1 Nephi 16

1 Ne 16:2 the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

The light of Christ is given to every man. When the wicked hear the word of God as taught by the Spirit, the light of Christ swells within. This causes a painful conflict between the truth and the spirit of rebellion. This concept is taught with the imagery of the sword which represents the word of God, For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow (Heb 4:12). Mormon tried to speak with the sharpness of a two edged sword to his people in a desparate attempt to get them to repent. But like Laman and Lemuel, when he speaks the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them (Mor 9:4).

The Savior also used the sharp sword of the word of God to offend the wicked.

   'But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

   Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.

   Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.' (Lu 11:42-44, see also verse 45-54).

See also the parable of the wicked husbandmen, Lu 20:9-20. These scriptures bring more meaning to the phrase, blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me (Matt 11:6). Only those who feel the conflict between truth and a rebellious spirit will be offended for the obedient have no reason to be angry.

Neal A. Maxwell

"God is not only there in the mildest expressions of His presence, but also in those seemingly harsh expressions. For example, when truth 'cutteth ... to the very center' (1 Ne. 16:2), this may signal that spiritual surgery is underway, painfully severing pride from the soul. (Ensign, November 1987, p. 31.)

"There is kindness in this pain, for as truth, the Lord's laser, cuts through to all but the hardest of hearts, so the healing light of the gospel is let in. The outer encrustations of evil can make us so insensitive that only the cuts 'to the very center' have any hope of bringing the desired response!" (Things As They Really Are, p. 79.)

"Most of us don't like to be cut to the center [see 1 Ne. 16:2], and when the gospel standards cut us it hurts. The tendency is to deal with the pain by rejecting further surgery. (For the Power Is in Them...: Mormon Musings, p. 49.)

1 Ne 16:6 all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel

At this point the two families have not begun to travel beyond the valley of Lemuel. Quite a bit has happened to the family while they are in the valley of Lemuel. It is their base for returning back to Jerusalem and the site where Nephi and Lehi see the vision of the tree of Life. It seems as if they are more in a hurry to get out of Jerusalem than they are to get to the promised land. They travel for the next 8 years on the Arabian Peninsula before they finally build a ship and head for the promised land. Verse 9 explains that they are about to begin their journey again.

Hugh Nibley

"Nephi...refers constantly to his father's tent as the center of his universe. To an Arab, 'My father dwelt in a tent' says everything....

"So with the announcement that his father dwelt in a tent, Nephi serves notice that he had assumed the desert way of life, as perforce he must for his journey: any easterner would appreciate the significance and importance of the statement, which to us seems almost trivial. If Nephi seems to think of his father's tent as the hub of everything, he is simply expressing the view of any normal Bedouin (Arabian tent dweller)." (Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites, pp. 57-8)

1 Ne 16:7 took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife

"Marriages in the Valley of Lemuel. Ishmael and his family were brought down from Jerusalem by Nephi and his brothers, according to a divine command. (1 Ne. 7:2) Marriage for the purpose of raising up posterity 'unto the Lord' was enjoined upon them as a sacred duty.

"Ishmael had five daughters and two sons. During the journey from Jerusalem to the Valley of Lemuel, Laman and Lemuel opposed Nephi. They even bound him and plotted his death. Two of the daughters of Ishmael sided with Laman and his supporters. One daughter of Ishmael stood up valiantly for Nephi, and plead so sincerely for his righteous cause that he was set free. (1 Nephi 7:19) Thus a line of cleavage was already drawn. In all probability, the two girls who had sided with Laman and Lemuel became their wives, while the valiant little girl, possibly the youngest of them, joined her hero in the sacred relationship contemplated. There were two girls left. Zoram, the servant of Laban, married the oldest daughter, and Sam presumably the remaining girl." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 165)

1 Ne 16:10 he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship

The term "Liahona" is not used until Alma 37:38 where is says, our fathers called it Liahona. This Liahona was an amazing intervention by the Lord. Rarely does the Lord create an inanimate, "manufactured" object for the use of man. Usually the Lord shows the pattern of how things should be made but He doesn't make them. Consider the ark, the tools and ship that Nephi built, the temple patterns, the ark of the covenant. The Lord didn't make any of these things. He commanded them to be made and then showed the pattern. In this respect, the Liahona sets an unusual precedent.

