Context and General Information
- Lehi and his family take their journey into the wilderness again. Now instead of traveling in a south-easterly direction, they travel eastward. They still experience much difficulty and affliction in the wilderness.
- The women bore children in the wilderness.
- The blessings of the Lord were great while in the wilderness. Even though their women bore children in the wilderness, the Lord made them strong. They were able to nurse their babies while living on raw meat!
- They all began to bear their journey without murmuring.
- The commandments of God must be fulfilled. If we will keep the commandments, then God will nourish us and strengthen us and provide means to accomplish what He has commanded us to do.
- Lehi and his family sojourned in the wilderness for eight years.
And Thus We See
Nephi quickly relates how his family journeyed again in the wilderness. They started going a new direction (eastward), and they waded through much affliction in the wilderness.
Things were hard.
But Nephi also teaches us a lesson:
“And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 17:3
The phrase and thus we see lets us in on the fact that Nephi is trying to emphasize a lesson that they have learned. Remember, this account is taken from the Small Plates that Nephi was commanded to make later on. The small plates contain only the things that please God – the ministry of Nephi and his people. Nephi has left out many details and many experiences that he and his family went through. He is sharing the highlights so we can learn the lessons that he learned in his life.
So – here’s a bit lesson that Nephi learned. He wants us to realize that, and he begins “And thus we see.”
The Commandments of God Must Be Fulfilled
I wish I knew better on what this meant. I mean, I get the idea – God’s commandments will be fulfilled. But does this mean that it comes at the expense of our agency?
I don’t think so.
As I think about it, the concept “many are called, but few are chosen,” comes up. We read it in the scriptures:
“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-36
Okay- so this is interesting. We read that many are called, but few are chosen. And then the question comes up – why are they not chosen??? The Lord answers –
- because their hearts are set upon the things of the world
- They aspire (not to keep the commandments of God) to the honors of men
- The Rights of the priesthood are connected with the powers of heaven
- The powers of heaven are controlled by principles of righteousness.
Elder Bednar taught:
“I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit “the chosen” to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.” – David A. Bednar, emphasis added
What does this have to do with the phrase – the commandments of God must be fulfilled?
Well – I think that there are times when this is true – His commandments must be fulfilled. I kind of think that if Lehi chose not to listen to God’s call to flee Jerusalem, then the Lord would have led out another family. His work will roll forth. If Joseph Smith hadn’t chosen to listen, then I think another would have been sent to do Joseph’s work.
This is totally my own personal opinion, I realize. I don’t know if there is any doctrinal soundness to it, and I really can’t take the time to look it up right now.
The commandment Lehi received to leave Jerusalem for a promised land had a much broader purpose than he could have ever imagined. Yes, it would be a blessing to him and his family immediately. They wouldn’t die in Jerusalem. The destruction of Jerusalem is gonna be big. A lot of people will die. Those that don’t die will be taken to Babylon as slaves. This period in Jewish history isn’t pretty. So, leading Lehi out of Jerusalem would make an immediately positive impact on Lehi’s life. Though they traveled in the wilderness for 8 years, it was an immediate blessing.
(By the way – based on how quickly Lehi fled and how he sent his family back to Jerusalem repeatedly, but didn’t go himself – I think that his life was in immediate danger. I don’t think that Lehi would have lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem. I think that the people would have killed him before that happened. They already sought his life.)
So – the commandment Lehi received to leave Jerusalem definitely had an immediate blessing. It was also a blessing to them eight years later when they all actually arrived at the promised land.
But what Lehi couldn’t have fully grasped is how his choice to obey would impact generations of his own seed and then millions of others.
Lehi’s Own Seed
Lehi’s own seed was blessed. The Nephite civilization lasted for about 1000 years. The Lamanite civilization ebbed and flowed for that length of time and longer. And still, there are remnants of the Lamanites living now.
During the heights of the civilization, however (from 600 BC to 400 AD), they experienced many blessings. They had the gospel, they saw the Savior, they had riches, they had comforts, roads, etc. Lehi’s decision to keep God’s commandments and flee into the wilderness blessed his posterity for a long, long time.
Millions of Others
I am blessed. And I’m among many others who are blessed because of Lehi’s decision to obey the voice of the Lord. Without Lehi’s choice to keep the commandments – to flee Jerusalem, to have his sons retrieve the plates, to have his sons persuade Ishmael and his family to accompany them, to journey in a difficult wilderness, to board a boat and sail across the world – we wouldn’t have the Book of Mormon today.
I truly cannot imagine my life without the influence of the Book of Mormon. It has brought me light, guidance, comfort, and hope. It has helped to calm my soul in times of difficulty. It has brought me to a better understanding of my loving Savior.
Because of the Book of Mormon, I have a knowledge and testimony of my Savior.
The Lord knew this. He prepared this. His commandment – for Lehi to flee Jerusalem – needed to be fulfilled in order for His work to be done. This commandment would help to set off events for the gathering of Israel. This is a major part of the Lord’s work.
So – His commandments must be fulfilled. That’s the way it is. They must be! And we have a choice – are we going to be a part of it or not?
And, I think that that the real point that Nephi was getting at – the Lord doesn’t command lightly. He doesn’t give us suggestions and then raise his hands and shrug his shoulders when a challenge comes up.
The Lord gives us a commandment, and He has a way for it to be fulfilled.
So – If we are willing to keep God’s commandments, we can trust that they must be fulfilled. We can trust that this means He will provide a way for them to be fulfilled. We can trust that He isn’t a God that commands in vain.
More on this concept in the next post.