Two sons - Jacob and Joseph - are known to have been born to Lehi and Sariah during the years they were in the wilderness after they left Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 18:7.)
Although Jacob grew up in the adversity brought on by the rebelliousness and wickedness of his older brothers Laman and Lemuel, he was much like his brother Nephi in that he became a devoted and righteousness man.Jacob was a young child when his family boarded the ship that took them to the promised land. On that journey, he and Joseph were "grieved because of the afflictions of their mother" (1 Ne. 18:19) when Laman and Lemuel bound Nephi with cords.
In his April 1980 general conference address, Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve, spoke of how challenges, opposition and friction helped forge Jacob into a man of firm resolve.
Elder Hunter said friction or resistance are necessary forces, without which a person or vehicle could not move about, or if already in motion, could not be stopped except by collision. "Simple things like nails, screws, and bolts would not stay in place; a cork would not stay in a bottle; a light globe would drop from its socket; a lid would not stay on a jar," said Elder Hunter.
"The law of friction or resistance that we think of as only applying to science seems to find application in our personal lives. This is probably what Lehi was referring to when he . . . reminded Jacob of the afflictions and sorrows that had come to him because of the rudeness of his brethren, and told him how these afflictions would ultimately result in good. (2 Ne. 2:1-3.)
"Then Lehi added these words that have become classic: `For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.'" (2 Ne. 2:11.)
After Lehi died, Laman and Lemuel apostasized. Jacob was among the faithful who followed Nephi.
Jacob and Joseph were consecrated by Nephi to be "priests and teachers over the land." (2 Ne. 5:26; 2 Ne. 6:2; Jacob 1:18.)
In A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, Daniel H. Ludlow wrote, "Many references in the Book of Mormon indicate that the Nephites held the priesthood - that is, they had the power and authority to act in the name of God. However, the Book of Mormon does not refer specifically to the two major divisions in the priesthood, the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood."
Ludlow quoted from Joseph Fielding Smith, who said the fact that plural terms priests and teachers were used indicates that the reference was not to the definite offices in the priesthood, but was a general assignment to teach, direct, and admonish the people.
When Nephi died, Jacob appears to have taken charge of the spiritual concerns of the people and to have presided over the Church. Jacob mentioned that he and Joseph had taken upon themselves "the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence." (Jacob 1:19.)
Jacob also became the custodian of the sacred records. He received many revelations and was blessed with the spirit of prophecy.
In Commentary on the Book of Mormon, George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl wrote: "So great was his faith that he could command, in the name of Jesus, and the trees, the mountains and the waves of the sea obeyed his word. For all this some of the Nephites of his day were not strong in the Lord. They gave way to the spirit of greed and lust and had to be sharply reproved by the word of the Lord through Jacob.
"In his day also the first anti-Christ, Sherem, appeared, a type of many who came after. But this presumptuous imposter was stricken by the power of God and paid the penalty of his folly with his life.
"Jacob had reason to rejoice in the eradication of his [Sherem's] heresies and the return of the Nephites to sound doctrine. Jacob lived to a good old age. We have no account of the time or circumstances of his death, but before he passed away he gave the sacred records into the keeping of his son Enos."