I read 1 Nephi 5 this week and was struck by the story of Lehi searching the brass plates and what he found in them.
Hugh Nibley, in his lectures on the Book of Mormon, said that Lehi didn’t have the genealogy of his fathers because the records on the brass plates were rare and secret. The law was read publicly once a year by the scribes and pharisees, and that was all the access the people had to what we now call the Old Testament.
So, when Lehi and his family fled from Jerusalem, the Lord commanded Lehi to send his sons back to get these brass plates. After Nephi and his brothers returned from their dangerous expedition to recover them from Laban, Nephi wrote that Lehi gave thanks and began to “search the records from the beginning.” After finding that the records contained the five books of Moses, the record of the Jews, prophecies of the holy prophets, Lehi made a discovery:
And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.
And they were also led out of captivity and out of the land of Egypt, by that same God who had preserved them.
And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records.
And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed.” (1 Nephi 5:14-17)
What an exciting family story to discover! Lehi had expected to find a genealogy of his forefathers on the plates (1 Nephi 3:3), but he found more than a lineage – he found an incredible story of difficulty, suffering, miracles, and faith. His discovery of this incredible family story filled him with the spirit.
And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed—That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed.
Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time.
And he prophesied many things concerning his seed.” (1 Nephi 5:17-19)
The story of his ancestor Joseph, who saved his family from famine, no doubt gave Lehi strength to carry on during his own difficult journey. He must have felt especially strengthened by the knowledge that the Lord chose him to be the new record keeper and custodian of the brass plates.
Lehi prophesied that his descendants would receive the brass plates in the future and that the brass plates would never perish. He was sure that his role as keeper of the records would be for the benefit of his posterity.
Nephi also made sure to write down those things which were most valuable to his descendants – declaring that he wrote “for the learning and the profit of [his] children” (2 Nephi 4:15). Nephi filled the pages of his small plates with stories from his life which showed his faith and righteous choices.
What do we gain from knowing the stories of our ancestor’s faith? As William W. Walker said, in the April 2014 General Conference,
The more connected we feel to our righteous forefathers, the more likely we are to make wise and righteous choices.
Hearing stories of faith about our ancestors gives us the knowledge that people in our family are able to overcome challenges! If my ancestor survived a difficult challeneg, maybe I can too.
Lehi gained strength from his family history discoveries, and so can we.
At the funeral of my grandfather today, his ten children, many grandchildren, and their families celebrated Grandpa’s faithful, devoted life. It was a life of teaching, hard work, service, and devotion to the Savior. As one of his fifty four grandchildren, I pondered the impact his life has had on each of us.
After hearing stories of his personal faith and miracles he experienced, his written testimony, and the fulfillment of his patriarchal blessing, my uncle encouraged us to recommit to live the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ was the most important part of Grandpa’s life, and we all knew it. We left today feeling inspired to be a little better, and be a little more like our beloved Grandpa.
I echo the words of Elder Walker, who finished his talk “Live True to the Faith” by saying,
I pray that each of us will live true to the faith that our parents have cherished.
Reading stories of our ancestors’ faith fills us with the Spirit and helps us recommit to live better lives. As I write my personal history and my own stories of faith – I hope to create my own “small plates” like Nephi’s – for the profit and learning of my children.