Q. So I was reading in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah chapter 25:13 which says, “And now all the people of Zarahemla were numbered with the Nephites, and this because the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi.” My question is about the kings being descendants of Nephi. I have always thought they were descendants of Jacob. Where did I go wrong?
A. Nephi was both the king and the religious leader of the Nephites in his day. After his death, however, the offices of king and religious leader were held by different people. Jacob, Nephi’s brother, acted as the leader of the church while an unnamed man was anointed by Nephi to be king and ruler (Jacob 1:9). This unnamed man came to be known as second Nephi with succeeding kings also being called by the name Nephi regardless of their actual name (Jacob 1:11). They really liked Nephi (who was reluctant even to be named king to begin with) and honored him by perpetuating his name.
The Book of Mormon follows the lives of civilizations and individuals, providing a rich and deep backdrop for the eternal truths taught therein. I have found that using a study guide such as the Church’s Institute manual (found here) is helpful in keeping things straight and understanding context.