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Nephi (pronounced /ˈniːfaɪ/) is one of the main people described in the Book of Mormon. According to the Book of Mormon, Nephi was the son of Lehi, a prophet, founder of the Nephite people, and author of the first two books of the Book of Mormon, First and Second Nephi.


Early life

Nephi was the fourth of six sons of Lehi and Sariah. Nephi and his family lived in Jerusalem, circa 600 BC,[1] during the reign of King Zedekiah,[2] until Lehi was commanded by God to take his family and flee into the wilderness.[3] Until their flight, Nephi's father had been prophesying the impending destruction and captivity of Jerusalem by the armies of Babylon.

Family tree


Nephi also mentions having sisters, though he does not mention their names or birth orders.[4].


Nephi and his family left Jerusalem and traveled for three days into the wilderness before his father stopped, in a valley by a river, near the Red Sea.[5] Lehi then sent Nephi and his sons back to Jerusalem twice; the first time to get the brass plates[6] and the second to bring Ishmael's family.[7]

The Plates of Brass

A powerful man named Laban was in possession of the Plates of Brass;[8] a record kept by the Jews which contained their laws, customs, history, and lineage.[9] Nephi and his brothers tried three times to get the brass plates from Laban. First, they sent Laman, who asked Laban for the plates.[10] Laban tried to kill Laman, accusing him of being a thief.[11] Laman fled back to his brothers and was extremely upset.[12] The second time, Nephi convinced Laman, Lemuel and Sam to try to buy the plates, using their abandoned wealth.[13] Laban wanted the riches but wouldn't give up the plates, so, again, they had to run for their lives and lose their wealth for nothing.[14] All four brothers had to run and hide in a cave.[15] Laman and Lemuel started to beat their younger brothers severely.[16] An angel appeared and stopped them, telling Laman and Lemuel that, because of his righteousness, the Lord had made Nephi "a teacher and a ruler over them."[17] Finally, Nephi returned to try one last time.[18] However, before he got to the house of Laban, he found a drunken man passed out in the street.[19] He found that the man was none other than Laban himself.[20] Nephi was then commanded by the Lord to kill Laban.[18] At first, Nephi struggled with the idea, because the ten Commandments commanded that "Thou shalt not kill."[21] However, the Spirit convinced him that it is better for "One man to perish than for an entire nation to dwindle and perish in unbelief."[22] Nephi followed through with the command and then dressed himself in Laban's armor.[23] He returned to Laban's house and ordered Zoram, one of Laban's servants, to bring him the Plates of Brass.[24] He then led Zoram back to where his brothers were hiding.[25] Laman, Lemuel and Sam, seeing Nephi disguised as Laban were afraid and turned to flee.[26] Nephi had to call out to them, but after Zoram saw them, he turned to run, but Nephi stopped him.[27] Nephi promised Zoram "that he should be a free man like unto us if he would go down in the wilderness with us," to which Zoram agreed.[28]

Eight years in the wilderness and flight to the Promised Land

Nephi spent eight years in the wilderness [29], facing many hardships, including the breaking of his bow making it impossible to obtain food,[30] and Nephi's elder brothers rebelling against him and his father Lehi on multiple occasions.[31][32][33]

Finally, Nephi, with the help of the other men in the company, built a ship under the direction of God, and the group crossed the sea to the Americas, which they referred to as the Promised Land.[34]

Life in the Promised Land, King of the Nephites, and death

Not long after arriving in the Americas, Lehi died, leaving the leadership of their colony in Nephi's hands. His brothers Laman and Lemuel rebelled shortly thereafter, and the colony split into two. Nephi's followers named themselves "Nephites", while the others were dubbed "Lamanites". Under Nephi's leadership the Nephite civilization prospered despite occasional war with the Lamanites. According to the Book of Mormon, Nephi was revered by his people.[35] Nephi's death is supposedly attributed to old age.[36] Upon his death, the charge of keeping the sacred records of the Book of Mormon was passed to his brother Jacob.


Nephi is credited with several major contributions to Mormon doctrine and teachings. After his father received his Vision of the Tree of Life, Nephi received a similar, albeit more detailed, vision which included an interpretation of each element of the dream. The dream and Nephi's interpretation are quoted often by Latter Day Saints. Nephi also saw and recorded details of the birth, life, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ - the first such relation to occur in the text of the Book of Mormon. He also is thought to have received the same vision as John the Revelator which is canonized in the Book of Revelation.

Nephi quoted extensively from Isaiah, between the books of First and Second Nephi fully 18 chapters of Isaiah are recorded almost verbatim as they appear in the King James version of the Bible.

