CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 6.
1 Nephi 6 is a short little chapter of only six verses!
It’s like a moment in a play on stage, where the story stops for just a moment while an actor turns and talks directly to the audience. It’s a monologue to the reader, rather than part of the story he is writing.
We again have the very important “I, Nephi” statement, just as we did in chapters 1 and 3 (now again in chapter 6). Why that matters will come later, but it is super important. So remember it!
This is also an important moment because in verse one Nephi explains that the genealogy of his family, which we just read about Lehi studying in the previous chapter, is not recorded here. Nephi states that his father Lehi has those records, and so Nephi is not going to repeat them here.
But he does say, in verse two, that they are descendants of Joseph, which would make them of the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh. These were the two sons of Joseph.
This brings up fun Jewish history.
In the Old Testament, we have Abraham who has a son named Jacob, who has a son named Israel.
Through Israel, we get the “twelve tribes of Israel”, which are really thirteen tribes. The tribe of the Levites were not counted because they were to be exclusively devoted to the care of and service in the Tabernacle. Jacob had twelve sons, and these are the twelve tribes of Israel; however, Joseph had two sons and thus two tribes. Sometimes these two are counted together and the Levites are also counted, or sometimes the Levites are left out of the list and Ephraim and Manassah are counted separately. It depends on the context.
But here, Nephi is simply saying they are descendants of Joseph, which means they are from the tribe of Ephraim or Manassah.
In verse 3, he uses the phrase “it mattereth not to me”. I find this interesting because of the other times and places when this phrased is used in the Book of Mormon. For example, we have that phrase when Ether writes in 15:34 that “it mattereth not” whether he dies or is translated, but only that he returns to the kingdom of God; and at the very end, when Moroni says in 8:4 he has finished the record and is going to hide the plates, and “it mattereth not” where he goes after that.
In all three cases, some task of the Lord is finished, has been accomplished, and so the seemingly trivial temporal matters really do not matter. They are not that big of a deal. They are not important. It really doesn’t matter. What mattered, more than their very lives, was protecting and preserving the word of God, testifying and recording the history of the Lord working amongst His people, and prophesying the consequences for those who do follow the Lord and for those who do not.
The only thing that matters to them, at the beginning – in the middle – and at the end of the Book of Mormon, the only thing that matters is that they have done what the Lord asked them to do.
So now Nephi is talking about the records his father has (their genealogy, and Old Testament writings, and other prophet writings that have since been lost), and has read and studied it for himself.
Now that he has read and studied it for himself, and received that learning (reference to the Temple pattern again, as it is a “house of learning”), and now that he has chosen and proven himself a child of the covenant, he wants to continue the record.
This is a natural next-step, and evidence of his progress. He is testifying. It is real to him, and he is sharing and teaching it in the ways he knows how. He is being faithful by keeping his own family history (“book of remembrance”). In a greater way, he is being faithful to his premortal covenant to testify of the atonement (which at this time, in 600 BC, has not yet happened but they know it will).
So he is explaining that he is going to continue the record, as is tradition. He is going to pick up where the record leaves off, and then pass it down as it was passed down to them. This passing down of Lehi’s record, and what his descendants wrote as they protected and preserved this record, is what becomes for us the sacred record we now call “The Book of Mormon”. That’s what the Book of Mormon is, these records Nephi wrote and what his children after him wrote. It’s their family history. It’s how the see and experience the Lord working in the lives of the family, and what happens in their family when they are obedient (being gathered and protected and blessed) or when they are not (scattered and destroyed). It’s the same story we see play out in our everyday lives.
It’s like an amazing genealogy find, to read this ancient journal entry of him wanting to keep the record of his family history and how he wants to pass it down to his children, and their children, and to know we are really holding it right in our very hands! It really did get passed down! It’s better than my great-grandmother’s desk in my bedroom!
Specifically, he says, he doesn’t just want to write the story of his father, but “the things of God” (verse 3).
“For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.”
That’s covenant language.
That’s one of the reasons we, as LDS, say the Gospel has been “restored”. This is what is being restored: the original covenant that has been since before the beginning. Not just un-doing denomination bickering in the last 2,000 years, but since the beginning, since before the beginning.
When you really “get” that, it will take your breath away.
“Wherefore, the things which are pleasing to the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.” (Verse 5)
Nephi finishes his monologue in verse six by saying that he will write the story of his family, and then pass these metal plates (upon which the records are written) down to his children for them to add to them their story. But, he says, he will teach them only to write the things of God, and not to use up the space or time writing things which are not of true worth.
This is most important, he says.
Focus on what is most important, he says.
And then pass it on.