1 Ne 2:1-2 because thou hast been faithful
Here, the Lord acknowledges the sacrifice of Lehi in preaching the gospel to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Note that the Lord gave him the commandment to take his family out of Jerusalem (thereby preserving them) after Lehi had been faithful in preaching the word. The blessing comes after the sacrifice, just as the witness comes after the trial of your faith. (Ether 12:6)
1 Ne 2:4 he departed into the wilderness
The chronology of the Book of Mormon, until the coming of Christ, is based entirely upon this event, being described by the Book of Mormon prophets as 600 years before the coming of the Messiah in the flesh.
1 Ne 2:4 he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things
This verse suggests how wealthy Lehi was. When the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, they specifically destroyed or took into captivity the wealthy and the princes. And he (Nebuchadnezzar) carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land (2 Kings 24:14). Although, many of the wealthy were preserved and taken captive, it was revealed to Lehi that had we remained in Jerusalem we should ... have perished. (2 Nephi 1:4)
There is no indication that Lehi, Sariah, or Nephi had any problem leaving the riches of the world behind. Hugh Nibley records, "that a wealthy citizen of Jerusalem should leave the land of his inheritance at a moment's notice and with no more substantial incitement than a dream may seem at first blush highly improbable, to say the least. Yet Lehi had brooded long and anxiously over the fate of Jerusalem, praying 'with all his heart, in behalf of his people.' (1 Nephi 1:5) and when the dream came, he was prepared." (Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites, p. 52) The concept of leaving home and riches did bother Laman and Lemuel as recorded in verse 11.
1 Ne 2:5 the borders of the Red Sea and the meaning of the names Sariah, Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.
"The Borders of the Red Sea. Many have been near the head of the Gulf of Akabah, the eastern arm of the Red Sea, which is separated from the western arm by the Sinai Peninsula, where the children of Israel wandered for forty years. Anciently Akabah (or Aqaba) was connected with Suez and Cairo by means of a Roman road. During the Mohammedan reign it has always been an important stopping place for pilgrims on their way to Mekka, the holy city of Islam.
"Sariah. The wife of Lehi. The name is derived from the Babylonian, 'Sarratu,' which, in the city of Ur, where Abraham lived, was the title of a goddess, the consort of the moon god. In the language of Abraham, 'Sarratu' became 'Sarai.' (Gen. 11:28) Later when the Lord made a covenant with the Patriarch and changed his name from 'Abram' to 'Abraham,' his wife's name was changed from 'Sarai' to 'Sarah.' (Gen. 17:15) The name means 'Princess.' In the Book of Mormon the form of the name is somewhat different. I venture the suggestion that 'Sariah' is an abbreviation of 'Sarah-Jah,' and that means 'Princess of the Lord' (Jehovah)....
"...Lemuel. The second son of Lehi, probably named after Lemuel mentioned in Prov. 31:1, 4, who is supposed to be Solomon, the king. The name means either 'Godward' or 'God is bright.'
"Sam. The third son of Lehi. The name is Egyptian. 'It was the distinctive name of one of the highest orders of the priesthood. The great Rameses, himself, belonged to the order of Sam.' (George Reynolds)" (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 25-26)
Laman. The first son of Lehi. His name does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Obviously, it is very similar to the Biblical name of Laban but its meaning is unclear. Hugh Nibley writes:
"The only example of the name of Laman to be found anywhere to the writer's knowledge is its attribution to an ancient Mukam, or sacred place, in Palestine. Most of these Mukams are of unknown, and many of them of prehistoric, date. In Israel only the tribe of Manasseh built them. It is a striking coincidence that Conder saw in the name Leimun, as he renders it (the vowels must be supplied by guesswork), a possible corruption of the name Lemuel, thus bringing these two names, so closely associated in the Book of Mormon, into the most intimate relationship, and that in the one instance in which the name of Laman appears." (Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites, p. 45)
Nibley goes on to explain that Laman and Lemuel were Arabic names and that Nephi and Sam were Egytian names (see p. 46).
