Although he was the youngest member in his family, he was now in some ways its leader. His name was Nephi, the son of a Nephite prophet called Lehi who was taking a small group of people across a vast desert. It was a journey that lasted several years and eventually led to a distant seashore where the prophet's young son was confronted with the challenge of crossing an ocean.
Again it was Nephi who became an important leader in the family. Despite his youth, he was large in stature and, like his father, was strong in the belief that God was guiding the people. He was also confident that somehow he could build a ship. With this in mind, the young boy climbed a high mountain one day and prayed to God for help.
It is possible that Nephi would have assistance from other people in his neighborhood, shipwrights knowledgeable in constructing a seaworthy vessel. But he emphasized in his personal records that he learned much by conversing with the Lord. "And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft," he said, "and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things." He eventually made it clear that in his management of the boat's construction, it generally was not after "the manner of men" but according to what the Lord had shown him on the mountain. (1 Nephi 18:2-3)
Building the ship most likely took at least a year, everyone cooperating and anticipating the day when the family could use it to cross the ocean to a promised land. Nephi's two oldest brothers were included, yet it had not always been this way. In the beginning they had refused to help him, saying that his plan was impossible. "Our brother is a fool," they said, "for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters" Their resistance became so violent one time that they attempted to seize him and cast him from a cliff into the sea!
Then it was that Nephi assumed the role of a prophet himself, commanding the brothers in the name of the Lord to stay away, promising otherwise to smite them through God's power and cause them to wither as a dried weed. He told them to stop murmuring against him and also Lehi their father. Sometime later the Lord then intervened and told Nephi what to do next. "Stretch forth thine hand again unto thine brethren," he said, "and they shall not wither before thee, but I will shock them, saith the Lord, and this will I do, that they may know that I am the Lord their God." (1 Nephi 17: 17,53)
That is what it took on that occasion, and from then on, the brothers were cooperative.
In due time the ship was completed, and Nephi and the prophet Lehi led their people to a land of promise somewhere on the American Continent. Again it is an instance recorded in scripture where one man, a very young one at the time, appears on the pages of religious history and brings a series of events and circumstances in a family to a dramatic and successful conclusion!
Written by Clay McConkie.
Click here "1 Nephi 17: 5-55" to read the actual account of this story from the Book of Mormon.