I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.
Who was Nephi, anyway? What do we know about him? We know he was an Israelite, and a descendent of Joseph, through Manasseh.Alma 10:3: And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt … Continue reading His name seems to be of Egyptian origin.Elder George Reynolds said of the name, Nephi, “It’s roots are Egyptian; meaning, good, excellent, benevolent… One of the names given to the god [Osiris], expressive of his … Continue reading
“Having been born of goodly parents,”
I like the culturally traditional definition of this word, which is basically, “good.” Lehi and Sariah were good parents. We know that from dozens of evidences throughout the books of Nephi. But is that what the word goodly really means?
Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines goodly different than this.GOOD’LY, adv. Excellently. GOOD’LY, a. Being of a handsome form; beautiful; graceful; as a goodly person; goodly raiment; goodly houses. 1. Pleasant; agreeable; desirable; as goodly … Continue reading
Modern dictionaries define it differently as well.adjective 1. considerable in size or quantity. “we ran up a goodly bar bill” synonyms: large, largish, sizable, substantial, considerable, respectable, significant, decent, generous, … Continue reading
So what does it mean? The dictionaries point to a meaning around the idea of wealth, beauty, abundance, and having great quantity of something. Even so, sometimes the scriptures define words differently than the dictionaries. So how do the scriptures use the word goodly? I was a little surprised to discover that the scripture seem to support the idea of goodly meaning rich, abundant, wealthy, well-endowed, or nice looking. Matt 13:45 ¶ Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Deut. 6:10 …the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee … Continue reading
There are a couple ways in which we may read “goodly” to mean, “good.” Joseph Smith described himself as being born of goodly parents. We know from several accounts that Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack were not wealthy, but they were very good parents. If Joseph understood the word goodly to mean good, perhaps he would translate the scripture that way. I suppose this is unlikely, but just a thought.
Another way to read the verse to suggest that Nephi’s parents were abundant in learning, faith, and favor with the Lord.
“Therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father”
Nephi was a man full of knowledge of things spiritual, practical, physical–he was well taught and well studied.A. Theodore Tuttle said, “No doubt Nephi was taught the things of the Spirit—his writings reveal that. He probably was taught practical matters as well, for he was a very resourceful man. … Continue reading With parents who could provide a good education for their children, Nephi would have received the best available teaching from his parents, which would have included a great deal of study in the words of the prophets, the law of Moses, and the early history of the world.George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl explain: Hebrew learning, also called, ‘the learning of the Jews,’ consisted, at this time, chiefly in the knowledge of the Law [Torah], now known as … Continue reading
“Having seen many afflictions in the course of my days”
What afflictions would young Nephi have experienced at this point?
The answer is simple. Nephi didn’t write verse 1 until about 30 years after leaving Jerusalem.2 Nephi 5:28-31 28 And thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem. 29 And I, Nephi, had kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far. 30 And it came to … Continue reading Basically, he’ll expound on the “many afflictions” in the following chapters.
“being highly favored of the Lord”
What does it mean to be favored of the Lord? Isn’t that like saying the Lord has favorites?
Well, first off, let’s look at the definition of favored. These days, the word translates:
adjective: favoured; adjective: favored
preferred or recommended.
“she was his favored candidate”
synonyms: preferred, favorite, recommended, chosen, choice
“the president’s favored candidate for chief of staff
This definition speaks of preference by means of comparison. But if you look in the 1828 Webster’s dictionary (the dictionary that represented common use language at the time Joseph translated the Book of Mormon), you’ll see a slightly different definition:
1. Countenanced; supported; aided; supplied with advantages; eased; spared.
2. a. Regarded with kindness; as a favored friend.
3. With well or ill prefixed, featured.
Well-favored is well-looking, having a good countenance or appearance, fleshy, plump, handsome.
Ill-favored is ill-looking, having an ugly appearance, lean. See Gen. 39. Gen 41. &c.
Well-favoredly, with a good appearance. Little used.
Ill-favoredly, with a bad appearance. Little used.
Notice there’s no element of comparison or preference. Nephi was loved by the Lord, supported, aided, regarded, and in good standing with Him. This use of the word favored seems consistent with other verses throughout the scriptures.Alma 20:28: And it came to pass that Ammon and Lamoni proceeded on their journey towards the land of Middoni. And Lamoni found favor in the eyes of the king of the land; therefore the brethren of … Continue reading
Another good explanation for this is in Nephi’s later explanation. The Lord favors those who keep his commandments, no matter their background.
