“Nephi, Son of Nephi”

Ed J. Pinegar, Richard J. Allen

Nephi, the devoted and obedient son of Nephi, bridges the transition to a new dispensation, one defined by the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law through the visit and ministration of the resurrected Lord and Savior, the bringer of the new covenant of salvation and exaltation. Nephi comes through a line of remarkable progenitors—an uninterrupted sequence of righteous fathers and sons in the first century BC that includes Alma the Elder, Alma the Younger, Helaman (leader of the two thousand stripling warriors), Helaman the chief judge, and the latter’s eldest son, Nephi, who is the father of the Nephi now being considered.

At the conclusion of his earthly mission, around AD 1, Nephi, son of Helaman, confers upon his eldest son, Nephi, the responsibility to shepherd the sacred records and associated materials handed down from the beginning of the American sojourn (see 3 Nephi 1:2). During this period of time, the words of the prophets concerning the birth and mortal ministry of the Messiah, including the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite, begin to be fulfilled. Nevertheless, the disbelievers are determined to slay the believers on a certain day if the ultimate sign—a day and a night and day without darkness—should not come to pass. Nephi prays continuously throughout the day with great fervor on behalf of the people and is favored to hear the voice of the Savior assuring him that the promise is about to be fulfilled: “Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given” (3 Nephi 1:14).

In this marvelous manner, the ministry of Nephi begins to unfold. For years he preaches, expounds, exhorts, baptizes, and invokes the powers of heaven to bring his fellow citizens into the Master’s fold to prepare them for His imminent appearance. The days of ensuing peace and prosperity are countered by the destructive influences of secret conspirators who reduce society to a condition of individual tribal administrations. Nephi stands forth in mighty power as an advocate for the gospel cause: “For it were not possible that they could disbelieve his words, for so great was his faith on the Lord Jesus Christ that angels did minister unto him daily” (3 Nephi 7:18).

With his fellow Saints, Nephi lives through the monumental seismic upheavals that accompany the enactment of the atoning sacrifice of the Redeemer. When the resurrected Lord appears in Bountiful in AD 34, Nephi is the leader He calls forth first of all—the first to receive the power to baptize (see 3 Nephi 11:19–21). Nephi is the first of the twelve disciples to be mentioned by Mormon (see 3 Nephi 19:4). When Nephi is baptized as part of the new dispensation, he then baptizes all who have been chosen. Thereafter, the Holy Ghost falls upon them and angels minister unto them. Then Jesus Himself appears again and ministers unto them (see 3 Nephi 19:15).

It is a transcendent outpouring of spiritual blessings to have the Savior personally organize His Church and guide the new leadership in priesthood administration and service. In all of these proceedings, Nephi is a central participant. He is, so to speak, the Peter of the American continent. He lives to enjoy the universal peace that follows the Savior’s visit: “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (4 Nephi 1:15). By the time the first century AD ends, “the disciples of Jesus, whom he had chosen, had all gone to the paradise of God, save it were the three who should tarry” (4 Nephi 1:14)—and thus Nephi goes to his reward, having left behind a legacy of stalwart devotion to the eternal principles of the plan of salvation and exaltation. His example is worthy of emulation by every Saint. We can remember him with thanksgiving for having been the faithful under-shepherd of distinction and valor, acting under the personal tutelage of the heavenly Shepherd of peace of glory. Now let us consider the details of his ministry and experiences as they unfold.

Commentaries and Insights on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2