clinical detachment of heart, the way a historian reads about events long since passed, we will not hear the message of the Spirit.
"In reading any of the standard works of the Church it is well to ascertain the literal meaning of the passage read first, and the lesson it was intended to convey to those to whom it was first communicated. And then it might be well to ask, What lesson does it convey to my time and age? To my nation? My community? My family? Or to myself?" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 206)
"Do you read the Scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though you were writing them, a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who wrote them? If you do not feel thus, it is your privilege to do so, that you may be as familiar with the spirit and meaning of the written word of God as you are with your daily walk and conversation, or as you are with your workmen or with your households." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 128 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.63)