What was the profession of Nephi, son of Lehi, who left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.?
1 Nephi 4:9 – “And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel.”
Nephi recognized at least what gold looked like, and what pure gold was. He recognized exceedingly fine workmanship. He saw that the blade of this sword was made of the most precious steel. He recognized the grade and quality of the steel with which it was made.
1 Nephi 16:10 – “And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness.”
Once again, Nephi mentions the workmanship of the ball. He also knows the difference between gold, steel, and brass, as he has mentioned each one differently from this and the previous passage.
1 Nephi 16:18 – “And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.”
It’s interesting at least that Nephi had a steel bow. He at least knew that it was made of a fine grade of steel. Did he make it? Maybe.
1 Nephi 16: 23, 31 – “23 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did amake out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my bfather: Whither shall I go to obtain food?”
“31 And it came to pass that I did slay wild beasts, insomuch that I did obtain food for our families.”
Nephi knew at least enough about woodworking to make a bow and an arrow. They were a good enough bow and arrow that Nephi was able to “slay wild beasts.” He did take a sling and some stones with him hunting, which I’m sure he used, as well. However, had the sling and stones been all he needed to slay food, he would probably not have made the bow. Seeing as he did, in fact, make the bow and the arrow, it is reasonable to assume that he was able to successfully use them to obtain food for his family. Off that assumption, I also choose to believe that the bow and arrow that he made and then used were of a fairly good workmanship, because they were successful in slaying the food.
“9 And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?
10 And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools.
11 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make a bellows wherewith to blow the fire, of the skins of beasts; and after I had made a bellows, that I might have wherewith to blow the fire, I did smite two stones together that I might make fire.”
“16 And it came to pass that I did make tools of the ore which I did molten out of the rock.”
Nephi knew the term “ore” and the process of turning the ore into tools. He knew that he had to molten the ore to extract the metal to make the tools. He appears to have also known how to make tools, as he does not say that the Lord told him how to make tools. He knew that a bellows was required to blow the fire. He knew how to make a bellows. He knew how to make fire, use the bellows to blow it to molten and extract the ore with which to make the tools he needed. He also was actually able to successfully make the tools that he wanted to make. Also, he knew which tools would be necessary to make the ship. He also must have known how to use each of those tools. If not, he might have been taught of the Lord how to use them.
1 Nephi 18:1–4 – “AND it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship. Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men. And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things. And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord.”
This ship was definitely not built after the way that men had built ships at that time. The plans for this ship, and the way to build it were revealed directly from heaven. Nephi built the ship exactly as the Lord had taught him to. According to the account, it was a very nice ship, as “the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.” I would imagine that if Nephi wasn’t already learned in the craft of woodworking, after he built this ship, I would bet that he probably was.
1 Nephi 18:25 – “And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.”
Nephi knew the difference between gold ore, silver ore, and copper ore. He even sees fit to mention that they were available. He must have sought them out. Why would he do that? He would have had to want it for some reason. He must have known what it was for. We have already established that he knew at least that he could make tools with some kinds of ore.
1 Nephi 19:1 – “AND it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.”
Nephi made plates of ore. From what I understand, they were made to be pretty much all the same dimensions. They were also very thin. It would have taken quite a skillful person to have made those plates by hand as Nephi did.
2 Nephi 5:14–15 – “And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people. And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.”
Nephi “did make many swords” after the manner of the sword of Laban. Even though you have a specimen of what you are trying to make, you still have to have the knowledge of the process of making its duplicates. He would have had to know where to get the ore, how to molten the metal out of it, how to shape the metal, and how to finish off the process. We have already established that he knew all of these things. It also states that Nephi taught his people to work in all manner of wood, iron, copper, brass, steel, gold, silver, and other precious ores. Not only was he very adept at smithing, he knew carpentry. Much of this knowledge could have come from when the Lord taught him how to build the ship.
Helaman 6:11 – “And behold, there was all manner of gold in both these lands, and of silver, and of precious ore of every kind; and there were also curious workmen, who did work all kinds of ore and did refine it; and thus they did become rich.”
These people knew how to get ore. They knew the difference between each kind of ore. They were “curious” workmen. They worked all kinds of ore. These people would not have just known how to work this ore. They were probably taught it as a trade from father to son. Interestingly enough, all of this culture would have descended from Nephi. He would have been the one from whence their knowledge of ore originated.
Isaiah 54:16–17 – “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.”
Another relevant verse – not entirely sure of exactly where it fits here.
I would submit, given the above scripture citations, that Nephi was a wood craftsman and also a metal smith. This is quite an interesting coincidence with Joseph Smith. The way that last names originated was by the profession of the family. So, at one time, Joseph Smith’s predecessors were actual metal smiths, themselves.
It is also interesting to note some of the following quotes:
“Cain, Qayin, is the wandering smith in Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic. A qayin is a blacksmith. He blackens his face professionally because he works at the forge. This is a mark of his profession, the blackened face. It advertises his profession, and he wanders. You find these, and they are great metal workers, as we will see Cain’s descendants are.” (Hugh Nibley, Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], 3 .)
“Question: What does the name Cain mean? Answer: It means a traveling smith or metal worker.” (Hugh Nibley, Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe [n.p., n.d.], 13.)
“Cain began as a farmer; but when following Satan’s instructions, he made use of that great secret of how to murder and get gain, the earth refused him her strength, and he became a wanderer. Since time immemorial that homeless tribe (the land of Nod means land of unsettled nomad) is designated throughout the East by the name Qayin, meaning a wandering metal-worker, the mark of his trade and his tribe being the face blackened at the forge; he is a skillful maker and peddler of weapons and jewels, the twin destroyers and corrupters of mankind.” Hugh Nibley, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, edited by Don E. Norton and Shirley S. Ricks [Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1994], 60 – 61.)