Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 5 – Hearken to the Truth, and Give Heed unto It

  1. The Lord guides the families of Lehi and Ishmael according to their faith and diligence.

1 Ne 16:9-10 The Liahona

‘Like the Urim and Thummim, the Liahona was a physical device that aided in the coming forth of revelation. Mechanically, it pointed the direction of travel for Lehi’s family (see 1 Nephi 16:10). The Liahona, however, had more than a mechanical function. The arrows or pointers only worked according to faith (see v. 28). Even more remarkable, on the ball appeared writing which instructed and exhorted Lehi’s family (see vv. 26–27, 29). Nephi indicated that the writings were “plain to be read” and gave “understanding concerning the ways of the Lord” (v. 29).

The Liahona was indeed a remarkable instrument. In it Alma saw a type or symbol of the word of God, or the gospel (see Alma 37:38–47). The Liahona was treasured by the writers of the Book of Mormon and seems to have been passed on with the plates. It, along with the plates, the Urim and Thummim, the breastplate, and the sword of Laban were shown to the Three Witnesses by Moroni (see D&C 17:1).’ (Seminary Book of Mormon Student Manual)


1 Ne 16:10 What does the word “Liahona” mean?

Hugh Nibley: “Yah is, of course, God Jehovah. Liyah means the possessive, ‘To God is the guidance,’ hona (Liyahhona). That’s just a guess; don’t put it down. But it’s a pretty good guess anyway.” (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, lecture 14, p. 216)

1 Ne 16:18 

“There was murmuring, too, because Nephi broke his steel bow and also because he couldn’t possibly build a ship (see 1 Nephi 16:18-20; 17:17). Those same murmurers, insensitive to their inconsistency, quickly surfeited themselves on the meat brought back by Nephi’s new bow. They also sailed successfully over vast oceans to a new hemisphere in the ship that Nephi couldn’t build. Strange, isn’t it, how those with the longest lists of new demands also have the shortest memories of past blessings?” (Neal A Maxwell, If Thou Endure It Well, p. 125.)

1 Nephi 16: 23 Nephi’s bow

‘In addition to making a new bow, Nephi also makes a new arrow. But his bow broke, not his arrows. Why does he make an arrow? David S. Fox suggests:

Consider what happens to an arrow at the instant the string is released: the full force of the drawn string is applied to the end of the arrow, trying to accelerate it, but also tending to bend or buckle the arrow. If the bow’s draw weight and the arrow’s stiffness are not perfectly matched, the arrow will stray off the intended course or fall short of the mark. An arrow that is too flexible will leave the bow with a vibration that can cause the arrow to behave erratically. On the other hand, an arrow that is too stiff is probably too heavy for the bow.

Nephi’s steel bow likely used heavier, stiffer arrows than his simply fashioned wooden bow could handle. Nephi was physically large (see 1 Ne. 2:16, 4:31), and he would have had little reason to use a bow made from metal if he did not have considerable strength. The arrows to match the steel bow used by such a man would undoubtedly have been quite heavy in order for them to be of adequate stiffness. One experienced archer reports, “The arrows from the steel bow when shot from the wooden bow would be like shooting telephone poles.” Hence, it is accurate that Nephi should mention, in one and the same breath, the fact that he made an arrow as well as a bow. Bow wood and arrow wood from the same tree or area could be matched as well.

Potter and Wellington confirmed that arrows were made from the wild olive tree in Dhofar.

