Misinterpreting “Large in Stature”

By Mike Winder


When Nephi says he is “large in stature” does that mean he is merely “tall and muscular” or something else? Sometimes in the Bible stature means height, such as “a man of great stature” in 2 Samuel 21:20 speaking of the man born to the giant of Gath.

But the phrase has also been defined in dictionaries as “high level of respect gained by impressive development or achievement. ‘a man of great stature’ type of: esteem, regard, respect.” This is the use, for example, in Ephesians 4:13 when we are encouraged to come unto the unity of faith and “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

This definition also makes more sense in the context of 1 Nephi 2:16: 

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me.

The Lord didn’t bless Nephi because he was tall, muscular, and athletic. He favored him because even though he was very young, he had more respect, maturity, and spiritual maturity for his age.

“Large in stature” can also mean “massive; the sheer size and weight of someone,” someone who is full-figured, plus-sized, big-bodied, heavyset, thick, and even plump. This girth makes more sense in the other use of the phrase by Nephi, when he describes how he was able to throw his weight around with Zoram so he wouldn’t run away:

And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of the Lord, therefore I did seize upon the servant of Laban, and held him, that he should not flee. (1 Nephi 4:31)

So, doesn’t it make sense that Nephi is really the heavyset kid in the family and not the Adonis portrayed in the 1960s artwork? Consider:


Arnold Freiburg’s depiction of Nephi

AI generated depiction of Nephi

Looks like the youngest son of a wealthy Jerusalem merchant who likely had a diet high in bread, honey, and wine: X
More likely to be teased by older brothers: X
More likely to pass off as old fat Laban in his clothes: X
Very interested in successful hunts and dreams about delicious fruit: X
More surprising and notable when he shocks his brothers: X
More bookish and into reading Brass Plates and writing his own record: X
Laughable that he’d think he can build a ship and sail across the ocean: X
Likely to proclaim: “my heart sorroweth because of my flesh” X


Mike Winder is the author of 14 books, including his newest, Hidden in Hollywood: The Gospel Found in 1001 Movie Quotes.


2 comments for “Misinterpreting “Large in Stature”

  1. Mike, I just want to say: that table at the end of your blog post is sheer brilliance. I was reading it to my son and spouse and I couldn’t even finish because I was laughing so hard. Thank you! (Also, I gave your book to my sister for Christmas. Looks awesome.)

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