“Having Had Power Given Unto Him That He Might Know Concerning the Ministry of Christ”

Bryan Richards
"There are some Book of Mormon figures whom we glimpse only briefly, whom we can never know well, but who intrigue us immensely because that brief glimpse seems to show us the tip of a remarkable iceberg. Nephi, the grandson of Helaman, is such a figure for me. He moves very quietly onto the scene and backs very quietly out of it, but he is no ordinary record-keeper. This is the man who was the spiritual leader of the Nephites at the time of the birth of the Savior and during the Savior’s ministry on the American continent. This is the man who wrote the account that Mormon abridged as Third Nephi, one of the most powerful sections of the Book of Mormon. So great was his faith and so vigorous his spiritual power that he raised his brother from the dead and communed regularly with angels.
"Rereading Third Nephi, I have become more and more aware that perhaps our only real access to Nephi‘s character is through Mormon’s perception of him as Mormon reads and abridges Nephi’s record. I think Mormon must have been impressed with Nephi because he keeps interrupting his narrative to pay respect, either directly or indirectly, to the earlier prophet. (See, for example, 3 Ne. 7:15-16 and 3 Ne. 8:1.) Since we can, in effect, know Nephi only secondhand, it seems important that we try to look through Mormon’s eyes, try to see Nephi as Mormon saw him. Careful study of Mormon’s abridgement confirms in both subtle and obvious ways that Mormon knew he had encountered a remarkable human being.
"I have often wondered, in reading between the lines, if Mormon might have been a little reluctant to cut and summarize Nephi’s account. It appears that at times he prefers to omit parts of the account rather than attempt to shorten it. Speaking of Nephi’s ministerings, for instance, he says, ’And all of them cannot be written, and a part of them would not suffice, therefore they are not written in this book. And Nephi did minister with power and with great authority.’ (3 Ne. 7:17.)
"Even in making rather casual references to the record, Mormon adds extra praise for Nephi: ’And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity.’ (3 Ne. 8:1.)
“…Interesting as these kinds of observations are, it is nevertheless Mormon‘s perception of Nephi’s great spiritual stature that really stirs our minds and hearts. More concerned about the well-being of his people than about himself, strong in spirit and will, Nephi kept a record chiefly to bear witness to the divine ministry of Jesus among the Nephites. Moving chronologically through Third Nephi, we become more and more aware of Nephi’s spiritual magnitude, largely, I think, because Mormon was keenly aware of that magnitude. It is somewhat difficult to get even a limited understanding of Nephi’s character because there is so little direct description of him and there are so few explicit references to his activities. I find, however, that as I read Mormon’s account, a picture of a dynamic spiritual leader takes shape because the few statements Mormon does make resound through my mind as I read the book of Third Nephi.” (Marilyn Arnold, “The Nephi We Tend to Forget,” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 69)