Joseph in Egypt saw the Nephites in vision—He prophesied of Joseph Smith, the latter-day seer; of Moses, who would deliver Israel; and of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Between 588 and 570 B.C.
1 And now I speak unto you, Joseph, my last-born. Thou wast born in the wilderness of mine afflictions; yea, in the days of my greatest sorrow did thy mother bear thee.
Compare to words to Jacob (2 Nephi 2:1: “And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.”) What do you make of the similarities and differences, particularly the reference to Sariah?
2 And may the Lord consecrate also unto thee this land, which is a most precious land, for thine inheritance and the inheritance of thy seed with thy brethren, for thy security forever, if it so be that ye shall keep the commandments of the Holy One of Israel.
Compare what was said to Jacob in 2 Nephi 2:2 (“Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”) What do you make of the similarities and differences?
Is Lehi making a link between his experience in the wilderness and Joseph’s relationship with the land?
3 And now, Joseph, my last-born, whom I have brought out of the wilderness of mine afflictions, may the Lord bless thee forever, for thy seed shall not utterly be destroyed.
What purpose is served by the repetition of last-born, wilderness, and afflictions in these verses?
Who else has been brought out of the wilderness?
“Not utterly destroyed” is pretty weak sauce . . .
4 For behold, thou art the fruit of my loins; and I am a descendant of Joseph who was carried captive into Egypt. And great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph.
What work does “thou art the fruit of my loins” (something he already knows!) do in this sentence?
Jacob’s blessing focused on the creation/fall/agency; this one focuses on Joseph in Egypt. What do you make of the difference? What is the relationship between the two narratives?
5 Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.
Why would Joseph have seen their day? What benefit would that have been, and to whom?
Do I read correctly that Lehi describes Jesus’ visit to the New world as happening “in the latter days”?
What does “in the spirit of power” mean?
Why does Lehi go back and modify darkness with “hidden”? In what way can darkness be hidden, and what might that symbolize?
6 For Joseph truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins.
Why does Lehi switch from Joseph seeing “our day” to “a seer” (who, I presume, is Joseph Smith)?
7 Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.
In what sense was Joseph Smith “esteemed highly”? Is this different from how we usually think of him? Should we therefore think of him differently?
NB v6 and v7 both emphasize that the seer’s role is to the fruit of Joseph’s loins (three times in this verse!). Is that how we view Joseph Smith’s mission? Is that how we should view it?
8 And I will give unto him a commandment that he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him. And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work.
Why the first sentence? Isn’t that kind of a given? (And even if the seer needed that commandment, why mention it to Joseph several thousand years in advance?)
Does this mean that JS did nothing other than God’s work in his life? How else might you read it?
I’m curious about “I will make him great in mine eyes:” it strikes me as kind of an unusual idea to think of the Lord making someone great in the Lord’s eyes. What do you think this phrase means?
What do we learn about true greatness from this verse?
Thinking about the nesting here: This is us reading Nephi’s summary of what Lehi said to his son Joseph that Joseph in the Bible said that the Lord said to him about (presumably) Joseph Smith. What do you make of the nesting here?
9 And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel.
If Joseph is speaking here (which I think might be the most natural reading), why would the Lord reveal this to Joseph, who lived ~400 years before Moses? (It is interesting to think about Joseph knowing this bit of ‘future history’ of his people . . . does it change how we read his story?)
Do you think prophets today get this kind of information about the future (“And in that day I will raise up a prophet named ___ who will ___”)?
10 And Moses will I raise up, to deliver thy people out of the land of Egypt.
11 But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.
The initial “but” implies a contrast with Moses; what is the point of the contrast?
Who is the seer in this verse? How do you know? If it is Joseph Smith, what do you make of the bouncing back-and-forth from Moses?
Think about the role of “convincing”: What does it mean and how does it relate to free agency and our belief that the Spirit is the real teacher?
To what does ‘the word that has already gone out’ refer?
General question: What does the comparison of Moses and Joseph Smith teach you about each of them?
12 Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.
Why “grow together”? Does that not suggest a slow and organic process? How should that impact how you understand the relationship of the Bible and the Book of Mormon?
1. To mingle and blend different things, so that their forms or natures cannot be distinguished; to mix in a mass or crowd, so that individuals cannot be distinguished.
2. To throw into disorder.
3. To mix or blend, so as to occasion a mistake of one thing for another.
4. To perplex; to disturb the apprehension by indistinctness of ideas or words.
5. To abash; to throw the mind into disorder; to cast down; to make ashamed.
6. To perplex with terror; to terrify; to dismay; to astonish; to throw into consternation; to stupify with amazement.
7. To destroy; to overthrow.
What does the word ‘confound’ mean in this verse?
In what ways is it true that these two records have resulted in the laying down of contentions and establishing peace? How does having that idea as the goal for which the two records came together shape how we interact with other people and the texts?
Why is knowledge of their fathers important?
What do you take from this verse that could impact how you study the scriptures?
13 And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.
Who is the “he” in this verse?
