“The People Were Desirous to Retain in Remembrance His Name”

Brant Gardner

Culture: Jacob transmits little economic information about Nephi but very specific information about Nephi’s military prowess. It is significant as a matter of social organization that Nephi, as the king, engaged personally in armed conflicts. Certainly this measure was absolutely required during the early years of small population. Probably, even at this point, the population is not sufficiently large that the king’s leadership can be dispensed with, unless, of course, Nephi’s advanced age prevented his fighting. However, this simpler social organization was not solely the result of the earlier and smaller population. Social egalitarianism is part of the Nephite charter and continues to be a point of social pressure throughout the Book of Mormon. That ideal is challenged again and again by the intruding ideals of social stratification.

Biography: This information shows Nephi as a warrior king. If he were sixteen at the time the family left Jerusalem, then his mention of wars and skirmishes forty years after the departure (2 Ne. 5:34) makes him fifty-six and still engaged in personal combat. Even after his active military career ended, due to old age, he would have played a ceremonial role, complete with Laban’s sword. Perhaps such scenes were akin to Moses watching from Joshua lead the children of Israel into battle, supporting them with his personal presence. However, there are indications of Maya kings fighting in battles late in their life, so even active participation cannot be completely ruled out.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2