Nephi also armed himself with a sling and stones, a weapon suitable for smaller game like hare. Arrows would be required for the larger antelope, gazelle, or oryx. If Nephi made only a single arrow, his faith in Yahweh’s guidance would have been tremendous, as he allowed for no error. However, this might be a linguistic convention, and we should probably be cautious about reading too much into the mention of an “arrow,” rather than “arrows.” Because he kills multiple “beasts” (v. 31–32), he probably had more than a single arrow.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness – Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)


1 Ne 16:33-34 Shazer

‘Regarding the place name Shazer, Nigel Groom’s Dictionary of Arabic Topography and Placenames contains an entry for a similar word, “shajir,” giving the meaning: “A valley or area abounding with trees and shrubs.” [2]

Regarding the name “Shazer,” Nibley wrote:

The first important stop after Lehi’s party had left their base camp was at a place they called Shazer. The name is intriguing. The combination shajer is quite common in Palestinian place names; it is a collective meaning “trees,” and many Arabs (especially in Egypt) pronounce it shazher. It appears in Thoghret-as-Sajur (the Pass of Trees), which is the ancient Shaghur, written Segor in the sixth century. It may be confused with Shaghur “seepage,” which is held to be identical with Shihor, the “black water” of Josh. 19:36. This last takes in western Palestine the form Sozura, suggesting the name of a famous water hole in South Arabia, called Shisur by Thomas and Shisar by Philby. . . . So we have Shihor, Shaghur, Sajur, Saghir, Segor (even Zoar), Shajar, Sozura, Shisur, and Shisar, all connected somehow or other and denoting either seepage–a weak but reliable water supply–or a clump of trees. Whichever one prefers, Lehi’s people could hardly have picked a better name for their first suitable stopping place than Shazer.  (fairmormon.org website)

  1. Nephi demonstrates unwavering faith by fulfilling the Lord’s command to build a ship.

1 Nephi 17:7-8 Thou shalt construct a ship

‘Nephi did not get to enjoy the luxury of life on the beach very long. He was told to go into the high mountain nearby. Imagine his surprise to be shown a vision of a ship which he was told to construct. It was not like any ship he had ever seen but the Lord said it was necessary to carry their entire congregation across the great waters to the promised land.

One would have expected Nephi to say the task was impossible because he had no tools, but that isn’t what he said. He said he had no ore! It turned out the Lehi’s family were metallurgists and if they had ore they could make tools.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

‘Nephi’s response to the Lord’s command to build a ship gives us insight into his remarkable faith. Other prophets have also been overwhelmed at times by tasks commanded by the Lord. Moses felt inadequate when called to lead the children of Israel (see Exodus 4:1–5). Enoch felt he was slow of speech and wondered why the Lord called him (see Moses 6:31). Nephi might have been overwhelmed with the thought of building an ocean-going vessel. Instead, his response displayed great faith: “Whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship … ?” (1 Nephi 17:9). Nephi’s confidence did not likely come from any previous ship-building experience. Rather, his confidence stemmed from tremendous faith in God.’  (Institute Book of Mormon Student Manual)


  1. Laman and Lemuel bind Nephi, who shows courage and gratitude despite this trial. After they free him, he guides the ship to the promised land.

1 Nephi 18:9 With much rudeness

According to an article by John Tvedtnes, Hebrew has fewer adverbs than English. Instead, it often uses prepositional phrases with the preposition meaning in or with. For example, “with much rudeness” (1 Nephi 18:9) is used instead of “very rudely.” The English translation of the Book of Mormon contains more of these prepositional phrases in place of adverbs than we would expect if the book had been written in English originally. [John A. Tvedtnes, “The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon” in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 79] (Alan C Miner, Step by Step Therough the Book of Mormon)

1 Nephi 18:12-13 The Compass ceases to work

‘Although Nephi does not say so, Laman and Lemuel apparently see no connection between the binding of Nephi and the failure of the director. Denying Nephi’s spiritual authority, they could not see the causal relationship.

Without the Liahona, they did not know where to go, but they likely attempted only to hold their course and ran into the storm, not uncommon during the monsoon season. (See commentary accompanying 1 Nephi 18:20–22.) Perhaps, one of the Liahona’s functions was to help them avoid such natural phenomena.

This verse suggests that Laman and Lemuel had seized control of the group, not allowing anyone else to untie Nephi either. Certainly Lehi and Sariah did not condone Nephi’s binding but were powerless either to prevent or reverse it. ‘(Brant Gardner, Second Witness – Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)




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