So I'm currently reading through the Book of Mormon, trying to finish it one more time before I hit my year mark. Time sure does fly, I'll tell you that. But as I was reading a little while ago in the book of Jacob, something stood out to me and caught my attention. In the first chapter of Jacob, Jacob is relating some of the Nephite history since Nephi finished his record and entrusted the plates to his younger brother.
Verse 12 of this chapter, though short, made me pause and think for quite some time as I was reading. This verse reads:
That's it. That's the whole verse. It's pretty short, but when I read that my mind was captured by the thought of how sorrowful that occasion would have been. Nephi was the beloved King of the Nephite people. So loved was he that after his death, all kinds were called after his name, being called "second Nephi, third Nephi, and so forth, according to the reigns of the kings" (v11). Nephi was a King who delighted in having his people be industrious. He taught them many temporal things that they might be a hard-working people. Early in his reign as their king he "did cause [his] people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands" (2 Nephi 5:17). He sought for their temporal and eternal welfare, to be a blessing and not a burden upon them.
Nephi was also their mighty protector. He had "wielded the sword of Laban in their defence", that they might not fall into the hands of their enemies, who had "swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers" (Enos 1:13). Nephi was a temporal leader and protector to the end of his days.
But more important than a temporal leader, he was their leader spiritually. One who could speak unto them to protect them from the temptations of the adversary. He was the one who unfolded the doctrine of Christ and the great plan of redemption to the Nephites. To his children he unfolded the mysteries of God, that they might have a greater understanding of that God who created them, that they might not be blind like his brothers Laman and Lemuel. He had the gift of revelation and prophesy and was able to understand and expound the words of Isaiah. He understood them and their plainness, which plainness is not comprehended by any unless they have the Spirit with them. He lead them along the rod of iron so that they might enter into the joy of the Lord and have eternal rest. He labored his days to bring about the immortality and eternal life of his children.
Within this short verse must have been great sorrow and it must have truly been the end of an era for the Nephite people. Likely after the death of Nephi, there were few or no others who knew of Jerusalem and the teachings of the Jews. Nephi's death symbolized the loss of the personal connection with the Israelites, and symbolized that this righteous branch of Joseph was fully broken off. This short verse hit me with great power and I have come to understand, in part, the greatness of Nephi's reign and ministry. He was a man who feared God, and loved his fellow man, and was obedient to the end. He was a man to be used as an example of the type of people we should all strive to become. I find the last recorded words of Nephi to be exceptionally fitting to his personality, and they showcase the attribute we could learn the most from Nephi:
"For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey".
I hope that you call can come to appreciate Nephi as the great prophet, protector, and teacher that he was. I hope that you all have a great week!
Love, Elder Gailey