“And My Father Dwelt in a Tent”

Bryan Richards

This is the shortest verse in the Book of Mormon. It may seem to carry little meaning. However, Hugh Nibley writes:

"The editors of the Book of Mormon have given a whole verse to Nephi's laconic statement, 'And my father dwelt in a tent' (1 Nephi 2:15), and rightly so, since Nephi himself finds the fact very significant and refers constantly to his father's tent as the center of his universe. To an Arab, 'My father dwelt in a tent' says everything. 'The present inhabitants of Palestine,' writes Canaan, 'like their forefathers, are of two classes: dwellers in villages and cities, and the Bedouin [tent-dwellers]. As the life and habits of the one class differ from those of the other, so do their houses differ. Houses in villages are built of durable material; . . . on the other hand, Bedouin dwellings, tents, are more fitted for nomadic life…'"
"So with the announcement that his 'father dwelt in a tent,' Nephi serves notice that he had assumed the desert way of life, as perforce he must for his journey: any easterner would appreciate the significance and importance of the statement, which to us seems almost trivial. If Nephi seems to think of his father's tent as the hub of everything, he is simply expressing the view of any normal Bedouin, to whom the tent of the sheikh is the sheet anchor of existence." (Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites, pp. 57-58)