Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nephi's Wife

1 Nephi 7: 6, 19
1 Nephi 16:7, 27, 35-36
1 Nephi 17:1-2, 20
1 Nephi 18:6, 19

Background: Abt. 592 BC

Lehi was commanded by the Lord to take his family and leave Jerusalem before it was destroyed. His family departed into the wilderness but his sons made several trips back to Jerusalem. The first trip they made was to get the brass plates from Laban and second trip was to bring back women for them to marry. Lehi's sons were successful in convincing Ishmael and his family to leave Jerusalem and join them in their journey into the wilderness. Ishmael, his wife, his sons and his five daughters left their possessions behind and departed into the wilderness (1 Nephi 7:1-5) .

Facts about her:
  • She was one of the five daughters of Ishmael (not the oldest one);
  • She followed her family into the wilderness and left all her worldly possessions behind in Jerusalem (1 Nephi 7:5);
  • She married Nephi (1 Nephi 16:7);
  • She witnessed the writting on the Liahona (1 Nephi 16:27);
  • She murmured against Lehi and Nephi, as did all her other sisters, when her father died and wanted to return to Jerusalem (1 Nephi 16:35-36);
  • Unlike two of her sisters (those married to Laman and Lemuel) she repented of her murmuring and never rebelled again (1 Nephi 16:39);
  • She bore children in the wilderness (1 Nephi 17:1-2);
  • She lived on raw meat in the wilderness (1 Nephi 17:1-2);
  • Despite her hardships she gave "plenty of suck" for her children (1 Nephi 17:1-2);
  • She suffered all things "save death" (1 Nephi 17:20);
  • She became strong, like unto a man, and bore her journeying without murmurings (1 Nephi 17:1-2);
  • She made the voyage to the promised land and helped establish a new life for her family there (1 Nephi 18);
  • On the voyage to the promised land Nephi's wicked brothers rebelled against him and tied him up, the Liahona stopped working and they were being tossed upon the sea. Her tears and prayers (and also those of her children) were not enough to soften the hearts of Nephi's brethren and it was "... nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts" (1 Nephi 18:19-20);
  • When the righteous Nephites separated themselves from the wicked Lamanties she and her children went with them (2 Nephi 5:6).
Speculations about her:
  • In 1 Nephi 7:19 Nephi says that one of the daughters of Ishmael, her mother and one of the son's of Ishmael plead with Laman and Lemuel not to kill Nephi and were successful in softening their hearts. We don't know for sure, but I suspect that this was the daughter Nephi later married;
  • She may have been youngest daughter of Ishmael (but not for sure) because we know that her oldest sister married Zoram and that her three other sisters married Nephi's older brothers-- Laman, Lemuel and Sam. One would just suppose they were older because the brothers were older, but older women can marry younger men-- so who knows.
  • She wandered for over 11 years in the wilderness and in that time probably suffered extreme hunger, thirst, fatigue, sickness, heartache, grief, loss and every other imaginable hardship.
My Thoughts:

When I read the story of Nephi's wife I can't help but think of how similar her story is to Emma Smith's, the wife of the prophet Joseph. Even though these two women lived hundreds and hundreds of years apart they both experienced similar blessings and trials. Both of these women were married to men who became prophets while very young. Both of their husbands were persecuted by wicked men (even though Nephi had it worse because the wicked men were his brothers) who attempted to kill them multiple times. Both women left comfortable homes behind in order to support their husbands and to follow the teachings of the gospel. They both wandered in the wilderness (remember Ohio, Missouri and Illinois were literally wilderness countries in Emma's time) for most of their married lives. They both bore children while wandering in the wilderness-- we know Emma lost several children and can only suppose the Nephi's wife may have also. Both of these women sustained their husband's callings and supported them in the difficult work the Lord had called them to do. Also, they both helped their husbands lead their people to a promised land and start a new life-- Nephi to the Americas and Joseph to Ohio, Zion and Nauvoo. They were no strangers to heartache, disappointment and fear. Yet, even despite the great trials these women faced they were strong in their faith in Jesus Christ and endured faithfully to the end. I'd like to think that these two are now great friends up in heaven, each understanding perfectly what the other has suffered and what it is like to be the wife of a young, persecuted prophet.

