I’ve been pondering an insight my friend Lahapa Ichimura shared while we were in the temple. Recently called as a Stake Temple and Family History Consultant, she read 1 Nephi 3, the story of Lehi’s sons returning to Jerusalem for the brass plates from the new calling’s perspective. The importance of that story suddenly became even more meaningful.
How much were those brass plates worth to Lehi and why?
The Cost of the Brass Plates
After angering his community by crying repentance, the Lord commanded Lehi and his family to leave Jerusalem. He’d had attempts on his life, with other attempts in the works.
His son Nephi recorded specifically what his father left behind.
And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.
The family left everything of material value behind and departed.
When they’d reached “safety” in the wilderness, the Lord commanded Lehi to send his four sons back to Jerusalem to get brass plates. When he told his older sons, they couldn’t imagine how the mission could succeed. Laman and Lemuel expressed this fear and doubt constantly during the experience.
Lehi approached Nephi when Nephi returned from prayer.
Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.
Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.
And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.
Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured.
The Lord commanded Lehi through a dream. I’ve always wondered what he dreamed! Did he foresee the danger and near-death experiences of his sons? Did Lehi see the impact of having the record and his genealogy? Did the Lord simply stand before Lehi in the dream and speak to him?
Regardless of the content, the Lord communicated through multiple senses—hearing and sight at least.
Here is a prophet who fled a city to save his family’s lives. They’d gone several days into the wilderness. They’re not even lighting a fire to cook food to preserve their safety. And now, he’s sending his four sons back to that city, not just sneaking in to get some forgotten supply item but to approach a leader of the city requesting sacred records, records the leader kept locked in his treasury.
Lehi was asked to sacrifice his sons and, yet, Lehi had absolute faith that the mission would succeed.
Laban met the brothers’ requests for the plates with harsh violence. They scrambled, running for their lives and hid in rocky caves outside of the city.
Divine and devilish forces leaped into action. The older brothers beat the younger brothers for suggesting the idea they take their treasure to buy the plates from Laban which left them fleeing for their lives. Often, being beaten beats the will and motivation out of a person. Nephi was just trying to obey the Lord’s commandment, after all, a commandment given to all of them.
An angel rescued Nephi and Sam from destruction and reiterated not only the commandment but the promised fulfillment. Nephi felt the import of the commandment and refused to leave Jerusalem without the plates. Ultimately, he went alone into the city to accomplish the Lord’s commandments.
In a way, the relationship between Nephi and Laman and Lemuel never truly healed after this experience.
Their mother thought they’d died. She lashed out against their father. He persisted that God would deliver their sons and the plates.
The entire family felt the tumult and the cost of this commandment to get these plates.
All for a record. A record of what?
A Record of Their Genealogy
The plates were a record of them…their history…their ancestors…where they came from…WHO and WHOSE they were.
And after [Lehi and Sariah] had given thanks unto the God of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, and he did search them from the beginning.
And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents;
And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah;
And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.
And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.
And they were also led out of captivity and out of the land of Egypt, by that same God who had preserved them.
And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records.
Is Our Genealogy That Important to Us?
Lahapa spoke of Lehi leaving treasure behind, but being willing to sacrifice what was most important, his sons, to get that record of their genealogy.
“Is our genealogy that important to us?” She asked me. “If getting his genealogy potentially cost Lehi his sons’ lives, is our genealogy that important to us?”
Lahapa and I talked after I’d just taught my seminary class about the brutality Joseph Smith faced after receiving the golden plates from Moroni. They, too, contained a genealogy and Nephi’s history that could, and would, change a world.
Such sacrifice and commitment to a record.
Is it that important to me?
Knowing who I am, and my people, and where I came from, and WHOSE I am matter to me. How has knowing who you are mattered to you?
Descendant of Joseph Wherefore He Kept the Record
Something that impacted me as I returned to the story to reread it after talking to Lahapa was this simple sentence:
And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records.
He was a descendant of Joseph wherefore he kept the records. So because he was of Joseph, he did it.
I am also a descendant of Joseph, do I keep the record? Does that matter to me?
I’m so grateful for a friend who shared her insights, and for a Heavenly Father who lovingly sends us insights as we prepare ourselves and willingly accept them, and for all who have gone before.