And now, do ye suppose that the children of this land, who were in the land of promise, who were driven out by our fathers, do ye suppose that they were righteous? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. Do ye suppose that our fathers would have been more choice than they if they had been righteous? I say unto you, Nay. Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it.This is also demonstrated by looking at it from the other side. If those who are favored turn away from the Lord, they lose the favor of the Lord. Mosiah 1:13 13 Yea, and moreover I say unto you, … Continue reading
“having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God”
What mysteries of God did Nephi know?
Just as with the word goodly, we should recognized that there are three different definitions of the word, mysteries. The first is our modern cultural definition. If you mention “the mysteries” in church, people will think you mean those things that God hasn’t revealed, and that are not essential to our salvation. The stereotypical example is knowing the astronomical location of Kolob. We don’t know it, we don’t need to, and the prophets (as far as we know) have never revealed it.
The second definition would be the modern dictionary definition.A Google search for the definition shows: mys·ter·y1 ˈmist(ə)rē/Submit noun plural noun: mysteries 1. something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. “the mysteries of … Continue reading There are several dictionary definitions, but essentially they are things unknown.
The third is the scriptural definition, and that’s what I’d like to focus on. With only a few exceptions, every reference to the word mystery point more or less to this definition: knowledge obtained through the Holy Ghost. Often, it refers to knowledge that can only be obtained by the power of the Holy Ghost. 1 Corinthians 14:2 2 For he that speaketh in an tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. Matthew 13:11 11 He answered and … Continue reading
Nephi, as a righteous man and a prophet, would know much of the mysteries of God.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Chas Hathaway is the author of the books Scripture Study Made Awesome, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with Dating? and Giraffe Tracks. Learn more at chashathaway.com. Please participate in the conversation by adding comments and sharing with friends on the web!
Gospel Living Made Awesome is not an official work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If Chas says something stupid, it's his own fault.
|↑1||Alma 10:3: And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren.|
|↑2||Elder George Reynolds said of the name, Nephi, “It’s roots are Egyptian; meaning, good, excellent, benevolent… One of the names given to the god [Osiris], expressive of his attributes, was Nephi, or Dnephi, as Noph, in which form it appears in appears in Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah, its modern English name is Memphis.” Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, Smith and Sjodahl, 1955, pg. 4|
|↑3||GOOD’LY, adv. Excellently.|
|↑5||Matt 13:45 ¶ Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Deut. 6:10 …the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,
Deut. 8:12 Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;
Gen 27: 15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son:
D&C 103:20 But I say unto you: Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land…
D&C 103:24 And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, which I have consecrated
Mosiah 18:7 And it came to pass after many days there were a goodly number gathered together at the place of Mormon, to hear the words of Alma. Yea, all were gathered together that believed on his word, to hear him. And he did teach them, and did preach unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord.
And just to make sure we get an idea of how the word goodly might refer to a person (rather than a place, amount, or thing):
2 Samuel 23:21 And [Moses] slew an Egyptian, a goodly man: and the Egyptian had a spear in his hand; but he went down to him with a staff, and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and slew him with his own spear.
Genesis 39:5-6 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s asake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured. [This is the closest use I can find to the cultural definition, good, though it seems even here to refer to Joseph’s new abundance because of his position with Potiphar.]
1 Kings 1:5-6 5 ¶Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom.
|↑6||George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl explain:
Hebrew learning, also called, ‘the learning of the Jews,’ consisted, at this time, chiefly in the knowledge of the Law [Torah], now known as the Pentateuch; the Prophets down to and including Isaiah and some books now no longer extant, some of which are mentioned in the Scriptures, as for instance, the Book of Nathan, [2 Chron. 2:29], the Book of Enoch [Jude 14], the Book of Memorial [Ex. 17:4], the Book of Jasher [Josh. 10:13], and the Book of Records [Ez. 4:15].
In the Law the Jews were taught the divine origin of the heavens and the earth, through acts of creation; the beginning of the human race, the “fall” and its consequences and the promise of redemption. They were taught the lesson of sin and destruction in the flood, but also the renewal of the covenants of God and the re-peopling of the earth by the descendants of Noah. They were further shown the beginning of the Hebrew people, their history and development, by which they became, notwithstanding human frailties and stubbornness, the foundation of the Messianic kingdom of God on earth. They were taught a moral law that surpasses anything ever conceived by man, and a civil law and ritualistic service, exactly suited to their conditions and calculated to educate them in righteousness and holiness.
This “learning of the Jews” was meant to be applied to every day affairs. It was to be their very life, and not only something to discuss. The Jew had to become familiar with the words of the Law. He was told: “Bind them for a sign upon the posts of thy hand”; “they shall be as frontlets between thy eyes,” “thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house” and on thy gates (Deut. 17:19).
