“The People Loved Nephi Exceedingly”

Monte S. Nyman

It is not clear whether Nephi was a king, or whether the reign of the kings began with his successors. Apparently his successors were a patriarchal or family appointment. Later “all the people of Zarahemla were numbered with the Nephites, and this because the kingdom had been conferred upon none, but those who were descendants of Nephi” (Mosiah 25:13). However, as indicted by the phrase “let them be of whatever name they would” (Jacob 1:11), this practice could have been initiated at a later time. If it was begun at this time, his successors must have had names different than Nephi. We do know that he had not sought to be their king, and if he had served as king, it was because the Lord had told him he should be “their ruler and their teacher” (2 Nephi 5:19). Note also that the Lord’s will that there should be “no kings upon the land,” was regarding the time of the Gentiles occupying the land of the Americas in the latter days (2 Nephi 10:10–11). The advantages and disadvantages of having kings are given in Mosiah 29, and will be discussed there.

Nephi died shortly following the fifty-fifth year after their leaving Jerusalem (Jacob 1:12). “Being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature” (1 Nephi 2:16) when they left, it is assumed he lived to be around seventy years of age. Thus, Jacob, the older of the two sons born to Lehi and Sariah in the wilderness, would have been about fifteen years younger than Nephi (see 1 Nephi 17:4; 18:7). Therefore, Jacob would have been somewhere in his early fifties when he began keeping this record.

Jacob 1:13–14 The Nephites and the Lamanites

13 Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites.
14 But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi, and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites, or the people of Nephi, according to the reigns of the kings.

Jacob designates seven different peoples called by the names of all of Lehi’s sons except Sam; plus Ishmael and Zoram, the servant (v. 13). It should be remembered that Sam, as blessed by his father, was to be “numbered with [Nephi’s] seed” (2 Nephi 4:11). Sixteenth century native documents, called Quiche-Mayan Guatemala writing, give an interesting corroborative account of the seven peoples:

The “Totonicapan” record refers to the division into seven tribes… . The “Xahila” family, one of the royal lines of the Quiches of the highlands of Guatemala, left an account in the Maya tongue entitled “Annals of Xahila.” It states therein: We were brought forth, coming we were begotten by our mothers and our fathers, as they say… . They say that the seven tribes arrived first at Tullan, and we the warriors followed, having taken up the tributes of all the seven tribes when the gate of Tullan was opened.

Book of Mormon Commentary: These Records Are True