Is it significant that it is “out of” weakness as opposed to “in” or “despite”?
Interesting to see ‘O house of Israel’ as the noun of direct address here. Why the shift?
14 And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;
See above for various definitions of confounded.
How can Joseph be sure of the fulfilling of this promise, and why does he mention it?
How does “and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded” square with the martyrdom of Joseph Smith?
15 And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.
There’s that free agency versus prophecy question again . . .
In what ways was Joseph Smith “like unto” Joseph? How does this relate to the similarities with Moses?
Why do you think this material is part of Joseph’s final blessing? Is it just the coolness factor of him sharing a name with Josephs past and present and future, or is this material related to him in some way?
What do you think Joseph got out of this material? What should we get out of it? (Note that past, present, and future are interwoven.)
16 Yea, thus prophesied Joseph: I am sure of this thing, even as I am sure of the promise of Moses; for the Lord hath said unto me, I will preserve thy seed forever.
Again, what to make of the surety statement, especially its repetition?
17 And the Lord hath said: I will raise up a Moses; and I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing. Yet I will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for I will not make him mighty in speaking. But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand; and I will make a spokesman for him.
Skousen reads “I will make one a spokesman for him” here.
Why emphasize the rod and writing? (I don’t think that those would be some of the first things that we would associate with Moses.)
Does “a” Moses mean “the” Moses or someone else (Joseph Smith?)? (Or is Moses a title here the way we use Elijah/Elias sometimes?)
Joseph of Egypt uses “a Moses” as the identifier, almost indicating a title rather than a name. This leave open the possibility that the original was not so specific as to name, but either Lehi or Joseph Smith filled in the obvious person the possible title referred to. Citation
Judgment in writing is interesting–what do you make of that?
What does it mean that the Lord wrote the law “unto” Moses?
18 And the Lord said unto me also: I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman. And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it.
Skousen reads “I will raise up one unto the fruit” here.
Who is the “me” in this verse? How do you know?
Who is the “spokesman”? How do you know? Did Joseph Smith have more than one spokesman and, if so, how does that affect how you interpret this verse?
Why is spokesman separated from the prophetic role? (Why not just call a prophet with decent speaking skills?)
Is this verse about Aaron and Moses, or Joseph Smith and (maybe) Oliver Cowdery or (maybe) Hyrum Smith? How do you know?
19 And the words which he shall write shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins. And it shall be as if the fruit of thy loins had cried unto them from the dust; for I know their faith.
Does crying from the dust allude to Abel’s blood? If so, what does that suggest about what is happening here?
20 And they shall cry from the dust; yea, even repentance unto their brethren, even after many generations have gone by them. And it shall come to pass that their cry shall go, even according to the simpleness of their words.
Why “simpleness” and not “plainness”?
In the OT, crying from the dust is usually to protest injustice; here, it is to cry repentance. What do you make of the change?
(In what way) is this related to Lehi’s admonition that L&L arise from the dust and be men?
21 Because of their faith their words shall proceed forth out of my mouth unto their brethren who are the fruit of thy loins; and the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith, unto the remembering of my covenant which I made unto thy fathers.
What do you make of the role of faith in v19 and v21?
How exactly does remembering the covenant relate to the rest of the verse?
The beginning of this verse sets up a situation that could be read as implying that their faith causes the Lord to speak. Is that accurate? If so, what does it mean to say that people’s actions can cause the Lord to act? Is that how you understand the Lord’s actions?
What do you make of weakness/words :: strong/faith? What is the relationship between words and faith here?
22 And now, behold, my son Joseph, after this manner did my father of old prophesy.
What does Lehi accomplish by calling Joseph “my father of old”?
23 Wherefore, because of this covenant thou art blessed; for thy seed shall not be destroyed, for they shall hearken unto the words of the book.
To which book is he referring?
24 And there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren.
Do you read v23-24 as Lehi’s summary of Joseph’s prophecy? If you did, what would you conclude about the most important points of Joseph’s prophecy? Why might Lehi have felt the need to offer this summary–does it imply that the prophecy was not clear in some way?
Who is the person referred to in this verse?
Why “much restoration”? What does that phrase imply that “a restoration” wouldn’t imply?
25 And now, blessed art thou, Joseph. Behold, thou art little; wherefore hearken unto the words of thy brother, Nephi, and it shall be done unto thee even according to the words which I have spoken. Remember the words of thy dying father. Amen.
Lehi counsels and blesses his posterity—He dies and is buried—Nephi glories in the goodness of God to him—Nephi puts his trust in the Lord forever. Between 588 and 570 B.C.
1 And now, I, Nephi, speak concerning the prophecies of which my father hath spoken, concerning Joseph, who was carried into Egypt.
Why would Nephi do this–does it suggest some insufficiency or lack of clarity in his father’s (or Joseph’s) words?
2 For behold, he truly prophesied concerning all his seed. And the prophecies which he wrote, there are not many greater. And he prophesied concerning us, and our future generations; and they are written upon the plates of brass.
