As Chapter 1 opens, I think it’s important to note the historical context that Nephi himself brings into the picture. Verse 4 explains that their story begins “in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah.” That’s a nicely specific moment in time for us to work with. Nephi doesn’t start out their history in some sort of mythological “beginning of time” sort of way. So I think we ought to look at what was going on at the time.
First, remember that the Northern Kingdom had already been destroyed and scattered by Assyria. Isaiah wrote when the Northern Kingdom was getting close to that attack, and then wrote after it had happened as well. He prophesied that both Assyria and Babylon would attack, but only the Assyrian attack on the Northern Kingdom happened during his lifetime. I think it’s important to know those details since Nephi will use Isaiah quite a bit in his record.
Looking again at verse 4, Nephi says that “in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.” It’s helpful to look at the book of Jeremiah and see what things he was prophesying to the people. (Even reading through the chapter headings — see here for a list — at least gives a start, though whenever I’ve looked at details they are very interesting as well!) It’s very similar to what Lehi is teaching and what Nephi teaches later on. But, what’s perhaps the most helpful to me is to see that there were false prophets at the time who were prophesying that Jerusalem would be protected (see Jeremiah chapters 23, 28, and 29). Someone like Laman or Lemuel could justify their position by pointing to other prophets at the same time. It was a confusing, stakes-are-high sort of time to be living in.