Nephi is the first prophet-historian we meet in the pages of the Book of Mormon. He was born into a culture that permeated life at Jerusalem. And within that culture, prophets were not foreign to the people during this time. In fact, many prophets had been sent by the Lord to warn His people as to their choices, their actions, their appalling behaviors.
These were some of the words the ancient Israelites were hearing – and ignoring:
“I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me” (Jeremiah 35:15).
These were the words of the ancient Biblical prophet Jeremiah (found in the Old Testament). In fact, Jeremiah follows up verse 15 with a very bold pronouncement in verse 17 of that same chapter. Listen to this Old Testament prophet speak with great clarity:
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them; because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered” (vs 17).
Oh, how frightening. Eventually Jeremiah was imprisoned for his faithful testament of God’s pending wrath.
We have a prophet today, President Gordon B. Hinckley. How imperative we hearken to his counsel, for he is every bit the Lord’s spoke person now as Jeremiah was then.
But the ancient Israelites refused to hearken to their prophet Jeremiah. And this was the culture seen by the boy Nephi. In fact, Jeremiah wasn’t the only ancient Biblical prophet trying to sound a warning call. There were others: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. Their words can also be read and studied in the Old Testament.
The political conditions also weren’t great during Nephi’s time. The Babylonians had crushed Egypt’s hold over the Jewish nation. It is during this time that the weak king Zedekiah was appointed to the throne by Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar. Nephi speaks of Zedekiah in the first chapter, verse four, of his record (1 Nephi 1).
Soon Nephi tells us that his father too had seen and heard much from the Lord, and although trembling, began to go forth uttering his testament that Jerusalem would be destroyed if the Israelites did not repent.
Any guesses about the response? Jeremiah is in prison and yes, you guessed it – soon there came attempts at taking the life of Nephi’s father. But Nephi bears a touching witness to us at the end of that very first chapter that, ” … the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20).
This is a message which Nephi repeatedly shares throughout his entire record in the Book of Mormon. I’m excited to invite you on this journey as we learn more and more about not just Nephi, but many of these faithful men and women within the pages of this sacred book, the Book of Mormon. Its purpose is to testify of Jesus Christ and of His goodness for all those who follow Him. And what a joyous experience it is to read. To get started, simply click on this link.