Verse by Verse Commentary: 1 Nephi 1:17

But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.

Chiasmus is a common Hebrew literary style that absolutely permeates the Book of Mormon. This verse is no exception. Notice the parallels of the lines as they mirror one another:

1. But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days.

2. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father,

3. upon plates which I have made with mine own hands;

2 .wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father

1. then will I make an account of mine own life.

Identifying chiasmus is useful because it’s usually at the center of the “mirror” that you find the central message of the verse/chapter. In this case, the central message is that Nephi made the plates with his own hands. Why would that be so important?

I’m speculating here, but if we consider the fact that Nephi is no longer in Jerusalem, where you could probably just purchase ore or plates at the local blackmith shop, we realize that Nephi likely had to gather/mine his own ore, melt it down, flatten it, and finally carve the writing into it. He’s not just writing on paper (or some sort of papyrus or scroll), he’s writing on plates, which he made himself. This is a big deal to Nephi. He knew his record was important enough that it had to be on ore that will last centuries.

And it did. In fact, when Mormon abridged the rest of the Book of Mormon, he wrote his abridgement on “new” plates, but before hiding up the plates, he came across these plates, written by Nephi. They were something of a repetition (historically, anyway) of the writings he’d already abridged, so it would be redundant to include them, but he was prompted by the spirit to include them with the plates. Rather than copy them, he bound the plates right into his record (they must have been a similar size and shape) before hiding them up to one day be revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith.

That means Nephi made them in about 600 B.C. (probably more like 570 B.C., but close enough), Mormon adds them to his record around 400 A.D., and then Joseph translates them in about 1829 A.D. That means they remained readable for over 2400 years.

I’d have to agree with Nephi. It’s a big deal that he made those plates. They must have been of an incredible quality to last that long.

I make an account of mine own life.

Why is keeping a personal history so important? Let’s ask a few prophets and general authorities…

Spencer W. Kimball:

The history of the Church is essentially the history of its individual members. One of the best ways to celebrate righteous history is to make more of it, make more righteous history!1)Spencer W. Kimball, “No Unhallowed Hand Can Stop the Work,” Ensign, May 1980, 4

Elder Gene R. Cook:

“Many of the stories in this book were just small, everyday experiences. But because we wrote them down, they became spiritual experiences. Part of the key to having spiritual experiences is simply to recognize them, value them, and treat them with enough respect to record them.” 2)Raising Up a Family Unto the Lord, Gene R. Cook, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2004

President Henry B. Eyring:

When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.
He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”
I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.
The years have gone by. My boys are grown men. And now and then one of them will surprise me by saying, “Dad, I was reading in my copy of the journal about when…” and then he will tell me about how reading of what happened long ago helped him notice something God had done in his day.
My point is to urge you to find ways to recognize and remember God’s kindness. It will build our testimonies. 3)Henry B. Eyring, O Remember, Remember, Ensign Nov 2007

Finally, I highly highly recommend you read President Spencer W. Kimball’s talk entitled, “The Angels May Quote From It,” which is referring to journal keeping. Seriously, read it. It’s worth the time.

References   [ + ]

1. Spencer W. Kimball, “No Unhallowed Hand Can Stop the Work,” Ensign, May 1980, 4
2. Raising Up a Family Unto the Lord, Gene R. Cook, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2004
3. Henry B. Eyring, O Remember, Remember, Ensign Nov 2007