Lehi now begins his active ministry as a special witness of the Lord. Although his prior callings or stewardships are not recorded, and not denying that he had previous callings, his visions had prepared him to be a special type of witness to the inhabitants of the land of Jerusalem (compare D&C 107:23). As a special witness of the Messiah, Lehi prophesies to his people. He becomes another witness along with the many prophets who had previously come to warn Jerusalem. As stated earlier, the length of time of his ministry to the Jews is not given, in context however, it seems to be short.
Nephi concludes his account of his Father’s ministry in Jerusalem with the declaration that the Jews mocked and sought to take the life of his father even as they had the prophets of old (vv. 19–20). It is typical of a wicked generation to reject the warnings of the prophets concerning the Messiah and his justice, and to even seek their lives. While many incidents of the Old Testament could be cited to verify this fact, it was summarized by the Savior in the Beatitudes, “for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12; 3 Nephi 12:12).
The phrase, “I, Nephi, will show unto you,” introduces to the reader the intent for which Nephi will select what he did in this small abridgment. The phrase is an example of what Joseph Smith calls a precept to bring you nearer to God as discussed in the “Introduction” preceding this chapter. This precept applies to chapter two through five and seven of 1 Nephi.
The Lord had prepared Lehi for his mission and now, as Nephi commences to show how that mission was accomplished, Nephi prepares the reader to look for the ways the Lord delivered Lehi and his associates from their difficult problems and circumstances. However, Nephi is not content to just tell the reader about Lehi, he wants the reader to know that the same is typical of every person whom the Lord chooses for his work. Of course a calling is dependent upon one’s faith. By contrast, Laman and Lemuel serve as examples to the reader of the consequences that come to those who do not live by faith.
Nephi could personally testify of the tender mercies of the Lord being over those he has chosen (v. 20). This verse presents the basic message of the Book of Mormon that the reader should keep in mind as he studies the book further. Too often this vital message is overlooked while less significant facts and observations are emphasized. The Book of Mormon stands as a witness of Jesus Christ in a very active sense. It testifies that he will actively guide and influence the lives of those whom he has chosen—those who turn to him with all their hearts.