The account of the great schism in the family of the departed prophet begins with the statement that the anger of the oldest brother against the younger had increased to the degree that Laman had begun to consider plans for the destruction of Nephi. The refuge and defense of Nephi, then, was prayer. Such was his education and training. But to all appearances prayer did not avail. The enmity increased. Laman forgot that he had had his chance of leadership and failed. (See 14)
God hears and answers prayer. That is an eternal truth, solid as the everlasting hills. The Apostle John assured the members of the church in his day that, “Whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” (1 John 3:22) But he also said in the same epistle (5:16) that there is a sin “unto death”; and, “I do not say that ye shall pray for it.”
From the tenor of this epistle it appears that the “sin unto death” which the Apostle had in mind, was apostasy; see, for instance, 2:22, 24; 4:15, 20. For when a sinner rejects the Savior which God has provided, and his atonement, there is no other savior, no other means of salvation. But Laman was about to add fratricide to apostasy. Hence the Lord commanded Nephi to depart. Evidently this was the only means of preventing Laman from plunging himself headlong into the whirlpool of everlasting destruction. For, by following the divine promptings and leaving the settlement, Nephi prevented the heinous crime of fratricide. And by departing voluntarily, he, seemingly, assumed part of the responsibility for the deplorable separation.
Nephi left. (v. 5) He was accompanied by Zoram, Sam, Jacob, Joseph and their families, his sisters and all those who would go with him. (6) Nephi explains that “all those who would go with him” were those who believed in the warnings and revelations of God. But were they only the children and grandchildren of Lehi and his company, who less than thirty years previously had left Jerusalem?
(v. 28) Were these as numerous already at this time as the expression, “all those who would go with me,” seems to imply? Or, is it possible that Lehi and his family had established their first settlement in a locality where they found aborigines—Jaredites, for instance—who had identified themselves with the newcomers, as the Mulekites did with the immigrants led by Mosiah (Omni vv. 12-19)?
There may be no definite information on this point in the record of Nephi, but see also v. 14. It is a peculiar fact, which may, or may not, be significant, that, in the numerous traditions of the Indians concerning the appearance of civilizers and reformers in various places, widely separated, these always found aborigines to teach and elevate. This is true of Quetzalcoatl in Cholula, Votan in Chiapas, Wixepecocha in Oajaca, Zamna and Cukulcan in Yucatan, Gucumatz in Guatemala, Viracocha in Peru, Sume and Paye-Tome in Brazil and Bochica in Colombia.
The journey lasted for the “space of many days,” (v. 7), which means that it was a long journey, and it went through the wilderness. In the Book of Mormon, the term “wilderness” means a country inhabited by wild beasts, or only sparsely settled. In Brazil, according to George Church in “Aborigines of South America,” p. 19, this meaning of the word “desert” has been retained to this day. It means a “wild, upland pasture country.”
Having traveled for many days, they found a place suitable for settlement, and they called it Nephi. It became the “Land of Nephi.” (v. 8)