by Tim Barker
I have always thought that 2 Nephi 5 has been one of the most interesting chapters in the Book of Mormon, not because of its religious and spiritual insights, but because so much information relating to Nephite civilization is condensed into such brevity. After discussing Laman and Lemuel's spite towards Nephi, he relates the following information:
- vs. 5 - the Lord warned Nephi to depart into the wilderness (Zion has fled - Moses 7:69), with "all those who would go with me."1
- vs. 6 - those who went with Nephi included - Nephi's family, Zoram and his family, Sam and his family, Jacob and Joseph, Nephi's sisters, "and all those who would go with me." Obviously, there were others that the Nephites encountered in the Americas, or brought with them over the ocean. All those that went with Nephi were those that "believed in the warnings and the revelations of God...[and] hearken[ed] unto my words."2
- vs. 8 - after traveling for many days, they pitched their tents and called the location "the place of Nephi."
- vs. 9 - they also took upon themselves the name of the "people of Nephi," probably with a dual meaning here - location and leader.
- vs. 10 - they kept the law of Moses [since they had the Brass Plates which contained the five books of Moses - 1 Nephi 5:11; 2 Nephi 5:12]3
- vs. 11 - they worked in agriculture and farming.
- vs. 12 - Nephi kept the scriptures and also the "ball, or compass, which was prepared for my father by the hand of the Lord..."
- vs. 13 - they began to prosper and multiply.
- vs. 14 - Nephi prepares their defense by making many swords after the manner of Laban's sword in case the Lamanites should attack them.4
- vs. 15 - the Nephites work in architecture and metallurgy.
- vs. 16 - the Nephites build a temple after the manner of Solomon's temple in Jerusalem.5
- vs. 17 - the Nephites were industrious.
- vs. 18-19 - they establish their government as a theocracy, with Nephi as King.
- vs. 20-24 - the Lamanites were cursed and were idle, full of mischief, subtlety, and hunted for prey.
- vs. 25 - the Lord tells Nephi that the Lamanites will be scourge unto the Nephites so that they will be humble and remember the Lord.
- vs. 26 - Jacob and Joseph are consecrated by the priesthood through Nephi, to be teachers; the Church organization is established.
- vs. 27 - after all of these civilized and religious implementations, the people were happy.
- vs. 30 - the Lord commands Nephi to keep a record. Nephi keeps two records - a spiritual and a secular history.
- vs. 34 - within 40 years, the Nephites and Lamanites had already had wars. This again seems to imply that the Nephites and Lamanites incorporated other bodies of people.
This brief summary includes government, religion, industry and economics, record keeping, and warfare. It provides a brief window into the lives of the Nephites from a distanced perspective and gives the reader some context for understanding the atmosphere of early Nephite culture, and lays a framework for understanding the future of the Nephite people.
1 Nephi prepares weapons (vs. 14), but they are only for defense. As he seeks to build a Zion community, he also follows the Zion concept that it is better to flee than to make homes with those that reject the Lord.
2 Reynolds and Sjodahl suggest that it may be possible that "Lehi and his family had established their first settlement in a locality where they found aborigines." Commentary on the Book of Mormon, George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl (1st Ed., 3rd Printing, Deseret News Press, Salt Lake City, UT, 1961), 1:273. Also see An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, John L. Sorenson (Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, and FARMS [Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies], Provo, UT, 1996), 146. Also see, "When Lehi's Party Arrived, Did They Find Others in the Land?," John L. Sorenson in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (FARMS, Provo, UT), 1/1 (Fall 1992), 1-34.
3 "Statutes, Judgments, Ordinances and Commandments," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, Ed. John W. Welch (Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, and FARMS, Provo, UT, 1992), 62-65
4 See "The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Kingship," by Brett L. Holbrook, and see "Prophets, Kings, and Swords: The Sword of Laban and its Possible Pre-Laban Origin," by Daniel N. Rolph, in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (FARMS, Provo, UT), 2/1 (Spring 1993), 39-72, 73-79, respectively.
5 "Kingship and Temple in 2 Nephi 5-10," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, 66-68; also see "A Temple After the Manner of Solomon's," Stan Barker, SHIELDS (Scholarly Historical Information Exchange for Latter-Day Saints), available online here.