Nephi was the fourth son of the prophet Lehi, a contemporary of Jeremiah in the region surrounding Jerusalem. He was a prophet, keeper of the records of his people, and the founder of the Nephite clan in the New World.
Preparation and Calling
As a young man, Nephi was well educated and diligent in learning the ways of his prophet-father, Lehi. When his father had a vision instructing him to take the family and leave Jerusalem, Nephi sought God for permission to have the same vision so he could more clearly understand his father’s instruction. It is no small matter that he was granted the vision in great detail. He honored his father, Lehi, as family patriarch and prophet all his days, and assumed the family position of prophet only after his father’s death, though he certainly had prophetic experiences throughout most of his life.
Interaction with God
Like his brother, Jacob, and Isaiah, whom he quotes extensively, Nephi was a personal witness of having seen Jesus Christ face to face as well as in vision. He was also visited by angels, and heard on several occasions the voice of the Lord speaking to him.
Nephi was placed in challenging circumstances most of his life. He supported his father’s command to gather the family together and flee into the wilderness, where they lived with the family of Ishmael for several years before Nephi built a boat (under the Lord’s direction), which they sailed to the New World. Because of his righteousness and natural leadership ability, he was chosen above his three older brothers to lead the family during Lehi’s declining years and following his death. This did not set well, expecially with the oldest two—Laman and Lemuel—who constantly murmured against Nephi and sought his demise. At times, they also sought his life. After reaching the promised land, Nephi lead the righteous members of the family to begin a new colony and began life together in this new world.
Nephi was such a key figure in the early pages of the Book of Mormon that it is difficult to choose from among his many and significant teachings. However, he was above all dedicated to doing the Lord’s will, regardless of what was asked of him. Even when he doubted his own abilities to lead the fledgling society following the death of his parents, his faith brought him out of his struggles to lead them to righteous patterns of living. Early in his life he proclaimed, “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). This witness of faith was his hallmark throughout his life.
Living with the Prophet
Nephi was persecuted by his older brothers through most of his life for upholding the faith of his father and for believing in God and his instruction to them. One reason for their rebellion was their lack of understanding of God’s ways, which Nephi attributed in part to an unwillingness to simply ask Him in prayer for understanding. Do you ever wonder why the Lord would ask of you certain things? Seek understanding and instruction through prayer—and perhaps fasting as well—in order to become more committed to doing His will at all times and in all places.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 1, s.v. “Nephi.”
Book of Mormon, Reader’s Edition, ed. Grant Hardy.