What makes a prophecy “great” in the terms of this verse? (truthfullness, importance, etc.)
Why would it be important for us to know that these prophecies are on the brass plates? In what ways is it significant that we get these prophecies filtered through Lehi’s last words to Joseph and not the prophecies themselves? Why might these prophecies have not been included in the OT as it has come to us?
3 Wherefore, after my father had made an end of speaking concerning the prophecies of Joseph, he called the children of Laman, his sons, and his daughters, and said unto them: Behold, my sons, and my daughters, who are the sons and the daughters of my first-born, I would that ye should give ear unto my words.
Did Jacob and Joseph presumably not have children at this point, or did Lehi not address them for some other reason?
Interesting that he gives Laman the first-born title here . . .
The only other time Laman is distinguished from Lemuel is when he draws the lot to go talk to Laban. Is that background significant here?
Is it significant that the daughters of this generation (=Lehi’s granddaughters) are addressed, but the daughters of the previous generation (=Lehi’s daughters, others) were not?
4 For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.
This statement seems, in many ways, to be the crux of the message of the BoM. It deserves careful analysis. Thoughts to start with:
–What did “commandments” mean to Lehi? In what ways would his people have had access to those commandments?
–What did “prosper” mean to Lehi?
–Why “in the land”?
–What does it mean to say that “prosper” and “cut off” are opposites?
–What do you make of the antithesis of “in the land” and “from my presence”?
–What do you make of the bifurcated nature of this statement–is there no middle ground?
5 But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it.
Skousen reads “brought up in the right way that ye should go” here.
What does “I cannot . . . my grave” mean in this sentence? Is it simply a rhetorical flourish, or something else?
Why do you think he refers to them as *his* sons and daughters?
The “I know” statement seems a little odd, given that he knows that that is not how they are being brought up. Why do you think he says that?
Lehi’s statement is very similar to Proverbs 22:7 (“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”)
The proverbs are usually interpreted as if they had the words “everything else being equal” at the end as an acknowledgement of their, um, proverbial nature. Do you think that is true of Lehi’s words here?
Given that L&L were in the process of departing from the way they should go, despite the fact that they were brought up that way, how do you understand what Lehi is saying here? Is Lehi blaming himself for their apostasy and, if so, is he correct? See also v6–does it suggest that L&L are responsible, not Lehi? If so, how do you make sense of all of this?
6 Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents.
Where does “if ye are cursed” come from?
What does this verse teach about childraising? Agency? Responsibility?
7 Wherefore, because of my blessing the Lord God will not suffer that ye shall perish; wherefore, he will be merciful unto you and unto your seed forever.
The combo of v6-7 makes me a little uncomfortable–what about all the kids raised by crummy parents who don’t have this blessings? Are they just out of luck and cursed?
8 And it came to pass that after my father had made an end of speaking to the sons and daughters of Laman, he caused the sons and daughters of Lemuel to be brought before him.
Why does Lehi separate L&L here, especially since, as the next verse will show, he gives them an identical blessing?
9 And he spake unto them, saying: Behold, my sons and my daughters, who are the sons and the daughters of my second son; behold I leave unto you the same blessing which I left unto the sons and daughters of Laman; wherefore, thou shalt not utterly be destroyed; but in the end thy seed shall be blessed.
Lehi labels this as the same blessing he gave to Laman’s kids, but it is not identical. What do you make of that?
10 And it came to pass that when my father had made an end of speaking unto them, behold, he spake unto the sons of Ishmael, yea, and even all his household.
Do we presume from the lack of reference to Ishmael’s daughters that they have all married off and are spoken to elsewhere, or that they don’t get a blessing, or what? Or does the “yea, and even . . .” include the daughters?
11 And after he had made an end of speaking unto them, he spake unto Sam, saying: Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shalt inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi. And thy seed shall be numbered with his seed; and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days.
Here’s the blessing order: Jacob, Joseph, Laman, Lemuel, Ishmael, Sam. Is that what you would have expected? Why do you think Lehi went in this order? What happened to Nephi, and his children? Grant Hardy suggests that Lehi’s blessing to Nephi contained a plea to keep the family together (since that is a theme in Lehi’s other teachings) and that Nephi therefore did not include the blessing in the record since Nephi wasn’t able to do that. Does that seem like a reasonable supposition? Is it possible that Lehi didn’t bless Nephi and, if so, why? Or, for what other reasons might Nephi have omitted the record of the blessing. (Of course, the reason he wasn’t able to keep the family together was that the Lord told him to get the heck out of dodge. However, would he have gotten this command had he not made L&L so angry? Is that why the theme of the Psalm of Nephi is Nephi’s anger?) Also see 2 Ne 1:29–that’s close to a blessing for Nephi. I think the lack of a blessing for Nephi in the BoM is a huge lacuna–what are we to make of it?
