1 Nephi 3

1 Ne 3:1 speaking with the Lord

Interestingly, Nephi doesn't give us the details of this conversation he had with the Lord with the exception of 1 Ne 2:19-24.  He is writing on the small plates which are the ones on which he intended to record the things of the Spirit. Could it be that the rest of the conversation was too sacred to record? Was this experience too personal to share? We should not worry that Nephi didn't give us every detail. We should follow his example and be selective about how and with whom we share our personal spiritual experiences. Neal A. Maxwell said, "President Marion G. Romney cautioned about the inappropriate sharing of certain spiritual experiences, suggesting that we might have more of them if we would not talk so much about them!  We must be careful not to 'trifle' with sacred things (D&C 6:12)." (If Thou Endure It Well, p. 108)

Secondly, this phrase, 'speaking with the Lord,' is reminiscent of Exodus 33:11 in which the Lord speaks to Moses 'face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.' The brother of Jared also had a similar experience. Thus we see that the Book of Mormon confirms the Biblical truth that God is a personage, with a form like man's although more glorious, and that God usually speaks to prophets 'as a man speaketh unto his friend,' and not with burning bushes.

1 Ne 3:2-4 Why didn't the Lord command them to take the record of the Jews on their way out of Jerusalem?

Here we see an example of how obedience can be inconvenient. The carnal mind (Laman and Lemuel) would wonder why the Lord would have allowed them to travel several days before commanding them to obtain the record. Couldn't they have grabbed it on their way out? Whether the Lord was testing them, or whether He had other reasons is not clear. What is clear is that this event, like many others, demonstrates the difference in character and spirituality among Lehi's sons. Many of the Lord's dealings with us are just as hard to understand with the carnal mind. We should accept the fact that, my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, (Isa 55:8) and exhibit the faith of Nephi.

1 Ne 3:3 record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers

This record of the Jews becomes a stabilizing force among the Nephites. It allows consistency of language, doctrine, history, genealogy, and tradition. The stabilizing effect can be seen when comparing the Nephites to the Mulekites who came to the new world without any records. Hence, 'their language had become corrupted; and . . . they denied the being of their Creator' (Omni 1:17).

Hugh Nibley

"The purpose of the plates, as he saw it, was to preserve the cultural heritage of the past for generations to come, and especially to retain intact the unbroken religious tradition of God's people back to the very beginning.

"This is the announcement that launches the vast and restless record-keeping project of Lehi's descendants, determined to keep intact the chain of writings that bound them to the righteous of every age in a single unbroken faith and tradition. For the ancients all history was sacred history." (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, p. 158.)

1 Ne 3:3 plates of brass

Some have argued that the description of brass in the Book of Mormon is an anachronism.  However, the same term is used in the Bible as early as Genesis 4:22. Both descriptions probably describe a copper alloy which is different than the current definition. Brass is an alloy of copper and nickel. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. The latter was much more common in Old Testament times, but by the 17th and 18th centuries, the word "bronze" was not yet in common usage. 

Hugh Nibley

"When we see brass in the Old Testament, are we supposed to read bronze? Answer: Well, you can read bronze. They did have brass, the alloy of copper and nickel, but, of course, copper and tin was much commoner. The word bronze doesn't occur in the King James Bible at all because it wasn't used until the 1880s. It wasn't an English word at all; it was a French word. We use brass which means bronze.... In Joseph Smith's time they didn't use the word bronze at all. That was a word for artists in Paris to use, and it was a new thing." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, lecture 10, p. 141)

1 Ne 3:5 it is a hard thing which I have required of them

The Book of Mormon Student Manual states, "The distance from Jerusalem to the Red Sea (the Gulf of Aqaba) is about 180 miles through hot, barren country infested anciently by many marauders. And they had gone three days' journey beyond that. (See 1 Ne 2:6) This meant at least a twelve- to fourteen-day trip one way, giving added meaning to Nephi's response in verse 7." (1981 Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 16)

1 Ne 3:7 I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded...

Joseph Smith

"....as my life consisted of activity and unyielding exertions, I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it." (History of the Church, 2:170, as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 13)

Heber J. Grant

"I am thankful beyond expression that I did read the book [of Mormon] in my boyhood days and that the assurance came into my heart that it was in very deed the truth, and that I fell in love with the character of Nephi. More than any other mortal man that we have any record of in the Bible, the Old, or the New Testaments, or in the Book of Mormon, more, I believe, than the influence of my friends and associates with whom I have lived, Nephi has made an impression upon my heart and my soul and has been one of the guiding stars of my life--a man who endeavored upon all occasions never to become discouraged or disheartened, never to complain; but who endeavored to the full extent of his ability to carry out his own wonderful words spoken to his 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 commanded them.'

