- 1 Ne. 3:1 - speaking with the Lord in dreams and visions
I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord ...In the first two chapters we saw God reveal himself to Lehi in various ways. Lehi had a waking vision during prayer (1:6); was overcome with the Spirit and carried away in a vision (1:7-8); and was spoken to in a dream (2:1-2; 3:2). The text in 1 Nephi seems to make no distinction between dreams and visions (8:2: "Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision"). Different, more direct language is used for Nephi's divine communications: "I did cry unto the Lord, and behold he did visit me" (2:16); "And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying" (2:18); and the present verse, where Nephi reports speaking with the Lord (3:1) in terms no different than he reports speaking with Lehi (3:2).
These frequent divine communications drive the whole narrative in the opening chapters of 1 Nephi, in much the same way as occurs in the first two chapters of Matthew, where Joseph receives several communications in dreams, either being "warned in a dream" (Matt. 2:12, 22) or having an angel appear to him in a dream (Matt. 1:20, 2:13, 2:19). The text in Matthew also seems to conflate visions (a waking experience of visual images) with dreams (visual images presented to the mind during sleep). Visions are sometimes described in language suggesting a visitation (a waking experience of viewing and conversing with a visiting being who is physically present). Moreover, D&C 129:1-3 distinguishes between two types of heavenly being who might make such a visitation: (1) angels, who are "resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bone"; and (2) "spirits of just men made perfect" who "are not resurrected" and lack a body of flesh and bone.
- 1 Ne. 3:3 - the plates of brass
The Moabite Stone, discovered in 1868, dates to 850 BC and commemorates Mesha's victories over Omri, king of Israel.
My reference materials tell me that the standard form of writing in the ancient world was the scroll: "[T]his word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, ..." (Jer. 36:1-2). The scroll itself was composed of either tanned animal skins (possibly worked to produce parchment) or papyrus, made from the marsh plant Cyperus papyrus.
But here's a direct quote of particular interest: "Other writing materials are mentioned in the Bible or are known from archaeology. Public documents that were to be preserved or displayed might be inscribed on stone (as were the Ten Commandments) or on bronze plates (as was the decree honoring Simon the high priest, 1 Macc. 14:48)." Dix, p. 94. Another Biblical example is the Mesha Stele or Moabite Stone, pictured at the right, discovered in 1868 and erected in the middle of the 9th century BC. Compare this to the stone with engravings on it brought to Mosiah I (Omni 1:20), the plates of brass under discussion here (1 Nephi 3:3), and plates galore throughout the balance of the Book of Mormon.
- 1 Ne. 3:7 - I will go, I will do, the things the Lord commands
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.These classic words of Nephi made Lehi "exceedingly glad" (3:8) and are memorized through song by every Mormon child in Primary. 1 Nephi 3:7 is Seminary Scripture No. 1 ("I will go and do") in the list of 25 Book of Mormon scriptures that receive particular focus in the Seminary Program.
- 1 Ne. 3:15 - As the Lord liveth, and as we live ...
- The first instance of an oath, which appears again more prominently at 1 Nephi 4:32-37. Similar language appears in several Old Testament episodes, such as when Elisha swears fealty to Elijah: "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee" (2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6).
- 1 Ne. 3:19-20 - preserve language and the words of the prophets
- This passage gives two reasons for undertaking the dangerous quest for the plates of brass. First, "that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers," presumably Hebrew or Aramaic. Second, "that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets." Interesting that no mention is made of Torah, the primary term one generally associates with the Hebrew Bible. But this was too early for a fixed and written Torah, which is best dated to the 5th century BC and Ezra. This is also evident from the narrative of the discovery of the book of the law during the reign of Josiah (Zedekiah's father, after all), the contents of which were so surprising to the king that he tore his robes (2 Kings 22:11), suggesting "the law" was not widely known in Judah at the time. But Jeremiah 7:9 makes it clear the substance of the Ten Commandments was known at that time and incorporated into the preaching of contemporary prophets.
- 1 Ne. 3:31 - Laman and Lemuel ponder their fate | direct dialogue
And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?This verse presents direct dialogue spoken by Laman and Lemuel (apparently speaking as one, with plural pronouns). There's a rather haunting quality to their words, which present them reflecting on their impending death at the hands of a powerful enemy who knows them and who just tried to kill them when they were guests in his house. That quality is heightened as, in the immediately preceding verses, an angel directed them to return to that very spot. For these four brothers, this is a life or death decision. This is David facing the troglodyte Goliath. This is Wyatt Earp reluctantly riding off to meet Johnny Ringo. This is Gandalf on the bridge at Khazad-dum. This is Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra. This is the end, think Laman and Lemuel, and they are not happy about it.
It is worth noting that the first three chapters are primarily narrative summary with Nephi as narrator (see 1:1 and the frequent indexical "I"). The only direct dialogue verses are 1:13 (Lehi), 1:14 (Lehi), 2:9-10 (Lehi), 3:2-6 (Lehi), 3:7 (Nephi), 3:13 (Laban), 3:15-20 (Nephi), 3:29 (an angel), and here at 3:31 (Laman and Lemuel).
T. Keith Dix, "Books and Bookmaking in Antiquity," in Oxford Guide to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger & Michael D. Coogan, eds. (OUP, 1993).