1 Ne 2:7 What priesthood did Lehi hold when he built an altar of stones, and made an offering?
Lehi was raised under the tradition of the Law of Moses. There is no reason to think that his sacrifice was anything but an animal sacrifice. The Book of Mormon rarely describes the practice of animal sacrifice. Mosiah 2:3 records, And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses. Although little is spoken of this practice, it would have been a consistent part of Nephite worship, especially in the temples that they built. The specific blessing the Lord promised with respect to this practice is found in Ex 20:24, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
Secondly, in Lehi's day, those who offered sacrifice in the temple of Solomon held the Aaronic Priesthood. In order to hold the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood, one had to be a Levite by descent. Lehi was a Manassehite, and therefore would not have held the Levitical priesthood. He must have held the Melchizedek priesthood. However, as with the great prophet Elijah, there is no record of how he received it. Alma suggests that these prophets received the priesthood from the Lord based on their faith, And this is the manner after which they were ordained--being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such (Alma 13:3, italics added). Alma also makes it clear that the Melchizedek priesthood was held by the Nephites prior to the coming of Christ, Alma...confined himself wholly to the high priesthood of the holy order of God. (Alma 4:20, see also Alma 13:1-19)
1 Ne 2:8-13 The character of Laman and Lemuel
Nephi recounts Lehi's concern for his two eldest sons. Nephi also suggests the reason for their murmuring, they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them. Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed (verses12-13). Had they known the dealings of their creator, they would have remembered the flood, the tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord's dealings with Egypt in the days of Moses, and the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians. They would have understood a pattern in which the Lord preserves the righteous and destroys the wicked when they are fully ripe for destruction. They would have seen the similarities between the Lord's dealings with the righteous in these situations and with the commandment of the Lord to Lehi to leave Jerusalem before its destruction.
Laman and Lemuel's belief that Jerusalem was too great a city to be destroyed shows the shortsightedness of their perspective. By the time Zedekiah becomes king, Jerusalem has already began to lose some of its strength and independence. In the thirty years prior to Lehi's departure, 1) the kings of Judah had been controlled by Pharaoh-nechoh, king of Egypt, 2) the Jews had been paying tribute to the Egyptians, 3) Jehoahaz, king of Judah, had been imprisoned by Pharaoh-nechoh, 4) when Jehoiakim was king, the Lord had sent armies of Babylonians, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites against the city of Jerusalem to partially sack and destroy it, and 5) the Babylonians had already established political superiority to the Jews as it was Nebuchadnezzar himself that made Zedekiah king in Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 23-25). It was the rebellion of Zedekiah against Nebuchadnezzar in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign that brought the final destruction of Jerusalem, but a familiarity with the politics of Lehi's day makes it clear that Jerusalem was anything but invincible.
Not only were Laman and Lemuel spiritually and politically shortsighted, their wickedness was such that they had a murderous heart. They had considered killing Lehi and later, Nephi. Their concerns were always worldly. Reynolds and Sjodahl wrote, "Note the character of the rebellious sons. Their stubbornness (they were 'stiff-necked' v. 11); their love of money (they regretted the treasure that had been left behind, v. 11); their lack of faith (they were sure they would perish in the wilderness, v. 11); their ignorance (they knew not the dealings of God, v. 12 and they rejected his word through the prophets, v. 13); and finally, their weakness in the presence of the manifestations of the Spirit of the Lord, (v. 14)." (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 27)
1 Ne 2:11 this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel
"The neck typifies the spirit and attitude of nations and men, usually denoting callousness and hardness (2 Ne. 6:10; Prov. 29:1). Men having necks of 'iron sinew' (1 Ne. 20:4) or having 'stiffness of necks' (2 Ne. 25:12; 1 Ne. 2:11 ) are those who are unable to glance sidewards at the concerns of their neighbor or to look upward toward their Creator." (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Donald W. Parry, A Guide to Scriptural Symbols, "Neck")
1 Ne 2:12 they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them
Neal A. Maxwell
"Instead of gladness, murmuring seems to come so naturally to the natural man. It crosses the spectrum of complaints. We need bread. We need water. (See Num. 21:5.) The needed military reinforcements did not arrive (see Alma 60). 'Why did we ever leave Egypt?' (See Num. 11:20.) 'Why did we ever leave Jerusalem?' (See 1 Nephi 2:11.) On and on goes our murmuring, and, it is significant that it almost always focuses on our tactical frustrations...Like Laman and Lemuel, we too sometimes fail to understand the dealings of our God in our lives and in our times. (See also 1 Nephi 17:22.)
"Too many of us seem to expect that life will flow ever smoothly, featuring an unbroken chain of green lights with empty parking places just in front of our destinations.
