1 Nephi (Whole Book)

The Know

Nowhere is Nephi’s literary skill more clearly on display than in the expansive chiastic structure of the entire book of 1 Nephi. John W. Welch has explained that both 1 and 2 Nephi “are independent chiastic units, centrally focused and symmetrically organized,”11 but 1 Nephi is the more elaborate of the two. In 1 Nephi, “almost every element in the first half of the book” has “a specific counterpart in the second half.”12 Lehi’s and Nephi’s visions of the tree of life form “the central section of the book,”13 with Nephi’s encounter with the Spirt marking the very center.

The Why

Recognizing the book-length chiastic patterns in the Book of Mormon helps explain some of the more unusual features of the book’s organization.14 In the case of 1 and 2 Nephi, it “explains why Nephi divided his writings into two books.”15 Since Nephi was making a political argument in his small plates record,16 the placement of his vision at the very center would suggest that “experiencing the same vision as his father Lehi … [was] the decisive factor which in Nephi’s mind ultimately established him as the successor to his father.”17

Chiastic Structure Of 1 Nephi

A

Lehi prophesies warnings of destruction to the Jews and foresees the mercy of God (Chapter 1)

 

B

Lehi’s group departs from Jerusalem (2:2–15)

 

 

C

Nephi establishes himself over his brothers by obtaining the Plates of Brass (2:16–4:38)

 

 

 

D

The sword of fine steel (4:9)

 

 

 

 

E

Sariah’s concern (5:1–9)

 

 

 

 

 

F

The Plates of Brass as a guide (5:10–6:6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

G

The sons of Lehi get the daughters of Ishmael and Ishmael joins the group (7:1–5, 22)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H

Nephi bound with cords in the wilderness (7:6–21)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life (8:1–38)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J

Lehi prophesies about the Old World and about the coming of the Lamb (10:1–22)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

K

Nephi and the Spirit of the Lord (11:1–36)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J

Nephi prophesies about the New World and the coming of the Lamb (12:1–14:30)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life interpreted (15:1–36)

 

 

 

 

 

 

G

The sons of Lehi marry the daughters of Ishmael and Ishmael dies (16:1–8, 34–35)

 

 

 

 

 

F

The Brass Ball as a guide (16:9–17, 26–33)

 

 

 

D

The bow of fine steel (16:18)

 

 

C

Nephi establishes himself over his brothers by building a ship (17:1–18:4) (3:7; cf. 17:3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H

 Nephi bound with cords on the ship (18:11–16, 20–21)

 

 

 

 

E

 Sariah’s afflictions (18:17–19)

 

B

Lehi’s group arrives at the Promised Land (18:23–25)

A

Nephi prophesies concerning the fate of the Jews and concerning the mercy of the Lord unto the afflicted (chapters 19–22)