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This article refers to a Book of Mormon prophet named Nephi. He is the third prophet named Nephi in the Book of Mormon. This is Nephi, the son of Nephi, the son of Helaman, who was a descendant of Alma the Elder. His ministry begins when his father leaves the land of Zarahemla in 3 Nephi chapter one. He kept the records on the Large Plates of Nephi, prayed for the people the night before Christ was born, and was finally called as one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ in America.
Ancient American Prophets
In the time of Nephi, many ancient American prophets united in their testimony of Jesus Christ.
Samuel the Lamanite
While Jesus was born in Judea, what happened in America? Five years before Jesus was born, an ancient American prophet named Samuel the Lamanite prophesied that Jesus would be born far away, at Jerusalem. He said that the people of America, the peoples called in the Book of Mormon Nephites and Lamanites, would see a new star in the sky. He said that the night that Jesus was born would be as bright as if it were day--yet they would see the sun set and rise the next morning. Most of the people rejected Samuel, but a few believed. The second prophet named Nephi--the father of the Nephi in this article--wrote down the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite (see Helaman 13-15).
The Sign is Given
Five years later, Nephi the son--the one to whom this article refers--was witness to a devastating conspiracy among those who did not believe in Samuel's prophecies. They said that the five years were up, and they determined that if the signs of Christ's birth--the new star and the bright night--did not happen by a certain day, then they would slaughter all who had believed Samuel's words. Nephi, and likely many of his fellow Christians, poured out his soul to God. After praying for a full day, Nephi received a powerful answer:
- "Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets. 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 1:13-14).
Just as Nephi's father wrote down Samuel the Lamanite's prophecies, Nephi had the opportunity to write down how those prophecies were fulfilled. There was new star, and there was a night as bright as day. The righteous then were comforted that their faith in Christ was right, and Latter-day Saints today find strength in their example. If they could wait so patiently for the Messiah, then we can wait for his Second Coming with equal faith and patience.
Nephi's Contemporary Prophets
After the sign was given, some of the people still rejected everything they had seen. Many of the unbelievers formed a secret combination or criminal organization called the Gadianton Robbers. The people were led by two prophets named Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni to victory in an all-out war with the Gadianton Robbers. After this victory, the people praised God, and none of them doubted that Christ was real.
Now, Samuel the Lamanite's prophecy that Jesus Christ would be born had been fulfilled. However, he also prophesied that when the Savior died, there would be major natural disasters, and that only good, righteous people would survive. Now, after a few years, many people began to disbelieve his prophecies yet again! Mormons like to call this constant flip-flopping between belief and righteousness vs. disbelief and evil the Pride Cycle. So, God called new prophets, including Nephi and his brother, Timothy. God allowed many of the prophets to be killed, but the prophets performed many miracles and convinced some of the people.
Signs of Christ's Death
As a record-keeper as well as a prophet, Nephi recorded the fulfillment of Samuel the Lamanite's prophecies. Here are some of the signs, mostly natural disasters, that occurred in American when Jesus was killed in Jerusalem:
- Utter darkness for three days and three nights (Helaman 14:20, 3 Nephi 8:20-23)
- Thunder and lightning (Helaman 14:21, 3 Ne. 8:6-7)
- Earthquakes (Helaman 14:21-22, 3 Ne. 8:6)
- Storms (Hel. 14:23, 3 Nephi 8:5-6)
- The shape of the land changed; mountains became valleys and valleys became mountains (Helaman 14:23-24, 3 Nephi 8:10-18)
- Earlier prophets rose from the dead (Helaman 14:25, 3 Nephi 23:7-13)
Before the three days of darkness ended, the people who survived heard the voice of Jesus Christ, calling them to come unto him and be saved.
Disciple of Jesus Christ
Finally, after Jesus Christ was resurrected in the Middle East, he appeared at the temple in the ancient American city of Bountiful. About two thousand five hundred people saw him. He blessed the children. He gave the Sermon on the Mount to them, including the Lord's Prayer, and taught them other things. The people saw angels. And the Savior called twelve disciples or ministers to the ancient Americans, just as he called twelve apostles in Jerusalem. Nephi was the first of the twelve disciples, just as Peter was the first apostle.
Now, the Savior makes a distinction between these twelve disciples and the twelve apostles in Israel. The disciples only ministered to the people in America, while the apostles had authority over the whole world. And, on judgment day, the apostles will judge the twelve ancient American disciples. This is consistent with the Savior's prophecy in Matthew 19:26-27 that the Twelve Apostles would sit on twelve thrones, judging the whole house of Israel.
Nephi spent the rest of his life testifying of Jesus Christ and teaching and baptizing his people as Christ had commanded the disciples to do. The Lord promised three of his American disciples that they would live until his Second Coming, inviting all to come unto Christ. It is possible that Nephi was one of these. In any case, he eventually passed the sacred records on to his children, and eventually they reached the prophet Mormon, who compiled the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.