"That remarkable declaration, exemplified through his entire life, has stayed with me, I am sure, now for fully fifty long years; and I rejoice in the fact of the impression that was made upon my heart and soul by that statement. I also rejoice in his immediately exemplifying the statement that he would do what the Lord required. What had the Lord required? The Lord, through Lehi, his father, had received a dream to the effect that his sons were to return to Jerusalem and secure the brass plates upon which some of the ancient scriptures and the genealogy of the forefathers of Nephi were recorded. And his brethren were complaining, when he made that impressive announcement that he would go and do the thing which the Lord had required." (Conference Report, Apr.1924, p. 158)


Spencer W. Kimball

"When my feeling of incompetence wholly overwhelmed me, I remembered the words of Nephi when he said: [1 Ne 3:7]. I want to tell you that I lean heavily on these promises, that the Lord will strengthen and give me growth and fit and qualify me for this great work. I have seen the Lord qualify men. In my church experience I have helped to ...[call] many bishops. I have seen them grow and prosper and become great and mighty men in the Church; men who were weak and men who were foolish, and they became strong and confounded the wise, and so I rely upon that promise of the Lord that he will strengthen and empower me that I may be able to do this work to which I have been called." (Conference Report, Oct. 1943, p. 18, as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.12)

Boyd K. Packer

"It is in the way we answer the call that we show the measure of our devotion.... Never say 'No' to an opportunity to serve in the Church. If you are called to an assignment by one who has authority, there is but one answer. It is, of course, expected that you set forth clearly what your circumstances are, but any assignment that comes under call from your bishop or your stake president is a call that comes from the Lord. An article of our faith [#5] defines it so, and I bear witness that it is so. Once called to such positions, do not presume to set your own date of release. A release is in effect another call. Men do not call themselves to offices in the Church. Why must we presume that we have the authority to release ourselves? A release should come by the same authority from whence came the call. Act in the office to which you are called with all diligence. Do not be a slothful servant. Be punctual and dependable and faithful." (BYU devotional, Mar. 23, 1965 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.13)

Marion G. Romney

"I believe with all my heart, for example, that if our young people could come out of our homes thoroughly acquainted with the life of Nephi, imbued with the spirit of his courage and love of truth, they would choose the right when a choice is placed before them. How marvelous it would be if, when they must make a decision, there would flash into their minds, from long and intimate association with them, the words of Nephi: 'I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded..." (Conference Report, Apr. 1960, p.112 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p.11)

Bishop Robert L Simpson

"My brothers and sisters, true greatness has a habit of surviving the years. I am certain that every member of the Church has thrilled to the words of a stalwart young man of Aaronic Priesthood age who lived approximately twenty-six hundred years ago. When faced with a difficult situation, he said, '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.' (1 Nephi 3:7.)

"This young man, destined to become a great prophet, had a most important quality. He had courage, courage to stand on his own two feet rather than follow the so-called easier way -- the more popular way -- the beckoning of the crowd, in this case his own brothers." (Conference Report, Oct. 1963, p. 102)

1 Ne 3:13 thou art a robber

Interestingly, Laban accuses Laman of being a robber. Later in the chapter, Laban proves who has the heart of a thief as he takes all Lehi's wealth without giving up the plates. It is part of human nature to be critical of others for those traits with which one is most deficient. The Book of Mormon is so full of these snippets of human nature that Joseph Smith (if he were the author as critics suppose) must have been brilliant to come up with all of them on his own.

1 Ne 3:15 As the Lord liveth, and as we live

Gene R. Cook

"Laman and Lemuel were quitters. After just one setback they were ready to give up. They probably continued murmuring and criticized Nephi much as they had criticized their father.

"Now, think carefully about what happened to Nephi and his brothers, because it relates to you. They had a serious setback. They had tried, with their faith, the best they knew how. Would they ever have gone to the house of Laban if they had not had faith that they would obtain the plates? No, they believed they would or they would not have gone. But their attempt was a failure. They had come to the moment of tribulation, a moment almost every one of us faces every day. They needed to make a decision. Would they go on believing in the Lord's word with double the faith they had before, or would they quit? Laman and Lemuel wanted to go back to the tent of their father. But listen to Nephi, who was filled with great faith.

   '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.' (Verse 15.)

