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The Learning of My Father
TitleThe Learning of My Father
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsBokovoy, David E., and John A. Tvedtnes
Book TitleTestaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible
Chapter2
Pagination25-29
PublisherHeritage Press
CityToelle, UT
KeywordsAlma the Elder; Alma the Younger; Education; Enos (Son of Jacob); Fatherhood; Helaman (Son of Helaman); King Benjamin; Language; Learning; Lehi (Prophet); Nephi (Son of Lehi); Parenthood
Abstract

From Nephi to Moroni, the inspired men of the Book of Mormon received instruction from their fathers. By accepting the role of teacher, Nephite fathers fulfilled the same responsibility associated with men in ancient Israel. Fathers in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon were responsible for teaching their children.

Full Text

Chapter 2

THE LEARNING OF MY FATHER

I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father. (1 Nephi 1:1)

In ancient Israel, fathers held the primary responsibility for teaching their children. “Remember the days of old,” instructed the prophet Moses, “consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee” (Deuteronomy 32:7). The same idea is seen in the book of Proverbs, which identifies wise children as those who receive council from their fathers: “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding” (Proverbs 4:1). Beginning with the prophet Lehi, we see righteous fathers throughout the Book of Mormon fulfilling this same stewardship.1

The Book of Mormon begins with Nephi praising his father as teacher: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father” (1 Nephi 1:1).3 The commencement to Nephi’s record seems to have inspired later Book of Mormon authors.2

In the years following the death of Nephi, the prophet Enos began his own addition to the small plates in a manner reminiscent of 1 Nephi 1:1:

Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos knowing my father that he was a just man, for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it. (Enos 1:1)

This same pattern witnessed in the commencement of both Nephi’s and Enos’s accounts continues throughout most of the Nephite record. In a manner consistent with the cultural standards of ancient Israel, Nephite fathers held the primary responsibility of instructing their children.

In addition to the prophet Enos, King Benjamin seems to have been directly inspired to begin his record by the opening words of Nephi’s account. Both books begin with a reference to the role of father as teacher. “And he [Benjamin] caused that they [his sons] should be taught in all the language of his fathers,” begins the abridged portion of the book of Mosiah, “that thereby they might become men of understanding and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered by the hand of the Lord” (Mosiah 1:2). Mosiah 1:2-6, which describes how King Benjamin taught his sons, seems to have been patterned after Lehi’s teaching of his son Nephi. The italicized words in the extracts below highlight the parallels in the two accounts.

1 Nephi 1:1-3

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. Yea, I make a

record in the language of

my father, which consists

of the learning of the

Jews and the language of

the Egyptians. And I

know that the record

which I make is true; and

I make it with mine own

hand; and I make it

according to my

knowledge. For it came

to pass in the

commencement of the

first year of the reign of

Zedekiah, king of Judah,

(my father, Lehi, having

dwelt at Jerusalem in all

his days); and in that

same year there came

many prophets,

prophesying unto the

people that they must

repent, or the great city

Jerusalem must be

destroyed.

Mosiah 1:2-6

And it came to pass that

he had three sons; and he

called their names

Mosiah, and Helorum,

and Helaman. And he

caused that they should

be taught in all the

language of his fathers,

that thereby they might.

. . know concerning the

prophecies which had

been spoken by the

mouths of their fathers,

which were delivered

them by the hand of the

Lord. And he also taught

them concerning the

records . . were it not for

these plates . . . we must

have suffered in

ignorance . . . not

knowing the mysteries of

God. For it were not

possible that our father,

Lehi, could have . . .

taught them to his

children, except it were

for the help of these

plates; for he having

been taught in the

language of the

Egyptians therefore he

could read these

engravings, and teach

them to his children, that

thereby they could teach

them to their children

that... we might read

and understand of his

mysteries . . . O my sons,

I would that ye should

remember that these

sayings are true, and

also that these records

are true. And behold,

also the plates of Nephi,

which contain the

records and the sayings

of our fathers from the

time they left Jerusalem

until now, and they are

true.

Another Nephite who was greatly influenced by his father’s teachings was Alma2, who spent some of his youth trying to destroy the Church that his father, Alma1, had established among the Nephites. After an angel appeared, he fell into a coma-like state:

While I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. (Alma 36:17)

These words are drawn from the admonitions Alma delivered to his own sons, recorded in Alma 36-42.

Alma’s grandson, Helaman2, had two sons whom he named after his ancestors: Lehi and Nephi. We read that “they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them” (Helaman 5:5). The Book of Mormon lists some of his teachings, then explains that “these were the words which Helaman taught to his sons; yea, he did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written. And they did remember his words; and therefore they went forth, keeping the commandments of God” (Helaman 5:13-14).

From Nephi to Moroni, the inspired men of the Book of Mormon received instruction from their fathers. By accepting the role of teacher, Nephite fathers fulfilled the same responsibility associated with men in ancient Israel. Fathers in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon were responsible for teaching their children.

Footnotes

1. For an in-depth study, see E. Douglas Clark and Robert S. Clark, Fathers and Sons in the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992). Anciently, sons typically took up the same trade as their fathers. For discussions of how this applies to Book of Mormon peoples, see John A. Tvedtnes, “Book of Mormon Tribal Affiliation and Military Caste,” Warfare in the Book of Mormon, ed. Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990), 296-396; “Was Lehi a Caravaneer?” chapter 10 in Tvedtnes, The Most Correct Book: Insights from a Book of Mormon Scholar (Salt Lake City: Cornerstone, 1999), 76-98.

2. Jacob, Nephi’s younger brother, also learned much from his father. For a discussion, see John A. Tvedtnes, “The Influence of Lehi’s Admonitions on the Teachings of His Son Jacob,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/2 (1994): 34-48.

3. Compare the wording of 1 Nephi 1:1 with that of Mormon 1:2.

 

 

Scripture Reference

1 Nephi 1:1

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