Book of Mormon Lesson 05 (1 Nephi 16–22)
January 27–February 2

THE JOURNEY TO THE LAND OF PROMISE

Laman and Lemuel’s Continual Rebellion

● Laman and Lemuel did not ask God for understanding (1 Nephi 15:1–11).

● Nephi explained the symbols of the Tree of life vision to his brothers (1 Nephi 15:21–30), but to no avail.

1 Nephi 16:1–8:

—There are brief periods of repentance, but they don’t last.
—The family had been at the Valley of Lemuel for some time now.
—Nephi is now old enough to take a wife (3 to 5 years have passed).
—Lehi’s party took eight years to travel a distance that could be traveled in 3 months of continual travel with camels.
—Therefore, they traveled another 3 to 4 years after leaving the Valley.

Traveling with the Liahona

Liahona (1 Nephi 16:9–10): In Hebrew, the word means “God gives light”. It was a physical device that aided in the coming forth of revelation, and also pointed the direction of travel for Lehi’s family. The arrows or pointers worked only according to faith, and writing appeared on the ball which instructed and exhorted Lehi’s family (1 Nephi 16:26–29). See additional information on the Liahona under Doctrinal Insights below.

● The Liahona was treasured by Book of Mormon writers and was passed on with the plates (D&C 17:1). It was one of the items shown to the Three Witnesses.

● The Liahona was a type or symbol of the word of God, or the gospel (Alma 37:38–47).

Significant Place Names

The place names found in the Book of Mormon are among the many evidences of the book’s authenticity. At the time it was translated by Joseph Smith, no person in the Western Hemisphere knew anything about this places and their surrounding geography. See the information below under Doctrinal Insights for information about these place names.

The Broken Bow Incident

● While in the more fertile parts of the land, Nephi’s steel bow broke and everybody except him murmured (1 Nephi 16:17–21).

● Nephi made a new bow, then asked Lehi where he should hunt (1 Nephi 16:22–25). He asked his father in recognition of his role as the patriarch and prophet of the family.

● Lehi repented, received revelation, and Nephi found food for the family.

Ishmael Dies at Nahom

● Nahom: The record indicates the place was already called “Nahom” (Lehi did not give it this name) (1 Nephi 16:30–36). This is where Ishmael died and was buried (vv. 34–36) and where many in the party murmured. See additional information about Nahom in the Doctrinal Insights below.

● Forgetting (or lying about) their prior experience with angels, Laman and Lemuel rebelled again and sought to kill both Lehi and Nephi (1 Nephi 16:37–39). The voice of the Lord called them to repentance.

Events in the Land Bountiful

● From Nahom, they traveled “nearly eastward” until they reached the seashore (1 Nephi 17:1–4).

● Nephi says they named the place “Bountiful” because of its fruitfulness and beauty (1 Nephi 17:5–6). There are a number of characteristics described by Nephi.

—Irreantum: They camped on the shore of the “many waters” of the ocean.
—The whole area was extremely fertile, not just where they camped.
—There was much fruit and honey, as well as plentiful game (17:5–6; 18:6).
—Fresh water was available to meet their needs for an extended time.
—A prominent mountain close enough that Nephi could go there “oft” (18:3).
—Cliffs near the ocean, from which Nephi was nearly cast into the sea (17:48).
—Ore in the mountains which could be smelted to make tools (17:9–11,16).
—Enough lumber nearby for building a substantial ship (18:2,6).
—Suitable winds and currents to carry the vessel out into the ocean (18:8–9).

● Nephi was commanded to build a large ship, even though he knew absolutely nothing about building ships (1 Nephi 17:7–16). He also had no tools to accomplish the task. Nevertheless, he didn’t complain but asked the Lord where to find ore.

● Nephi’s brothers refused to help and mocked him, rejoicing in his sorrow (1 Nephi 17:17–22).

● Nephi recounted to them the history of the Israelites (1 Nephi 17:23–43).

● Nephi also chastised his brothers with great power, who were “past feeling” (1 Nephi 17:44–52). Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “Inspiration comes more as a feeling than as a sound.”1 “We do not have the words (even the scriptures do not have words) which perfectly describe the Spirit. The scriptures generally use the word voice, which does not exactly fit. These delicate, refined spiritual communications are not seen with our eyes, nor heard with our ears. And even though it is described as a voice, it is a voice that one feels, more than one hears.”2

● After several days of rebellion and threats against Nephi, he was commanded to “shock” his brothers (1 Nephi 17:53–55). When he did, they were so impressed they start worshiping him. This demonstrated their shallow and childish natures, worshiping the man with the power rather than God, the source of the power.

● His brothers finally helped, and they finished the ship according to the Lord’s instructions (1 Nephi 18:1–4). It was of exceedingly find workmanship.

