- 1 Ne. 2:2-4 - Lehi, into the wild
[T]he Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.This passage, an understated description of Lehi leaving his house and possessions to trudge off into the bleak terrain of Arabia with his family and his tent, has always been one of my favorites. Lehi's departure was precipitated, of course, by his being chased out of the city by the authorities for his preaching (1:20). Nibley [p. 92-93] likens Lehi's situation to that of Uriah as described at Jer. 26:20-23.
[H]e was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.
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.
- 1 Ne. 2:9-10 - Lehi, to his sons
[H]e spake unto Laman, saying: O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!These exhortations once seemed overwrought to me, but now they seem to capture a despairing father trying to inspire his older sons to greatness. Compare this with Lehi's joy in 1 Nephi 3:8 when Nephi later proclaims his willingness to obey Lehi's request to hike back to Jerusalem on a quest for the brass plates of Laban. The interaction between fathers and sons is one of the primary motifs of the Book of Mormon, most notably with Lehi and his sons; Alma the Elder and Younger; Alma the Younger and his own three sons; Mosiah the Younger and his four sons; and Mormon and Moroni. See the FARMS review of Fathers and Sons in the Book of Mormon for more on this theme.
And he also spake unto Lemuel: O that thou mightest be like unto this valley, firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!
- 1 Ne. 2:11 - internal criticism | a visionary man
[T]hey [Laman and Lemuel] did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.
Here, Laman and Lemuel voice their understandable objections to Lehi's departure into the desert: they didn't trust his visions and dreams, which they suspected were simply "foolish imaginations." Rather amazingly, the Book of Mormon includes many such passages which explicitly criticize the leading figures — the "good guys" — and even the central points of doctrine and belief proclaimed in the book. The preaching of Korihor, presented in some detail in Alma 30:13-16, is another example of this sort of internal criticism. So not only does the Book of Mormon invite a careful and even skeptical reading, it also provides its own criticisms. I see this as a real strength of the Book of Mormon and, by extension, a strength of the entire Mormon approach to faith and belief. Only deep and well-founded faith can abide this sort of self-criticism.
Nibley [p. 94] discusses a piqqeah, one who sees things that others do not or a "sharp seer." The term is used in the Lachish Letters (texts written during the final Babylonian siege of Judea in 587 BCE) to describe an unnamed prophetic figure. Nibley likens the term to the ironic description Laman and Lemuel applied to Lehi, "a visionary man." It is also used in 2 Kings where Elisha asks God to open the eyes of some Israelites to see the Lord's hosts.
- 1 Ne. 2:13 - misplaced faith in Jerusalem
The Damascus Gate at the Old City in Jerusalem.
Neither did they [Laman and Lemuel] believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father ....This fits with the mindset of those who confronted Jeremiah — Judeans who believed that the Davidic covenant promised divine protection for Jerusalem and that the city would not fall. They consequently discounted the dire warnings of Jeremiah and others, which ran contrary to their flawed understanding of the Davidic covenant.
- 1 Ne. 2:19-24 - ye shall prosper in the land | Nephi to rule over his brethren
- This short passage introduces several key themes that recur and are played out through the entire Book of Mormon: (1) the Nephites to prosper if they keep the commandments; (2) the Americas as "a land of promise" which is "choice above all other lands"; (3) Nephi to be "a ruler and a teacher" over his brethren; (4) Laman and Lemuel will rebel against God, who will "curse them even with a sore curse"; and (5) the Lamanites to scourge the Nephites "to stir them up in the ways of remembrance."
Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Part 1 (FARMS, 1993).