One of the most often quoted Book of Mormon scriptures was penned by Nephi in the narrative of his exile:

7 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: 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. (1 Nephi 3:7)[37]

Nephi also recorded his thoughts on his own inadequacy as a disciple of Christ in what is regarded as some of the most beautiful prose in the Book of Mormon. Recorded in chapter four of Second Nephi, it was dubbed the Psalm of Nephi[38]. A portion of the passage is given below:

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me. Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. (2 Nephi 4:19-23)

Nephi's legacy

Nephi is regarded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as a major figure in the Book of Mormon, as a prophet, political leader, and record keeper. A variety of individuals throughout the Book of Mormon were named after him, including all of the kings in the early Nephite civilization. Additionally, his people referred to themselves as "Nephites" - a name that would follow them through the entire 1000 year history given in the Book of Mormon.

Etymology of Nephi

The origin of the name Nephi is uncertain, and disputed. As non-Mormon scholars view the Book of Mormon as a work of fiction, and do not recognize Nephi as a historical figure, the predominant scholarly view is that the name was selected or coined by Joseph Smith, Jr. Based on a non-religious or secular perspective, hypotheses for the name's origin include its appearance as a geographic name in the Apocrypha;[39] the shortening of two personal names Nephish and Nephishesim in the Authorized King James Version,[40] a reference to the nephilim, who are the mythical half-immortal "giants" described in Genesis;[41] a reference to the work Nephiomaoth, which was one of the magic names of God in early Christian Gnosticism "was one of the magic names of God in early Christian Gnosticism";[41] or the term Nephes, which is a Kabbalistic term for a ghost that wanders around sepulchers.[42]

Religious Mormon scholars generally believe that the Book of Mormon is historical, and therefore have proposed etymologies consistent with that view. For example, Mormon scholar John Gee theorizes that Nephi is a Hebrew form of the Egyptian name Nfr. In Phoenician and Aramaic inscriptions of Egyptian names containing nfr, the nfr element is rendered npy, and the closely related Hebrew language would presumably transcribe the name the same way.[43]. Other Mormon scholars propose that the term is a variant of the Arabic and Hebrew words for prophet: "Nabi".


  1. ^ 1 Nephi 10:4
  2. ^ 1 Nephi 1:4
  3. ^ 1 Nephi 2:2
  4. ^ 2 Nephi 5:6
  5. ^ 1 Nephi 2:4-6
  6. ^ 1 Nephi 3:2-4
  7. ^ 1 Nephi 7:1-2
  8. ^ 1 Nephi 3:3
  9. ^ 1 Nephi 5:10-16
  10. ^ 1 Nephi 3:11-12
  11. ^ 1 Nephi 3:13
  12. ^ 1 Nephi 3:14
  13. ^ 1 Nephi 3:21-24
  14. ^ 1 Nephi 3:25-26
  15. ^ 1 Nephi 3:27
  16. ^ 1 Nephi 3:28
  17. ^ 1 Nephi 3:29
  18. ^ a b 1 Nephi 4:5
  19. ^ 1 Nephi 4:7
  20. ^ 1 Nephi 4:8
  21. ^ 1 Nephi 4:10
  22. ^ 1 Nephi 4:13
  23. ^ 1 Nephi 4:18-19
  24. ^ 1 Nephi 4:20
  25. ^ 1 Nephi 4:24-28
  26. ^ 1 Nephi 4:29
  27. ^ 1 Nephi 4:29-31
  28. ^ 1 Nephi 4:32-38
  29. ^ [1]
  30. ^ 1 Nephi 16:18, 21
  31. ^ 1 Nephi 7:6
  32. ^ 1 Nephi 7:16
  33. ^ 1 Nephi 18:11
  34. ^ 1 Nephi 18:1-2, 4-6, 8, 13, 22
  35. ^ Jacob 1:10
  36. ^ Jacob 1:11
  37. ^ 1 Nephi 3
  38. ^ "In his 1947 monograph Our Book of Mormon, Sidney Sperry christened this passage "The Psalm of Nephi," and it has carried that epithet ever since." -- Nickerson, Matthew, Nephi's Psalm: 2 Nephi 4:16-35 in the Light of Form-Critical Analysis, Matthew Nickerson, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 1997. Pp. 26–42.
  39. ^ 2 Maccabees (1:36) ("And Neemias called this thing Naphthar, which is as much as to say, a cleansing: but many men call it Nephi."); see Quinn, D. Michael (1998), Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (2nd ed.), Salt Lake City: Signature Books, p. 198, ISBN 1-56085-089-2  .
  40. ^ Quinn, p. 198.
  41. ^ a b id.
  42. ^ id., p. 199.
  43. ^ A Note on the Name Nephi

See also

First Nephite record keeper of the small plates
600 B.C. - 544 B.C.
Succeeded by

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