Sailing to America

● They set forth into the sea, traveling the currents eastward (1 Nephi 18:5–8).

● Laman and Lemuel and their wives engaged in inappropriate dancing and singing and included “much rudeness (1 Nephi 18:9–20).” When Nephi chastised them, they bound him with cords. The Liahona ceased to work and a great storm arose, driving them back for three days.

● They arrived on the west coast of America in about 589 BC (1 Nephi 18:21–25). It had been 11 years since they left Jerusalem and 3 since they arrived at the land Bountiful. We do not know precisely how long they sailed, but it could have been a year or more.

● They found that it was, indeed, a blessed land, with an abundance of plant and animal life, rich fertile soil, and many precious metals.

THE DESTINY OF ISRAEL

Prophecies of Christ’s Coming

● Nephi made two sets of plates from the ores now available to him (1 Nephi 19:1–6).

● Nephi cited the prophecies of Zenock, Neum, and Zenos, who lived in Old Testament times but are not found in the Old Testament (1 Nephi 19:7–10). They spoke with specificity about Christ and His coming.

● The precise time of Christ’s coming was identified (v. 8).

● The destruction that accompanied Christ’s crucifixion only occurred on the American continent, not at Jerusalem (v. 10).

● Isles of the Sea (1 Nephi 22:4): They appeared to be on an island rather a great continent at this time (v. 10). The geography may have greatly changed from then till now.

● Nephi explained the reason for the coming persecutions of the Jews (1 Nephi 19:13–20).

● Nephi taught by “likening the scriptures unto ourselves” (1 Nephi 19:21–24).

Prophecies of Israel’s Future

● Zenos’ teachings on the scattering and gathering of Israel (1 Nephi 19:15–17).

● Isaiah’s teachings on the gathering of Israel (1 Nephi 20–21; Isaiah 48–49).

● The scattering of Israel (1 Nephi 22:3–4).

● The “Gentiles” in Nephi’s day meant all non-Jews—any person who was not a citizen of the Kingdom of Judah with its capitol at Jerusalem (1 Nephi 22:7; 1 Nephi 13:4; 1 Nephi 15:13). This is a cultural rather than a racial definition.

● Nephi’s, Malachi’s and Zenos’ teachnings on the Millennium (1 Nephi 22:15, 23–24).

2 Nephi 26:4, 8–9

— Nephi’s language is very similar to that of Malachi 4:1–2.
— They lived at different times on different continents.
— It is likely that both Nephi and Malachi were quoting Zenos

● Isles of the Sea: There are many Israelites scattered over the earth, of which the Nephites are only one group (1 Nephi 22:1–4).

Events in the Latter Days

● The gentiles will serve as nursing fathers to the Lamanites (1 Nephi 22:5–6).

● A mighty gentile nation will be raised up by God in America (1 Nephi 22:7). The United States was not a great world power when Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon.

● The marvelous work of the Lord in the last days will be of great help to both the Lamanites and the gentiles (1 Nephi 22:8–11).

● God will “make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations” (1 Nephi 22:10–12). This phrase is borrowed from Isaiah (52:10) and means that God will show his power unto men.

● The house of Israel will commence returning to their homelands (1 Nephi 22:12).

● The nations of the great and abominable church will war among themselves (1 Nephi 22:13).

● Destruction of the Church of the Devil (1 Nephi 22:13–23).

● Satan will be bound (by the righteousness of the people) (1 Nephi 22:15, 26).

● The ultimate triumph of God’s work (1 Nephi 22:17).

● President Wilford Woodruff said, “I will say to the Latter-day Saints, as an Elder in Israel and as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are approaching some of the most tremendous judgments God ever poured out upon the world. You watch the signs of the times, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man. . . . Christ will not come until these things come to pass. Jerusalem has got to be rebuilt. The temple has got to be built. Judah has got to be gathered and the house of Israel. And the Gentiles will go forth to battle against Judah and Jerusalem . . . These things have been revealed by the prophets; they will have their fulfillment. . . . All that the Latter-day Saints have to do is to be quiet, careful and wise before the Lord, watch the signs of the times, and be true and faithful; and when you get through you will understand many things you do not to-day.”3

Nephi’s Closing Signature

● “And thus it is, Amen” (1 Nephi 22:31). It is evident that Nephi intended that the concluding verse of 1 Nephi should be the close a major part of his writings as he says, “And thus it is. Amen.” Dr. Hugh Nibley indicated that Nephi frequently closed the major sections of his writing with such a phrase: “Nephi may have gotten this idea from the Egyptians: “Egyptian literary writings regularly close with the formula iw-f-pw, ‘Thus it is,’ ‘and so it is.’ Nephi ends the main sections of his book with the phrase, ‘And thus it is. Amen.’ (9:6; 14:30; 22:31).”4