1 Ne 16:10 What does the word "Liahona" mean?

Hugh Nibley

"Yah is, of course, God Jehovah. Liyah means the possessive, 'To God is the guidance,' hona (Liyahhona). That's just a guess; don't put it down. But it's a pretty good guess anyway." (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, lecture 14, p. 216)

1 Ne 16:10 What did the Liahona do?

All are familiar with the use of the Liahona as a compass and director that worked upon faith. However, we sometimes forget that there were writings on the Liahona which changed from time to time. Nephi doesn't share the meaning of these writings which came directly from the Lord. He does not include them because of their spiritual and sacred nature. They were not directions to go in the wilderness, that was what the spindles were for. These writings were holy and sacred words which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord (v. 29).

1 Ne 16:10 Why don't we get a Liahona-to guide us through our spiritual wilderness?

Thomas S. Monson

"If man can invent sonar to warn against disaster, and if he can invent whiskers to put on automobile fenders for the protection of white sidewall tires, doesn't it sound reasonable that the Lord would place a warning device within His children, to warn us when we are on a detour, away from His pathway? I bear you my testimony today that we have a guiding light. It is foolproof if we will but use it. It is known, as you know and as I know, as the Holy Ghost-the still small voice." (BYU Speeches of the Year, Nov. 5, 1963, p.4)

Thomas S. Monson

"The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage-not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as a patriarchal blessing. Every worthy member of the Church is entitled to receive such a precious and priceless personal treasure." (Live the Good Life, p. 36 - 37.)

1 Ne 16:13 We traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction

The Book of Mormon is quite clear as to the course they took before building the ship. First they traveled almost due south from Jerusalem to the valley of Lemuel by the borders of the Red Sea (probably near the Gulf of Aqaba). Next, they traveled in a south-southeast direction.

Hugh Nibley

"As to the direction taken by Lehi's party the Book of Mormon is clear and specific. He took what we now know to have been the only possible way out, what with immediate danger threatening from the north, and the eastern and western lands held by opposing powers on the verge of war. Only the south desert, the one land where Israel's traders and merchants had felt at home through the centuries, remained open--even after Jerusalem fell this was so. And the one route into that desert was the great trade-road down the burning trough of the Arabah. For a long time the party traveled south-southeast and then struck out almost due east over a particularly terrible desert and reached the sea at a point to be considered later. Nephi is careful to keep us informed of the main bearing of every stage of the journey, and never once does he mention a westerly or a northerly trend. The party traveled for eight years in but two main directions, without retracing their steps or doubling back, and many of their marches were long forced marches."

"All this entirely excludes the Sinaitic Peninsula as the scene of their wanderings, and fits perfectly with a journey through the Arabian Peninsula. The slowest possible march "in a south-southeasterly direction" in Sinai would reach the sea and have to turn north within ten days; yet Lehi's people traveled "for many days," nay, months, in a south-southeasterly direction, keeping near the coast of the Red Sea all the while. Ten days take a foot traveler the entire length of that coast of Sinai which runs in a south-southeasterly direction--and what of the rest of the eight years?" (Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites, pp. 54-5)

1 Ne 16:18 I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel

Here is the classic scenario: life is tough-you're in the middle of a difficult trial, then something terrible happens. The one solution to your problem, the thing you most rely on fails you. Now you are completely destitute. The Lord seems to have left you in a situation in which there is no way out. Here is where the real trial of faith begins. You didn't think the Lord would allow something that terrible to happen to you because your already having a hard time of things. These thoughts come to mind, "maybe He doesn't love me," or "maybe He is not even paying attention to my problem," or "what am I supposed to do now?" This is murmur time.

The Lord will bring all of us to our knees at some point. He will push us to our limit to see how far we will go and still be faithful. He allowed Lucifer to all but destroy Job, but Job was remarkably strong. He would not blame the Lord, Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips (Job 2:9-10, italics added). Job understood that the Lord was testing him and wanted to remain faithful, Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity (Job 31:6).