John W. Welch:
One of the most enduring legacies of Lehi’s last will and testament appears to be the organization of his descendants into tribes. Just as the ancient patriarch Jacob left the House of Israel with a family structure composed of twelve tribes, Lehi addressed his posterity in seven groups. This seems to be the precedent that established the legal order that lasted among these people for almost one thousand years. After speaking to several of his sons collectively (2 Nephi 1:1–29), Lehi spoke (1) to Zoram in 2 Nephi 1:30–32, (2) to Jacob in 2 Nephi 2, (3) to Joseph in 2 Nephi 3, (4) to the children of Laman in 2 Nephi 4:3–7, (5) to the children of Lemuel in 2 Nephi 4:8–9, (6) to the sons of Ishmael in 2 Nephi 4:10, and (7) to Sam together with Nephi in 2 Nephi 4:11. The seven groups recognizable here are exactly the same as the seven tribes mentioned three other times in the Book of Mormon, each time in the rigid order of “Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites” (Jacob 1:13; 4 Nephi 38; Mormon 1:8; see also D&C 3:17–18). Though kingships and judgeships might come and go in Nephite history, the underlying family fabric of Nephite society attributable to Lehi’s testament remained permanent (e.g. 3 Nephi 7:2–4). Even in the final days of the Nephite demise, Mormon still saw the general population divided along this precise seven-part line (Mormon 1:8). The fact that this exact organization persisted so long is evidence that Lehi’s last words to his sons in this regard were taken as constitutionally definitive-just as the organization of Israel into twelve tribes in the earlier age had been essential to the political, social, religious and legal structure there. I see Lehi here acting like Jacob of old. Both Jacob and Lehi pronounced their blessings to “all [their] household” who were gathered around them shortly before they died to organize a household of God in a new land of promise (2 Nephi 4:12; cf. Gen. 49). Seeing Lehi in the patriarchal tradition is borne out by the fact that Lehi was remembered by Nephites from beginning to end as “father Lehi.” Just as Israelites have always known Abraham as “father Abraham,” so the Nephites including Enos, Benjamin, Alma the Younger, Helaman, the later Nephi and Mormon, consistently remembered Lehi as “our father Lehi” (Enos 1:25; Mosiah 1:4; 2:34; Alma 9:9; 18:36, 36:22; 56:3; Hel. 8:22; 3 Nephi 10:17). Since Lehi is the only figure in the Book of Mormon called “our father,” this designation appears to be a unique reference to Lehi’s patriarchal position at the head of Nephite civilization, society, and religion. Citation
What does this verse suggest about their inheritance practices?
I’m kind of fascinated by Sam; he seems to be a good guy but also sort of a non-actor in the family drama. His passivity reminds me in some ways of Isaac’s in the OT. (Stuff is always happening to Isaac; he never does anything.) What do you make of Sam’s character? What are we to learn from him?
How would you feel if you were Sam and got this blessing? (At its most hostile reading, there is a sense in which this erases Sam by incorporating his descendants into Nephi’s.)
12 And it came to pass after my father, Lehi, had spoken unto all his household, according to the feelings of his heart and the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, he waxed old. And it came to pass that he died, and was buried.
Where are Nephi’s sisters in all of this? Did he speak to Sariah? (This is the moment where it is hard to be a female scripture reader–several chapters of “Dad’s final words” and yet not one word about Sariah’s death (did I miss something?), let alone any advice she gave her children that was worth writing down.)
“According . . .” is interesting. Does it allow for the possibility that the feelings of his heart were different from the Spirit?
“Waxed old” is interesting–it sounds like something that would take 30 years, but I don’t think that is the case here. Why do you think Nephi used this expression?
13 And it came to pass that not many days after his death, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me because of the admonitions of the Lord.
I love what he leaves out: “angry at me because I told them the admonitions of the Lord, probably not at a good time–what with Dad just dying–and in my usually naive and tactless way.” See the apologia in the next verse.
14 For I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them, according to his word; for I had spoken many things unto them, and also my father, before his death; many of which sayings are written upon mine other plates; for a more history part are written upon mine other plates.
Skousen reads “according to the word” here.
“Constrained” is interesting. Why do you think Nephi used that word, the same one he used of the Spirit constraining him to kill Laban?
“More history” is the classic example of poor grammar in the BoM. What do instances such as this suggest to you about the translation process and the degree of control that Joseph Smith had in it?
15 And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.
What do you make of Nephi’s opposition between “the more history part” and the “things of my soul”? (It seems the historians wouldn’t be too thrilled about that . . .) Why would Nephi have copied from the brass plates to these plates?
There are not a lot of references to Nephi’s children. Does the reference in this verse have anything to do with the fact that Nephi has not narrated a blessing from Lehi to his (Nephi’s) children? Why do these verses about the record keeping show up in the spot where we would have expected to read about Lehi’s blessing of Nephi and his children?
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.
This verse is an interesting repetition (but with some changes) of material from the previous verse. What do you make of the repetition and the lacuna? What do you make of the leap from scriptures in the previous verse to “things which I have seen and heard” in this verse?
What kind of scripture study leads to delight? What kind of study leads to pondering? I think this verse is asking us to reflect on our own feelings about the scriptures; do we delight in them? Do we ponder them?
