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First Nephi is the abbreviated title of The First Book of Nephi His Reign and Ministry. It is the first published section of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. The book contains a record of an ancient people during a three decade period from approximately 600 BC (BCE) to approximately 570 BC (BCE).
The book includes a record of two families or clans, one headed by a man named Lehi and the other headed by a man named Ishmael. Lehi and Ishmael both lived in or around Jerusalem around 600 BC. Lehi had a vision and was warned that Jerusalem would be destroyed if the people did not repent. He preached to the people and invited them to repent. Lehi, having been warned by the Lord, fled the city into the wilderness with his family to save his life. His sons were sent back to Jerusalem twice--first to retrieve a scriptural record of the Jews engraved on metal plates of brass; second to invite Ishmael's family / clan to join them on their journey. During this time, Zoram, another resident of Jerusalem, joined the traveling party as well.
The group, headed by Lehi, traveled across the Arabian Peninsula for approximately eight years. After spending some time on the sea shore, the group constructed a ship according to the Lord's directions and sailed across the ocean to the American continent.
The themes in First Nephi parallel closely the experience of the Israelites under Moses in their journey to the promised land. The story of Moses is referenced a number of times during the narrative, and Lehi speaks of obtaining a promised land for the inheritance of his family.
The book contains elements of history, Messianic visions, sermons related to the scattering and gathering of Israel, and quotations from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.
The chapters in the book can be grouped into sections as follows:
Chapters 1 through 7 describe the history of the family of Lehi, his prophetic calling, and the departure of his family into the wilderness. The Jews seek to kill Lehi because he calls them to repentance. He is warned in a dream to flee Jerusalem with his family for his life. His sons have difficulty believing their father's call for sacrificing their home to live a much-diminished lifestyle in the wilderness. Laman and Lemuel doubt and complain, while Nephi prays for assurance that his father is doing the Lord's will. Nephi receives a witness of his father's prophetic calling and conveys it to his brother Sam. Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi return to Jerusalem to obtain a scriptural record engraved on brass plates. After some intense trials, they obtain the record and return to their father in the wilderness. They discover that the retrieved record contains a genealogy of Lehi's family, plus valuable scriptures such as Isaiah. The brothers return to Jerusalem again to recruit Ishmael's family to leave with them. The two families embark into the wilderness.
Chapters 8 through 15 summarize and interpret visions experienced by Lehi and Nephi.
Chapters 16 through 18 return to the historical account detailing marriages among Lehi and Ishamel's families, their time spent on the coast of the Arabian peninsula, the construction of a ship, and their journey across the ocean to their promised land on the American continent.
Chapter 19 through 22 finish the record with some editorial comments, quotations from the book of Isaiah, and a millennial prophecy.