The following quotations illustrate the importance which the Jews attach to the reading of the Law:
“Rabbi Chananya, the son of Teradyon, said, ‘That if two sit together and interchange no words of Torah, they are a meeting of scorners, concerning whom it is said, The godly man sitteth not in the seat of the scorners (Ps. 1:1); but if two sit together and interchange words of Torah, the divine Presence abides between them. … R. Simeon said, If three have eaten at a table and have spoken no words there of Torah, it is as if they had eaten of sacrifices to dead idols. … R. Chalafta, the son of Dosa, of the village of Chananya, said, When two persons sit together and occupy themselves with the Torah, the Sheschina (the glory of the Lord) abides among them.”
Other sacred books were called “Prophets.” Some of these were historical, as the Books of Samuel, the Kings, the Chronicles, etc. Others were didactic and prophetic. The Psalms, he Proverbs, the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes were known as “the Writings.”
Besides the written word, the Jews had a venerable tradition by means of which the historical background of the records was preserved, and opinions, rulings, judgments, judicial decisions, customs and important incidents were transmitted by word of mouth from one generation to another generation. The Levites, who had charge of the sacred buildings and the objects consecrated for the divine services, also were the educators of the people.
Sometime after the destruction of the temple by Titus and the dispersion of the people, the tradition was committed to writing. This literary composition is known as the “Mishna,” meaning “repetition.” Later, notes or commentaries were written on this text. These explanations are known as the “Gemara,” or “complement.” The Mishna and Gemara together constitute the Talmud (“instruction”), of which there are two versions: one composed at Jerusalem (about 390 A.D.), and one at Babylon (about 420 A.D.). The Talmud is by far the most important literary work of the adherents of the Mosaic faith, next after the inspired writings of the Old Testament.
As an illustration of the peculiar, deductive explanations of the Scriptures in the Talmud, the following may be referred to. In the Law (Deut. 27:5) it is forbidden to use iron tools in building an altar to the Lord. Why? Rabbi Johannan explains it thus. He says that iron signifies war and strife. The altar is atonement and peace. Therefore the two of them must not come together. “Thus we are taught the value of peace in the home, peace between city and city, nation and nation.” (Prof. Graetz, History of the Jews, Vol. 2, p. 329)
The following sentiments are illustrative of the philosophy of the Talmud:
“Love peace and pursue it at any cost.” … “Remember it is better to be persecuted than to persecute.” … “Be not prone to anger.” … “He who giveth alms in secret is greater than Moses himself.” … “It is better to utter a short prayer with devotion than a long one without fervor.” … “He who having but one piece of bread in his basket, and says, What shall I eat tomorrow? is a man of little faith.” (Farrar, The Life of Christ, p. 680.)
Curiously enough, some modern critics have belittled the Talmud, very much in the same spirit as that by certain readers of the Book of Mormon. They have found it “uncouth,” “unintelligible,” “tedious,” and “unprofitable.” But that only proves that the literary taste and fashions of the world have changed since the composition of these works. It proves nothing against the truths that may be contained in the Talmud, and nothing against the revelations in the Book of Mormon. Truth is truth, no matter how presented, and gold is gold, whether offered on a silver tray or wrapped in rags.
“Nephi could, of course, not be familiar with the Talmud, as known in modern times, but the essence of that volume is much older than the books containing it. It gives us an idea of “the learning of the Jews.”
Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, Smith and Sjodahl, 1955, pg. 4-6
|↑7||This is also demonstrated by looking at it from the other side. If those who are favored turn away from the Lord, they lose the favor of the Lord.
|↑8||A Google search for the definition shows:
|↑9||A. Theodore Tuttle said, “No doubt Nephi was taught the things of the Spirit—his writings reveal that. He probably was taught practical matters as well, for he was a very resourceful man. Today that son is fortunate whose father teaches him somewhat in all his learning.” A. Theodore Tuttle, Therefore I Was Taught, General Conference, October 1979|
|↑10||2 Nephi 5:28-31
28 And thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem.
29 And I, Nephi, had kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far.
30 And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.
31 Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.
1 Nephi 19:1-5
1 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.
2 And I knew not at the time when I made them that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates; wherefore, the record of my father, and the genealogy of his fathers, and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness are engraven upon those first plates of which I have spoken; wherefore, the things which transpired before I made these plates are, of a truth, more particularly made mention upon the first plates.
3 And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.
4 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord.
5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.
And it came to pass that Ammon and Lamoni proceeded on their journey towards the land of Middoni. And Lamoni found favor in the eyes of the king of the land; therefore the brethren of Ammon were brought forth out of prison
|↑12||1 Corinthians 14:2
2 For he that speaketh in an tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.
Doctrine and Covenants 8:11
Doctrine and Covenants 84:19
Doctrine and Covenants 76:7
Doctrine and Covenants 19:8-12
Guide to the Scriptures