"In its extremity, despair not only reflects immediate discontentment but also incorporates feelings of very deep ambivalence and/or confusion about the nature of life: 'Their sorrowing was . . . the sorrowing of the damned, because [they could not] take happiness in sin' (Morm. 2:13, 14).
"By knowing that the everlasting and ultimate things are firmly in place, can we not then better endure irritations such as a dislocated travel schedule? Besides, how can it rain on the just and the unjust alike without occasionally raining on our personal parades? (See Matt. 5:45.)
"Knowing who we are surely helps, along with knowing about the 'dealings' of God with His children (1 Nephi 2:12; 17:22)." (One More Strain of Praise, p. 26.)
Neal A. Maxwell
"Enduring 'well' means passing the breaking point without breaking, having cause to be bitter-as men measure cause-without being bitter. Enduring 'well' means the disciple in the very trough of his difficulties avoids, as Job wisely did, having 'charged God foolishly.' The 'murmuring' so often mentioned in the Book of Mormon is kindred to the feelings we may sometimes have when we do not really question God's existence but rather his fair play, and we wrongly begin to make demands of him. (Helaman 16:17-20.) Murmuring may have no single cause, but a lack of perspective is suggested: 'They did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.' (1 Nephi 2:12.) A brighter time will come when they that murmured 'shall learn doctrine,' (Isa 29:24) suggesting that conceptual inadequacy can cause us to murmur and complain." (A Time to Choose, p. 42)
Marvin J. Ashton
"Be free of criticism and murmuring. Build and lift in your words and conversations as you sustain and support. Murmuring and criticism lead to inactivity and apostasy from the Church. Do not allow yourself the dangerous luxury of criticism and murmuring. When I think of those who are prone to murmur, I think of Laman and Lemuel. 'And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.' (1 Nephi 2:12.) Often murmuring is an outward evidence of disobedience." (Ye Are My Friends, p. 3 - 4.)
1 Ne 2:14 their frames did shake before him.
Laman and Lemuel had many signs of the power of the Spirit. This confounding by Lehi is the first listed. Later, they 1) saw an angel of the Lord, 2) were again confounded by Nephi when he was filled with the Spirit, 3) were led across the waters by the Liahona, and 4) they received a witness that the Liahona would work only if they were righteous. (1 Nephi 3:29, 1 Nephi 17:52-54, 1 Nephi 18:12-22) Still they rebelled against the truth.
1 Ne 2:15 And my father dwelt in a tent
This is the shortest verse in the Book of Mormon. It may seem to carry little meaning. However, Hugh Nibley writes:
"The editors of the Book of Mormon have given a whole verse to Nephi's laconic statement, 'And my father dwelt in a tent' (1 Nephi 2:15), and rightly so, since Nephi himself finds the fact very significant and refers constantly to his father's tent as the center of his universe. To an Arab, 'My father dwelt in a tent' says everything. 'The present inhabitants of Palestine,' writes Canaan, 'like their forefathers, are of two classes: dwellers in villages and cities, and the Bedouin [tent-dwellers]. As the life and habits of the one class differ from those of the other, so do their houses differ. Houses in villages are built of durable material; . . . on the other hand, Bedouin dwellings, tents, are more fitted for nomadic life...'"
"So with the announcement that his 'father dwelt in a tent,' Nephi serves notice that he had assumed the desert way of life, as perforce he must for his journey: any easterner would appreciate the significance and importance of the statement, which to us seems almost trivial. If Nephi seems to think of his father's tent as the hub of everything, he is simply expressing the view of any normal Bedouin, to whom the tent of the sheikh is the sheet anchor of existence." (Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites, pp. 57-58)
1 Ne 2:16 having great desires to know of the mysteries of God
The importance of Nephi's desires cannot be underestimated. Nephi was successful in his petitions to the Lord because of his great faith (verse 19) and desire. For the Lord, granteth unto men according to their desire (Alma 29:4). The other important lesson from this verse is that Nephi did not follow his father with blind faith. He asked the Lord for help and it was necessary that his heart was softened. Thus, he had obtained a witness for himself which helped him not to rebel like unto my brothers. In our moments of rebellion, we should follow Nephi's example and ask the Lord to soften our hearts.
