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The First Book of Nephi, Chapter 1 - 6

I'm trying to do this with real intent, so I have to figure out what that intent is. I am being told that I am in doctrinal error, that I have been led down a path by the adversary that is not of God, and that I need to be led back into the truth. I therefore see part of my intent is to obtain correct principles from the Book of Mormon. In addition to obtaining principles from the text, I also need to figure out what God is trying to tell me with it on a personal level.

I'm going to type as I go along, so I'll have useful thoughts scattered throughout summary information. This will help me later to see what I've done in my reading and to keep track of location without getting too preoccupied with verse numbers.

The first thing I see right from the beginning is that Nephi is an ordinary guy. He has good parents, and has been taught by his father, he's also been through afflicition. He's decided to make a record of his proceedings. He doesn't at this point seem to be aware of his calling as a Prophet. But like Modern prophets, his Journals seem to have been grafted into the pseudo-canon of his time, once he did receive the calling.

Nephi says he's had a great knowledge of the Goodness and the Mysteries of God. I can relate to this in a big way, except that since my parents were not taught in the ways of God, I gained my experience of these things by way of good examples and many fortunate circumstances into which I have been placed throughout life, by the grace of God. My parents are "goodly" people, even if they didn't possess this knowledge to pass down to me.

I wonder about Nephi's specific meaning when he says "I know that the record which I make is true," and he makes it according to his knowledge... I wonder if this should be taken to means that it is a truthful account of the knowledge he has. Of course, it is certainly true on other levels as well.

Prophets preached repentance to the people, with warning that the great city Jerusalem would be destroyed. I'm an individual, not a city, so I need to be penitent myself, but I wonder about the city.

Lehi prayed with all his heart to the Lord. I don't know who the Lord is, but I am sure if he prayed with all his heart, that his prayer got to the right place.

Verses 6-7 show a pillar of fire and sights and sounds... I don't know if they are from God. The book doesn't say they are... but a subsequent struggle had by Lehi. If it was Of God, then I've felt those types of struggles too. Sometimes the Spirit can tell you something that is life changing. On the other hand, this could be Lehi's equivalent of a "bands of darkness" experience like Joseph Smith encountered in his First Vision. After casting himself on his bed, he was carried away in vision. So he's having a prophetic dream here.

The vision is of One being and twelve others following him. They are bright, and I suppose this is a vision of Christ and his Apostles (of some era or place) Either the first apostle, or Christ (not sure which) gave Lehi a book to read.

Lehi read the book and was filled with the Spirit. He read about the falling of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity. (I just saw a neat portrayal of the babylonian invasion and captivity a couple weeks ago in the Royal Arch Degree, so this is sort of visual for me.)

Lehi shouts praises to Lord God Almighty.

Nephi says he's going to abridge the record and not write everything that his father did.

In verse 19 we find out that Lehi found prophecies of Messiah, who was to come. The Jews cast him out and were angry with him. It is noted that this is a pattern for prophets ("even as with the prophet of old"). To me, this is a reminder not to reject those who prophesy in my day, or any prior day; to not repeat the mistakes of these early peoples.

Chapter 2

The Lord commanded Lehi to depart out of his homeland into the wilderness. He took nothing with him except "his family, and provisions, and tents." I can't help but wonder when a similar departing out is appropriate for people like myself. If God instructs one in a vision, I suppose.

In verse 7 Lehi builds an Altar of stones. This is always a meaningful event to me, as a Mormon as well as in the sense of old Masonic tradition (It being in similitude of the act that Father Adam Himself - whom I consider to be the First Stone-Mason, once performed.) I've built an altar, too. He made an offering and gave thanks. I try to do this on a regular basis, in a symbolic sense.

Lehi speaks a bit concerning Laman and Lemuel, and they murmer against their father. They repeated the mistake of the Jews at Jerusalem again (and so soon after) ...

Nephi (v16) has great desires to know the mysteries of God, and he prays to the Lord and is visited, his heart is softened and he does not rebel like his brothers did.

My desire is the same.

Nephi in v17 speaks to Sam and tells him what the Lord had manifested by the Spirit, and Sam believed. This is neat, because Nephi (an ordinary guy) shares the light he has received with Sam, who I presume gains a testimony of it and embraces it. Thus, Nephi engages both in receiving edification from his father and the prophets, as well as in edification of his brethren. Two things that I can relate to because I enjoy doing them.

He preached to Laman and Lemuel as well, but they didn't listen. The Lord (whoever that is) continues to speak to Nephi and direct him. This is good.

Although I don't (or haven't as yet, at least) have visions and hear voices of God, I do feel that I get blessed with knowledge and insight at some times to guide me. When I am obedient to these things, the Spirit proceeds to bless me with more of it. To me this obedience pattern is important. If you start to disobey things, pretty soon the Spirit will be withdrawn from you and stop giving insights (or it might be you that withdraws from the Spirit).