DOCTRINAL INSIGHTS

● The Liahona. Dr. Hugh Nibley said, “The meaning is perfectly clear: though Lehi’s people enjoyed daily demonstrations of God’s power, the device by which that power operated seemed so ordinary . . . that in spite of the ‘marvellous works’ it showed them they tended to neglect it. . . .” They took it for granted because the ancient near east desert travelers regularly used a practice called belomancy. This was “the practice of divination by shooting, tossing, shaking, or otherwise manipulating rods, darts, pointers, or other sticks, all originally derived from arrows. . . . The most common use of divination arrows, and probably their original purpose, was. . .[giving] direction [to] travelers in the desert”. . . . The ‘arrows’ used in divination . . . are invariably found to have writing on them. . . .”5

Significant Place Names:

Valley of Lemuel (1 Nephi 2:5–10): This valley was at least 18 days journey from Jerusalem, on the Red Sea coast. The features of this place include a river of water (which they named after Laman) that was “continually running,” an unusual feature in the Arabian desert. This river ran through a valley that was “firm, steadfast, and immovable” (which they named after Lemuel). This valley was located no more than three days’ journey (using camels) beyond the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba (vv. 5–6). It was also very near the seashore, because Lehi described both the valley and the river as emptying into the Red Sea.

While this description has been ridiculed in times past, in modern times (1995) researcher George D. Potter has located a single place that meets all these criteria, including the only river that runs continually year round along the entirety of Northern Arabia, 8 miles north of the present settlement of Maqna on the Arabian Peninsula. This was the place where Nephi and his brothers married the daughters of Ishmael, and where they Lord provided the Liahona to guide their journey (1 Nephi 16:6–10).

Shazer (1 Nephi 16:11–14): Four days travel south-southeast of the Valley of Lemuel they came to a place with many trees and good hunting that they named Shazer. Even today, the Arabian word Shajer means “trees.” Here they hunted for food for a while. They were most-likely traveling along the ancient Frankincense Trail, since to do otherwise would have meant certain death in the “empty quarter” of Arabia which was devoid of all food, water, and shelter. Interestingly, at this precise location—4 days travel along that trail from the Valley of Lemuel—stands an oasis called the Wadi Agharr, which features the best hunting of any place along the Frankincense Trail. Travelers today in this area will see road signs directing them to a place called “Shaser” in this precise location.

Most Fertile Parts: When they left Shazer, they continued on their journey in the same south-southeast direction for “many days,” always remaining in the “borders” (mountains) near the Red Sea (1 Nephi 16:14). This area Nephi calls the “most fertile parts” of the wilderness. The ancient name for this area of Arabia— Hajir—means, among other things “a fertile piece of land,” and the Prophet Mohammed called it Muhajirun—”the fertile parts of land.”

More Fertile Parts: Continuing on their journey along the trail, they passed from the “most fertile parts” at the northern end into the “less fertile” parts from Medina south to Nauran, and then finally into the inhospitable and even dangerous territory further south that bordered on the “empty quarter (1 Nephi 16:15–16).” It was there, when food was most scarce that Nephi’s steel bow was broken.

Nahom: They caravan moved southward along the Incense Trail until they arrived at a place called Nahom. The record indicates that the place was already called “Nahom” before they came there. Lehi did not give it this name. (1 Nephi 16:30–36).

The word “Nahem” is a Semitic word that means “to sigh or moan,” “to comfort, to console, to be sorry,” or alternatively, “to growl, groan” or to “complain.” Given what happened there to Lehi’s group, it is an appropriate name. This is where Ishmael died and was buried (vv. 34–36) and where many in the party murmured. Furthermore, we now know that an ancient Arab cemetery is located in the hills of Nehem, with many circular rock tombs in elevated positions, consistent with Arabic tradition.

In Joseph Smith’s day no such place was known in Arabia. Today, we have ample evidence of a place with this name in precisely the place Nephi said it was located (where the Frankincense Trail turns eastward). In 1984, one researcher named Christensen found that early (1763) maps of Arabia featured a place called “Nehem” in the area of modern-day Yemen where Lehi would have been at that point in their journey.

The Land Bountiful: In 1994, two Australian researchers named Warren and Michaela Aston published their book6 which details their efforts during 1993 to find a place which met all the criteria set forth in the Book of Mormon. They found such a place at Khor Kharfot, which lies nearly straight eastward from Nahom on the Indian Ocean side of Arabia.

Notes:

1. In Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 28; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 20.
2. “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, January 1983, 52.
3. Millennial Star, 24 Nov. 1890, 740.
4. Lehi in the Desert; The World of the Jaredites; There Were Jaredites [1988], 18.
5. Since Cumorah [1967], 283–295.
6. In the Footsteps of Lehi: New Evidence for Lehi’s Journey across Arabia to Bountiful [1995].

 

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