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Lehi (Book of Mormon prophet)

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According to the Book of Mormon, Lehi was a prophet who lived in Jerusalem during the reign of king Zedekiah (approximately 600 BC)[1]. Lehi was an Israelite of the Tribe of Manasseh, and father to Nephi, another prominent prophet in the Book of Mormon. In the first book of the Book of Mormon, First Nephi, Lehi and Nephi lead their family out of Jerusalem, and across the sea to the "promised land" (the Americas). Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley has suggested that he was a merchant and contemporary of the Seven Wise Men of Greece[2]. The modern day city of Lehi, Utah is named after Lehi.

Lehi's life according to the Book of Mormon

According to the Book of Mormon narrative, the families of Lehi, his friend Ishmael and another man named Zoram left Jerusalem some time before its destruction by the Babylonians in approximately 587 BC. Lehi's group proceeded southward down the Arabian Peninsula until they reached a location called Nahom[3]. Ishmael is reported to have died by this time, and he was buried at this location[4].

From Nahom, the group proceeded in an eastward direction across the desert until they reached a fertile coastal region they named Bountiful, where Lehi's son Nephi was instructed by the Lord to build a ship for the purpose of sailing across the ocean to the "promised land"[5]. The party of men, women and children along with their animals boarded the ship and sailed until they reached the Americas[6].

The Book of Mormon relates that during his family's journey to the Americas and before his death, Lehi gave important teachings to his children and their posterity that were recorded by Nephi on metallic plates that were later used in compiling the Book of Mormon.


Upon Lehi's death, his sons Nephi and Laman established two conflicting nations, the Nephites and the Lamanites, and as such is considered one of the principal ancestors of the Book of Mormon people. According to the Book of Mormon, his known immediate family is as shown in the diagram below.


It is also believed that Lehi had daughters maybe even before Jacob and Joseph were born. Lehi's son, Nephi, mentions having sisters in his writings; their names and birth order is unknown.[7]

Hypothesized Modern Archaeological Ties

Some Mormon scholars and researchers speculate that the following archaeological sites and peoples may have ties to Lehi, or constitute evidence of the historicity of Lehi (though these connections are not accepted by non-Mormon archaeologists):

Possible Origin of the Name

Lehigh County is the third most populous area of Pennsylvania and named for the Lehigh River which is a tributary of the Delaware River. The name is derived from the Delaware Indian term Lechauweki or Lechauwekink, meaning "where there are forks." The county, which was first settled around 1730, was formed in 1812 with the division of Northampton County into two counties. Joseph Smith lived approx. 250 miles away from the Lehigh River but if he studied a map of the area(as can be seen here in a 1797 map near the city of Bethlehem on eastern Pennsylvania border north of Philadelphia - [1] ) he would have seen it near the Biblical-named cities of Bethlehem and Nazareth. If he traveled to New York City or Philadelphia his journey would most likely have taken him through Lehigh County and near the Lehigh river.

Joseph Smith's interest in the name "Lehigh" may have been awakened if he learned the Native American origin of the name. There is evidence to suggest Joseph had an interest in ancient native American peoples from a young age. His mother, Lucy Mack Smith, in the book History of Joseph Smith by His Mother speaks of stories Joseph would tell her, and other family members, about Hebrew people he claimed inhabited Pre-Columbia America.


  1. 1 Nephi 1:4
  2. (Nibley 1952)
  3. See the following chapters in the Book of Mormon for this narrative: 1 Nephi 2, 1 Nephi 3, 1 Nephi 4, 1 Nephi 5, 1 Nephi 7, 1 Nephi 16
  4. 1 Nephi 16:34
  5. 1 Nephi 17
  6. 1 Nephi 18
  7. 2 Nephi 5:6


  1. Nibley, Hugh Winder (1952), Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft Publishing Company, pp. 36,, retrieved 2007-05-09 .
  2. Nibley, Preston (1853), The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft Publishing Company .

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