I find it interesting that all of this pondering and delighting is followed by a psalm of lament! I think true scripture study might be just as likely to make us morose as joyful!
Susan W. Tanner:
“My soul delighteth in the things of the Lord” (2 Nephi 4:16)—His law, His life, His love. To delight in Him is to acknowledge His hand in our lives. Our gospel duty is to do what is right and to love and delight in what is right. When we delight to serve Him, our Father in Heaven delights to bless us. “I, the Lord, … delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (D&C 76:5). I want to be worthy always of His delight. Apr 02 GC
17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth:
O wretched man that I am!
Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh;
my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
(Note that I have reformatted this section as poetry, given the general agreement that v17-35 constitute “the Psalm of Nephi.”)
Webster 1828 wretched:
1. Very miserable; sunk into deep affliction or distress, either from want, anxiety or grief.
2. Calamitous; very afflicting; as the wretched condition of slaves in Algiers.
3. Worthless; paltry; very poor or mean; as a wretched poem; a wretched cabin.
4. Despicable; hatefully vile and contemptible. He was guilty of wretched ingratitude.
I think I have always thought of definition (3); but (1) is quite different. Which definition do you think is best here? It would be interesting to make the case of (3) or (4) as a reaction to not getting a blessing from his father . . .
Is “O wretched man!” the right attitude to have? Is Nephi a wretched man?
Does the exclaiming and sorrowing heart in this verse have any relation to the pondering heart in the previous two verses?
If you read heart/sorrow/flesh and soul/grieve/iniquities as poetic parallelism, then what do you make of the link between flesh and iniquities?
18 I am encompassed about,
because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
Do you think Nephi was beset with sin more than the average Joe? Does your answer to the previous question affect how you understand this verse?
What is he encompassed about by?
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins;
nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
Should we limit our rejoicing if we are sinful?
What is the relationship between the second phrase and the first phrase here?
Marion D. Hanks:
Nephi understood that true remorse is a gift from God, not a curse, but a blessing. Apr 1979 GC
20 My God hath been my support;
he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness;
and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
This verse is very typical of the language of the psalms, where we would probably take it to be metaphorical. For Nephi, of course, this is literal!
21 He hath filled me with his love,
even unto the consuming of my flesh.
Is the consuming of flesh what you would have expected to be the result of being filled with God’s love? What might this imply?
22 He hath confounded mine enemies,
unto the causing of them to quake before me.
Are L&L is enemies? Is that a productive way for Nephi to think about them?
23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day,
and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.
How do the two halves of this verse relate?
24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him;
yea, my voice have I sent up on high;
and angels came down and ministered unto me.
Of what does the ministering of angels consist? (I always unconsciously picture them putting a band-aid on someone’s forearm and patting their back, but I suspect that isn’t quite right.)
Nice balance between sent up and came down. Thoughts on what this might teach us about prayer?
25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains.
And mine eyes have beheld great things,
yea, even too great for man;
therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.
Is this a reference to his vision in 1 Ne 11? If so, what does it tell us about how we should interpret that vision?
What does the metaphor of the Spirit having wings imply to you?
26 O then, if I have seen so great things,
if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy,
why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow,
and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
Skousen reads “had visited me in so much mercy” here.
What can you learn from this verse about dealing with afflictions?
27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?
Yea, why should I give way to temptations,
that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?
Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
Why do we do things that we know we shouldn’t do?
Why did Nephi choose to use questions here?
Compare this verse’s reference to enemies with v22. What do you conclude?
28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin.
Rejoice, O my heart,
and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
Why “awake”? Is this related to Lehi’s use of the word in speaking to L&L in 2 Ne 1?
This is the only use of “droop” in all of the standard works.
29 Do not anger again because of mine enemies.
Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.
The idea of anger at enemies seems to be a major theme. Why do you think that was central for Nephi? How is it relevant to us today? May I have an exemption for being angry at pedophiles and terrorists?
What is the relationship between the two sentences here? Does the anger:enemies::slacken:afflictions relationship surprise you? What might we learn from it?
30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
I’m curious about the idea of ‘telling your heart what to say.’ How do you understand what is going on here? Is there a risk of phony self-denial in this?
NB shift to speaking directly to the Lord. This is enallage, not a grammatical error but a deliberate rhetorical technique that in this case shows a move from distance from the Lord to union with the Lord. More on this idea here.
31 O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul?
Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies?
Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?
Are you surprised that Nephi is asking these questions?
Do you get the impression that Nephi is really struggling with his personal sinfulness here? Does this surprise you?
It would be interesting to consider both the form and content of Nephi’s questions and commands in this psalm. If you look at those, what patterns emerge?
32 May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!
O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me,
that I may walk in the path of the low valley,
that I may be strict in the plain road!
Do you conclude from this verse that a contrite spirit and broken heart can shut the gates of hell? But that the Lord controls the gates of righteousness?
33 O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!
O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies!
Wilt thou make my path straight before me!
Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—
but that thou wouldst clear my way before me,
and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.
Encircling in a robe is an odd image–what do you think Nephi is getting at here?
See here for the idea that the encircling in the robe is a ritual embrace symbolizing entering into the presence of the Lord:
What do you think about Nephi praying for his enemies to have trouble?
I’m fascinated by the verbs here: encircle, make a way, make a path, place a stumbling block, clear the way, not hedge the way. What do these verbs suggest?
Would not question marks work better in this verse, and perhaps be more consistent with the previous questions?
34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee,
and I will trust in thee forever.
I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh;
for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.
Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
“Arm” is usually a symbol for power in the OT. In what ways might we be tempted to trust the power of flesh? In what ways might Nephi have been tempted to do that?
35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh.
Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss;
therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee;
yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness.
Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee,
my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.
Many readers regard this as “The Psalm of Nephi.” It seems that v34-35 do something different (less poetic, more didactic), and yet the “amen” points to the end of v35 as the end of the unit. What to make of this? Do you think this should be read as a psalm?
How would you describe the change in Nephi’s emotional state from the beginning to the end of the psalm? What causes it to change?
Can you discern a structure in this passage? How would you outline it? What themes can you identify? What emotions/moods are portrayed?
Are there occasions when Nephi’s word choice is particularly compelling?Consider the images in this text. Which ones resonate with you? Why do you think Nephi included this passage in the sacred record?
Is there a link between v15-16 (scripture study) and the psalm or is Nephi changing the subject?
I feel like we are seeing a different Nephi in this chapter–one with weaknesses and doubts who writes poetry. Do you think this is related to the death of Lehi? What else do you take from this chapter?
Summary thus far: Lehi gives blessings to all of his descendants except for Nephi (and his kids). Lehi dies. Nephi preaches to his brothers, who become angry with him. Nephi records this rather un-Nephi-like psalm. What insight does this context give you to what is going on in this chapter?
This is probably the only psalm in the BoM. Why is there a psalm here? Is it related to the absence of Nephi’s blessing?
(In what way) is the psalm of Nephi related to the recent death of Lehi?
It seems easy to locate the psalm in the context of increased conflict with his brothers after the death of Lehi, but a little harder to make sense of the context of delighting in the scriptures. What do you make of those verses as the context for the psalm?
The Nephites separate themselves from the Lamanites, keep the law of Moses, and build a temple—Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cursed, receive a skin of blackness, and become a scourge unto the Nephites. Between 588 and 559 B.C.
Note that the chapter heading has been changed in the newest online edition of the scriptures to remove the reference to a “skin of blackness.” See here for more info. (Some of the footnotes have been changed as well.)
1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren.
Interesting that in the previous chapter, he seemed to be very focused on his own anger and sins, but that the Psalm of Nephi is bracketed by references to the anger of his brethren. Given those brackets, how does that affect your interpretation of the psalm? If the focus of the context is on the anger of his brethren, then why is the content of the psalm focused on Nephi’s own weaknesses?
I’m curious about the anger; it seems to be caused by Lehi’s death. Why would they be angrier now than they were when Lehi was alive?
2 But behold, their anger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life.
3 Yea, they did murmur against me, saying: Our younger brother thinks to rule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words. For behold, we will not have him to be our ruler; for it belongs unto us, who are the elder brethren, to rule over this people.
Why do you think Nephi recorded this verse?
4 Now I do not write upon these plates all the words which they murmured against me. But it sufficeth me to say, that they did seek to take away my life.
5 And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me.
NB that flight, not fight (or anything else), is the appropriate response here.
Why was this the right call, after all of those calls to unity and preaching repentance before this? (Is the fact that they were seeking his life what made the difference?)
Jim F.: “Contrast verse 1 with 2 Nephi 4:27-29. Following the pattern of Moses and Israel that Nephi has referred to on several occasions, Nephi leaves Laman and Lemuel, taking his family and those who would follow him into the wilderness. The Doctrine and Covenants uses a related imagery when it commands us to leave Babylon, (See, for example, D&C 133:5, 7, and 14). What kinds of meanings can this type have for us today? How can we leave “Babylon” and go into the wilderness? Where is the wilderness today?”
Brant Gardiner points out that in previous, similar situations, Nephi had been protected by an angel. Why didn’t that happen here and what might we learn from that?
6 Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.
John L. Sorensen:
Ishmael’s two sons evidently married daughters of Lehi. Nephi’s cryptic mention of his sisters going with him when the colonists split into two factions in the land of promise (2 Nephi 5:6) implied to Sidney B. Sperry that they had left their husbands, sons of Ishmael. I agree. Professor Sperry supported this idea by citing a statement made by Erastus Snow in an address printed in the Journal of Discourses. Apostle Snow said, “The Prophet Joseph Smith informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen . . . [and] that Ishmael['s] sons married into Lehi’s family, and Lehi’s sons married Ishmael’s daughters.” Citation
7 And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents.
8 And my people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi; wherefore, we did call it Nephi.
9 And all those who were with me did take upon them to call themselves the people of Nephi.
10 And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses.
11 And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind.
Does this verse give you some insight into what “prosper” means in the BoM?
