Nothing, Save the Power of God, Could Soften Their Hearts – 1 Nephi 18:17-20

You can read 1 Nephi 18:17-20 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • While Nephi was tied up on the ship, the Liahona stopped working – no one knew where to steer the ship.
  • In addition to the Liahona ceasing to work, a great and terrible tempest arose, and they were all driven back on the water for days.
  • Everyone was frightened. Lehi spoke to Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, but they simply threatened Lehi or anyone else who spoke up for Nephi.
  • Lehi and Sariah were so stressed out they nearly died.
  • Jacob and Joseph, who were young and needed much nourishment were also “grieved” because of the afflictions of their mother.
  • Nephi’s wife – with her tears, and prayers, and also children – couldn’t soften the hearts of Laman and Lemuel.
  • The only thing that could soften the hearts of Laman and Lemuel was the intensity of the storm. When they saw that they were going to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea, they repented and they loosed Nephi.

Nothing, Save the Power of God, Could Soften Their Hearts

I haven’t ever been in a ship at sea. I’ve never been on a cruise. I’ve been in harbors or bays, but never in the open ocean.

Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean

I’ve had dreams about being in tidal waves and tsunamis, but that’s the closest I can get to the terrifying fear that must come when you are in a ship in a storm at sea.

I’ve seen The Perfect Storm…that’s about it.

I think that it is easy for me to underestimate what Nephi and his family were going through on the ship.

But I can do my best to imagine the fear that everyone felt. Yet, Laman and Lemuel remained hard hearted.

Lehi Couldn’t Soften their Hearts
We read that Lehi tried to say many things to them, but Laman and Lemuel’s response: “…they did breathe out much threatenings against anyone that should speak for me;…”

What do you think those threatenings were? (We’ll throw you off the boat!). Not sure, exactly, but whatever Laman and Lemuel said it was enough for Lehi and Sariah to both back down and be so stressed out they very literally nearly died.

Jacob, Joseph, and Nephi’s wife and Children Couldn’t soften Laman’s and Lemuel’s Heart

We know that Laman and Lemuel had a beef with their dad for a long time, so I suppose it could be unsurprising that he didn’t soften their hearts.

But now, their much younger brothers – Jacob and Joseph – who are children (!)- can’t soften the hearts of Laman and Lemuel.

Not only that, but this time Nephi’s wife can’t soften their hearts, either. Remember, she was (most likely) the one who had softened their hearts much earlier in the wilderness (See 1 Nephi 7:19).  

This daughter of Ishmael (and her mother) were able to soften Laman’s and Lemuel’s hearts in the wilderness before, but Laman’s and Lemuel’s hearts are much harder by now. Which is also kind of insane when you think about it. When in the wilderness earlier, they were closer to Jerusalem. They could have possibly made it back to Jerusalem. There was a way for them to get back! Now they’re in the open ocean! There is no exit strategy. They are thousands of miles away from Jerusalem! Now, on a boat (that they made), they rebel?! This spelled death for everyone on that ship, yet they had harder hearts?!!!!! It’s crazy!

With our distance from the situation, we can see that having a hard heart is so incredibly illogical. We can apply this to ourselves, too. Having a hard heart causes us to make stupid decisions! A hard heart closes off rational thought. We must do all we can to have a soft heart – this will keep us happy, it will keep us on the right side of the Lord, and it will enable us to discern the truth of our lives!

Only God’s Power Could Soften their Hearts
In 1 Nephi 18, we read:

“And there was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts; wherefore, when they saw that they were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea they repented of the thing which they had done, insomuch that they loosed me.” – 1 Nephi 18:20

This is a video of ships at sea. Try to imagine it. Try to imagine being in the middle of the ocean, in the middle of a storm. What purpose does rebellion and lack of faith serve in this circumstance???

What Will Soften My Heart?

Perhaps this is a good time to take stock of ourselves.

I have a heart condition. For many years I was even medicated for it. (Arrhythmia…) I think that this is the root reason that I’ve always been interested in the heart conditions that we read about in the scriptures.

What are our hearts like? Is my heart soft and supple? Is it capable of pumping and keeping me alive, spiritually? Or is my heart hard, stiff, and ready to stop at any moment?

Do I have the kind of heart that Christ asks for – a “broken heart”?

Or am I like Laman and Lemuel with a heart so hard that I ignore the cries of my aged parents, my young brothers, my pleading sister-in-law? Do I let my pride get in the way of rationality?

Okay, I can honestly say that I’m not like Laman and Lemuel, and thankfully I don’t think I know anyone that hard hearted. However, I know that there are times when I let my heart remain a little hard. When I don’t fully forgive another. When I won’t completely commit to my covenants. When I fail to have faith.

And I know, thanks to Laman’s and Lemuel’s insane example that hard heartedness is a TERRIBLE IDEA! I know that I don’t want to get to the point where they are – where nothing save it were the Power of god which threatened them with destruction will soften them!

Instead, I want to do the work that will continue to soften my heart – prayer, service, thoughtfulness, listening, caring, selflessness. I want to remain supple enough to be a witness of the power of God. Instead of being a witness that God’s power is about to kill me (the hard-hearted experience), I hope to be a witness of God’s power to deliver me (the soft-hearted experience).

I know that as we do the work, to have a broken, supple heart and a contrite spirit, then we will have positive and hopeful experiences with God and His power.

2 thoughts on “Nothing, Save the Power of God, Could Soften Their Hearts – 1 Nephi 18:17-20

  1. Lisa S

    Enjoying reading your posts.
    It seems like Laman and Lemuel’s softened hearts were based on fear, fear of what was going to happen if they didn’t change their attitudes. I have found that when people are moved to do the right thing based in fear, that change doesn’t stick. Eventually they have slowly resorted back to their former ways. We have to have changed hearts because of desire and love of the Lord.

    1. Thank you for your insight, Lisa! I love what you have said, and I agree – faith and fear cannot truly coexist. Sometimes we may “do the right thing,” but if the real impetus for that decision wasn’t out of faith and love of the lord, as you have said, it will not have lasting effects.

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