1 Ne 2:16 I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart
The great authors of the Book of Mormon were all called in their youth. In this verse, Nephi intimates that he received a personal visitation from Jehovah. This great blessing was also given to Jacob, Mormon, and presumably Moroni. Lehi said of Jacob, 'thou hast behold in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh' (2 Ne 2:4). Mormon declared, 'being fifteen years of age...I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus' (Mormon 1:15, see also Moroni 8:2). In this respect, the authors of the Book of Mormon were like the translator, Joseph Smith who 'tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus' at the age of 14.
M. Russell Ballard
"Vision makes all the difference in the world. Why was Nephi's reaction to his father's willingness to follow the Lord's direction and lead his family into the wilderness so different from that of his elder brothers, Laman and Lemuel? Could it be because Nephi went to the Lord privately and asked for his own witness or vision of the Lord's directive to his father? 'And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, 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; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers' (1 Nephi 2:16). Nephi sought his own vision, and the result was that his heart was softened. He had a clearer view of where his family was headed, and he was able to commit to follow the Lord. As Solomon explained, 'Where there is no vision, the people perish' (Proverbs 29:18)." (Counseling with Our Councils: Learning to Minister Together in the Church and in the Family, p. 23.)
1 Ne 2:20-21 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments... ye shall prosper....
The promise contained in verses 20 and 21 came to Nephi because of his faith, diligence and humility (verse 19). It represents a motto, a promise, and a charge to the Nephites. It becomes the great law by which Nephite nations are prospered or destroyed. This law is so important that it is repeated at least 10 times in the Book of Mormon. (1 Nephi 2:20, 2 Nephi 1:20, 2 Nephi 4:4, Jarom 1:9, Mosiah 2:31, Alma 9:13, 36:1, 36:30, 37:13, 38:1) This promise is still in force in our day.
Spencer W. Kimball
"This America is no ordinary country. It is a choice land, 'choice above all other lands' (1 Ne. 2:20). It has a tragic and bloody past, but a glorious and peaceful future if its inhabitants really learn to serve their God. It was consecrated as a land of promise to the people of the Americas, to whom God gave these great promises:
'It will be a land of liberty to its people' (2 Nephi 1:7).
'They shall never be brought down into captivity' (2 Nephi 1:7).
'And there shall be none to molest them' (2 Nephi 1:9).
'It is a land of promise' (1 Nephi 2:20).
'It shall be free from all nations under heaven.'
'There shall be no enemies come into this land.'
'It shall be free from bondage' (Ether 2:12).
'There shall be no kings upon the land' (2 Nephi 10:11).
'I will fortify this land against all other nations' (2 Nephi 10:11).
'He that fighteth against Zion shall perish' (2 Nephi 10:13).
"But these promises, glorious though they be, desirable as they are, can come only '...if they will but serve the God of this land who is Jesus Christ...' (Ether 2:12). There is only one way. That infallible cure is simply righteousness, obedience, Godliness, honor, and integrity. There is no other cure. Mountains of arms and ammunitions will not guarantee safety, for enemies can also build fortifications and missiles and bomb shelters. If we would but believe the prophets! For they have warned that if the 'inhabitants of this land are ever brought down into captivity and enslaved, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land' (See 2 Ne 1:7)." (Conference Report, Oct. 1961, pp. 30-31 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett)
1 Ne 2:24 they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.
"One thing the reader of the Book of Mormon is never allowed to forget is that the Nephites lived in a polarized world, in which they were perpetually engaged either in hot or cold wars with the Lamanites. Their basic problem was one of survival; security was an obsession with them...the Nephites had by all human standards ample cause for alarm. Yet from the beginning they received full assurance that God had purposely arranged things that way, and that they had absolutely nothing to fear as long as they behaved themselves. God intended that the Nephites should have hostile Lamanites breathing down their necks: 'I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power over thy seed except they shall rebel against me also. And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be as a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance' (1 Nephi 2:23-24).
"So it was a blessing to the Nephites after all to have the Lamanites on their doorstep to 'stir them up to remembrance'-'Happy is the man whom God correcteth' (Job 5:17). No matter how wicked and ferocious and depraved the Lamanites might be (and they were that!), no matter by how much they outnumbered the Nephites, darkly closing in on all sides, no matter how insidiously they spied and intrigued and infiltrated and hatched their diabolical plots and breathed their bloody threats and pushed their formidable preparations for all-out war, they were not the Nephite problem. They were merely kept there to remind the Nephites of their real problem, which was to walk uprightly before the Lord." (Since Cumorah, 2nd ed., pp. 338-9.)