12 And I, Nephi, had also brought the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass; and also the ball, or compass, which was prepared for my father by the hand of the Lord, according to that which is written.
Why the (unnecessary) “I, Nephi” here?
Did his brothers fight him for these objects (and, if so, is it odd that he doesn’t mention it) or just let them go?
13 And it came to pass that we began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land.
What work does this verse do that v11 didn’t do? Or is it just redundant and, if so, why?
14 And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people.
Do you think that v14 implies that he went back for the sword (since v13 has them already prospering in the wilderness), or is he telling the story out of order? If he goes back, that is an interesting repetition of all of the trips back to Jrsm. If he is telling it out of order, why would he do that?
If you read the three items together (plate, ball, sword), what do you make of the triad? Are there any obvious patterns?
Do they copy the plates and/or the ball? Why only the sword?
See Mosiah 1:16 for how these three items will come to legitimate leadership. In that light, how do they relate to the items in the ark in the OT?
Does the sword of Laban function symbolically? Why does Nephi bother mentioning it?
Is Nephi wrong or right to think that their sword-of-Laban clones will protect them?
This is an interesting context in which to introduce the concept of “Lamanites.” What effect does it have on the reader to be introduced to the Lamanites this way?
Re-read v2-4. Is Nephi right about “hatred”?
15 And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.
Why was this verse included in the record? (Is it only to set the stage for v16?) How did Nephi gain this knowledge?
16 And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.
Do you see some tension between the abundant precious things in v15 and the lack of them in v16? And why is Nephi bothering to tell us about all of this, anyway?
In the OT, it is emphasized that the command to build a temple comes from the Lord, not individual initiative. Is that the case here?
Why the references to Solomon? (It seems that given their wilderness state, they might have modeled the tabernacle.)
Is this an inside baseball verse, or is there a universal principle here? Why do you think Nephi included these details about temple construction?
17 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands.
Wouldn’t this have been a given? Why would Nephi have thought to mention this? Is it related to the previous verse? The next verse?
18 And it came to pass that they would that I should be their king. But I, Nephi, was desirous that they should have no king; nevertheless, I did for them according to that which was in my power.
Nephi’s desires are a huge theme in his vision–is that related to the reference to his desires here?
Does this mean that Nephi was their king? Is he deliberately evasive here?
If he was the king, what do you make of the fact that he went against his own best judgment here?
It seems clear above, when they name the land after him, that Nephi was already functioning as a leader. What, then, did they want to do in this verse–a formal coronation?
In (most of) the OT, the desire for a king is not a righteous desire. (See 1 Sam 8) Is that the case here? If so, what do you make of it–the people righteous enough to want to go with Nephi pretty quickly then would be unrighteous enough to want a king.
How does this verse relate to the anti- and pro-monarchy polemics in the OT?
It is hard to imagine this group exceeding 30 or so people at this point. Is “king” the best word to use here?
Noel B. Reynolds:
The widespread assumption that Nephi was a king cannot be supported conclusively from a reading of the text. If anything, the Book of Mormon text may tilt against that assumption, and at best the textual support for Nephi’s kingship is ambiguous. Citation (The entire article is very interesting.)
19 And behold, the words of the Lord had been fulfilled unto my brethren, which he spake concerning them, that I should be their ruler and their teacher. Wherefore, I had been their ruler and their teacher, according to the commandments of the Lord, until the time they sought to take away my life.
This is curious: Why bother mentioning the fulfillment of this promise, when it was only temporarily fulfilled? Or does it apply to Nephi’s people and not the Lamanites? (Was he never supposed to be a ruler/teacher/king of the Lamanites–could L&L have been right about that–although the last line of the verse seems to speak against that?)
What do you make of the leap from king in v18 to ruler and teacher in v19? If he was a king, was Nephi exceeding what the Lord had asked him to do?
20 Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence.
I’m thinking it is curious that Nephi has gone back to this topic right after the discussion of temple building. I think the point might be that if the temple is in the wilderness with Nephi, then this is the sense in which L&L are removed from the presence of the Lord.
21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
Is the “him” in this verse the Lord?
NB that they were “white” in the same way that Middle Eastern people today are “white,” not in the same way that Scandinavians are “white.”
What does it say about Nephi’s people that the Lamanites would have been enticing to them otherwise? What does it say about Nephi’s people that the Lamanites were not enticing to them with a skin of blackness?
The Lamanites and Nephites are adopting different lifestyles (hunter/gatherer versus agricultural, lowlands v. highlands). Is the skin color change related to that?
I think the assumption is that “enticing” refers to a desire to marry. Might it mean something else? What if the entire lifestyle would be enticing (sidenote: I believe studies show that hunter/gatherers spend less time working than farmers do), and the mark is meant to remind them of the consequences of . . . ah, here is where I get hung up. Is the hunting/gathering wrong in some sense, or just a happenstance side effect of the cultural divergence? Or, does it take us back to the Cain and Abel story with its difference in mode of earning a living?
