“Now All These Things Were Said and Done As My Father Dwelt in a Tent”

Alan C. Miner

According to Terrence Szink, to better understand any writing, we need to consider several issues: when it was written, who wrote it, what the author’s purpose was, and what ideas or attitudes may have influenced the author.

The first six verses of 1 Nephi 16 can best be understood when seen as the conclusion of the previous section, 1 Nephi 8 through 15. These chapters contain visions, prophecies, and finally an explanation by Nephi to his hardhearted brothers. Laman and Lemuel complained that Nephi had spoken “hard things” to them. He responded by reasoning that the teachings were hard only to those who were condemned by them. Verse 6 seems to conclude this section: “Now all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel.” [Terrence L. Szink, “To a Land of Promise,” in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 60-61]

“All These Things Were Said and Done As My Father Dwelt in a Tent”

George Potter and Richard Wellington write that they were confused for a long time as to why Nephi would inform the reader multiple times that Lehi “dwelt in a tent” (see 1 Nephi 2:15, 9:1; 10:16; 16:6). They note that they had stopped to take a photo of a Bedouin tent on the edge of the desert. A woman came out with her husband to pose. They couldn‘t help but notice inside the tent the family’s entire possessions could be wrapped into a couple of bed rolls; a few pots and pans, plats, cups and a few blankets. Here this noble man stood, his thawb (Arab clothing) threadbare in places. Lehi left his house, gold, jewelry and land and lived in a tent like a poor man, yet he never complained about leaving his possessions behind. Moreover, Lehi and his wife Sariah, along with Nephi and Sam were blessed abundantly by the Lord in these humble circumstances. What a contrast we see in Laman and Lemuel, who never let Lehi forget that they wanted to return to their wealth and circumstances at Jerusalem. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering Nephi’s Trail, Chapter 2, p. 10, Unpublished] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:15]

“All These Things Were Said and Done As My Father Dwelt in a Tent”

Nephi did not record how long they camped in the valley of Lemuel before the knew that they would never return to Jerusalem. Of this period Nephi wrote only that “all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley of Lemuel” (1 Nephi 16:6). Nephi will say later in his record that they “did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness. And we did come to the land which we called Bountiful” (1 Nephi 17:4-5). Thus, according to Potter and Wellington, eight years would elapse from the time they left Jerusalem until they arrived at their last camp in Arabia.

Strabo wrote that a caravan journey from “Minaea to Aelena” (Yemen to Aqabah) took seventy days. Nigel Groom, an expert on the Frankincense trade, estimates that a commercial camel caravan could travel from Gaza to the Frankincense growing area at Dhofar in southern Arabia in 69-88 days. He estimates the entire distance as 2,110 miles. The difference between 88 days and 8 years suggests that Lehi might have lived in the fertile valley of Lemuel for some time. Lehi’s family appears to have been comfortable in the valley of Lemuel and probably felt no urgency to move on. Nephi would describe their time in the valley as a period of his life when he was “blessed by the Lord exceedingly” (1 Nephi 16:8). [George Potter and Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript, 2000, p. 69] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 17:4]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary