The Story of Nephi
(Son of Lehi)
Prophet Nephi is one of the central figures described in the Book of Mormon.
He is the righteous son of Lehi and Sariah (1 Ne. 1:1–4; 2:5) and the founder of the Nephites.
Nephi is the author of the first two books of the Book of Mormon, the First and Second Nephi.
Our friends outside the faith are asking us “Was Nephi a real person?” or questions like “How will you know if Nephi is real?”. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our faith teaches us not to hesitate on things that we believe are real — despite other people’s confusion.
So these questions give us the opportunity to share with them the story of Nephi, son of Lehi, from the Book of Mormon. But before we do that, let’s go back to 615 BC — the year when Nephi was born. Let us be reminded of the story of Nephi from time to time.
The Life of Nephi
Nephi is the fourth son of Lehi and Sariah and is believed to be the righteous one. He has five brothers — Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Jacob, and Joseph. Nephi and his family lived in Jerusalem during the reign of King Zedekiah up until God commanded Lehi (the father of Nephi) to take his family and flee into the wilderness. But before they left, Lehi prophesied that the armies of Babylon will captivate and destroy Jerusalem.
When Nephi and his whole family left Jerusalem, they traveled to the Red Sea and journeyed three days further into the wilderness. They stopped in a valley by a river near the Red Sea — which modern scholars suggested that the location was near the city of the present Al-Bad’ in Saudi Arabia.
The Brass Plates
Lehi then sent Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi back to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates — a record kept by the Jews which contained their laws, customs, history, and lineage. Nephi and his brothers tried to get the brass plates from Laban for three times:
On their first try, Laman simply asked Laban for the Brass Plates. However, Laban accused him of theft and tried to kill Laman. Extremely upset, Laman went back to his brothers.
On their second try, Nephi made the plan. He convinced his brothers to buy the Brass Plates from Laban using their abandoned wealth. Laban was interested in the fortune but doesn’t have any plans to give up the Brass Plates. So Laban sent his servants to kill Nephi and his brothers. Their riches fell into Laban’s possession while they were running for their lives and ended up hiding in a cave.
The two elder brothers, Laman and Lemuel, started beating their younger brothers badly. Before it got even worse, an angel appeared and stopped them. The angel told the two elder brothers that because of Nephi’s righteousness, the Lord made him “a teacher and a ruler over them.” And the angel told them to try to get the Brass Plates again and that the Lord will deliver Laban into their hands.
On their third try, they went back to get the Brass Plates. Nephi went to the house of Laban. On his way, he saw a drunk man that passed out on the street. Nephi went to the man and found out that the man was Laban. Nephi hesitated to kill Laban since he hasn’t killed anyone yet in his entire life. But the Spirit convinced him that “it is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” (1 Nephi 4:13)
Nephi followed the commandment and ended up Laban’s life (with the use of Laban’s sword). Nephi then dressed up as Laban, returned to Laban’s house, and ordered Zoram, one of Laban’s servants, to bring him the Brass Plates. Still disguised as Laban, Nephi took Zoram back to where his brothers were hiding. The three brothers saw Nephi and mistook him as Laban and got frightened, so they ran away. Nephi called them. When Zoram saw Nephi’s brothers, he tried to run away but Nephi stopped him.
Nephi told Zoram that “he should be a free man like unto us if he would go down in the wilderness with us.” (1 Nephi 4:33) Zoram agreed and went with Nephi and his brothers back to Lehi.
Journey to the Promised Land
Nephi and his family spent eight years in the wilderness. They faced several hardships, and one of those difficulties is when his bow got broken which was impossible to obtain food. Nephi’s life in the wilderness became more difficult when his elder brothers, Laman and Lemuel, were rebelling against him and his father Lehi. They even attempted to kill Nephi for a few times.
In the Land of Bountiful, the Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship and sail to the “Promised Land” — the Americas. But the two elder brothers, Laman and Lemuel, didn’t agree with it and said: “Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters.” (1 Nephi 17:17)
They didn’t believe that Nephi could build a ship nor he was commanded by the Lord to do it. They desired to throw Nephi into the depths of the sea but Nephi spoke: “In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God, even unto the consuming of my flesh; and whoso shall lay his hands upon me shall wither even as a dried reed; and he shall be as naught before the power of God, for God shall smite him.” (1 Nephi 17:48)
Life in the Promised Land
Lehi died not too long after arriving in the Americas. He left the leadership of their colony to Nephi’s hands which made his brothers, Laman and Lemuel, rebelled against him. The colony split into two — the “Nephites” and the “Lamanites”. The ones who followed Nephi named themselves as “Nephites” while the followers of Laman were named “Lamanites”.
The Nephites went into the wilderness where they started building in the land of Nephi. The Nephites constructed a temple just within 21 years of arriving in the Americas. The life of Nephites prospered despite the occasional war with the Lamanites.
Nephi died because of old age. Upon his death, he anointed his brother, Jacob, to keep in charge of the sacred records. The Book of Mormon tells us that Nephi was revered by his people:
“The people having loved Nephi exceedingly, he having been a great protector for them, having wielded the sword of Laban in their defence, and having labored in all his days for their welfare” (Jacob 1:10)
To know more about the story of Nephi (Son of Lehi) and the Nephites,
you can watch “The Animated Book of Mormon” available here
at Living Scriptures Streaming.
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Nephi City, Utah, United States
Nephi City is located in Juab County, Utah, United States. The founders of the city were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1851, and the city was called “Salt Creek” at first, then later acquired its current name in 1882. Nephi City was named after Nephi, Son of Lehi, from the Book of Mormon.
For tourists, the weather in Nephi City is great! Before you plan to travel, make sure you make arrangements with the hotels, check the weather, and visit the popular tourist attractions. For on-road trips, use Google Maps or other similar applications for the directions.
You can check out Nephi City’s official website: nephi.utah.gov
To read the history of Nephi City, check out the Utah History Encyclopedia.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does Nephi only have brothers?
Nephi has sisters, too. On 2 Nephi 5:6, Nephi mentioned having sisters, though he didn’t mention the names and birth orders.
2. Who are the people of Nephi?
The people of Nephi, or we can say, the “followers” of Nephi, were called Nephites.
3. Who did Nephi kill in the First Book of Nephi?
Nephi killed Laban to obtain the Brass Plates. At first, he was hesitant to kill Laban because he hasn’t killed anyone yet. But the Lord commanded him, through the Spirit, that Nephi must kill Laban for the sake of many.
“And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause — that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.” (1 Nephi 4:17)
4. What are the books that Nephi (Son of Lehi) wrote?
Nephi is the author of the first two books of the Book of Mormon:
- The First Book of Nephi (First Nephi or 1 Nephi)
- The Second Book of Nephi (Second Nephi or 2 Nephi)
5. Where can I read First Nephi and Second Nephi for free?
That is a good question! You can read the Books of Nephi, rather, the complete Book of Mormon for free in many ways!
Check out the article “Book of Mormon Stories: A New Way to Feast on The Scriptures” to know the ways on how to access the Book of Mormon!
“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded,
for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men,
save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing
which he commandeth them.”
(1 Nephi 3:7)