CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 5.
This chapter begins with Nephi in the raw emotions of feeling the sting of meanness from those he loves most and the grief of watching them reject what he knows is good for them.
“Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren” (verse 1).
The murmuring brothers are now being so mean and angry that they are trying to kill Nephi.
They don’t like Nephi telling them what is good and right. They don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to change. They don’t want to live differently or feel better. They like being miserable.
It gets so bad that the Lord warns Nephi he is in danger. Nephi heeds the warning, taking those of his father’s family who had chosen to be covenant people into the wilderness for safety. Nephi’s family goes, Zoram and his family go, and his brothers Sam, Jacob, and Joseph all go.
“And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words” (verse 6).
They travel through the wilderness to a new place of safety, and settle in tents in this new place. They name this new place after him, calling it Nephi.
Because the place was called Nephi, the people who lived there were the people of Nephi, who came to be called Nephites.
This is an important piece because sometimes we think the Nephites were just the descendants of Nephi. That isn’t exactly the case. The Nephites were the descendants of all these families, as well as others who had chosen or later convert to the covenant. So for now, rather than meaning biological relation to Nephi himself, the term “Nephites” more accurately reflects those who chose the covenant, the people who follow the Lord, the people who were members of the church.
“And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses” (verse 10).
And because they were obedient, they enjoyed the presence of the Lord and were blessed.
“And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind” (verse 11).
So as life goes on, Nephi continues keeping the records of his people. They grow and spread out over time. They built buildings, and could work with wood and iron and copper and brass and steel. They had access to gold and silver and other ores and metals.
Most importantly, they built a temple.
“And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (verse 16).
Then, a small verse that shapes how we as LDS live, how the world sees our mormon lives: “I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands” (verse 17).
Nephi made sure the people were hard workers! Self-reliant! Industrious!
Because Nephi was so good at teaching them and leading them, the people began to want him to be their king.
This is what happened in the Old Testament, too! The Lord’s pattern was that He would call prophets, and the people would follow the prophets (and continue developing their own individual relationships with the Lord as well, of course). However, the people always began to demand kings. This happens in the Old Testament over and over (think Samuel and Saul), until the people had removed themselves from the Lord’s protection and demanded secular and political structure instead.
Nephi knows the pattern, and refuses to be their king. He urged them not to have a king. In his teaching the people, he used this to teach them how following the Lord “sets apart” (makes holy!) the covenant people of God. He is able to compare them to those who had refused to follow the Lord, and now instead of a successful and industrious people like they were, the others had become “an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety” (verse 24).
“And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction” (verse 25).
So the people decided to follow the Lord’s pattern, and Nephi’s brothers Jacob and Joseph were set apart as priests and teachers over the people and Nephi remained in the role of a prophet instead of being made king.
“And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness” (verse 27).
This is the plan of happiness! Even through hard circumstances or challenging experiences, we can have happiness when we are living the Lord’s way. When we are willing to submit to His will, and willing to do what He says, and obedient to what He asks for us, it moves us into a position of being “in order”. This “order” is more than just organized, and more than just the proper hierarchy or roles and tasks defined. It is about His Order, the Order of the Priesthood. It is about becoming a people of holiness. It is about Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.
As time passes, the Nephites become this people-of-holiness, the people of the covenant.
Those who did not follow Nephi, but remained with the murmuring brothers Laman and Lemuel become known as the “Lamanites”. Like the Nephites, the Lamanites are more than just the descendants of Laman and Lemuel. The term “Lamanites” comes to mean those who are outside the covenant.
What we know as the Book of Mormon unfolds is that the Nephites are the covenant people as long as they do the work required to keep those covenants.
But later in history, as the Book of Mormon unfolds, we see the destruction of the Nephites because they do not keep their covenants.
We will also see the conversion of the Lamanites, which Lehi had prophesied of before his death.
The story of all of this is what Nephi records on his metal plates, and then hands down to his son. These records get passed down one generation after another, and it is this family history record that we know have and know as “The Book of Mormon”.
And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.
Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.
And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates.
These are the plates that got passed down and added to, until finally being hid for safety during the final days of the war that destroyed the Nephites.
These are the plates Moroni hid in the hill so that they would be safe, even if he were killed in the war.
These are the plates that Moroni told Joseph Smith about, and these are the plates that Joseph Smith dug up out of the hill and translated.
These are the plates we are reading when we read “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ”.
And so it begins, the “wars and contentions” (verse 34) between the Nephites and the Lamanites.
It’s classic Old Testament stuff: whenever we keep our covenants, we are “gathered” and provided for and protected.
When we do not keep our covenants, we are “scattered” and destroyed.
It’s one of the most basic principles in life, and it unfolds on every level: physical, emotional, professional, mental, social, relational, literally, figuratively.
When we keep our covenants, we are “gathered” and “saved”.
When we do not, we are “scattered” and “destroyed”.
It’s really that simple.