Like the testing of Job, the broken bow-incident becomes a crucial test for Lehi's family. They are on a journey through an unforgiving desert wilderness; they have been traveling and are hungry and tired. Just when they expect to see the sons return with the usual dinner, they find out that the bow had broken. They will go to bed hungry, with no prospects for food in the near future. Laman and Lemuel's response is predictable. However, even Lehi has a moment of weakness. Nephi records that he began to murmur against the Lord (v. 20). Before we judge Lehi too harshly we should walk a day in his shoes-and do it in the Arabian Desert. Nonetheless, he was truly chastened because of his murmuring (v. 25). Nephi was similarly challenged; he admits that for him, it began to be exceedingly difficult (v. 21).

Nephi passes the test. He understands that when everything has gone completely wrong, he must turn to the Lord. Those of us who like to be in charge of everything have a difficult time with these kinds of tests. They are designed to force us to rely completely on the Lord. They require us to humble ourselves before our Maker and ask for His help. It represents the ultimate surrender of individual will to the will of the Father. It is a lot easier said than done.

Neal A. Maxwell

"There was murmuring, too, because Nephi broke his steel bow and also because he couldn't possibly build a ship (see 1 Nephi 16:18-20; 17:17). Those same murmurers, insensitive to their inconsistency, quickly surfeited themselves on the meat brought back by Nephi's new bow. They also sailed successfully over vast oceans to a new hemisphere in the ship that Nephi couldn't build. Strange, isn't it, how those with the longest lists of new demands also have the shortest memories of past blessings?" (If Thou Endure It Well, p. 125.)

Hugh Nibley

"Through the years critics of the Book of Mormon have constantly called attention to the mention of steel in that book as a gross anachronism. But now we are being reminded that one cannot be dogmatic in dating the appearance of steel since there is more than one kind of steel with 'a whole series of variants in the combination of iron and steel components' in ancient times; and when a particularly fine combination was hit upon it would be kept secret in 'individual workshops' and 'passed on from father to son for many generations.' Hence it is not too surprising to learn that 'even in early European times' there is evidence for the production of steel 'of very high quality' and extreme hardness. Further east steel is attested even earlier." (Since Cumorah, p. 254)

1 Ne 16:23 I Nephi, did make out of wood a bow...And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?

Here Nephi acknowledges his father's role as prophet and patriarch. He asks his father to ask the Lord for help.

1 Ne 16:27 What writing was it that made everyone fear and tremble exceedingly?

Nephi never tells us the meaning of the writings on the Liahona. He does explain that his father and just about everyone in the group 'did fear and tremble exceedingly' when they read what was written on the ball. This suggests that it was a warning or punishment from the Lord. It is possible that the reason they wandered in the wilderness for 8 years instead of traveling directly to the promised land was because of their murmuring at this time. Alma hints that this was the case:

   'They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works cease, and they did not progress in their journey;

   Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not  travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions...our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass' (Alma 37:41-43).

1 Ne 16:29 a new writing....which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord

The Liahona was not just a compass. It taught them sacred and holy truths, things which were so sacred that Nephi did not tell us what they were.

"President Spencer W. Kimball used the symbolism of the Liahona in a fascinating illustration about fifteen years ago while talking to the young men of the Church:

'Wouldn't you like to have that kind of a ball-each one of you-so that whenever you were in error it would point the right way and write messages to you, so that you would always know when you were in error or in the wrong way?

'That, my young brethren, you all have. The Lord gave to every boy, every man, every person, a conscience which tells him everytime he starts to go on the wrong path. . . .

'You must realize that you have something like the compass, like the Liahona, in your own system.'

"President Monson also used the illustration of the Liahona in a general conference talk. He said:

'The same Lord who provided a Liahona for Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage-not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing.'

"So this unusual instrument has fascinated the prophets and been used in their sermons for centuries, both in the Book of Mormon itself and by modern prophets." (Doctrines of the Book of Mormon: 1991 Sperry Symposium on the Book of Mormon, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992], 2-3)

1 Ne 16:29 by small means the Lord can bring about great things.

Alma repeated the story of the Liahona to his son, Helaman:

   'And it did work for them according to their faith in God....

   Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. ...

   And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.

   For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

   And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.

