A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon/Lehi
LEHI. A Hebrew prophet, of the tribe of Manasseh, whom the Lord called to warn the Jews of their coming captivity in Babylon. Lehi was a man of considerable means, and of good repute among the Jews. He had dwelt in Jerusalem all his life, though, from the influence that the language of the Egyptians appears to have had on him, it is not improbable that he was brought, in some way, in intimate contact with that people. In the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah (B. C. 600), the Lord gave Lehi a number of prophetic dreams and visions, and, in compliance with the admonitions of those manifestations, he went forth among the Jews proclaiming the sorrows that would inevitably be theirs if they did not repent and return to the Lord. But the Jews treated Lehi just as they were treating all the rest of the prophets who came to them. They paid no heed to the message he bore. When he reproved them for their wickedness and abominations, they grew angry with him; and when he talked of the coming of the Messiah and the redemption of the world, they mocked him. But he did not cease to labor in their midst until their anger grew so intense that they sought his life; and they would have slain him if the Lord had not protected him; for it was not to be that Lehi should fall a victim to their hatred. The Lord had designed him for a greater work — he was to be the father of a multitude of people, and to this end God delivered him from the fury of the Jews. When it became impossible for him to remain longer and minister unto them, he was instructed to gather tip such things as he could carry and take them into the wilderness with his family, where the Lord would teach him what more He required at his hands.
When Lehi received the command to depart, he immediately set about fulfilling it, and taking with him his family and such goods and food as he could carry, he left the doomed city, where he had so long dwelt, leaving behind him his house and property, his gold, his silver and other precious things, all of which he willingly gave up that he might be obedient to the heavenly message.
Lehi's family consisted of his wife, Sariah, and his four sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi. Lehi had also daughters, but whether they were born at this time is not evident from the record. We have no account in the Book of Mormon of the precise road which Lehi and his family took when they left Jerusalem. Undoubtedly they traveled through the wilderness of Judea southward till they reached the eastern arm of the Red Sea. They journeyed along the Arabian shore of that sea for some little distance, till they came to a valley through which a small stream flowed. To the river Lehi gave the name of Laman, after his eldest son; and the valley he called Lemuel. Here they pitched their tents and rested for some time. While tarrying in this valley, Lehi, by Divine direction, twice sent his sons to Jerusalem: the first time to obtain certain most precious records, the second, to bring a family to join them in their journey. The head of this family was named Ishmael. In both undertakings the young men were successful, and the company was strengthened by the addition of Zoram, and Ishmael and his family. Soon after, five marriages took place; Zoram married Ishmael's eldest daughter, and the four sons of Lehi espoused four younger ones.
While Lehi and his party dwelt in the valley of Lemuel, he received many glorious manifestations from the Lord. Like Enoch, John the Revelator and others, the world's future history was mapped out before him, and he not only saw things that related to his own posterity, but the scene widened until he appears to have been shown all that would happen to the sons and daughters of mankind to the very last generation. (See I Nephi, chap. 8.) Nephi, his son, was favored of the Lord with similar manifestations.
Before long, Lehi was directed to resume his journey; and a wonderful instrument, prepared by Divine condescension, called a Liahona, or compass, was given him to guide the wandering feet of the company in their travels.
So particular was the Lord that Lehi's party should not come in contact with the people of Arabia, through which land they passed, that He gave them the command that they should not cook their meat, lest the flame or smoke from their fires should draw attention towards them; but He promised that He would make their meat sweet to them, that they could eat it with pleasure and satisfaction without it being cooked with fire. Probably it was dried after the manner that the people in this region often dry beef and other meats.
To their next tarrying place, which they reached in four days, they gave the name of Shazer. After a short rest, during which time they killed game for food, they again took up their line of march, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were near the borders of the Red Sea. Thus they continued journeying for some time, when, by direction of the Liahona, they changed the course of their travels, and moved almost directly east across the Arabian peninsula, until they reached the waters on its eastern coast. There they found a very fruitful land, which they called Bountiful, because of the abundance of its natural productions. To the sea which washed its shores they gave the name of Irreantum, which, being interpreted, means many waters. If we understand correctly, these waters were a portion of the gulf of Oman, or Arabian sea. The journey thus far occupied eight years from the time they left Jerusalem.
When the people of Lehi reached the sea shore they rejoiced greatly that their tedious wanderings were over. Nephi, by Divine direction, built a ship to carry them across these great waters. When the vessel was finished, the voice of the Lord came to Lehi, commanding that he and his people should arise and go aboard the ship. The next day they embarked, every one according, to his age, taking with them their provisions seeds, and such other things as it was desirable they should carry across the ocean to their new home, far away on its opposite shores.
During Lehi's travels in the wilderness two sons were born to him, whom he named Jacob and Joseph, respectively. The patriarch and his wife were now advancing in years, and their peace was much disturbed on the ocean by the cruel conduct of Laman and others towards Nephi. In fact the miseries induced by this conduct nearly resulted in the death of the aged couple.
After many days, the vessel with its precious freight reached the shores of this continent, at a place, we are told by the Prophet Joseph Smith, near where the city of Valparaiso, Chili, now stands. Then, with hearts full of rejoicing, they left the vessel that had carried them safely across the wide ocean, and went forth upon the land which God had given to them and to their generations after them. And they pitched their tents and began to make a new home. They put the seeds into the earth, which they had brought from Jerusalem. To their great joy these seeds grew exceedingly, and they were blessed with abundance. Upon the land they found many beasts of the forest, also cows, asses, horses, goats, and other animals that are for the use of man; and in the earth they found precious ores of gold, silver and copper. Then they erected an altar, and, to show their thankfulness to God, they offered sacrifices and burnt offerings, according to the law of Moses, as was their wont under such circumstances.
The course taken by Lehi and his people has been revealed with some detail. We are told by the Prophet Joseph Smith that Lehi and his company traveled in nearly a south-southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude, then, nearly east to the sea of Arabia, then sailed in a southeast direction, and landed on the continent of South America, in Chili, thirty degrees south latitude. This voyage would take them across the Indian and South Pacific Oceans.
Some time, we know not how long, after Lehi's arrival, believing that his end was approaching, he gathered his children together as did his forefathers before him, and being inspired by the spirit of prophecy, he blessed them, foretelling many things that should occur to them to their latest generations.
Soon after Lehi had uttered these blessings, the Lord took him from this earth to dwell with Him in eternity. Of the death of Sariah, his wife, we have no account.