What we can learn from her:
  • Women are strong-- physically and spiritually;
  • Even though we may murmur against the Lord when our trials become more than we can bear, if we repent He will forgive us and strengthen us that we may learn to bear our trial without murmuring;
  • Even though we don't hear about them, every prophet mentioned in the Book of Mormon had either a wife or a mother supporting him in his sacred calling. We may not know their names or just exactly what they did, but it doesn't make their contributions any less important or grand in the eyes of the Lord. He knows each and every one of those women and what they suffered and contributed to his work.
Questions to think about:
  • What qualities did she have that made her a good wife for Nephi? Why did he see in her that led him to choose her? How did she help him in fulfill his calling from the Lord?
  • Do you think you would have been able to endure what she had to in the wilderness? Would you have murmured?
  • This is more of a challenge than a question-- I challenge you to start paying more attention to the unmentioned women in the Book of Mormon, and start looking between the lines and find the women who are behind the stories-- they may not be mentioned but they are there you just have to look for them.


  1. I'm glad you did this post. I'm always amazed that most people don't even think Nephi was married?! I like that you compared his wife to Emma.


    PS I used to have the This thing called life...
    blog, but it's being redone/renamed so it's down for now:(

  2. I am new to your blog. My husband actually found it while searching for a Sunday School lesson. I am so excited about this one stop shop regarding women in the scriptures. I have always been fascinated by their roles and want to learn more. THANK YOU for taking the time to study and share. I look forward to visiting.

  3. Great blog! I am using your "Nephi's wife" post as a guide for a talk I am giving at our enrichment about virtuous women and how to inspire us to live more virtuous lives. In 1 Nephi 17:4 it says that they wandered 8 years not 11. Other than that, great blog post!!

  4. I just discovered your blog when I did a google search for "Relief Society History script". Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. What an uplifting work you do!

  5. I just found your blog... through Pinterest... of course. I love how you took the time to do this. I am a mother of 4 girls and a YW leader and can't wait to use some of your insights to make them stronger women of virtue!!!

  6. I'm a long time reader and just started reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning again. I'm in 1 Nephi 7 and thought, "I wonder if Heather has written about the daughters of Ishmael?" and yes, you have! I don't think I've read this post before. I love the comparison to Emma--so true! Thanks!

  7. Thank you for this blog post! I love 1 Nephi 16:7-8, when Nephi says, "I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife," and then in the very next verse he says, "I, Nephi, had been blessed of the Lord exceedingly." I think this is Nephi's way of saying how much he loved his wife and was grateful for her. The verse always make me smile. :)

  8. Thank you for your fantastic blog! I love it so much I'm going to take your challenge. I used to think that the daughter mentioned in 1 Nephi 7:19 was Nephi's future wife too, but now I'm inclined to think that the woman most likely to influence Laman was his own girlfriend, not Nephi's or it could have been Zoram's wife, who, as the oldest would have more influence. I don't see Laman and Lemuel being swayed by Nephi's intended. They weren't on the boat. I also love that you encourage us to look for the women between the lines of the Book of Mormon. One of those women that I was just thinking of was Alma The Youngers wife. I was talking to my brother about how she must have been an incredible woman to raise their children in the Gospel with her husband gone on missionary work all the time. He brought up the point that even though Alma's heart was in missionary work he stayed in the position as chief judge for a long time before becoming a missionary full time. He conjectured that the reason for that might have been that he knew he needed to be a father first before he could be a missionary.

  9. Thank you so much for this! I'm really looking forward to studying more about her.

  10. Why does she NOT have a name other than wife?