BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 5: 1 Nephi 16-18

Not a lot of time for more than anything but some rough notes this week.

  • 1Ne 16:10 If you want to win some Mormon trivia, ask which book the Liahona is named in. Most people will give you 1 Nephi, but note that here it’s only called “a ball.” Later on, it will be glossed as “the ball or director” (Mosiah 1:16). We don’t learn the name Liahona until Alma 37:38- “the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director– or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass;” We’re also told it has two spindles. Why two? There’s an old engineering paper that went with an engineering explanation, based on modern machinery. We’re told that at times, the Liahona ceased functioning. How did they know it was no longer pointing the right way? Dual systems. If you get your input, and both outputs are the same (both needles pointing in the same direction), your device is functioning. But if the outputs are different (needles pointing in different directions), something’s not right. Interersting speculation, in any case.
  • One of the repeated words that runs through these chapters heavily is “murmur” (16:3, 20, 25, 35-6, others.) Sure, Laman and Lemuel do it, but so does Lehi! And others too. Is this a loaded word? It might be. In the Old Testament, we find murmur primarily in the chapters dealing with the Israelites in the wilderness, after Egypt. Exo 15:24, 16:2, 16:7-9, 16:12, etc. Somewhat like Laman and Lemuel, who glamorize Jerusalem and miss their “luxuries” (1Ne 17:21 “these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.”), the Israelites who murmur seem to remember Egypt being quite the nice place, e.g. Exo 16:3, Numbers 11:4-5.  These and some other hints in these passages make connections to the Israelites in Egypt and the Exodus from it to a land of promise. Nephi does it explicitly in 17:23-32, likening the Nephite voyage to the Israelite one. They are reenacting it in a way. Why are they in the wilderness 8 years, for example? Kent Brown suggests its because they are in bondage or servitude of some kind during this time. See his article here.
  • 1Ne 2:16 Here is one hint that Nephi is probably a bit more human than his 30-years-later political tract is usually read. Nephi says “I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father.” The implication here is that prior to this, Nephi did not believe Lehi’s words and was hard-hearted. The difference between him and his older brothers, then, was not that he was naturally a goody-two-shoes, but that he was at least willing to ask. This probably explains the dialogue in 15:8-  “8 And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord? 9 And they said unto me: We have not;”
  • Can Jews hunt? Or rather, is it kosher to eat something you kill in the wilderness with a bow and arrow? Yes. Note Leviticus 17:13, “anyone of the people of Israel… who hunts down an animal or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth.” As long as it’s a kosher animal, and you drain out the blood, it’s fine. Also note how Jacob loved “wild” meat (Genesios 25:28, 27:5, etc.) Hunting for sport, however, is a different thing, and not allowed.
  • Nephi builds a boat. It’s questionable whether Nephi had ever even seen a boat. One of the best and only sources on ancient Jews, boats and seafaring is Raphael Patai’s The Children of Noah: Jewish Seafaring in Ancient Times (Amazon link). He includes an appendix from LDS scholar John Lundquist (who has done so much foundational work on ancient temples, here and here) on “Biblical Seafaring and the Book of Mormon.”
  • There is a storm while Nephi is tied up, and he convinces them to untie him. He then takes the “compass” (which meant “round thing” as well as “compass”) and prays. “And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord; and after I had prayed the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm.” Is this signficant, given how Israelites felt about the waters? See my discussion here and especially the comments #17 and 18. In short, the fact that the waters respond to Nephi’s prayer is probably quite significant.

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