Context and General Information
- Nephi was commanded to write a record of his people. So, he made plates and engraved the record of his father and their journeyings in the wilderness. He also engraved many of his own prophecies.
- At the time, Nephi didn’t know that he would be commanded to make another set of plates. (The record that we are currently reading).
- Lehi’s record, the genealogy of their fathers, and their proceedings in the wilderness are, for the most part, on the other plates.
- The first set of plates were made by Nephi—by way of commandment.
- Nephi received a second commandment—to keep another set of plates. On this record, he would write the most plain and precious parts of the ministry and prophecies.
- This second record would be kept for the instruction of Nephi’s people and also for other wise purposes that Nephi didn’t know or understand.
- Nephi obeys. He made the other plates.
- Nephi commanded his people that they should hand these plates down from one generation to the next until further commandments from God.
- Nephi kept the second plates also – so that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of his people.
- Nephi will not write anything upon the plates unless he thought it sacred.
- If Nephi errs, he reminds us that they of old also erred. He isn’t trying to excuse himself, but to at least give a little perspective.
A Quick Catch Up
Nephi reminds us in 1 Nephi 19 about the various plates he is engraving.
Nephi has given these little narrator-interjections from time to time. First, in 1 Nephi 6, he talked about his purpose in this set of records. I have blogged about it here.
So – Nephi is catching us up. For today, I found one verse especially interesting:
“Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself. – 1 Nephi 19:6
Nephi was NOT Micro-managed
Sometimes I have the tendency to think that Nephi did everything by way of direct commandment. And yes, he was commanded to write this record. But sometimes, I think I imagine this scenario with a Heavenly Father who is a major micro-manager—who told Nephi every word to write, every conclusion to make, every punctuation mark to etch. I think I misunderstand.
Based on this verse, I am realizing that Heavenly Father probably didn’t micro-manage Nephi. And why would he?! Think of other experiences—when Nephi went to retrieve the brass plates from Laban, did Heavenly Father give him each direction step by step?
When Nephi broke his bow, did Heavenly Father come down with a solution for them?
When Nephi was building the boat, we read:
“And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship.” – 1 Nephi 18:1, emphasis added.
Yes, the Lord taught Nephi how to build the ship, but He directed Nephi only from time to time. I suppose that there were a lot of problems and solutions that Nephi had to deal with on his own.
And now, here in 1 Nephi 19, we’re reading again how Nephi received this command—to write a record that was comprised of that which he found sacred. I don’t think that the Lord spelled it out for Nephi. We are reading the things that Nephi thinks are sacred and important.
Now, I don’t highlight this fact to downplay the scriptures. Not at all. Heavenly Father trusted Nephi to do this. And I’m sure that Nephi had the companionship of the Holy Ghost—which I’m assuming would testify to Him of the things He was engraving. I’m sure that Nephi was prayerful and thoughtful about this charge. I’m sure that Nephi didn’t think, I’m going to do whatever I want.
Nephi knew the future of his people. He had the right insight to be able to write that which would greatly help them. We can trust that he did a good job. In fact, I know that Nephi did a great job! I’ve been blessed by his record and the testimony he shares.
But I think that this concept stands out to me because there are times when I feel like we expect God to be more or less a micro manager. We forget what Heavenly Father said, Himself:
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” – Doctrine and Covenants 58:26
Yes, God gave Nephi the commandment to write a second record – that contained the plain and precious parts of the ministry. So Nephi had a basic idea of what to write. But I don’t think that the Lord told Nephi the “what” of what he should write word for word.
In fact, in verse 6, Nephi reminds us, And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.
Nephi has done his best, but he is also admitting that there may be problems. This is because he is the one who has done the recording! He is the one who has chosen the stories to include, the details, the conclusions! If the Lord would have done this, then I’m sure there would be no “err.” But the Lord commanded Nephi to write this record, so Nephi adds this little disclaimer. We need to remember that he is only a man!
More Patience and Mercy
I’m grateful for this scripture today. It reminds me to have more patience and mercy – with others and with myself.
We have gone through a lot of changes – as a church. And it might cause one to pause and say Why are there so many changes? Why are there corrections? Did we get it wrong? I don’t know if the answer is simply yes or no. Maybe it is yes AND no. The Lord gives us commands and then He lets us express our agency – which means he will not micro-manage us. He isn’t all that interested in whether or not we get it “right.” He wants us to do our best and then we go from there.
And what if we “err?” Well, I guess if God is okay with it, then I can be okay with it. Not to discount the pain that might come from these mistakes. But instead, this is a statement of faith – The Lord is powerful enough to right every wrong. Sometimes the “wrongs” we experience in life come because of a well-intentioned but mistaken person.
I know that it feels like injustice. But I suppose we simply need to learn to have charity for the “offender.” And faith in the Atonement of Christ – that truly He will consecrate our afflictions for our gain. We need to have more charity for others – who are doing the best they can, as we also do the best we can.