Nephi is given some information about his fore-ordained future.

Chapter 3

Now Lehi tells Nephi that he has been told to return to Jerusalem. Now Nephi does the hard thing. He essentially commits murder under the Lord's (whoever that is?) direction. This passage originally gave me no trouble. It still doesn't. I can relate to it. I have often been prompted to do the "hard thing" that others may perceive as wrong, but when you know for sure it is of God and you do it, you are blessed for it. But I have a friend who was eagerly baptized (prematurely) by some LDS missionaries and ended up dropping away from the Church mainly because of this one passage. It's not her fault, the missionaries pushed her and set a baptism date before she even assented to it -- they printed a program up ahead of time to persuade her into continuing. She joined because she thought they were well intentioned young men and she had a testimony of the principle of Baptism. She didn't have a testimony of this particular Church. Oops.

In connection with the authenticity of this book, my testimony is increased by the presence of this story. It is something that human beings would quickly edit out if they were trying to make a book of faith promoting experiences. I think it would get edited out in today's world, certainly. I hope people besides me have taken pause at this passage and deeply considered its moral implications, because breezing right past it would be a big warning sign to me about the person who was able to do so.

After this, Nephi proceeds to steal - seeming to break a second commandment in this task. I'm actually starting to wonder about this whole endeavor. I wonder if there was a more peaceful way it could've been handled. Nephi has crossed over some lines from which a human being can never return, taking the blood of another human is a serious thing, whether it is necessary or not.

Zoram makes an oath to stay with Nephi and company from that point on.

Chapter 5

Nephi has obtained the Torah (five books of Moses). To me this is a testament of the value of those five books. What an effort and what terrible means had to be taken in order to get those books. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers.

There was also a genealogy, showing that Lehi was a descendant of Joseph, who was sold into egypt.

Lehi proceeds to speak of the importance of the Torah... They are said to be "of great worth unto us."

Chapter 6

Nephi skips the genealogy. Probably wise for space but also unfortunate in a way, it would have been nice to see. Nephi here speaks HIS intent...

"that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved."

Wow, I wonder who these three Gods are? Just kidding. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has been a big area of my study, so it is interesting to see Nephi put such a precendence on this - of course he was a Jew, so that makes sense.

In verse 6, Nephi prohibits those who come after him from including anything like the Book of Numbers on his plates ;-)

Chapter 7

They go and get the Ishmaelites so that they can have plenty of women for a sustainable society.

Verse 14 feels like my situation.

"For behold, the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah they have cast into prison. And they have sought to take away the life of my father, insomuch that they have driven him out of the land."

Well, they returned to the tent. I see Lehi's vision is about to come up, but its time for me to head off to sleep. We're taking a hike tomorrow at the Middle Sister (Central Oregon Cascades). It's a long hike and we're way out of shape, so I fear we might die tomorrow, plus we're taking off at an ungodly hour in the early morning.

In conclusion on a spiritual side though, I don't know what to trust any more. I know the men at the council tonight were very wrong about their accusation that "the promptings of the adversary" are what was guiding me. They don't know my heart. They don't know what I've been through. I've been doing what God has intended for me to be doing. This is about the sixth time someone has told me I follow some "other Spirit." But it's the same Spirit that converted me to the Church. And it makes me saddened that these people (and not just these, but those who have told me this before, numerous times) are so mixed in their understanding of me. I must have a very elusive persona to get a grasp on. I think politics and culture are often confused with Spirit. I believe they feel the Spirit, and I know I've shared in that Spirit with them and others. They have even acknowledged places where I have been spiritual, yet they insult the Spirit that I feel. I haven't felt any other Spirit or any other God. God has been God and the Spirit has been the Spirit since day one. And if they ever expect me to come back into full fellowship in their ward, they will need to accept me for who I am, and acknowledge that they were wrong in this accusation, because I certainly have never felt any other Holy Spirit besides the one they claim is the adversary. I hope they are reading their own suggestions and their own words (practicing what they preach) when they talk about pride and humility.

I am at least humble enough to read the book they ask me, and to start when they ask me to. I asked them to read the testimony of Jesus given in the Gospel of Matthew and they declined. Although pride tempted me, I overcame it. I could have easily said "If you are trying to get the Spirit of the Lord into me by having me read the Book of Mormon, then there's no need to do that, because I've already invited it in." (Which is essentially what I was told about Matthew.) However, they did not reject reading it, they just procrastinated it to a later time. I hope they are blessed as they read the words of the Savior in that book.

Well, here I end on page 14, 517 pages left to go.

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