Who Wrote 4 Nephi?
John A. Tvedtnes
I received an inquiry from a gospel doctrine teacher who wanted to know who wrote 4 Nephi, i.e., was it Jesus’ disciple Nephi or his son, also named Nephi? She noted that an early Book of Mormon student manual (for the Mormon Church) said it was “the disciple of Christ but a newer manual says it is the son of the disciple. The Book of Mormon Reference Companion says it was written by the son of the disciple but David Ridges in his book The Book of Mormon Made Easier, vol. 3, says it is the disciple of Christ himself who wrote the book.”
The heading to 4 Nephi is ambiguous, reading “The Book of Nephi who is the son of Nephi-one of the disciples of Jesus Christ.”[i] Consequently, we must look elsewhere for an answer to the question. In 3 Nephi 28:1-9, we read that nine of Christ’s disciples were to come to him after they turned 72 years of age, while three were to remain alive as translated beings. In 4 Nephi 1:14, Mormon notes that, by the time “an hundred years had passed away . . . the disciples of Jesus, whom he had chosen, had all gone to the paradise of God, save it were the three who should tarry.”
If the disciple Nephi was one of those who died before year 100, he cannot have written of events “until an hundred and ten years had passed away” (verse 18). He could have done so only if he were one of the three who were not to die, yet this, too, is impossible, since verse 19 says that he died! So the one who kept the record to which Mormon alludes in 4 Nephi 1:1-19 must be the son of the disciple Nephi.
[i] This heading was translated from the plates, while the title “Fourth Nephi” was added by Joseph Smith.