"That is strong. Nephi was saying in essence that the Lord lived, and that as surely as He lived and they themselves lived, they would not return until they had accomplished what they had been sent to do. At that particular moment did Nephi have any more knowledge than he had had before in the sense that the task was going to be easy or even that he knew what he was going to do? I do not think so; he was still working with faith. Did he know how he was going to get the plates? No, but he believed he would. He believed so strongly that I feel he understood the great principle that is intertwined throughout this whole experience: When tribulations and problems come, you cannot let your faith weaken, but you must redouble your faith in the Lord. It was situations like this one that Joseph Smith was referring to when he said that when the Lord sees that you are willing to serve him at any price, at any cost, or under any circumstance, then you will have sufficient faith to lay hold upon eternal life, and not until. Nephi was going through that process." (Living by the Power of Faith, p. 44-5.)

Bruce R. McConkie

"This matter of swearing with an oath in ancient days was far more significant than many of us have realized.  For instance: Nephi and his brethren were seeking to obtain the brass plates from Laban.  Their lives were in peril.  Yet Nephi swore this oath: '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.' (1 Nephi 3:15.) Thus Nephi made God his partner.  If he failed to get the plates, it meant God had failed.  And because God does not fail, it was incumbent upon Nephi to get the plates or lay down his life in the attempt." (Conference Report, April 1982, pp. 49-50)

1 Ne 3:20 preserve ... the words... of all the holy prophets

The brass plates of Laban contained the history of the Jews from the creation down to Lehi's day.  It included the Old Testament prophecies written prior to Lehi's day. Even the prophecies of Lehi's contemporary, Jeremiah, were contained on the plates (see 1 Ne 5:13).  Almost all the major Old Testament prophets' prophecies were recorded.  The Nephite record would not have included prophecies from Daniel, Ezekiel, Micah, or Malachi. This is hinted at by the ministry of the Savior among the Nephites. At that time, the Lord made sure that the most important scriptures were a part of the Nephite record.  This required Him to rehearse some of the Old Testament prophecies which were either of great doctrinal importance or which the Nephites did not have. A careful study of 3 Nephi demonstrates that he mostly quoted Isaiah, Micah, and Malachi.

The plates of brass represented a larger body of literature than our current Old Testament. This is apparent from the statement of Nephi, it (today's Bible) is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many (1 Ne 13:23).  The plates of brass obviously contained a considerable body of literature no longer extant in our Old Testament. It contained the words of many prophets whose message, without the Book of Mormon, would have otherwise been lost to the world. These were men who clearly taught of a Messiah who would come in the flesh to redeem his people. These prophets include Zenock, Zenos, and Neum (see the Book of Mormon Index).

1 Ne 3:27 hid ourselves in the cavity of a rock.

Hugh Nibley

"The brothers went and hid in the caves near Jerusalem. As you know (many of you have been there, I'm sure), the whole limestone area around Jerusalem is just peppered with caves, wonderful caves all over the place. Right up to Jerusalem, there are caves everywhere-the cave of Machpelah and all the famous caves. There are hundreds of caves." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, lecture 7)

1 Ne 3:28 Laman was angry with me

Gene R. Cook

"There are two important points here that we need to remember. First, after two failures, Nephi still remained strong in the faith. Even when Laman and Lemuel were beating him, he believed. I ask, do you still believe when you are being beaten by life? Do you say to the Lord, 'I do not know how I am going to do it, Father, but with thy help I am still going to accomplish thy will.' Or, do you follow the example of Laman and Lemuel who doubted, murmured, feared, and gave up?

"The second point is that Nephi, after resisting two great failures, finally had his faith rewarded. An angel came! Nephi must have needed some support right then, and I imagine that helped. But what did he know, at that moment that he did not know before? The angel said, 'Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.' (Verse 29.) Then Nephi knew the Lord's timetable, which is a very important thing to know. There are many things that are the will of the Lord but whose timetables are not known to man. Keep that in mind when you are trying to accomplish the Lord's will." (Living by the Power of Faith, p. 47)

1 Ne 3:31 Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur

It doesn't take Laman and Lemuel long to demonstrate a complete lack of faith.  They don't believe the message of an angel of the Lord that has just appeared to them. Remarkably, they still fear the power of Laban even though the angel promised that the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands (v. 29). Nephi commented that their rebellion was because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them (1 Ne 2:12). They must not have, if they thought that Laban's men were more powerful that the Creator of heaven and earth.

George Q. Cannon

"After speaking to them the angel departed. We have heard of a good many people who have thought if they could only see an angel, and he should tell them anything, they would believe it, and never afterwards doubt it. Yet here were these two young men who had seen and been spoken to by an angel, and he had scarcely gone when they began to murmur. They did not believe that which the angel had told them." (The Life of Nephi: Faith-Promoting Series, no. 9, p. 23 - 24.)