Sunday, May 2, 2010

How Old Was Nephi When He Left Jerusalem?

Much as been written about Nephi's age at this tiem, mostly after drawing erroneous conclusions from a single statement made by Nephi himself thirty years after leaving Jerusalem. Looking back on time, Nephi considered himself “exceedingly young” (1 Nephi 2:16). However, most people when looking some 30 years backward in time would consider themselves quite young given a certain situation. As I write this, looking back to when I was a bishop 35 years ago, I feel I was extremely young, though I was in my mid thirties at the time. When it comes to things of the Lord, which Nephi was describing (“crying unto the Lord”), we are typically quite or exceedingly young. I doubt if any man called to be a bishop in his early years would, when older, consider himself anything but very young at the time of his calling. I was twenty-six when I married, and believe me, I was “exceedingly young”!

Based upon the events at the time Lehi took his family into the wilderness, Nephi, the youngest of the four boys mentioned, was probably around 20 to 25 years of age. At this time, he was mature enough to kill a man with his own sword (1 Nephi 4:18), impersonate a grown man in his armor and fool the man’s close servant (1 Nephi 4:21), and even fool his own three older brothers (1 Nephi 4:28), and had the maturity and presence of mind to seize and keep a grown man from escaping (1 Nephi 4:31), and old enough to lead his three older brothers (1 Nephi 3:21;4:1).

Finally, within about two years of leaving Jerusalem, Nephi was married (1 Nephi 16:7), and during this time, though the youngest, he was in charge of finding and shooting meat for the entire colony (1 Nephi 16:23,31), as well as becoming the contested ruler of the colony (1 Nephi 16:37). This would make Nephi about 20 to 22 during all these events, which would make him about 28 when he built the ship, and about 29 when he took charge of sailing the colony to the Land of Promise, and about 30-32 years of age when he led his family and all those who would go with him to settle in what they called the Land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:7-8). Thus, making him in his early thirties when he built a temple to rival that of Solomon’s, and teach his people who to build, etc. (2 Nephi 5:15-16).

Had he been much less than 20-25 when leaving Jerusalem, he would have been too young to have accomplished these things, too young to marry, and not enough older than Jacob and Joseph to have been their spiritual leader (2 Nephi 5:26). Thus, in 570 B.C., after about thirty years from leaving Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5:28), Nephi would have been about 50 years old when he was settled enough in age to have the time to create the new set of plates and rewrite all that had happened, which we have as 1 Nephi 1:1 through 2 Nephi 5:28).

Thus, it seems likely that Nephi was 20-25 when he left Jerusalem, which would both allow him to overpower a grown man, have the self-confidence required to obey the lord, the self-assurance to kill Laban, the intellect to outwit Zoram, the character to take charge and lead his older brothers, the wisdom to convince Ishmael to join the Lehi Colony, and the maturity to marry—all within a time frame of two to three years of his leaving Jerusalem. While Joseph Smith was a boy of 14 when he received his first vision, the Lord waited four years for the boy to mature enough to receive the gold plates. And Nephi did not have the almost daily communication and instruction of an angel during those early years as Joseph had.

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