Nephi, Book of Mormon politics, monarchy, Nephite kingship


This paper extends and updates previous efforts to understand the political dynamic of the Book of Mormon by looking at four themes or issues that can be developed from the text itself. The first is an expansion of earlier treatments of the contradictory political ideologies of the Nephites and Lamanites, which informed relations between these two groups across their thousand-year history. The second is an exploration of the historical possibility that Nephi may never, in fact, have been anointed as king of the Nephite people, which raises in turn a possible need to reassess the character of Nephite kingship. The third section brings together the many ways in which Nephi implicitly and explicitly compares himself to Moses, illuminating the Nephite regime by pointing to a preferred older and even more authoritative model of Israelite rulership. The final section offers an interpretation of the crucial confrontation between Nephi and his jealous brothers in 1 Nephi 17, in which Nephi represents Laman and Lemuel as having committed themselves to his rulership, even according to the rituals of their own preferred Judahite model. Together, these four studies may help us better understand the character of the Nephite regimes and the degree to which they continued ancient Israelite patterns or purposely diverged from them in innovative ways.

Original Publication Citation

“Nephite Kingship Reconsidered,” in Davis Bitton, ed., Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, FARMS, Provo, Utah 1998, pages 151–189.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor