Our Nephi was the Chief Judge of the Nephites (basically, the equivalent of our modern-day President) during some of the most difficult years of Book of Mormon history. During his reign, our Nephi's country was under the control of its enemies (the Lamanites), the people were spiritually weak, and there was no cable TV. We know very little about Nephi's personal life (except that he had a nice garden, as you will see later), but we clearly know that he was an amazing man. In fact, Nephi was pretty much a real-life Jedi Knight and one of the greatest heroes of all time.
The first thing we learn about our Nephi is that his dad Helaman named him and his brother after Nephi and Lehi of old (you know, the ones that I mentioned earlier). Helaman said the following about the names he gave to his sons:
"Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that it is said, and also written, that they were good. Therefore, my sons, I would that ye should do that which is good, that it may be said of you, and also written, even as it has been said and written of them" (Helaman 5:6-7).
|Our Nephi was named after THIS guy. Check out those muscles!|
"Nephi Subdues His Brothers" by Arnold Frieberg.
1. Pillar of fire in the Lamanite prison:
As his people grew increasingly wicked, Nephi "became weary because of their iniquity" (Helaman 5:4). As a result, he gave up his title as Chief Judge in order to go "preach the word of God all the remainder of his days, and his brother Lehi also, all the remainder of his days" (Helaman 5:4). Nephi's willingness to give up his worldly power and influence impresses me. He could have tried to legislate that the people stop being wicked, but he probably knew that wouldn't work. So, instead he gives it all up and goes on a mission. BUT Nephi (along with his brother Lehi) doesn't just go on a cushy mission to the beach or the ski slopes. No, Nephi goes to preach to the Lamanites, his mortal enemies, instead. I'm sure Nephi knew he could be imprisoned, tortured, or even killed, but this didn't stop him, because, well, Nephi was a hero.
Nephi and Lehi were indeed captured almost immediately into their missionary journey. Lamanite soldiers imprisoned them with the intent of killing them shortly thereafter. However, as the soldiers went forth to kill the brothers in the prison, a pillar of fire circled round about them and the Lord spoke, "Repent ye, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; and seek no more to destroy my servants" (Helaman 5:32). Eventually, all 300 of the Lamanites in the prison converted to Christianity and were baptized. Shortly thereafter, 8,000 other Lamanites were converted, and the Lamanite armies COMPLETELY RELINQUISHED THE NEPHITE LANDS THEY HAD CONQUERED! Can you imagine that? Not only did thousands of people join the Church of Jesus Christ, but thousands of others were given physical freedom from Lamanite bondage. Talk about a successful mission!
|"Nephi and Lehi Encircled by a Pillar of Fire" by Ronald K. Crosby.|
2. Murder of the Chief Judge:
After his first mission, Nephi returned home for a short break. You would think that this time at home would have been peaceful for Nephi. He could have taken the time to relax, catch up on his favorite sports team, and hang out with his family and friends. But instead, when Nephi returned home, he discovered that his fellow Nephites had declined into such a state of wickedness, that he refused to stop preaching. In a moment of despair and disappointment, Nephi climbed upon a tower in his garden and "pour[ed] out his soul unto God" (Helaman 7:14) in vocal prayer.
|Nephi praying on his garden tower. |
I'd like a tower like that, but my neighbors might complain.
Nephi's prayer caused a multitude of people to gather around to see what he was so upset about. Never one to lack courage, Nephi rebuked the wickedness of the people and told them "thou shalt be utterly destroyed except thou shalt repent" (Helaman 7:24). This statement ticked off the leaders of the people, but of course, their anger didn't stop Nephi. Not only did he declare their sins, but by the power of God, he also proclaimed that the Chief Judge had just been murdered by his very own brother. At first, the people did not believe Nephi's bold prophecy. But, once they went to check it out and realized that what Nephi said was true, they accused Nephi of being an accomplice to the murder, and caused that Nephi should be taken and bound (didn't they realize that it's NEVER a good idea to put Nephi in prison?!). Nephi refuted his captors, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, he gave them knowledge of who the true murderer was and was eventually set free. But, sadly, the people still didn't repent or soften their hearts. Oh, but they will....
3. Nephi is given the "sealing power" (it's Jedi time!):
My absolute favorite story about Nephi occurs right after he is set free from his captors after announcing who the true murderer was. As Nephi was heading back home, he suddenly heard the voice of the Lord:
"Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments. And now, because thou hast done this...I will bless thee forever...that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word for thou shalt ask ask that which is contrary to my will" (Helaman 10:4-5).
Do you realize how cool that is?! Because Nephi was so obedient, the Lord basically gave him the power to do anything he desired. The Lord knew that he could trust Nephi absolutely and that Nephi would never abuse that power. Well, what do you think Nephi does with that power? He goes back and continues to preach to the people, of course! BUT this time when they try to put him into prison, "the power of God was with him, and they could not take him to cast him into prison, for he was taken by the Spirit and conveyed away out of the midst of them" (Helaman 10:16). Take that, you prison-hungry people! I like to picture him disappearing from their midst just like a Jedi.
Since the people would not listen to his message, Nephi prayed to the Lord and used the sealing power to send a famine so that the people would repent and "remember the Lord" (Helaman 11:7). As a result, the people repented for a while, and Nephi prayed to have the famine removed. But, as you can guess, the people soon fell back into their wicked ways.
Despite this, Nephi never gave up his mission to bring souls to Christ. For the rest of his known life, "Nephi was baptizing, and prophesying, and preaching, crying repentance unto the people, showing signs and wonders, working miracles among the people, that they might know that the Christ must shortly come" (Helaman 16:4).
As you can tell, I love Nephi. He was a true hero and a disciple of Jesus Christ. He inspires me give up my own desires and instead seek the will of the Lord in all things. I can think of no greater thrill than to someday have the Lord say to me, "Thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments." I think we can all agree that THAT is definitely something worth shooting for.