So we have a guy names Nephi, and his family. They live in Jerusalem a few years prior to the final Babylonian conquest of Judah. His father Lehi has a lot of dreams and prophesies to the people, who try to assassinate him. He is warned in another dream and skips town. His sons are unhappy about this disruption of their lives, except Nephi and Sam. Lehi then sends his sons back to Jerusalem to get some records from a powerful man names Laban. Laban tries to kill them a couple of times and steals all of their stuff, so Nephi goes into town and, at the spirit's behest, chops an unconscious Laban's head off, all after an angel encourages them. He then uses Laban's attire to bamboozle Laban's servant Zoram to get him the plates containing the records. For some reason he brings the servant out with him, who realizes the deception, so they restrain him and tell him he can live if he leaves with them. They go back safe, much to their mother's relief.
This is not much different than what I would expect in many ways. Old Testament times, prophets, lots of violence and arguments. I wasn't at all phased by Nephi slicing off the drunk Laban's head; similar acts are repeatedly praised in the Old Testament.
Nephi's telling of the story was novel, however. First of all, it's in the first person, which seems to be a rarity in the Old Testament (although it is not unheard of). Another thing that stuck out to me was the weird things he chose to write about. I about laughed out loud when Nephi talks about Lehi praising god and essentially adds an "etc." after a couple of examples. In other places, Nephi talks about Lehi prophesying "many things" and powerfully exhorting Nephi's older brothers, but never provides any detail as to the contents of these discourses. However, Nephi gives us great detail of his conversation with Zoram as they walk around the city and a fairly full description of the fight his parents had after he and his brothers set off.
I can only feel sorry for Zoram. Poor guy is just doing his job and is duped into carrying the stolen goods (even though Nephi tells him that he is bringing him out to his brothers... what was that about?) out to Nephi's partners. He tries to make a run for it when he realizes what he's walked into, but Nephi (a big kid) tackles him and tells him he can go with them or die. Bummer of a day.
So, an action-packed beginning consistent with the gruesome Old Testament, but without all the lengthy and detailed boring prophecy included, Nephi glossed over that bit. Pretty cool book so far.