Can you read the skin color as a separate thing from the curse? (The way some people read the mark of Cain as separate from the curse of Cain.)
Gardiner quoting Sorensen: “The scripture is clear that the Nephites were prejudiced against the Lamanites (Jacob 3:5; Mosiah 9:1-2; Alma 26:23-25). “ Is that an accurate statement? If it is, was that the right thing for them to do?
Because we can see the Nephites as possessing a prejudice typical of their age, does that mean that we impute prejudice to God? Of course not. God’s “hand” in this matter was to mark the Lamanites as separate. The prejudices came from the Nephites themselves. Citation
He suggests that lifestyle plus intermarriage with local people produced the change of skin color. (How is that consonant with the Lord saying that the skin color was to stop them from being enticing? Or is it just a big metaphorical way of saying that their intermarrying made them not enticing to the Nephites, and the record here is expressed in a shortened way?)
The “mark” of Cain was meant so that people would not kill him (that is, it was protective). This mark is so that the people will not be enticing. What do you make of the difference?
For this reason the Lamanites were declared to be “more righteous” than the “enlightened” Nephites, who despised them for their dark skins and primitive ways. It was their moral virtue that assured their preservation and eventual redemption, even as the immoralities of the early Nephites led to their destruction in the days of Mosiah I (see Jacob 3:39; Jarom 1:10; Omni 1:5, 12–13). . . . While the dark skin was initially designed to insulate Nephi’s followers against the false traditions and godless ways of their Lamanite brethren, in a later turn-about it served to protect the Lamanite people from the fatal sin of their supposedly superior Nephite brethren. The Lamanites’ righteousness in this area was one reason why they were still flourishing more than two centuries after the original Nephite kingdom ceased to exist (see Omni 1:5). In the third century BC, Mosiah I led an exodus of “as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord” (Omni 1:13) from the land of Nephi farther northward to the land of Zarahemla, where they united with the more numerous people of Zarahemla (see Omni 1:12–19; see also Mosiah 25:2). Those who remained “in the land of their first inheritance” (Mosiah 9:1; 10:13) were either destroyed by the Lamanites or assimilated into their culture. Such was the irony of the curse! Citation
See Alma 23:18 and 3 Nephi 2:14-16 for removal of the curse/mark.
“Flint” is a rare word in the scriptures. It is, according to W1828, used for things that are proverbially dark. Is there a link between the dark flint and the dark skin? Is the point just that their external state mirrored their internal state so that the Nephites would not be deceived? If so, why would the Lord do this–wouldn’t it have been better to teach the Nephites not to look at external states and use them to judge internal states? In fact, wouldn’t this curse just encourage them to judge the internal by the external?
See Alma 3:6-16 and Jacob 3:5-8.
Lamentations 5:10: “Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.”
Lamantations 4:8: “Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick.”
Job 30:30: “My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat.”
I think most LDS commenters are right that these verses should be read outside of the matrix of US racial issues. That said, what do you make of the fact that these verses (which, on their face, are most difficult) were included in a record written “for our day”?
22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.
Given that repentance makes the “skin of blackness” go away, does this suggest that it is not, in fact, what we would call a skin of blackness? Should this be understood figuratively and, if so, what would that mean?
23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.
How is this verse relevant to us today?
24 And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.
Is it the skin color or some other element of the curse that leads them to idleness, etc.?
Is seeking for beasts of prey wrong? Why?
This verse, not to mention what comes before it, seems to play into the very, very worst stereotypes and beliefs about African Americans. What do you do with these verses?
25 And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction.
Given that the purpose of the skin of blackness was so that they would not intermarry with the Nephites, what would have constituted the “scourge” part? In other words, what would their relationship have been?
Is it fair to say that they put the mark upon themselves? Alma 3:13, 14, 18.
26 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did consecrate Jacob and Joseph, that they should be priests and teachers over the land of my people.
“Over the land” as opposed to “over my people” is unusual and interesting–what do you think it means?
27 And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.
What does this verse mean? Why include it? How would you explain “the manner of happiness.”
28 *And thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem.
29 And I, Nephi, had kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far.
30 And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.
31 Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.
32 And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates.
33 And if my people desire to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search mine other plates.
34 And it sufficeth me to say that *forty years had passed away, and we had already had wars and contentions with our brethren.
How did we get from the happiness in v27 to wars? Does this mean wars with Lamanites, or civil wars among the Nephites?
(1) What does the Psalm of Nephi do to our view of Nephi?
(2) The driver of the action in these chapters is L&L’s anger, particularly after Lehi’s death when Nephi begins to be a ruler and teacher over them. It seems too pat to say that we need to recognize the authority of those over us. What else might we do with these chapters?
(3) Transitions: Lehi’s death, the separation of Lehi’s descendents. What do we take from these stories?
“The Psalm of Nephi: A Lyric Reading”