   O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.' (Alma 37:40-46, italics added)

"'A series of seemingly small but incorrect choices,' Elder M. Russell Ballard pointed out, 'can become those little soul-destroying termites that eat away at the foundations of our testimony until, before we are aware, we may be brought near to spiritual and moral destruction.' In a similar way, the small acts of kindness, the tiny deeds of Christian service, the silent but significant efforts to control our own thoughts and feelings-these are the simple things that build character and shape human destiny everlastingly. The world takes notice of the public accomplishments, the spectacular victories. But who knows of the private battles of the soul, thousands of them, waged and won by Abraham long before he passed his greatest test on Mount Moriah to become the friend of God? Who knows of the infinite struggles, the buffetings, the adversarial onslaughts faced and overcome by the sinless Son of Man in the Garden of the Oilpress, finished before his public victory over the grave on Golgotha? Truly, the 'little things' form and shape the disciple of Christ." (Robert L. Millet, An Eye Single to the Glory of God: Reflections on the Cost of Discipleship, p.77.)

M. Russell Ballard

"Great and marvelous events seem to motivate us, but small things often do not hold our attention. Noting that the Liahona worked by faith, Alma stated, 'Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means . . . the people of Lehi were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey.' (Alma 37:41.)

"Is our journey sometimes impeded when we forget the importance of small things? (See Alma 37:46.) Do we realize that small events and choices determine the direction of our lives just as small helms determine the direction of great ships? (See James 3:4; D&C 123:16.)

"May the Lord bless each one of us to follow the counsel of our prophets. We need to have family and personal prayers; study the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon; hold family home evenings; follow the admonition of the Savior to love one another; and be thoughtful, kind, and gentle within the family. Through these and other similar small and simple things, we have the promise that our lives will be filled with peace and joy." (Church News, Jul 6, 1996)

1 Ne 16:34 Ishmael...was buried in the place which was called Nahom

"A group of Latter-day Saint researchers recently found evidence linking a site in Yemen, on the south-west corner of the Arabian peninsula, to a name associated with Lehi's journey as recorded in the Book of Mormon. Warren Aston, Lynn Hilton, and Gregory Witt located a stone altar that professional archaeologists dated to at least 700 B.C. This altar contains an inscription confirming 'Nahom' as an actual place that existed in the peninsula before the time of Lehi. The Book of Mormon mentions that 'Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom' (1 Ne. 16:34).

"This is the first archaeological find that supports a Book of Mormon place-name other than Jerusalem or the Red Sea..." (Ensign, Feb. 2001, p. 79)

The significance of this seemingly irrelevant name deserves special mention.   In a video production, "Journey of Faith: From Jerusalem to the Promised Land," Mormon scholars describe the discovery of Nahom.

"The finding of Nahom strikes me as just a tremendously significant discovery. (Daniel C. Peterson)

"The gazetteer's of Joseph Smith's day listed no such place. (Noel B. Reynolds)

"What it really is-is a kind of prediction by the Book of Mormon of something we ought to find. (Daniel C. Peterson)

"Now the chances of finding that exact name, from that exact time, in that exact place by random chance are just astronomical. (William J. Hamblin)

"And [to] find it in the right location at the right time is a really striking bull's-eye for the book. And there are those that say that the book has no archeological substantiation. That's a spectacular substantiation right there-it seems to me.  Something that would have been unexpected-that it's so unlikely that Joseph Smith could have woven into his story on his own. (Daniel C. Peterson)

"The Book of Mormon... text has made a complex prediction and modern archeology actually confirms that prediction. (Noel B. Reynolds)

"It's a direct bull's-eye!-As precise as you could wish it to be. (Daniel C. Peterson)"  ("Journey of Faith" video version, Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, chapter 17)

1 Ne 16:39 Laman and Lemuel hear the voice of the Lord

The Lord will not allow this mission to fail. He will not allow Laman and Lemuel to kill Lehi and Nephi. He intervenes with Laman and Lemuel as little as possible but enough to suit His purposes. In this particular instance, they actually heard the voice of the Lord which did chasten them exceedingly.  Of this event, 1 Ne 17:46 says, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder. It took the voice of God to control these rebels. Again, we are amazed that they see so many miracles, even hear the voice of the Lord, and yet they still will not hearken to the words of the Lord.